Tuesday, May 29, 2012

the TO DO list

i woke up early on this first official day of summer.  the school year is over, the parties have ended, and our out-of-town guests have gone home. we have not one immediate thing planned for this final tuesday in may, this first tuesday of summer -- not one thing at all.  a part of me wants to sit in my pajamas and sip lukewarm coffee for hours on end. maybe make pancakes and leave the dirty plates on the table.  you know the kind of day where we don't brush our teeth until lunchtime and might not even get to our hair.  that kind of day.

that's what i want.

but when i crossed over the great divide of busy school year and stepped slowly into summer this morning, i woke with the sense that there's much to do.  i should make a list.  yes, i told myself, a list would help -- keep me on task and focused and moving forward.  i have about a thousand things which i promised to "get to" this week.  in the past month of the great school-year-wrap-up, i was continuously shoving things into the save pile.  continuously pushing appointments and communication and decisions into the "look at it later" file.  and so now here i am in the middle of that later.  and what's a gal to do at this stage in the game, but to make a glorious TO DO list and begin her determined-woman plan of attack.

that's what i did.

a long, excruciatingly detailed list of everything which i have for so long put off.  this list with all of its grievances and annoyances and nuances -- this list which i cannot ignore for too many minutes more without serious repercussions.  oh, this list.  that list. the TO DO list helps.  it will make me more efficient and effectual in my day...my week...my summer.  but as i put down my pen and look at those 36 items neatly numbered on pretty paper, all i can think is, "is this what i am really supposed to be doing?"  i can sit here this morning on the cusp of lovely summertime and write out a list detailing the mundane, but why am i not using my morning dreaming something more marvelous?  i have these quiet hours before small (and actually, rather big) feet come pattering down the stairwell, and i am using my brain to plot out appointments and grocery items.  and what keeps running through my head is this thought:  i know i have stuff to do.  i cannot escape that.  try as i may, i can't hide from the menial tasks and necessary to dos of everyday living.  but, for heaven's sake jody, carve out the time to write down the bigger stuff...the dreams and desires God stirs in my heart -- when i take time to hear Him.  what does God really want at the top of my TO DO list? i am pretty sure, though He is okay with me registering a child for a sport's camp or calling a repairman, what He really wants is me to be listening and looking to the list He has for my life.   what does He want me to do?

that's what i need.

i wasn't kidding
i know i have to make lists. i have practical things pressing at me from all sides.  in fact,  i have an oven door this morning, hanging by a thread and some duct tape (the spring just decided to break over the weekend).  i know i have to make lists about veterinarian and pediatrician visits...but what i really want is to know the bigger lists God has already written for me...for my family.  i want to enjoy the simple tasks of my day with a heart beating wildly to embrace the larger, harder, deeper tracks of my life.  they all go together.  small-big. simple-complex. shallow-deep.

that's what i think you want too.

i am pretty sure we are all wired this way.  i might be an odd woman, but i am not a woman standing alone in this.  whether you are a list maker or not, you are a fellow traveler with TO DO type items trailing behind you --swirling around you.  and this morning...on this lovely, start-of-summer morning,  can we ask ourselves and ask the Creator and the Writer of the morning and the summer and the lists, "what am i really supposed to be doing?"

i know we all have places to go and appointments to keep and mouths to feed and dogs to groom and letters to mail and errands to run...these are the unavoidable details of humble living...grateful breathing.  but can we...shouldn't we...might we...make a list on this sweet morning of summer's edge and listen to His voice.  what has God put on your heart that is hiding behind all of the stuff you have put on your list?  that's a great question for summer's gracious start.  and when you ask, get ready to write, for i know He will answer. because...

that's what He does. 

"call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."   
~ jeremiah 33:3

Saturday, May 26, 2012

asking. speaking. listening. trusting.

this has been one of those weeks which would be pretty hard to sum up.  a week rather difficult to wrap up.    it is friday night and i'm in bed early.  the hamster wheel has finally stopped spinning and no one seems to need me.  no one is calling. nothing is pressing.  sure there are piles of life in some state of disrepair...dishes in the sink...baskets of laundry...random stuff out of order...children to tuck into their beds.  but for the most part i'm done.  the week is winding down.  slowly. softly. quietly. finally.

