Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Breaking Traditions

God has been purging Dan and me of traditions since very early on in our marriage. Beginning with the celebration of Christmas; we had an odd desire to leave that in our childhood memories without even knowing why. Since first being released from the stronghold of celebrating Christmas many more traditions have been stripped from our families existence some willingly and some we wrestled greatly over. 

Cultural Traditions such as celebrating Easter and Christmas, sending our kids to traditional school and even where we attend church and when has often left us feeling despondent and unaccepted by our peers as we have moved around the world. For the past 3 years since moving to Montgomery we have even argued with God as to why we are even here? Why He allowed us to even buy this house (which is often quite a burden). We had come to believe if things were falling down around us we were being punished by God or even left to our own will since it seemed we had not followed Him here. That couldn't be more false.

In sharing this with a friend recently she spoke some words that rang deep in my heart. She said “sometimes God moves you to a place and needs to wait for you to mature before He can use you for His intended purpose.” That was it! All our trials over the past 3 years have brought us to this place, a broken heart before Him insistent to do His will. As we have typically had to look back and learn from life’s circumstances with God’s grace we are now fortunately able to see a glimpse of what He is doing through us. 

About 6 months ago we began attending Zoe Ministry, a home group church in Millbrook, Alabama. In our desperation we reached out to those in our home school group to find a small church hoping that there would be another group of people like us looking to serve the true God in faith and simplicity. We didn't even know what we were asking for, but the Spirit did, and we were led to Zoe (Jack and Debbie Jackson) and our hearts and our souls have been fed immensely ever since. Even though our hearts desire was to attend a home group church, we really didn't know what that meant. It meant getting outside our comfort zone, once again. 

FYI breaking of our cultures traditions is VERY uncomfortable! 

This small group of about 14  was what we had pictured but being used to larger crowd church’s it’s easy to slip in and out unnoticed. Not here, where we are greeted with hearty smiles and hugs it took some getting used to. But now this sweet group of people has come to be a lot of what we look forward to all week long! Even our children, who are the youngest by far, are disappointed when we miss a Saturday here or there when we are just too worn out to make the 30 min drive. 

That’s another lovely thing about our nontraditional church, no kids programs and proud of it! I am so happy to finally have a place that my kids aren't asked to leave to be with other kids so they can sing songs or color. They sit with us, learn patience, respect and most importantly they are able to see and experience what God is doing in the lives of every adult in attendance. God still moves! He still speaks and He is Alive! And I wish I could say it didn't take almost 2.5 years to find Him dwelling in a church body here in Montgomery, Alabama.

Through Gods direction, He has asked us to opened up our home in Montgomery for a second location for those who would like to worship every Friday night at 6:30 p.m. with Zoe Ministries. Our prayer in all this is God brings those looking to seek him further, those no longer bound by traditions in seeking to live in hope by faith.

Acts 2:46 and day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

Monday, July 9, 2012

Empty Drawers

As we steadily prepare for this weekend’s yard sale for the Nigerian Maternity Clinic, I can’t help but prepare our plan of attach for purging. My goal for this week is to continue checking in every nook and cranny for some material item that has gone unused, unwanted and forgotten. The thought that our “what-not’s” will soon turn into a tangible a substance to improve the lives of many women, has become quite exhilarating.
                There is nothing sacred in our house. If it’s not used on a daily basis, it’s gone. As I scour drawers, under beds and the backs of closets God revealed a beautiful correlation that is even more important that the task at hand.
                In Galatians 6:14-15 says… “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”
                It’s easy to get caught up in the “feel good” of what God has asked us to accomplish. But the flat out truth is, we have putting this off for almost 2 years due to our selfishness. It has taken God that long to work on our hearts so we are finally at a place where we say “take it all”. God has changed our hearts, our minds and our desires to the point where we are now glorying in Him and not in what “we” can do.
                As Paul wraps up this letter to the Galatians, he is reminding them that what was being taught (they must be circumcised to come to Christ) was a false religious looking check mark on their climb to Christ. He’s reminding them they can’t climb to Christ, no matter what they do. There’s only one thing they could do, and it hasn’t changed. They must glory in Jesus’s crucifixion and through this we become a new creature.
                I became aware that circumcision was the deed of choice in those days to prove their “Christianity” due to their ignorance. It’s easy for us to say…”well duh, I know that circumcision won’t save me.” But in our society we have all new ignorance’s that allow for deeds to make us feel like we can prove or even earn our place with Christ. Isaiah 64: 6 says…” all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
                This passage made me stop and check weather my acts of righteousness where God’s requests or of my own conjuring. That makes a big difference as things (even good) we try to accomplish for the purpose of being seen before men are useless and a waist to God. He cares about our heart condition so that must be pure and purged prior to embarking on, what we think are, acts of valor.
                The drawers of our hearts must be cleaned out folks. Throw all that hidden, wasted “what-not’s” out so they may be turned into tangible usefulness for the Lord to consume and transform it into the Light of this world, so we may be used of Him as He intends. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Friend in Need...

