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The Difference Team Spirit Makes

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IMG_4300The Lord uses my kids so often to teach and inspire me. Today I want to focus on my high school senior Caleb. Though I am proud of his personal accomplishments and successes in his own endeavors, I am especially proud of the way he has dedicated himself this last year to cheer on others in their endeavors. Sensing a lack of enthusiasm and support in the student body for his high school and its teams, Caleb took it upon himself to make and lead a spirit section at school games and events. He often walks table to table at lunch and encourages people to come to that evening’s sport event, many times sharing a theme for the student section. IMG_4296

Themes have been everything from school colors, U.S.A., and Hawaiian to businessman, geriatric, white out, and black out. He has held his “Tommy the Tiger” stuffed animal up on a stick and led students to cheer at everything from football and volleyball games to men’s and women’s basketball and soccer games. He leads in positive chants to encourage their teams. He has also been supportive of the MHS scholastic bowl team by attending their meets.  He was recently voted the “Most Spirited” student of his high school.IMG_4297

It’s amazing what a little encouragement and cheering does for a team. Through his God-given gifts of leadership and evangelism he is literally changing the atmosphere of his public school, which sits in the middle of a dry and thirsty land both physically and spiritually. Millennium High School’s school spirit is soaring, thanks to his impact. And I think through encouraging others, he’s pretty encouraged himself.

I want to propose to you that if you are a mom then you are the coach of your home team. You set the pace and the tone, you cheer others toward their goals as you reach your own, and you give the pep talk at the end of a hard day when a team member is discouraged. You can move your team toward victory in every area of life by the daily seemingly insignificant things you do: gather the family around the table for family dinner, place an encouraging note in a lunchbox, or say a prayer over your child at bedtime. IMG_4298

Hang in there, Mom. And keep cheering! Find the positives to praise in the midst of weaknesses and speak truth against those lies your children are being told by their peers and our culture every day. Take the time to get to know each of your children and know what “Tommy Tiger on a stick” you can hold up on their behalf. Your consistent cheers will change the atmosphere of your home. And I think through making a daily habit of dishing out daily doses of encouragement you will find yourself pretty encouraged on the journey.

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Cinnamon Tea Ring

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937036Had it not been for the invention of the breadmaker, I am not sure I would have had the patience to carry on this lovely and delicious holiday tradition. But with this tool, it is fast and fairly easy. True confession: I have 5 breadmakers (most passed on to me by friends), and I typically use them in groups of at least 3 to make the most of my mess and efforts. Here is one of my most requested recipes.

 

 

 

Ingredients

2 ¼ tsp. yeast

4 ¼ c. bread flour

¼ c. sugar

heaping tsp. salt

2 eggs

1/3 c. oil

1 c. milk

½ c. water

You wil also need: cinnamon, sugar, powdered sugar, and milk. Pecans are optional.

Directions

Add the 8 ingredients into your breadmaker in the order listed. Set on “manual” or “dough” mode and press “start”.

When dough is ready (about 1.5 hours later), divide the dough into 3 parts. Roll each into an oblong rectangle about 15”x9”. Melt 3+ Tablespoons of butter and spread. Mix 1 c. sugar and 1 heaping Tablespoon cinnamon, and sprinkle some on the rectangles. (We save leftover cinnamon sugar for cinnamon toast.) Optional: Chop ½ c. pecans and sprinkle on. Roll beginning at the wide side. Pinch together to hold in roll. Form into ring and pinch, then cut 2/3 way through at 1 inch intervals. Turn each on its side to fan pieces out. Let rise 15-30 minutes (optional), and bake 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden. After cooling, drizzle with thick icing mixture made of powdered sugar and milk.

This will make 3 tea rings that fit on 10-inch plates. You may also make one jumbo ring instead of dividing the dough into thirds to make 3 rings.

*To make large cinnamon rolls instead of rings, simply roll, pinch, and cut into 1 inch slices. I like to use fishing line for easy slicing. (Place line under the roll one inch from the end and wrap around and cross, to slice.)

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High Heel Hiking

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On a recent three-day trip to the mountains, I failed to check the kids’ suitcases.

