Thursday, June 27, 2013

I Have Seen, So I Am Responsible

Tonight, as I dined on chicken salad sandwiches, spinach and artichoke dip, meatballs, various cheeses, and other delectable hor dourves, I was introduced to children named Alpha and Harriet, a woman named Emmy, and countless other people far away on the continent of Africa.  As I sipped my water and enjoyed my decaf coffee, I learned how 40% of children just like Alpha and Harriet are HIV positive.  I saw how only 3-7% of the babies in Africa who test HIV positive are receiving the life-saving ARV medication they so desperately need.  I heard how pregnant women, typically 18-23 years of age, so often automatically choose abortion for fear that they have passed on their HIV to their unborn baby.  Rather than risk the child being ostracized as they have been, the women decide to spare the child from such hardships.  What these women don't realize is that they could very well die themselves from the abortion procedure.  Furthermore, they don't understand that if they take ARV medication while pregnant, their baby will very likely not be HIV positive at all!

As the statistics came across the screen, my heart dropped to the floor.  As I listened to three native Africans share how they are fighting not for nameless women and children, but for their brothers and sisters, their aunts and nieces and nephews, I couldn't help but think how privileged I am.  How privileged my two little girls are.  How privileged my unborn child is.  Not once in my 30 years have I worried about HIV.  Not once have I lost sleep, worrying that my daughter would get HIV from me.  Not once during this pregnancy have I considered if my baby is going to test positive for HIV and if so what I will do, how I will manage to go on with life.  Not a day goes by when I don't have enough to eat or to feed my children.  I don't have to stress about drinking water or a place to sleep or clothes to wear or transportation to the doctor's office some 50 miles away.  And yet that is daily life for the people I met on the screen tonight.

$1 a day.  That's how much the average person makes in the countries where Global Health Innovations is seeking to revolutionize the way hospitals treat pregnant women, their unborn babies, and their older children.  With only $1 a day, most women can't afford countless trips to a hospital for testing and retesting.  They can't give up a day of work to sit in the waiting room only to discover their test results never actually made it back to the hospital in the first place.  And so they don't come for the testing.  Or if they do come for the initial visit, they don't come back for the results or to for their child to receive medication at 6 months or to be retested at 9 months and then again at 18 months.

Having lived in Haiti, a country so backwards and unorganized and what have you, this nightmare of transporting test results and ensuring that they are delivered and then sent back and given to the right woman is just too much to even imagine.  Let alone ensuring the woman comes to the hospital and then returns when she is supposed to, at all the right dates and times.  Yeah, not happening!!!

Not without the help of Global Health Innovations.  Seriously, watch this video to see how this system can change the way tests are done, the way results are transported, and the way women and children are taken care of so that they can LIVE.

Crazy enough, Brad Gautney the founder of GHI used to live in Haiti, in the same area I did when I was serving with Kids Alive International.  I actually bought shelves from his family to use in my house/room when I moved in with Jarod and Jennifer Ebenhack.  And now, Brad and his family live in Liberty.  They go to Liberty Christian Fellowship, a church just blocks from our old house!  What a small world!  What a BIG God!!!!

Brad actually started GHI while in Haiti and was testing children daily for HIV.  They would send the tests to John Hopkins and were starting to make strides in helping women and their babies get the medication they need to fight HIV and live!  Soon though, John Hopkins had to stop their support, telling Brad they were doing more tests of his from Haiti in one MONTH than they were for the entire US in one YEAR!!!

Brad was able to find some people in Africa who could help him implement the program in Kenya.  GHI is now working with hospitals in Tanzania and Malawi.  They have gone from 4 hospitals to 90, in just 1 year!

I have always wanted to go to Africa, but the opportunity has never really presented itself.  The desire is still there, but again, the doors are not open at this time.  However, from my home right here in Kansas City, Missouri, I can be a part of what is happening in Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi.  I may not fly to Africa or step foot on the soil, but I can still make a difference.  I can still help these women and children (and their families).  And you can too!!!

Please, I beg of you, check out the website to learn more about this organization and the good work they are doing, how God is using them to impact the continent of Africa.

I will be writing more about GHI and what I learned tonight at the fund raiser.  My heart is full and I have to share what I have learned.  I have seen, so I am responsible.  Want to become responsible with me?!!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Mixed Bag

I feel like my heart is a mixed bag of emotions.  I don't know what to think or feel or do or say.

I've had friends lose their newborn son.
I've had friends lose their one year old son to cancer.

I know 2 couples who are battling for their sons' lives right now.
One little boy is about Coralyn's age and has cancer.
The other little boy is a tiny baby fighting for life while he waits for a new heart.

I've had friends miscarry.
We've miscarried (our little one would be 2 years old this month if he/she had been born).

I have other friends who have just welcomed precious, healthy babies to the world recently.