       Throughout life I have only had a handful of good friends, I can count them on one hand. After being married I clutched tight to the few friends in my grasp that I could really rely on and share my heart with. I had a new friend, a best friend so the need for more friends became less of a priority. But the appreciation for the ones I had and new ones I have discovered remain. 
     Now, almost 10 years later my husband is more of a better half of who I am than rather than just a friend; he is SO much more!

         Recently a very close friend, one of the 5 mentioned above, shared a challenge with me that she was going to be taking on with some friends, acquaintances and even strangers to approach the wasteful areas in our own lives that we feel God is working on extracting from our day to day living. Interestingly enough these practical strangers that have been brought together to glean from one another are all of one heart. To live simply for God and not for ourselves. I know that may sound glorious, romantic even. But the truths behind digging down to the core of ourselves where we don’t really want to go is going to be a painful, ugly place that I believe will have a renewing end.  I’ll be sure and keep you posted on how that goes as our 8 week study begins next week.

      This same friend,  was sharing with me about a yard sale her and her hubby had to raise money for an orphanage in impoverished country. As she reminded me again more recently of their success in raising $2,000.00 to give at a 100% profit to these children in need, God reminded of an ache he’s placed in our heart for months; for a maternity clinic in Africa.

      It’s beyond interesting how God works, and gently reminds us of what it is He wants from us so gently; when we really need a swift kick in the pants. I believe it’s no accident that these two major events collided within the same week. Thus the marriage to purge and live simply while aiding this marvelous maternity clinic God has put on our hearts.

     Our burden has been lifted! As Dan and I shared thoughts, randomly I might add, about these struggles we have had individual we realized they were over the same issue. So it is without further ado’ I share with you our plans to follow in obedience. WE HOPE YOU CAN JOIN US!

YARD SALE: 14 July 2012 Starting @ 6:00am At our Home in Montgomery Alabama.
Reply to the event VIA Facebook if you plan on attending.

     We have decided to spend the next 2 weeks retting out our home of unnecessary distractions. An over abundance of personal items that we cling to and keep us from hearing God’s still, small voice. We will be holding a Yard Sale and give 100% profits to a maternity clinic my father in law help start in 2005. Affecting the lives of hundreds of woman and children’s lives, who struggle during the most venerable time of life; carrying a child and giving birth.

     Sometimes a friend in need is not what you think; I pray you don’t miss the opportunities to help an unlikely friend as well.

I am grateful for the opportunity while still embarrassed it has taken us so long to respond to His calling.

My father in Law so generously created a write up explaining the history, purpose and needs of the maternity clinic. If you are still interested...please read further...