Ten minutes down the road I glanced down at my youngest daughter’s feet and noticed she was wearing her white dressy heels. (You would have thought I might notice this before, especially since she was also wearing a fancy dress.)

“You packed other shoes, right?” I asked.

“No.”

“Not even flip flops?” Not only had she not packed any play shoes, but she hadn’t packed undies, pajamas or her toothbrush.

But there she sat with her doll on her lap, and surrounded by her doll stroller, doll backpack, and doll beauty salon chair! It cost us about a half hour in the turn around, but thankfully we were able to get her tennis shoes and everything else she needed before leaving town. When we arrived at our destination, we opened up her suitcase to find the doll’s entire wardrobe complete with all the accessories! (She hadn’t missed a thing!)

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What a great reminder to have packing lists on your computer to print up bfore vacations or short trips. The lists will save time and empower your kids to do more for themselves (which will free up time for you).

A sample list from our Colorado trip:

  • Jeans (3-4)
  • Shorts (5)
  • Shirts (7)
  • Underwear (7)
  • Socks (7)
  • PJ’s (2)
  • Western shirt/square dance outfit
  • Sweatshirt (1)
  • Jacket
  • Tennis shoes (2)
  • Boots
  • Cowboy hat
  • Flip flops (1)
  • Swimsuit(s), goggles, cap, towels
  • Workout clothes
  • Hat or visor
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Flashlight
  • Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hair gel, lip balm, etc.
  • Vitamins/medicine
  • Hair bows/bands
  • Bible, pen, devotional
  • Water bottle to carry for the week
  • Sunday clothes: girls: dresses, guys: khaki pants/polo shirt
  • Tennis racquets and balls, baseball gloves/baseball,
  • Hammocks/spike ball/slack line
  • Camelbacks for hikes
  • Camera (and charger/extra batteries)
  • Stuff for car: pillow, snack bag, books, magazines, backpack
  • DVD’s and Mom’s laptop
  • Note to mom:
  • Hostess gifts
  • Notecards
  • Stop mail
  • Speedy – instructions, crate, bowls, food, treats, leash
  • First aid kit
  • Extra trash bags
  • Bags for dirty clothes
  • Laundry soap
  • Fanny pack
  • Use hitch-all and car topper.
  • Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, tissues and paper towels for car

For trips we make regularly, I like to list favorite restaurants, rest stops, and hotels we enjoy.

Children can lay out their items, and then (as the high-heel sotry would remind us) mom can check itmes off the list as they are packed in their bags.

Happy packing!

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Stull Family 2014 Snapshots

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DSC_00492014 was a crazy and adventurous year with many leap-of-faith moments that were exciting, exhilarating, hard and uncertain. So, though I know we are well into 2015, I wanted to share a little about our past year.

Planting a church has been a great adventure. I never dreamed I’d enjoy “small church” as much as I have, and seeing Chris’s delight in leading a church and preaching each week has been change this blessing or the next to a different word. God has blessed us this year with an amazing Acts church unity that is pure joy. My three previous blog posts tell the story best. You’ll see Wellspring Church’s first-year journey through pictures. You can also visit Wellspringchurch.com to learn more about the church, see videos, hear Chris’s sermons, and more.

In July, God entrusted us with two more children, John (11) and Mariama (9). Just one week after bringing them home from Sierra Leone, Ebola struck their village. In this adoption journey we are learning so much about ourselves and God’s faithful love and provision for every moment. Even on the hardest days, the pleasure of the Lord in the midst of obedience overshadows the frustrations. And then there are also the gifts of those special moments that give great hope for each child’s future as well as our future as a family.

We covet your prayers as we shepherd a church and a family.

It’s been a big year. Our grocery cart is a good example of how big we are these days. We typically buy 25 lbs. of flour, 8 gallons of milk, 20 lbs. of rice, 50 lbs. of popcorn, 6 dozen eggs–and that’s just a start!