but as i sit here typing, i'm pretty sure, as much as i'd like some rest, i don't want it to all be over. i don't want it really to end.  this was the final week of school for my kids.  yesterday my children walked through the doors of perimeter for their last time as pcs students and last night tyler walked across a stage and received his 8th grade diploma -- officially graduating from a place we've all called home for many years.  this week brought with it the end of a chapter.  the end of our time in a world which has impacted our family in a way i can't possibly put to words.

last week i underwent an unexpected surgery removing a mass from my breast.  this week another type of cutting.  another type of removal.  another type of pain.  saying good bye to a school, to a people, to an extraordinary place in time.  we aren't leaving officially until mid july, but for us, the school bell in georgia won't ring again....and this is unbelievably hard.  harder than i thought it could be.  certainly much harder than i want it to be.

i think i did a pretty good job this week keeping myself numb and together and slightly aloof. i  did my very best to keep the emotions in check and the tears at bay.  it wasn't easy.  but it was one of those weeks where i felt like i had no other choice but to be tough.  it was one of those weeks where i was certain if i started to cry, i wouldn't be able to stop. have you ever felt that way?  it isn't all bad.  i mean so much of what brings me to this sharp pinnacle of emotion is the pure joy and blessing of it all.  watching my 14 year old son, arm in arm with his childhood friends, young boys turning the corner into young men.  it was watching my sarah up on stage with her best girlfriends in her final talent show act at perimeter school singing and dancing to "we go together."  it was connor running to meet me yesterday afternoon with flushed cheeks, his last time wearing a pcs uniform, slightly rumpled and kind of dirty, of course.  those uniforms have been hanging in our closets and folded in our laundry room and discarded dirty on our bedroom floors for a decade now.  there were so many sweet moments this week as we wrapped up our school year and our time at perimeter.  too many to count.  words and hugs and hands held tightly.  the searing beautiful slice to my soul --  we love and we are loved.  is there anything greater?
ty introducing his mom at graduation 

in the midst of watching my oldest son graduate i also had the distinct privilege of being the commencement speaker last night.  i got the call a couple of weeks ago from the committee,  "jody, the class voted and they'd like you to speak at graduation." i was stunned with that news. as i shared last night with the audience, my first reaction was to get all weepy...but that quickly turned into feeling like i just might throw up.  i wasn't sure i could do this. i mean i knew this class well and loved them deeply, but speaking seemed an impossibility on a night like this, in a week like this, at a time like this.  i wasn't sure i would be able to get through the evening as just the proud mother of tyler, let alone take on the task of addressing these 79 teenagers and an auditorium full of their families.  i was overwhelmed. i mean it,  completely overwhelmed with the thought.  but, because i am a strange woman, i said yes.   "i'll do it. i'd be honored."

24 hours after saying "yes", i found out that i'd need not only to prepare that week for a speech, but also for a surgery.  i saw my breast surgeon tuesday and he delivered the untimely punch that he'd like to remove a troublesome mass (potentially scar tissue - but had to be sure) from my breast and he wanted to do it right away.  i would need to fit that into these final two weeks of school's ending, graduation planning and speech writing.  so as i sat there in his office digesting this news, my thoughts kind of went like this: "okay, so now i truly have an "out"...everyone will surely understand if i pass this opportunity by and hand off the speaking responsibility to someone else.  surely there is someone else not juggling a quick surgery and biopsy results a week prior to graduation. just call them back and tell them, sorry, i can't do it."  i talked to myself like this from the doctor's office all the way to my car.  and as i began to pull out of the parking garage i wasted no time in going directly to God.  i had barely paid my ticket when i started in with my words,  "tell me what to do, Lord...be clear...tell me what you're up to...  give me an answer fast Jesus, because i'm kind of confused here...floundering, in fact...hello God, it's me, jody, again...i thought i was supposed to be spending these next couple of weeks writing and working on a speech...does surgery change all that? help me out here. God? are you there?  are you listening? God? God? God?"

the monologue in my head hardly slowed, never stopped.  i just kept talking all the way home -- and not only in my head.  i mean audibly. if you happened to be driving on I-85 that tuesday afternoon, you may have noticed an odd woman in her black yukon talking loudly to herself behind the wheel -- hands motioning and head bobbing and shaking. all the way home i just talked and talked and talked.  i just told and told and told stuff to God.  i seriously was almost to my street before i realized i hadn't stopped for a breath.  and what's even more important, i hadn't stopped for one moment to listen. i kept asking God for the answer, but that entire 40 minute car ride home,  i never got quiet enough to hear what He had to say.  isn't that crazy? what's crazier, is that this is how i operate so often. i'm pretty good at opening my mouth, but forget to open my ears...my eyes...my heart.  oh for heaven's sake jody lynn, when will you learn?  be quiet. be still. just listen.