Vivian Maternity Clinic, Aveile, Nigeria

Brief History: In 2005 on my first trip to Nigeria to be with Mike Olufemi a former member of my church in Germany I had the good pleasure of meeting the High King Abebe of Aveile and of Edo State.  One thing I was told no one comes before the King empty handed so I planned to bring $5,000 (donated by Mrs. Vivian a wonderful lady friend of ours) for three burr hole water wells.  After some discussion I quickly learn King Abebe did not want the burr hole water wells, but a maternity clinic. The $5,000 was given to King Abebe and Vivian Maternity Clinic was birthed into this world.       
Geographical and Demographics:  Aveile is quite stark mainly with green tropical vegetation with some brown and red color dotting the landscape. The towns and villages are located in a delta between the barren extremely dry north and the green forest of south.  Aveile is located off a main road about six hours from Lagos to the south and six hours from Abuja, the capital, to the north.  The average temperature is between 90-100F with limited rain fall, except during the seasonal rain which can cause severe flooding due to poor soil development.  Elevation is flat which makes travel long, hard, and dusty.  Clean water is from burr hole wells, a polluted river about one mile away, and collected rain water. Food is available maybe two days of supply in local shops.  Fresh goat, beef, and chicken meat are butchered daily. In summary, the geographic area is mildly tropical, humid, and barren, but not desert.  Here is some sad statistics:  the people of Aveile are farmers, artisans, and day labor workers with little to no education. The family structure is critical for the well being and future success of the local villages and surrounding communities. The maternity clinic services a combined population of roughly 500,000 ladies not to mention the constant migration of the ladies streaming down from the north of Nigeria due to the religious and ethnic fighting. The standard of living is very poor 9 of 10 homes lack indoor plumbing and electricity. Vectors spread disease especially malaria at alarming rates not to mention the spread of HIV/AIDS and TB often are in epic numbers. The need for healthcare education and preventive programs are critical now.  With our present clinic staffing of:  one administrator (Mike Olufemi), three mid-wives, and five security guards we cannot keep up with the influx of ladies from the north and an ever increasing number of births.  Our meager resources quickly are depleted by the end of month. The main function of Vivian Maternity Clinic is to provide a clean and comfortable place for the predominately Muslim ladies to give birth. Presently we are delivering over 120 babies (that is more than the local hospital Jacksonville, NC closest big town to us in Sneads Ferry) each month.  We also, according to our limited resources, provide health education and promotions to as many ladies and families as we can.  And now the children born at the clinic are being educated by Mike and staff at the clinic.  Please see the picture.
Present Challenges:  Challenges are many here are our top three. The most immediate challenge is the purchasing and titling of the land the clinic is on.  King Abebe passed away last year and a new King is more Muslim and not as believing Muslims and Christians can dwell together in harmony as King Abebe believed.  We have started this process, but like everything in Africa legal dealings take on a life of their own and costs multiply expeditiously.  Being the clinic was founded by folks and resources from the United States costs are always doubled for the clinic. Our second challenge is the ever present need for greater security for the ladies and the physical structures due to the religious fighting and terrorism in the north that drives pregnant ladies and ladies with babies south to the maternity clinic. Because of this problem and because of the local burglary and petty thugery we had to build a six foot wall topped with broken glass and barbed wire around the compound taking away critical money from our healthcare delivery. And the third challenge is our continual need for resources, things like money:  money for the electric bill, money for the salaries, money for taxes, money for medical supplies, money for food for the ladies and the kids born at the maternity clinic that are being educated there, money for continual maintenance and up keep, the list goes on and on. Nigeria does not have money to give to a local maternity clinic nor does the local King we are on our own, but for God and the generosity of people who care.  The clinic is stocked with extremely modern medical equipment:  delivery and exam tables, ultrasound machines, a wonderful library of medical books, and so much more all donated of course, but it is the day-to-day expenses for the care and feeding of the ladies and babies that really makes this challenge significant and even a show stopper at times.     

What Can I Do:  They say no one really cares what you know till they know how much you care. What we need are people around the world to care for ladies who live is great poverty and babies who are born into a hopeless situation.  Infant mortality in West Africa is some places are as high as 30%.  At our clinic there is no surgical procedures performed so if a lady needs a C-section she is taken to the road in front of the clinic and hopefully someone comes by with a car or a commercial van transport to take her six hours in either direction to a hospital, but honestly the mother and the baby usually dies in these situations.  What we need is people who care and would want to do whatsoever to see this miracle of God continue.  What we need is people to give hope.  What can you do to help?        

Feel free to see more photos by visiting:            

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Two in School...

For as strong as a conviction that my husband and I have had about homeschooling for many years, you would think I wouldn't have dreaded this day so much! You would think our desire would supersede any fears I may have...sorry, that's just not the case. 