I see posts of kids who just got back from camp.
God is working in their hearts.
He is changing their lives.

I know more kids are at camp right now.
More still will be going to camp in the weeks to come.
God will do His thing in each and every one of these boys and girls.
I am blessed to play a small part in this process.

But then my joy turns to sorrow or confusion maybe.
I don't understand why God isn't answering countless prayers for healing.

You see, I have friends dealing with health issues right now.  Serious stuff.
So much so that our pastor announced his resignation last night, due to the health of his wife.
They will be moving to another state where the climate is better and might help give her some relief.
He is unable to serve and minister in the way he wants/needs without his wife by his side.
They are a team, but can't work together right now.
And he's going to focus on helping her.
Such love, such dedication, such commitment.
So much respect for this couple.
Going to miss them greatly, but know they are doing what God has called them to do.

I have friends dealing with helping their foster kids process the fact they are going to be adopted.
That they won't see their birth mom and dad again.
That they are home forever, as a new family.
Such joy and sadness all combined into one event.

As I read the blog post about our friends in the process of adopting the foster girls they have had in their home for the past 2 years, my heart is just a mess.

Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones affecting my emotions on a greater level.
I don't know, but I am doing my best to hold back tears.

I couldn't last night as our pastor read his letter and talked about the journey ahead of him, his wife, and their family (5 kids).

I couldn't as I read posts about Chase not being able to play in the sun with his siblings and friends.

I couldn't as I read about Caleb needing a new heart and his parents making the decision to donate his organs should he not make it.

I look down at my growing belly and fear creeps in.
Will my baby be okay?
Will he/she be healthy?
Will we be the family posting pictures on facebook daily asking for prayer for our little one's life?

I turn to my two girls, sitting on the floor playing together.
I am blown away by how blessed I am to be their mommy.
I am filled with joy as I hear them laugh and watch them interact with each other.
My heart melts when they give me hugs or kisses.
I hold their hands a little tighter and smile a bit more when they grab onto my finger or crawl into my lap.
I pray I have many, many, many more days with them.
I pray I get to paint many more pictures with them.
I pray I get to build many more towers with them.
I pray I get to splash in the pool with them many more summers.
I pray I get to read many more books with them.

My brother-in-law is getting married this weekend.  Coralyn is the flower girl.
I am going to cry as she walks down the aisle.
My mind will be jumping ahead some 20 years to when she's the bride.

Kellah's not in the wedding, but I will be picturing her up there as a bridesmaid for Coralyn, and then as a bride herself in the years following.

I feel like my heart is being pulled in a tug-of-war.
Joy. Sadness.
Fear. Relief.
Happiness. Grief.

Back and forth.

Thankfully, I read Psalm 108 this morning:
My heart is confident in you, O God;
    no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!
Wake up, lyre and harp!
    I will wake the dawn with my song.
I will thank you, Lord, among all the people.
    I will sing your praises among the nations.
For your unfailing love is higher than the heavens.
    Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.
    May your glory shine over all the earth.

No matter what I may be feeling, where my heart may be, I know what to do:
Keep my eyes on Jesus.
And praise His name.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Holding on for Dear Life

The other day God used Kellah to teach me a lesson about my relationship with Him.

I had given Kellah a small container with her snack -- homemade trail mix with raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds, a few almonds, and some banana chips.  She carried that little container around with her everywhere she went as we played outside.  If she was in the Cozy Coupe, that container was right there with her.  If she was on the tricycle, she was holding onto her container in one hand while trying to hold onto the bike handle with the other.  If she climbed into the Barbie car that doesn't even go, she had to have her snack right beside her.  Once I tried to hold onto her container for her while she climbed into my chair, and she nearly had a melt down.  How dare I try to take away her precious container.  Which mind you, thirty minutes later was still almost completely full with her snack that she hadn't had time or opportunity to actually eat due to her intense desire to hold onto the container itself for dear life.

Soon, we headed to the back yard to play on the swing set.  And when she wanted to climb up into her swing, you guessed it -- she had to have her snack container in hand.  After a bit she got tired of swinging and wanted to join Coralyn in the "tree house."  To get there though, she needed to climb a ladder.  That meant she needed to put her container down.  But that was simply not an option!!!  At least not in my precious little girl's mind.  She was bound and determined not only to climb up to the "tree house" with her sister, but to do so while holding her snack container.  She would get a step up and then spill her snack, so she had to stop and pick up every single raisin, cranberry, sunflower seed, almond, and banana chip and carefully place each one back in her little container.  Then, she turned right back around and proceeded to try to climb up the ladder again, container still in hand.