Happy momma with her boys
Happy momma with her boys

 

Daddy and his girls
Daddy and his girls
Snapshots of 2014… (yes, that's Micah behind the camera!)
Snapshots of 2014… (yes, that’s Micah behind the camera!) Wait for it…(scroll down, pretty please.)
Dillon is a junior at Baylor University.
Dillon is a junior at Baylor University.

2014 was an incredible year, and here is a snapshot of each of our lives:

Dillon (age 21):

  • Led the Baylor University Honors College on its first mission trip. They went to El Salvador over Spring Break.
  • Doing thesis research: Interviewing people on the Nyakach Plateau in Kenya after a week working with a group of Baylor pre-med students on a medical mission trip in May.
  • Running on the Scotland beach where “Chariots of Fire” was filmed and also visiting 10 other European countries while doing a study abroad at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.
  • Led a group of peers from University of Maastricht to participate in a mission trip in Denmark.
  • Studying 8-10 hours a day all of July and August for the MCAT and passing with flying colors. One step closer to medical school!
  • This year we enjoyed the longest times of having him in the home since he was in high school. This summer we had him home for 6 weeks as he studied for the MCAT. Then, because his study abroad was condensed, he was home Thanksgiving through early January.

Zoom lens:

Since he doesn’t have a bedroom here, Dillon, and one of his best friends, Jay, visiting for Christmas stayed in our garage apartment. (Garage apt. = out w/cars, and in with large rugs, two beds, space heaters, chairs and tables, lamp and a small Christmas tree.)

Derek loves his bow ties.
Derek loves his bow ties.

Derek (age 19):

  • Served as Wellspring Church’s worship leader our first 7 months. He brings such energy and joy to help people connect with God through music.
  • Made 1st chair tenor All-State Choir.
  • Led worship at Arizona’s National Day of Prayer Service on the Capitol lawn.
  • Sang the National Anthem for his high school graduation ceremony.
  • Starred as the Beast in his high school’s “Beauty and the Beast” musical…and his girlfriend Taylor, who has the perfect Disney princess voice, was Belle! (Does it get any better than that as a senior, folks?)
  • He is now attending Dallas Baptist University majoring in music education, and a couple of weeks ago starred as Charlie Brown in DBU’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” musical.
  • He began serving in September on staff as the worship leader for the contemporary service at Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church in Dallas. (The church I grew up in and was baptized at. Full circle!)

Zoom lens: Music to our ears during Senior Recognition day at Wellspring: “I’d like to thank my Mom and Dad for following God’s call on their lives to move to Arizona.” (We didn’t ruin his life after all! Thank you, Jesus!)

Caleb is a high school junior this year.
Caleb is a high school junior this year.

Caleb (age 16): 

  • Working really hard at baseball, catching & playing infield for the Varsity team; still swings the bat well … has a knack to hit that crazy ball.
  • Was chosen by his high school class as Homecoming Prince and Winter Formal Prince.
  • Doing a great job as the home front leader of the sibling pack.
  • Enjoys time with friends.
  • Happy to have his own bedroom for the first time in his life. Keeps it spotless. (He misses his best friend, big brother Derek…but not the mess he brings.)
  • Takes the time to invest in his younger siblings, helping with homework, playing games and swimming with them.

Zoom lens: One Sunday he was Wellspring Church’s MVP as he helped with set up, greeted at the door and handed out bulletins, ran the PowerPoint, took the attendance count, gathered guys to collect the offering, and helped with tear down.

Mighty Micah
Mighty Micah

Micah (age 14):

  • Still playing soccer, basketball, track and tennis in season.
  • Received MVP award in soccer this year. A-MAZ-ING. (I’m unbiased, of course.)
  • Meek and mild off court/tenacious on the court.
  • He purchased a nice camera this year to support his photography hobby.
  • His latest home science experiments and inventions have included: Using a wooden clothes pin to create a gun that shoots toothpicks through paper; creating a cool game of bouncy mitts made of cardboard and grocery bags that continuously tosses balls high into the air; burning a gum wrapper by putting each end on both ends of a battery,
  • Chosen as winner of the Fit Kid award at his middle school.
  • Always staying abreast of helpful, handy household hints and efficient ways to do things.