Originally I expected to have the whole summer to sort out any insecurities and get so prepared that there would be nothing left to do but face this hurtle head on. Again, as life does, we were thrown a curve ball causing us to once again divert and readjust. 

With the anticipated arrival of "fluffy", baby #3 in late September, I decided the best way to tackle this hurtle was to go ahead and continue school right through summer. Leaving our "summer break" to be taken in the fall when our new addition arrives. Great! Just what I needed, less time to prepare for what I had been dreading. Left with no choice I used my tactics for the last few years in material prep and simply made room for my newest student, our son John, now 4 and going into Kindergarten. 

You may ask...what is there to fear? My biggest fear was the chaos that would ensue while needing to spend such one on one time with each of my children in 2 different grades. My daughter has needed much direction in the past 2 years and adding a Kindergartner to that I was sure would pull me in directions I just didn't feel prepared to go. As well as having the time left over in the day to do the 100+ other tasks to run a household. 

I'm glad to announce It's just not as bad as I had made it out to be. My son only requires a good 20-30 min of concentrated work. I plan our days to start with Abigail, working on about 20-30 minutes of self paced work as I focus on John. Once his school is complete I have the rest of the afternoon to focus on the more difficult aspects of Abigail's work one on one. Sounds simple enough...what was I afraid of again? 

Although our English, reading, writing and math is all done indoors. Our science is done outside in the garden and caring for our chickens. At the end of September we are planning to reward their hard work with a historical trip to Historic Westiville in Georgia. I'm also excited about the new series of books we are reading to learn history through great christian pioneers from the 1800's and present Called: Christian Hero's then and now. 

Homeschooling is not as hard as it seems, our fears suck the fun right out of it. Although my deepest fear overcame me more than the reality actually allowed, I have to say it's one of the most flexible necessities in life that we could ever partake in. When I share with others that we are a home-school family the first thing that always, without fail, comes out of that other mom or dad's mouth is "I could never do that, I'm too scared I'll mess something up." Newsflash: You can't do any worse than most public schools and more importantly their is a lasting building of relationship and character that can NOT be replaced in any other setting.

I'm thankful for this opportunity...Hair pulling stresses and all! 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Our Church Dilemma...

So we are creeping up on our second year hear in Montgomery Alabama, and boy does time fly! The best things about moving to a new city have still not worn out and I still find delight in learning details of the inner workings of a community.

Coming from Florida it seemed we were forced to make some lifestyle compromises that I am very grateful of. Although we all miss our daily, and sometimes, multiple walks to the beach has been more than made up for with such an outstanding homeschooling community filled with wonderful families bonded together to give our children not just an education but life skills that will ring through eternity.

I have enjoyed learning the spots to pick local, wild, blackberries; the free admission to the art museum, the fall outdoor concerts, the skating rink, participating in the consignment sales (they really should be year round y'all) meeting unforgettable friends and having the opportunity to own our own home which we have the freedom to have a big garden and roaming chickens. Having the time to cook home-cooked meals and learning, timeless, health benefits.

All that sounds great, but it is the fluff that fills up our days as we hungrily await our spiritual feedings to grow where we have been planted to be used in the season God has planned for us to bare fruit.

We used to think part of this equation included finding a proper church home. Well the more I study and the more I hear and see the things going on in church the more I am convinced that may not be the case. Now, I am no way advocating that people should leave church and not attend. As you can see the title is "Our church dilemma", as we long to be a part of a body of believers that Loves the Lord and wants to grow in Him. I'm simply saying, I think it's more than just "plugging" ourselves in somewhere and hope to get our batteries recharged during the possible 4 hours or so spent at church every week.

With the over 200 + churches in Montgomery you would think we could find a place. But our hearts are just not in the same place as what we have seen. In acception to a church we attended over the past 6 months, the churches we have visited, although filled with wonderful people have a message that has left us unfulfilled.

