Friday, December 23, 2011

Season 3: Change 4 Change 4 Jesus -- A Tradition


Feet run up and down, here and there. Hands search. Hearts yearn.

A tradition for our family, three seasons running, we aim to gather the random change around the house, and the change that we’ve been collecting in a old glass milk bottle. 

The children (now getting older and wiser) made record time in digging through every pocket, swim bag, piggy bank, car seat and the bottom of my purse.  Now that we’ve done it a few years, there are not as many surprises, but we are still astonished at what we find. (Click here for Season 1 and here for Season 2).

$ 88.12 is the total this year.

Change 4 Change 4 Jesus … for the children, this year – for the children at the Villages of Hope Orphanage, Zambia, Africa.

Our hearts are definitely connected here, after spending 2 weeks with them this past August.

Take Nelson, for instance.  This is a letter we received from him this past month.

Nelson with my middle son during our visit.
Dear Aunty Andrea and Uncle Todd and family:

I have loved being with you at the Village of Hope. I thank God that you brought me to a nice place where there is good health and good education.  I am looking forward to see you again in Zambia.  I thank you for the letters that were so wonderful to me.  I am missing your voices and smiles that you gave unto me.  I am praying that you come back in Zambia. I am praying that one day I will come to America to study my cause of Doctor.  I am praying that God will make a way for me to see you in the future.  Remember that I love you. I will never forget you in my life.  God bless you.  Always in my mind.

Truly, God is at work! There are more kids like Nelson, trusting the Lord to provide, they openly, willingly, place their whole lives in His hands. I have a lot to learn from them.

Join us in our family tradition and gather and give up your change. It's not the only way we'll give, but it's one way that we're trying to do that adds to our Christmas traditions!

 We all know that there are many needs, near and far. Pray about whom the Lord may be asking you to help – a neighbor, a church member in need, an organization or a friend.  

And as you pray, would you please also consider giving it to the kids at the Villages of Hope? You can learn more about them at www.akcli.blogspot.com  and how you can donate your change 4 Change 4 Jesus at www.akcli.org .

Merry Christmas!

(P.S. -- if you join in on the fun, we'd love to hear your story!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Today, I Wore My Grandma's Pin



My fingers fiddle with the clasp, on the back of my grandma’s pin.  I admire the rhinestones in a perfect circle.  I remember the pin on her lapel, almost magical, it glistened star flecks on her face.

Today, I pin it to my vest and wear it with fondness.

I recall her face, perfectly round.  I hear her voice, although it’s grown more and more distant as the years pass.  I can barely make out the way she said my name, and sometimes called me ‘Dolly’.

I reach out to remember the feel of her hands aged.  I desire to lay my head upon her chest again, and hear her reassure me that ‘whatever’ it was for the moment, it would be all right. 

Tears turn on easily. 

I search for her ornaments on my tree.  Angels once hers with sweet, serene faces, hang from branches green, playing instruments. 




I remember Christmas’s past with her presence, my greatest gift.

I pull out the scrapbook album my mother made and find the picture of my grandma and me, many years ago.  

Snow flakes frozen in the photo, rest on us.  We huddle close, not because of the cold, but because we love.  

We bake strudel.  She makes me laugh.  I am safe with her.  She loves me for who I am.




It’s been fourteen years since she passed.  Memories of her stir sweetly in my heart today.

Yes, I miss my grandma this Christmas.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Do You Have a Minute?


I had a killer headache, the kind that feels like your head is being wrenched between 2 semi-trucks, with their engines rumbling loud, but I had a lot to do.

Hair wrapped around my head like a messy birds nest, I pushed past the 2 sets of double doors in to the church office, rushing in to church, intending to rush out.

I just needed to drop something off quickly.

“Hi Patti!  Just dropping of a few things!” I chattered to our church receptionist, not even pausing to ask her how she was.

She responded differently.

“How are you today, Andrea?”

“Okay,” I said, less than convincingly and hesitating to be honest.

“I do have a headache.” 

And then, amidst my long to-do list and weakness and fatigue, I saw Jesus.

Looking at me kindly, Patti slowly stood up from her chair.

“Do you have a minute?”

“Sure,” I said, while an old tape popped in to play in my mind causing me to think, -- oh, no, I wonder what she wants to talk to me about.  What did I do wrong now?

“Come sit down in my chair for a minute.  Let me help you.”

And so, I curiously sat down in the middle of the church reception area.

And Patti began to massage my head. 

People came, people went.  People wondered if they could get in line.  I sat there, and soaked it all up.  It was wonderful.

The thing is, I wasn’t expecting the Lord to minister to me in such a way on that day. I wasn’t looking for Jesus.

But Jesus, He was looking at me, and His servant Patti, out of a heart that cares about people, was His willing vehicle of love.

She took a chance. She offered her care.  She gave of herself.

She’s a good reminder to me that we just never know what a ‘minute of care’ will do for someone else. The Lord calls us to be aware of opportunities that He gives us to love one another.  

Her offering herself made my whole day.  My headache gradually subsided after that. My shoulders hung a little looser. My heart a lot lighter.