Zoom lens:

He is constantly giving us perspective as a family. One day as Mariama again shared all the particulars about how she will raise her children (they won’t have chores, they will wear whatever they want, they will eat whatever they want, etc.). Micah understated, “Mariama, you plan farther ahead than anyone I know.”

Sweet Karis
Sweet Karis

Karis (age 12):

  • Her soccer team won the championship this year and unanimously voted her “most inspirational player”.
  • Her basketball team awarded her “most inspirational player” of the year.
  • In the glow stick game at camp she showed her tenacity by being the last of 2 out of hundreds of youth to “survive” in the game by not having her glow stick stolen off her back. The whole camp was gathered around 6th grade Karis and her high school senior competitor to see who would win. (The girl with the longer arms won.)
  • Is excited this year to be serving at her school as a teacher’s assistant in the special needs classroom at her school.
  • She is Team Wellspring’s “secret weapon” in community or camp flag football games (she may be small and she may be a girl, but watch your flag, Mr. quarterback!)
  • Highlight of the year: Flying to Tennessee over fall break to visit Karly and family, some dear friends we met at Wind River Ranch last summer.
  • And back to the “most inspirational player” awards…I’m pretty sure she earned that on Team Stull this year, too. #nufsaid

Zoom lens:

I have enjoyed great conversations with Karis this past 7 months as our dog Speedy and I have accompanied her on her nightly job of walking our neighbor’s labrador, Dolly.

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John (age 11):

  • A studious 5th grader
  • Was a key player in his community soccer team this fall.
  • His curiosity is amazing – he asks a million questions a day.
  • Is observant of every detail of life and takes note. This at times comes in very handy for a forgetful mom!
  • Eager to learn everything…NOW. Swimming, basketball, tennis, piano, drawing, etc. (We are slowly chipping away at things.)
  • Necessities: rice, chicken, hot pepper flakes, hand sanitizer, lotion.

Zoom lens:

John gets the most supportive child award for his interest in watching his parents’ triathlons. Though I have twisted arms and even used shame tactics (“How many of your athletic events have I attended?”), our kids have not been real interested in coming out for tri events. John, on the other hand, doesn’t want to miss rising early to come out and cheer us on! To add to his supportiveness, he even included two of his momma’s triathlon photos in his “all about me” album.

This girl loves to accessorize!
This girl loves to accessorize!

Mariama (age 9):

  • A super social 2nd grader
  • This girl has flair – think all-out Fancy Nancy when it comes to dress and accessories.
  • She does keep us entertained. We are hoping she can put her drama skills to work some day on the stage. She loves to sing and dance.
  • You have heard “a party waiting to happen”? Forget that, she is “the party” and it is happening nearly all her waking hours.
  • Enjoys time in the kitchen cooking (not quite Ninja knife skills, so we hope next year’s photos don’t show a few fingers missing!)
  • Her English skills have really improved and she is working diligently on her reading at school, with tutors and an online program.
  • Necessities: rice, chicken, lotion & lotion & lotion (did I mention lotion? Application every 5-10 minutes is desired.)

Zoom lens:

Mariama convinced me to buy sardines and proceeded to fry them up with onions in our kitchen. It took about a week, but we finally got rid of the smell. Most recently she went to her 1st daddy/daughter dance and enjoyed a delightful evening of Dad’s full attention.

Chris & Brenna at 11,433 feet in the Rocky Mountains.
Chris & Brenna at 11,433 feet in the Rocky Mountains.

Chris & Brenna – survived to live another year, and this summer will be celebrating 25 adventurous and fun, faith-filled years of marriage.

Thank you for caring about our family, and we appreciate any prayers you would like to throw our way. Wishing you God’s best in 2015!

 

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To India With Love

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I thank God for the opportunity to partner last month with Lifesong for Orphans in India. I went with a promise: “The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” (Isaiah 50:4) I am thankful for the chance to encourage those ministering to orphans–the caregivers at Jyothi Nivas Children’s Home–and to teach the Bible to and spend time with the children. Bob and Siromani Stoll, who led our group and have done ministry through orphanages and churches in India for 35 years, were an inspiration to me and an example of the amazing things God can do with people who cooperate with Him to get His work done in the world. I am also impressed with the diligence of Lifesong for Orphans in spending each ministry dollar with intention and purpose.