After watching her struggle for several minutes and get pretty frustrated, I thought she might be willing to let me help her.  I offered to hold her container, and once again the second I took it out of her hands, she started screaming bloody murder.  I placed the container in the "tree house" and did my best to explain to her that she would get it again when she reached the top.  I then proceeded to help her make it safely up the ladder (as she is a dare devil as has no fear whatsoever).  As soon as both feet were on the "tree house" platform, she grabbed that container like her life depended on it.  And when she went down the slide, you better believe she was holding onto it, as tightly as she possibly could.

Right back to the ladder she came, wanting to go up again.  We went through the same struggle over and over again as I tried to take the container from her and put it in the "tree house" for her to get as soon as she reached the top.  Not until about the 5th time did Kellah finally seem to understand that I wasn't taking her snack away from her, that I was merely putting it up where she could get it later, that I was actually trying to HELP her.

I thought about how I must do the same thing with God.  I hold on tightly to things, to people, to ideas.  I wan't let go of them for anything.  I am so afraid that if I do let go that I will forever lose whatever it is, whoever it is, that is so very precious to me.  All the while I am not even truly enjoying whatever or whoever is in my hands.  I am just grasping it/he/she so tightly and feeling secure in the fact that it's right there with me that I don't realize how much I am missing out on.  If I were to let go of my "little container" and give it to God to hold for me just imagine how much more I could enjoy life.

Kellah had quite the time driving the Cozy Coupe or Barbie car or riding her bike or swinging or climbing the ladder or sliding when she was holding onto her little container for dear life.  Can't be too much different when I do the same thing.

As soon as Kellah trusted me with her container, she was able to have so much more fun.  AND I always gave the container back to her.  I wasn't trying to be mean or spoil her fun by offering to hold it for her.  I was trying to HELP her.

Hmmmmm, God makes the same offer to me every day.  TODAY.

Will I hold my "containers" close to my chest or will I trust my heavenly Father and let Him hold them for me?  Will I grasp at my "containers," clenching them tightly or will I empty my hands so I can hold onto Jesus, clinging to HIM for dear life?

Biking is so much easier when you can use BOTH hands to hold on.

Getting in the Cozy Coupe and driving works much better when you don't have anything else in your hands/

Monday, June 3, 2013

Blown Away

I am almost in tears this afternoon as I witness God at work in ways beyond even my wildest dreams and imagination!  I am blown away at how He is answering my prayers and showing me He is sooooo much bigger than I could ever dare to expect!

Back in February, I took a step of faith and decided to join It Works as a distributor.  After thinking the wraps were a one-time, quick-fix, gimmick I talked to three very good friends who helped me see how these wraps and other health products are made with natural ingredients, truly benefit a person's overall health, and really are changing lives.  I respected these three women so much, I figured if they were confident in these products, then I could be too.  And since then, I have discovered firsthand how amazing our wraps, greens, defining gel, fat fighters, protein powder, fish oil, and more are!  I have seen my friends' lives changed as a result of using the products.  I have gotten to celebrate with other friends who have also decided to join the It Works team and sell the products.  Some of these women I have known since high school and others I have never met, but I pray for them every day regardless.  And we pray for each other beyond, "God, please bless our businesses and help us make money."  Oh, much deeper than that...  More like, "Please provide for their family as they're not sure if her husband will have a job in a couple weeks."  "Heal her daughter as she's not feeling well today."  "Give her wisdom as she deals with a parenting issue."  "Comfort her family as they mourn the loss of a loved one."  Stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with It Works, wraps, or making money!  Stuff that is much more important!

In fact, when I joined It Works, it was not primarily for financial reasons.  Yes, the extra money is nice, but that's just what it is as of right now -- extra money.  I promised that until It Works replaces my in-home daycare job, I would give back what I make and use that money to bless others.  God has been so faithful to provide us with opportunities to do that.  We have gotten to sponsor 5 kids so they can go to Ponca Bible Camp this summer and forever change their lives as a result.  We have helped a couple on their way to Haiti.  We have sent care packages to Africa and Europe to encourage my friends living there and sharing the LOVE and TRUTH of God with others on foreign soil.  We've done some other "little" things as well, like giving a newly married couple a bigger wedding present than we would have been able to in the past.

We've also spent some money on ourselves -- a new weed eater, filling our AC with freon, getting our lawnmower fixed, having a scoop of ice cream, and eating out a nice restaurant to celebrate Lawrence getting all A's in grad school.  Nothing too extravagant.  Yes, I would love to go on a super nice vacation, and we will eventually save up to do that.  My mom has always wanted to take a cruise or trip with us, and we would love to do that with my parents.  Now that is not just something to dream about but a real possibility in the very near future!