i pulled into my driveway and sat for a few minutes.  finally quiet.  finally still.  the impact of a second surgery set in...the craziness of the entire situation began to sink in...but in that stillness, in that sweet solitude inside my stopped car on my empty driveway i felt very strongly God saying, "just do the speech jody.  stop your ranting and raving and wild questioning of me, and just be quiet and do the speech."  and i had my answer.  sometimes it's like that.  clear as day. clear as writing on a wall.  but i first had to stop.  i had to be still.  it just took a few minutes...but i had to be quiet and listen.

and over the last couple of weeks as i have prepared for last night's speech...as i have worked on the words and the message and the timing ....i cannot even explain how God has used this time to work on me.  the surgery took place smack dab in the middle of it all.  more stitches and more sore ...a little more battered and a little more bruised...but reminded, once again,  God isn't finished with me yet.  God is always at work.  He isn't trying to wear me out, but He is wanting to reel me in.  He is wanting to pull me closer. through these crazy twists and turns of life, He is drawing me to Him.  and sometimes it hurts.  hard good byes, unpleasant surgeries, emotional speeches...come closer to me jody.  come closer. eyes on me, daughter.  it was the message He put on my heart  for those graduates.  "fix your eyes on Jesus -- the author and perfecter of your faith."  all last week i typed up those words and practiced them in front of the mirror.  i must have said that 100 times as i prepared to face graduation night.  fix your eyes on Jesus.  oh, isn't it amazing how God works?  those graduates may have voted for me to be their speaker, but God knew i, too, would need this message getting through this emotional time as well.  He wastes nothing friends.  nothing.  that unexpected surgery and the wait for biopsy results kept me raw...kept me close...kept me focused on Him.

i have to tell you, i was probably as scared of delivering that 20 minute speech as i was of that one hour surgery removing what could be more cancer -- maybe even more so.  it is crazy to think, but on the top ten list of greatest fears, public speaking is actually two steps higher than cancer.  (i just googled that).  can you believe that? actually, i kind of can after this past week. i mean i can do the public speaking thing, but something about this night and this audience and this moment in time felt HUGE to me.  it felt serious and grave and completely out of my reach.  i was so nervous.  i wanted to focus only on sharing with those graduates something good from God, but i had to first take my message to heart and listen to my own words -- fix your eyes on Jesus.

that night is over.  the speech went well.  i have sighed many sighs of relief today.  i am so glad i did it and so thankful the kids asked.  but mostly humbled to have a part in an evening like that.  we are so thankful and humbled to have had a part and a place in a school like this ...all these years.  i am not sure i'll ever be able to look back at these last two weeks and completely understand how God poured all that He did into these 14 final days.  it doesn't make sense to my small brain. and though i don't always understand the hand of my God, i am always learning, more and more, to trust His heart.   i know with complete confidence,  no thing happened this week which He didn't ordain, order and direct.  

all things hard and all things good for His glory alone. sometimes we are required to speak...and sometimes we just need to be quiet and listen.  i'm learning. 

"fix your eyes on Jesus --- the author and perfecter of your faith." ~ hebrews 12:2

Saturday, May 19, 2012

this i know

on friday at four i got the call from my surgeon's office.  "jody, good news...the biopsy results are in and the mass we removed is only scar tissue.  nothing malignant."  i was at home depot waiting for my pinestraw purchase to be loaded.   sarah and bella in the backseat.   "thank you jennifer," i said while directing the loader guy to the back of my yukon. "thank you, that's fantastic news," and i exhaled for the first time that day, maybe for the first time that week.  i thanked the pinestraw guy too,  hung up my phone, started my car and the girls and i drove home to work a little more in the yard.  several bales of pinestraw, but 1000 pounds lighter.

so all weekend here's what i've been thinking...