Thank you, Patti. Thank you, Jesus.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Children I LOVE on the Other Side of the World




Amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas, I find myself stopping and remembering the days of this summer, when my family and I walked with these precious children.

Undoubtably, God is at work, across the world. If you have a moment, come join me in seeing what He is doing at the Villages of Hope, Zambia.  These are the children than we now count as part of our family.  I'm crazy about them!

More next week on how you could possibly help make a difference in their lives.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

God Pulled the Corner of the Curtain Back Just a Bit for Me to See


This post is not about me. Oh, sure, I’m in the story, but please know that what I really saw was God pulling the corner of the curtain back just enough for me to see a bit of Him.

A month ago, the little girls and I rummaged through their dressers and closets. It was clean out day for them. I do not like the job.  Checking sizes, trying on clothes, determining what fits, what doesn’t and what is out of season.

Seems like there was a lot this year.  With the baby (AKA little sister) growing (and having things passed down from 2 sisters), the bushel basket over-flowed.

I put the items in my laundry room, vowing to bring them to a local thrift store ASAP.

For weeks, I climbed around the unneeded clothes.  They fell out of the basket. I would put them back in. I even washed a couple of things that seemed to dirty as they sat there.

“Ugh! I have got to get these out of here,” I murmured to myself time and time again.

But I never got around to it.

Here’s the cool part.

Out of the blue, I received an e-mail from a friend.  A family had fallen on hard times, and was in need of little girl clothes in the sizes of – yes, you guessed it – the sizes that were overflowing in my laundry room.

Yes! I had clothes … I had lots of clothes.

Like I said, this story is not about me. I didn’t do anything (other than procrastinate, which is not admirable at all). God did everything.  He knew their need. He knew what I had, and He had a plan.

What makes this story so special to me is that lately, I’ve been feeling discouraged.  I hate the feeling.  Like a thick ooze of slime it weighs heavy on my shoulders. I can not wipe it off, rinse it off or pick it off. It just settles and it sticks.

It says to me, “Is God really out there? Is He really watching out for me, aware of my every need?”

But this Christmas, God gave me a gift – a reminder of His tender, hand-crafted care.

The trick for me now is to accept His gift of truth, that His provision for me, although different, is non-the-less faithful. 

That’s what I’m working on this week, remembering the truths.

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (NLT Deuteronomy 31:8)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Keeping Courage Close


Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.  (NASB  31:24).

The thermometer read 22 degrees Fahrenheit, outside -- a chilly morning, indeed, for a run.

I bundled up from head to toe and decided to take the dog.  Maybe the distraction would help me to get through the run. I was only going to go a short 3 miles, so he could handle it.

Of course, he handled it well, and I fought him the whole way.

He’s not used to running with me.

We need to work on this, I thought, as he continually tried to pull on me, stretching my left arm out like Elasta-girl.

“Courage! (that’s his name) Stay!” I said with my firm mother voice.

And, over and over again, I said it -- “Courage!  Stay!”

I thought back to several years ago when I was working on teaching the dog to heel – a time when I was in need of major healing. I even wrote a post about it (click here).  Apparently, he and I had not made much progress.

This time, though, instead of thinking of healing, I was thinking of courage.

It’s true, isn’t it?  We are in a constant need of keeping courage close.

The analogy of the dog and my run with him falls apart here. 

Truth is, unlike the dog, courage doesn’t keep trying to get away from me.  I keep on wandering from it.

I need to keep courage close. 

I need it for the mundane and for the massive moments of life.
I need it to slow down.
I need it to get up and move.
I need it to teach, to mother, to be a wise wife, to be a compassionate friend, and to look for the opportunities that God brings a cross my path for today.
I need it to wait.
I need it to fight.
I need it to let go.
I need it to hold on.
I need it to believe that His promises are true.
I need it to be sure that what He has planned for me is good.

God gives us courage and He gives us strength to grab hold of it. When we walk with Him, He is faithful to give it. We can be fearless with Him. 

I need courage and I need to keep it close.

One more thing … this is what I noticed about this perky hound.  On the way home, when we got close to our neighborhood,  he picked up the pace, and pulled me right along with him.  It’s like he knew that we were almost there, and he was going to sprint to the finish.

And I wondered, “As we near Home, will we need more courage? Will God give us more courage to help to pull us on?”

I suspect that we will need more and  I’m asking the Lord to please assure me that He will give it, and that it will help to bring me Home.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Very Random Thoughts about Spices and Friends ...


I’m thinking of coordinating a spice exchange.

I know it sounds strange. My kids would probably say, “That’s really random, Mom.” They’re right.

Here’s the thing ... yesterday, I was cleaning out my herb and spice cupboards. Totally not on my list of things to do, but there I was, doing it anyway.

And here’s what I noticed -- my spices replicate.

It seems likely, although it remains a mystery as to how they do it. Do they germinate? Divide by mitosis? Expand like Amish Friendship Starter Dough?

I’m not sure.

All I know is that I have a lot of some things. It verges on ridiculous and pathetic.