No matter how much money I make through It Works, we will not buy a new house (just to have a bigger, nicer house).  I will not get a designer purse -- it's just not me.  I will not buy high end clothes -- again, just not me.  I will still shop at thrift stores and look for things on the clearance rack and use coupons to get even those! :)  We will still get our groceries at Aldi (as much as we can, since they don't carry everything we need).  Though I am looking forward to being able to afford organic produce.  We won't buy fancy new cars.  I'm not sure what exactly we WILL do.  I know for sure we will stay "real" and "normal."

Just yesterday, actually, Lawrence and I were driving to a wedding and discussing what we would do if we had money coming out of ears.  Here's some of the things we mentioned:
*Pay off our house (no mortgage whatsoever)
*Save for the girls' college funds
*Save for the girls' weddings (and they won't get super extravagant, lavish weddings either -- nice, but not over the top)

After that, we really didn't know how to spend money on ourselves.  Maybe a nice 10 year wedding anniversary trip or something.  I don't think it's wrong to have fun and enjoy life and travel.  I do think God wants us to enjoy His creation, and I would personally like to see as much of it as possible!

Our hearts are on the same page, though.  We both want to be able to BLESS OTHERS.  We want to be able to give in ways that we haven't been able to do so before It Works.  We want to keep sponsoring kids for Ponca, way more than 5!  We want to reach out to the kids in our community and have neighbors over for supper, without having to worry about the cost of extra food and the like.  We would like to sponsor some kids through Compassion or Kids Alive (the agency I worked with in Haiti).  If there is a family in need at our church, we would like to help them out with groceries or bills or just money in general.  When we were wondering how we would pay for that stuff, we were blown away when some people from our church gave us $1,000 cash!  How cool if we could turn around and do the same thing for others!!!!

All of that seemed so far away just Saturday.  And that was only a few days ago.  Like 48 hours.  Now this afternoon, I just emailed Lawrence a copy of a Double Diamond chart for him to print for me (maybe we could get our computer downstairs fixed so it turns on and I can use the printer we own).

I have had 3 people contact me since yesterday, extremely interested in joining my It Works team.  One lives in Missouri and travels all over the Midwest for job.  One lives across the street.  One lives here in the KC area.  One of these ladies is actually coming with me tonight to my new distributor's launch party in Olathe and then signing up herself afterwards!!!!

One of my team members contacted me saying a person on her team has 2 people interested in joining.

Another team member has 3 salons who are interested in having wraps and other It Works products available as add-on services.

I myself have contacted 4 salons and massage places, 3 of which are looking over information to see if they will be getting on board.

Another team member is working with someone to sign her up as a distributor this week as well.

I got to work at the Hospital Hill Health Expo this weekend and sold 9 wraps in 4 hours.  I have heard back from many of those wrappers, saying they are delighted with their results and want to place orders.  Some of them want to host parties too!

Yet one more team member hosted 2 wrap parties yesterday (yes 2 on the same day) and signed up five loyal customers as a result.  Oh, and she made about $250 in cash too!

Someone else on our team sold 10 wraps this past week!

Others have shared about getting new loyal customers and having potential distributors contact them wanting more information about the business aspect of It Works.

Exciting things!!!  Crazy things!!!  Things beyond my wildest dreams and expectations.  My goal was to get Diamond by the end of May, and I just barely missed it.  I really didn't think it would be possible in the first place, but I got so close!!!!  And now just days later, I am working to fill out the chart that comes AFTER the Diamond level.

If/when I make Double Diamond, my commission check will be around $6,000 a month.
That's a lot of giving and blessing we can do!
I am blown away. I am in tears as I think about what God is doing and how He is using this to bless not just our family, but countless others as well.  I am humbled.  I am overwhelmed.

I don't know what to say, except, "Thank You, Jesus!"  All praise and honor and glory goes to HIM alone!

As if I didn't need any more emotion in my life, I got a message from a fellow distributor challenging everyone who sells here in the KC area and anyone on their teams in any way to raise $50,000 this month to sponsor 30 kids to go on a missions trip to Jamaica!  Some It Works distributors make that much each month, so I am sure it's not going to be a problem for our team to raise that amount and more!  I have personally committed to donating at least $200, which I know I will earn this month in bonus money alone from the new distributors who have joined or will join tonight.  I would love to earn $500 in bonus money this month and give all of it to this amazing cause.  How cool would that be!!!

All that to say, for me It Works is not about stuffing my pockets with cash.

It's about helping my family financially so I can continue to stay at home and be a full time mom to our kids.

It's about helping others be able to pay off debt and save and bless others as they earn extra money by selling It Works products.

It's about helping people develop and maintain good overall health.  It's about giving people more time with the ones they love and making it possible for them to truly enjoy life and do things they haven't been able to do before because of health restrictions.

It's about blessing people in ways we never could before It Works.

It truly is about changing lives!!!

If you would like to be a part of this amazing journey -- by using or selling It Works products -- please let me know!!!  I would LOVE to talk with you!