did i dodge a bullet?  was it a narrow escape?  did i avoid disaster by the skin of my teeth? oh, i don't know.  really, i don't know how to process all of this.  do you?  if you do, would you help me to understand?  i used to be a girl with a lot of answers, a girl with a whole lot of information and a bunch of opinions and ideas...  but not anymore.  now i feel like things happen fast:  cancer diagnoses and surgeries and biopsies and results and i just have to sit in the news of it all and let it wash over me.  let it soak in, little bit by little bit.  processing moment by moment.  what does it all mean?

immediately, with this new scare we began to hear from those intending well...what is God telling you?  perhaps you shouldn't be moving to minnesota.  you should.  you shouldn't. you should. you shouldn't.  huh? i felt more confused with every conversation.  if every piece of news resulted in a new direction or a new message from God, i am certain by this point i would be spinning only in circles, crazy and crying.

i don't believe God works that way.  does He have messages for us? YES.  does He waste anything?  NO.  does He want us to see His hand and hear His voice and know His power?  YES. YES. YES.   but am i supposed to sit here and analyze every move He makes and every sign He sends and every little thing which happens to me?   no. no. no.   i don't think my God wants me to live on a roller coaster like that. i don't think He designed me to spend my time deciphering and dissecting every new turn and twist in my road.  i think He wants me to draw close to Him...depend on Him...trust in Him.  but not feel like i have to figure Him out.  i am not sure if, when i decided to follow Him, He asked anything more of me. and the older i grow, the more i am certain, He doesn't want me to have all the answers.  He doesn't want me to be able to easily explain how He is working in my life.  but i assure you,  HE IS WORKING. and that is enough.  i don't know why He leads me down the paths that He does...but He does.  He does.  He does.  and as His child, His daughter, His beloved i am only required to go. go. go. walk. walk. walk.  follow. follow. follow.

i realize this completely contradicts what our culture pounds into our knowledge seeking heads, into our fact gathering minds.   we are supposed to know and understand and research and analyze and take control of it all. black and white and concrete. we are taught to wrap everything up in neat little packages with clear instructions and bite sized strategies.  but what if we don't.   what if we can't?  what if we just cannot understand? what if we just cannot comprehend the hand of God?  what if there are some things which God doesn't want us to understand, because what He really wants is not our understanding, but our trust. what He wants is imperfect us...not our perfect answers.

my friend, job, went through a lot.  a heck of a lot more than me or anyone else i know.  but even way back in the bible, job got it.  he understood that he couldn't possibly understand.  "can you fathom the mysteries of God?  can you probe the limits of the almighty?"  (job 11:7).  "God's voice thunders in marvelous way; He does great things beyond our understanding."  (job 37:5) i love that he, even in the face of ridicule and criticism, could just be okay with the simplicity of trusting his maker. 

i'll be honest, i am not so easily satisfied as job.  but i am learning to be.  i have felt, more and more, a change in my kicking-and-screaming-need-to-know-self.  i am pretty certain if i asked God for an explanation in writing what He would tell me is, "jody lynn, you are on a need to know basis."  that's it.  that's all.  i have said that same thing to my children.  "sarah elizabeth, you are on a need to know basis."  i tell her that because her young mind cannot grasp the way i am moving and managing as her mommy.  she doesn't need to get the whole plan or the whole picture -- because she simply cannot carry it. and there's something beautiful about that, isn't there? 

one of my all time favorite books is the hiding place by corrie ten boom. i remember reading it as a young girl and highlighting page after page.  in it there's this scene between 10 year old corrie and her father.  she recently heard the word sex and corrie asks her father to explain what it is:

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor. “Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. “It's too heavy,” I said. “Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.” And I was satisfied. More than satisfied – wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions. For now I was content to leave them in my father's keeping.

perhaps my heavenly father feels the same way.  sometimes the answers to all our questions are too heavy. we aren't able to carry the answers or the understanding and so He carries them for us.  i believe that.  and i, too, am working at being content to leave them in my Father's keeping.  

just this morning bella and i were working in the yard together.  well i was working, she was digging for rolly pollies.  as she dug in the dirt for her bugs, i heard her singing the simple sunday school song, Jesus Love Me.  she had most of the words down, not perfect, but pretty good.  i love to listen to her sing --most anything.  it is immediate light and joy and breeze to my soul.  but today as i listened to her what i heard in her song was straight from the lips of my Father... "Jesus loves me, this i know."

and i thought, that's it.  that's all of it.  that's everything.  Jesus loves me, this i know.  that's all i have to know right now.  not why He does what he does or what it all means...just that He loves me.  and if the results had come back with more malignancy, i would still know Jesus loves me.  and if another mass is discovered next year or in ten years, Jesus loves me, this i know. yes, Jesus loves me.  yes, Jesus loves me.