We have a relationship with Christ. We talk to him every day, not just in prayer before meals, but in constant communion as we can't breath without Him. I have even been in such need of Him that I have asked Him if I should blow-dry my hair that day. Weird, I know but that is where my heart is, daily, in a walk with Him. We don't wait for Sunday to see Him. To us Sunday is another day as our longing for Him never ceases. But when we step inside a Church it is filled with extended prayers and 40 minutes of singing, (Not sure why it's called Worship as worship is to prostrate yourself before the Lord.) a message that seems is preaching to the lost, a plea to turn your heart over to the Lord as a last ditch effort before you leave the building until next week .

Ok, Yes, Please! Reach the Lost! Ok, but now a church is now filled with Christians longing to grow, longing for fellowship for encouragement. Everyone leaves, immideatly. Not to come together again, some on Wednesday, but until next week. While each brother and sister goes home dealing with some kind of physical or emotional suffering that could of been comforted by the out stretched arm of a fellow brother/sister without having to say a word. Yes, God is are ultimate comforter but He asked us to be a part of His body of believers for a reason.

The pomp and circumstance going on takes away from these sweet, sweet communions God intended as the "body" of Christ to work. We are each but a body part and CAN NOT work without a proper joining of each part.

As a woman, a large complaint I have is my struggle to be a good wife and a good mom. What does it mean to Love my children and more importantly my husband; what does that really look like? I don't know 100%. According to the Bible the older woman do know and are to be teaching the younger. I don't see that. I have never experienced that either. Are we to proud as young mothers?

We are now at the point where we would LOVE to find a small group of believers that meet up at a home. With no fluff, no drama (we are human that may be a lot to ask), and no putting on our "Sunday Best" to hide the wickedness of our hearts. Just raw communion in good times and bad of folks who are most interested in growing in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Not to sure the church as we know it America is what God has intended as the Body of Christ.

Thus our dilemma...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Food Paranoia

That’s right folks I’m convinced we are petrified of food! Why else would be take something completely perfect, nutrient rich, succulent to the lips and eyes, alter it, strip it down regulate it and then pump out a semi version of what it once was?

Our bodies are created in a way that we are able to withstand some roughing up, if you will, on the inside. The dirt, soft spots and even a bug here and there does not kill us. In fact it builds up our immunity to the even harsher exposure that we encounter that is beyond our control. We have made ourselves so “sanitized” our bodies have no clue what to do when any kind of toxin enters. A normal, healthy body knows exactly what to do.

Did you know all cows have the Ecoli in their bodies? However, due to their foraging the enzymes in grass breaks down and kills any bacterial that would have previously been found. The reason our meats are bleached out and recolored is to kill the bacteria. If cows (or any animal we use for consumption) were left in the fields to do what they do best the natural order of things that our Creator set up would take care of itself.

We have demanded cleanliness out of our own ignorance. In the early 1900s when meat packing was at the brink of it’s production stages it was a stumbling mess. The meat packers were actually on the brink of bankruptcy because the consumers didn’t trust them and refused to buy. The meat packers took their “dilemma” to the President and he initiated regulations to help bring back some dignity. And thus started a snowball effect of removing a community functioning food ecology.

As consumers we hold the keys to this runaway train. Problem is, it’s bound to crash and I refuse to be on that ride. I have jumped tracks and am headed another direction on a rickshaw, proud of it and in full control.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Food Dilemma...a girls search for REAL Food

Well this seems easy enough, drive on over to any one of the 5 local stores to pick some version of real food. Well, there is some truth to that, because a version is all you are going to get. It may be a shocker to find out that we don't buy real food in the supermarket. Ok, I embellished a tad...but I'm not too far from the truth.

Three years ago I started on this journey of food discovery that I just can't keep silent about any longer. When my husband convinced me to watch a documentary he ran across that depicted the governments hand in our food countries food production. His explanation intrigued me and since I just LOVE to cook I thought if anything else it would help give me an edge up in the kitchen. What I saw and heard revolutionized the way I looked at food and has since opened up a world in which I can’t turn away from.

Since most of us think that real food is a swarming cornucopia inhabiting the neatly stocked shelves at our local supermarket; I think it’s important that we look at what real food is NOT before we dive into the vast world of what real food is. If we throw out the imposters all that will be left is a sweet variety of nourishing foods.