2 containers of:
·                 dried onion
·                 ginger
·                chili powder
·                ground cayenne pepper
·                basil leaves
·                paprika

3 containers of:
·              dried parsley
·              poultry seasoning (I could season a whole farm)
·             crushed red pepper

And sadly, 4 containers of:
·             thyme (seriously?)
·             vanilla extracts
·            ground cinnamon

I’ve got extra of ‘this’ … maybe you have extra of ‘that?’

We could share. Perhaps, I have something you could use, and I’m pretty sure there is something I’m out of, and will need at a most inopportune, unexpected time.

As I sorted and cleaned, my mind synapsed (again, randomly – is it being pre-menopausal?) over to thoughts of friendship.

I think it’s a bit like the friendships the Lord gives us. We all have different gifts.  At times, we may have an abundance of something. These things are not ridiculous or pathetic, but rather, rich and important -- rich and important to share.

When I need laughter, I call the ones who seem to have overflowing silliness.

When I need hope, I know the girl to call. I’ve seen her hold on to hope in Jesus, when life looked pretty hopeless. 

When I need to be strengthened in my faith, I call the friend whom I’ve seen measure out a lot of it.  She’s the one I know will give me some of hers, so that I can continue to move on.

When I need to see the truth clearly, I call the one who will be honest with me and direct me to the Truth. She’s got plenty to share, and she does it lovingly, gently.

We all have something extra, something extra that the Lord gives us to share with one another. 

Let me know if I can help. Happy to give of my time or my – err – Thyme.

(Tee-hee – now I’m laughing at my own jokes? Time to sign off …)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving Thanks for Grace


“Who would like to say grace?”

Perhaps this question will be asked around a million tables this Thanksgiving.

When my daughter was younger, she would pray, “God is grace, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.”

The original prayer is “God is great …” but, I cherish this rendition. 

Maybe it’s because God’s grace is so precious to me.

Seems like the Lord hand-tailored this focus on grace for me this week.  I taught on Rahab last Wednesday – “God’s grace knows no barriers,”  and saw Les Miserable night where I  watched the theme of God’s grace dance upon the stage.

And then there’s my own life.  Flashbacks roll in front of my mind, like scenes on a stage, reminding me of what God’s grace has been during times of great sorrow, loneliness, fear and uncertainty.  And even in today, I see what it is to be for me.

God’s grace fills me with peace when chaos swirls around me.

God’s grace rescues me when I am lost.

God’s grace washes me with strength when I am weak.

God’s grace fills me up with His truth when I am bombarded with lies.

God’s grace draws me close and wraps around me when I am scared and cold.

God’s grace stills my anxious heart.

God’s grace shows me that forgiveness is possible and it sets me free.

God’s grace leads me on when I am hesitant (or forget) to follow Him.

God’s grace covers me when I sleep.

God’s grace forgets my wrong-doings and does not hold them against me.

God’s grace refreshes me like falling rain when I am weary.

I am humbled by His grace.

Indeed, God’s grace is precious to me.

And this Thanksgiving, I am keenly aware of it and thankful for it – thankful for God's grace, Jesus.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Time a Snake Dropped in for Lunch ...


I was looking for them -- long, sleek, footless, fanged creatures – but not that day.

On this particular day in Africa, I was unaware, distracted by a powerful worship service with the children at the orphanage and a lovely lunch to follow.

We sat back in our chairs and relaxed under the large tree, out on the veranda at a local resort restaurant. White table clothes waved in the breeze. Our team members gathered for a special lunch after church. We shared stories about our experiences in Africa, what we were learning and what God was revealing to us.

It was a beautiful day and we were basking in what God was doing.

Unexpectedly over the laughter and jovial talk, I heard my son William (now my hero) shout …

“LOOK! A SNAKE!”

Ten feet from our table, a four foot (or was it twenty foot?) long, dark gray snake lifted the front part of its body off of the tile floor, bobbing up and down as he slithered forward, attacking in our direction. 

It did not look friendly.  It looked evil.

Truth is, any snake in Africa is considered  unfriendly. No garden variety gardener snakes there.  One can always assume they are poisonous, perhaps even deadly.

I’m not a big fan of snakes, and certainly, not unknown, aggressive, venomous, “sure-to-seek and kill” African snakes.

We all jumped to our feet and backed off. Our host, Benedict threw a chair at the snake to slow it down and yelled for the workers to “do something!”  We scattered away while the snake sped under our table, making it’s way in and out of our friend Adrienne’s bag, and continuing on … crazed.

The workers finally came running with sticks and killed the beast.

No one knows where it came from. We think from the tree over-head. It dropped in for lunch, nearly scared the britches off of us and then it was a goner. I’m just glad that none of us were.

We all walked a little more cautiously for the rest of our trip. Well, at least I did. I looked up in trees, in tall brush and under my bed. Thankfully, no more sightings.

God used this encounter of a 'snakely' kind to remind me that sometimes, evil does drop in for lunch or in life.  Seems like the old adage stands true.  When you least expect it, expect it. So ...  Be aware. Be wise. Be ready.  
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