"for who has known the mind of the Lord...?"  1 corinthians 2:16

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

the fragrance of His love

the gardenia bush in our backyard is blooming wildly this week. so many delicate white blossoms nestled in the waxy green leaves.  after dinner last night,  i cut a bunch and brought them into the house.  it was like an immediate pick me up had arrived in my kitchen -- perfect on what could be a gloomy night before surgery.  the fragrance was so wonderful i had to share. and after digging out a bunch of old jelly jars from the basement,  i put one bloom in each and set them on everyone's nightstand --  close to their pillows.  it didn't take long for the kids to come asking, "mom, why did you leave a flower in my room?"  "it's a gardenia," i explained.  "okay, mom, why did you leave me a gardenia?"

i wanted their sleep to be sweet.  that was it.  sweet and peaceful.  that's hard when your mom is having surgery the next morning.  i filled up an old pickle jar and placed a small bouquet near my bed as well.  last night i fell to sleep smelling gardenias.   we all have the need for a little bit of lovely, especially in a time when we feel anything but.  many of you prayed for my sleep last night...and, i want you to know, it was a perfect night's sleep.

i'm home tonight.  resting here in my own bed, the fragrance from my gardenias still strong and beautiful.  i am sore and sleepy from this morning's procedure, but just so thankful it is over.  dr. barber was encouraged by what he saw when he removed the mass.  he feels more confident that the biopsy results will come back stamped FINE -- troublesome scar tissue, nothing more.  that certainly is our prayer tonight.  we are hopeful.  we should receive those results by friday or monday.   this morning, after the surgery, dr. barber approached  rick in the waiting room and before any word of report came out of his mouth he gave rick a thumbs up.  that thumbs up for my husband was like the gardenia fragrance for me --  just what was needed.  the relief of sweet fragrance.

and friends, i have also felt the sweet scent of your prayers in the past day.  amazing.  beautiful.  strong.  i don't know if you've ever had an occasion to be prayed for in the way which i have...but there's nothing like it.  as the nurses prepped me this morning for surgery, i was completely calm.  completely peaceful.  the words and promises of Jesus running through my head the entire time.  i know that was gentle wash of your prayers rising up to our listening God.  it is a humbling thing to know it.  it is a beautiful thing to feel it.

and tonight, between surgery and results, i am reminded again of the sweet fragrance of my Father's love.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

seriously, surgery? again.

there's nothing in me tonight which wants to write this.  nothing at all.  in fact, it has taken me one full week to put anything to words at all.  but tomorrow i will be back in surgery.  same place.  same surgeon.  same spot. literally, the very same spot.

remember that mass which they quickly biopsied in january? by the way,  who gets a mass 8 months after a mastectomy?!?  that mass which was unsettling, but determined to be nothing more than scar tissue.  well that mass reared its ugly head once again last tuesday.  i was in for another routine appointment.  my surgeon took another look at it and deemed it "larger and uglier" than january.  "it shouldn't be doing this," he said.  no, it shouldn't, i thought to myself.  dr. barber went on to tell me it has gotten bigger and angrier and what really bugs him is it in exactly the same spot as the original tumor.  "it needs to come out.  we need to remove it surgically and biopsy the dickens out of it...just to be sure..."  keep in mind, my surgeon is one of the best in the country.  i'm kind of thinking this all sounds a bit quackish at this point, but he isn't the least bit a quack.  he is cautious and concerned, but he is 100% not crazy.  but this is.  this strange mass/scar tissue is crazy. this second surgery is crazy. and tonight, i feel a little bit crazy.  okay, i'm lying...honestly, i feel a lot crazy. who has a lumpectomy after a mastectomy?   

so tomorrow morning i am checking back into piedmont hospital.  because i like nice and neat little packages, i half wanted him to wait until monday, the 21st.  that was the day a year ago i started down this surgical path.  may 21st, 2011 my double mastectomy day.  but i know that's kind of weird to try to match up the dates -- i am certain this odd thought comes only from me not wanting to truly think about the what if's...the what then's...what if the biopsy comes back with some malignancy to it?  what will we do then? i can hear you all collectively screaming, "STOP jody, don't go there...you are getting ahead of yourself...you cannot camp there just yet!"  you say that, and i agree. oh, i desperately want to agree. except that deep in my soul i am starting to shake again. the bottom line:  i am not ready for this.  i am not ready to go back under anesthesia wondering what i will hear when i wake up.  i was only ready to move on.  but that is not the case.  and in this busy, nutty month of may when we are working on school finals and graduation and a move to minnesota, we are forced to pause.  forced to stop in our tracks and do this thing, at a lesser degree, again.