1. Food is just that, nourishing. The food we eat brings life to our 300 Million + cells living and active that make up our every available function. I actually have a theory that we need less (more nourishing) food than the gobs we stock up on and consume of food containing empty nutrients. But we will get to that later.

2. Sugar is NOT white! In nature, sugars and carbohydrates (the energy providers) are joined together with vitamins, mineral, enzymes, protein, fat and fiber which are the bare bones of body building and digestion regulating components of any diet. The white sugar we buy in the store has been through a refining process that strips natural sweeteners of any nutrient capabilities. When consumed this actually causes the body to call on itself to pull nutrients rather than building and storing as we were created to do to protect and heal from a plethora of ailments. High Fructose Corn Syrup is NOT a safe substitute. There is a recent commercial put out by the FDA that shows a family frolicking in a corn field with a mother saying “corn syrup, sugar, our bodies don’t know the difference” well she should be ashamed of herself. It is chemically produced and voids our body of necessities to function and protect and is extremely dangerous to kids because the doses are not tested on small humans, rather on 500lb cows, you do the math.

3. Where’s all the butter?! Butter is not bad! But you can hardly find it in the store. Margarine galore. Which I’m not happy to report is a fermented version of corn oils that are recolored to our liking. Sorry, I don’t like buying dead things to put in my body. I like putting live food in to keep me, I don’t know…alive. The notion that saturated fats per se cause heart disease as well as cancer is not only trite, it just plain wrong. While it is true that some fats are bad for us, we must understand which ones. Since butter is a dairy product it has all the same hormones, antibiotics and other additives that are inside our milk that is just as dangerous.

4. Milk! This one is the sorest for me, probably because it’s hardest to find. This is going to be a shocker; you may want to sit down. Store bought milk is void of the fats we need to grow strong health brains and bones. Yes, even organic. When we were stationed in Florida we had the luxury of buying milk at a local farm stand for $3 a gallon that came straight from the cow, cream on the top and all. Why are these notions so out dated? Now that we are stationed in Alabama it is impossible for me to find that type of milk as it is illegal for farmers to sell to human consumption. Most people I talk to about milk think it barbaric to drink milk straight from the cow. That it is unsanitary. What is unsanitary is feeding cows at a processing plant, other dead cows and grains then extracting contaminating milk, boiling down the contamination, bleaching the contamination than adding a few drops of lab created nutrients such as vitamin D and Vitamin E. Ok but what about the remaining 100+ vitamins, nutrients and minerals that work symbiotically with our body to restore cells that are dying without this form of consumption? Urgh…this topic irks me most!

5. What the…MEAT?!? This is an area I “DO NOT” compromise in! I do not buy meat from the store! Ok, I will buy chicken and ground beef … but at earth fare only. I buy my meat from a local farmer who grows his cows in the field, has them slaughtered, packaged and I and my family enjoy…void of contamination, chemical treatment and full of nutrient. Meat that comes from a processing plant. I know there is a mirage of choices at the store but there is only about 3 companies that produces the meat in this country. The animals do not feed on forage which contaminates their bodies, makes them sick. They are then treated with antibiotics during life and a process of “decontamination” when they are dead.

Anyone see the problem with this yet? It has taken me years to put all this together so it won’t be overnight for you either, so please stick with it and don’t lose hope. The main thread in all of these processes is in the government’s attempt to “Help” us they over treated, over produced, and over contaminated which has striped our food of the nutrients we need for our bodies to function the way we are made to. Rather we fill ourselves with empty food and we are surprised when we get sick, are tiered, depressed, and a whole host of things that could take days to list.

The truth is the body is made to heal and restore itself through a constant variety of nutrient dense foods. My goal with this search for “Real Food” is to expose every entity of our empty food and show viable alternatives and solutions regardless of time constraints, budget restraints and overcoming just plain inexperience. This will start a series in which I’m not sure how long it will take. But I can promise…It will be fun, It will be informative and I will change your love for food in a way you could never imaging.

1st Homework Assignment: Watch Food INc. If you have Netflix you can watch it for free. Or you can view it via YouTube and pay a few measly bucks to do so.