Lord, i don't know what you're doing.  really i don't.  but i know you are in it.  i know you have it all in your hands.  every bit of it...and that's what will get me through.  not medicine or doctors or logic.  not the assurance that this just cannot be the case...i am trusting in Him alone...Him.

so tonight i post asking if you'll pray for me again? it feels like i've asked that a lot this year.  tomorrow i'll be back in surgery at 8:30 am.  it won't be anything like a year ago...at least not physically.  a quick recovery and if all goes well, home by the end of the day.  but will you pray?  i don't know how all that prayer stuff really works, but somehow it does.  God hears the prayers of many.  rick's mom, marilyn, sent me a verse this morning which i think nails it. 

    for I know that through your prayers 
and God’s provision 
of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
 what has happened to me 
will turn out for my deliverance.
~ philippians 1:19

so, here's where i am for the moment.  whether i am delivered again from cancer or delivered right back into it...i will claim deliverance.  my God, my Lord, my Rock is, indeed, a God who delivers. last may...this may...always.

"blessed be the LORD, my rock,
                                      and my fingers for battle;
who trains my hands for war,

He is my steadfast love and my fortress,

my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield and he in whom I take refuge..."
~ psalm 144:1-2

Saturday, May 5, 2012

some bricks, some blessings and a young boy's heart

connor came home on fire today.  my laid back, easy going, sometimes too cool son, arrived home with a spark in his eyes and words tumbling from his mouth. i was putting away groceries and half listening as he began,  "mom, today in chapel we heard a story about a lady named mama latoisha.  she is a widow and lives in tanzania...mrs. duffy knows her...her baby died...she lives in a mud hut which is falling apart...mr. scott is letting us wear jeans to school to raise money...we are going to help build mama latoisha a new house. can we help her mom, can we, can we? what can we do?"

i closed the pantry door and looked at this boy standing there in his navy blazer and tie, slightly disheveled after a long day at school.  my nine year old who only wants to think about riding his atv or building his legos or buying another unnecessary do-dad from target.  my son standing in our spacious suburban home with hardwood floors beneath his feet.  his cheeks flushed.  his eyes bright. and i leaned against that closed pantry door. thank you Jesus, i whispered watching my son tear into a bag of pretzels  while still talking about today's chapel.  thank you Jesus for this tiny spark in my boy's heart.  he cares.  he wants to be a part of something bigger than our own backyard.  my son, nestled in his nice life, has somehow connected with a practically homeless, widowed woman half a world away.  he wants to help build mama latoisha's house.

our dear art teacher, mrs. duffy, visited with mama latoisha last may while she was in karanse, tanzania.  she found mama latoisha and her children (latoisha - 7 and ester - 6 months) living in a stick and mud hut, sleeping on a dirt floor.  mama latoisha, a christian mother, a widow, an abandoned woman, had nothing.  when mrs. duffy visited again recently, she found out that baby ester had died this year and mama latoisha and her son were still sleeping on a dirt floor in a mud hut.  this is not an uncommon story in karanse, tanzania.

in chapel, on wednesday morning, melissa duffy shared this story with our children at perimeter christian school.  the boys and girls sitting neat and clean in their rows listened as mrs. duffy, through tears, shared the tragedy of mama latoisha.  little boys and girls with fidgeting hands and distracted minds listened.  some of them thinking about a math test they'd have to take later that day.  some wishing they had eaten more breakfast.  some picking at their fingernails.  some passing notes. some twirling strands of hair.  some still half asleep.  but some -- some listening.  some hearing every word and seeing each tear. and some somehow connecting with a woman and her need in a land far and foreign.

since 2002, our church (perimeter) has been involved in ministry in karanse, tanzania.  karanse is a community with a high number of widows, orphans and families living in extreme poverty.  it is place without electricity or running water.  our church has partnered with the church in karanse and has helped provide basic needs while sharing the gospel.  amazing things have transpired in this place in the past decade.  the church has grown, many have come to know Christ, lives are being transformed -- physically and spiritually.  in addition, a christian school was built years ago and our own perimeter school here in johns creek, has been instrumental in helping with this.  we partner with them sending teams of teachers, training and supplies each year.  this school which started with two classrooms and two grades, now serves over 380 students.   they have built one classroom at at time as numbers and need have determined.  

wendy williams, a pcs teacher very involved with this project, shared with me how when the program got started so many years ago the tanzanian pastor said to perimeter church,  “if you aren’t interested in starting a school, i’m not interested.  if you feed an orphan for 10 years and then stop feeding him, he’ll die.  if you give a child an education, he can build himself a life.”   and that was the beginning.  now that school is in place and even has graduates who have gone off to high school/boarding school.  perimeter helps, but this is absolutely a tanzanian school, with a tanzanian pastor, school board and staff.  as wendy said, "we come alongside to mentor, encourage, support ...and learn!"

a drawing diana sent to us
in addition, there are many in our community who have helped sponsor the children and their schooling in karanse.  for approximately $38 a month people can sponsor a karanse child helping to provide an education, supplies, uniforms, school fees, books, medical attention and one hot meal a day.  a few years ago, our family began to sponsor a little girl named  diana.  we asked one of the teachers to send home the binder with the stories and pictures of the kids who were in need of sponsorship.  our family poured over the pages of that book and finally settled on diana.  we chose her for 3 reasons.  1.  her favorite subject is english  2.  she is the same age and shares the same birthdate as our sarah, and 3. we loved her sassy striped socks!  so over these last few years we have been connected with diana.  we send our check and occasionally write letters.  we could do more.  i was deeply convicted of that recently, realizing much time had gone by since we'd last communicated with her.  it is easy to just write a check, but we desire to do more.  in every letter we have received from diana she writes, "i pray for you every day, will you also pray for me?"  i know she and her family appreciate our financial support, but what she really wants is our prayers and our friendship. being even a little bit involved in her life is a blessing for our family. 

and then from this same community we hear about mama latoisha this week.  our hearts expand wider.  what can we do?  my son stands in the kitchen and asks me, "can we help mom, can we?"  that was wednesday and mama latoisha hasn't been far from our minds since.  friday night sarah spent an hour scavenging around our home finding loose change and random coins.  she went through purses and pockets and came up with a bag of money.  (crazy what you can find when you look).  today she has plans to go and turn it all into dollar bills to donate. she showed me this morning how she had it sorted and ready to go. we want to help build mama latoisha's new house.  

our school is going to build this house.  it will be a three room, brick home with windows, a wood door, a concrete floor and a metal roof. the goal is to raise $4000 - one brick, one roof truss, one window, one bag of sand at at time.  to monitor the progress of this goal, a mock "home" will be constructed on the wall outside of mrs. duffy's art room.   ...one brick at a time!  our headmaster, mr. scott, is allowing the children to wear jeans and t-shirts in lieu of their school uniform any day from may 9th to the 21st.  they can pay $5 for this privilege (that means a lot to kids who wear uniforms each day, i assure you!)

the supplies needed for mama latoisha's new house:

$10 buys bricks                                                 need 100
$10 buys a padlock                                           need 3
$10 buys nails                                                   need 6
$20 buys roof trusses                                        need 8
$50 buys metal bars or a window or door         need 3,5,3
$100 buys metal sheeting for roof                     need 3
$100 buys rocks for foundation                          need 2
$200 buys transportation for supplies                 need 1
$250 buys sand and cement for the house         need 2
$1000 supplies the labor to build the house        need 1

here's the deal though, this isn't about what the mcnatt family is doing, it is not nearly enough, this is about what others are doing and what more of us can do!  there are still 100 students in need of sponsorship in karanse. that same binder we looked through several years ago is still available.  wendy williams has it and is willing to share.  go ask her.  take a look.  there are 100 children in this community still waiting for someone to help them receive a little education...a little love...a little chance at life.  you can write me at emmyandty@aol.com and i'll connect you or click on the link i've listed below.  even if you don't live nearby, you can connect with one of these children. we can make that happen.

one brick at time...
one child at a time...

as connor asked me this week standing in our kitchen, "what can we do?"