I am thankful to Elizabeth Shaw, Lifesong for Orphans Board Member, who made the way for me to go on the trip. The time with she and her daughter Neha was a delight. Here they are giving me the lowdown on sarees and how they are made.
I am thankful to Elizabeth Shaw, Lifesong for Orphans Board Member, who made the way for me to go on the trip. The time with her and her daughter Neha was a delight. Here they are giving me the lowdown on sarees and how they are made.
A common sight along the roads.
A common sight along the roads.
Arriving at Jyothi Nivas Children's Home - Siromani Stoll and her husband Bob founded it.
Arriving at Jyothi Nivas Children’s Home – Siromani Stoll (left) and her husband Bob founded it.
This loving home has a special place in my heart.
This loving home has a special place in my heart.
Hospitality in India is amazing - they give gifts of garland as guests arrive, and also display large welcome banners.
Hospitality in India is amazing – they give gifts of garland as guests arrive, and also display large welcome banners.
Sweet girls
Sweet girls
I got hundreds of kisses on my cheek and gave hundreds of kisses over the week. My friend Leslie commented on what a privilege it is to not only be the hands of feet of Jesus to the hurting, but the lips, too.
I got hundreds of kisses on my cheek and gave hundreds of kisses over the week. My friend Leslie commented on what a privilege it is to not only be the hands of feet of Jesus to the hurting, but the lips, too.
Special times with the children at Jyothi Nivas Children's Home.
Special times with the children at Jyothi Nivas Children’s Home. We met at 6:00 a.m. each morning and then again at 6:30 p.m. Though they were busy with school and homework and studying for exams, they were eager and engaged. They even asked if we could start earlier for the last night’s session, then stayed late, singing into the night.
Closing a session in prayer.
Closing a session in prayer.
A typical sight as we drove outside of Narsapur.
A typical sight as we drove outside of Narsapur.
The people of India once again showed their hospitality with these beautiful garlands for our team.
The people of India once again showed their hospitality with these beautiful garlands for our team.
Attendees of the regional convention: women's section. They would line up after services each day to be prayed for.
Attendees of the regional convention: women’s section. They would line up after services each day to be prayed for.
The men's section at convention. Many are pastors in their local areas, and Bob Stoll has helped a number of them with church plants.
The men’s section at convention. Many are pastors in their local areas, and Bob Stoll has helped a number of them with church plants.
Temples are set up along roadsides in honor of thousands of Hindu gods.
Temples are set up along roadsides in honor of thousands of Hindu gods.
Caterers prepared lunch for convention attendees.
Caterers prepared lunch for convention attendees.
No paper or plastics needed: just a banana leaf loaded with rice and veggies.
No paper or plastics needed: just a banana leaf loaded with rice and veggies.

Bob Stoll, 88 years old and going strong in the power of the Lord (How many people at age 88 volunteer to ride in the jump seats for a "suspense-filled" one hour drive?) His love for the Indian people was such an inspiration! In the past 35 years he has founded 3 orphanages and helped plant 7 churches there. Lifesong for Orphans is partnering with Bob and allowing for even greater ministry and impact. Pictured is Andy Lehman, Vice President with Lifesong for Orphans (lifesongfororphans.org).

Bob Stoll, 88 years old and going strong in the power of the Lord (How many people at age 88 volunteer to ride in the jump seats for a “suspense-filled” one hour drive?) His love for the Indian people was such an inspiration! In the past 35 years he has founded 3 orphanages and helped plant 7 churches there. Lifesong for Orphans is partnering with Bob and allowing for even greater ministry and impact. Pictured is Andy Lehman, Vice President with Lifesong for Orphans (lifesongfororphans.org).

A marathon session: Strategic planning to help the orphans of India.

A marathon session: Strategic planning to help the orphans of India.
A church service. I was blessed by their passion and dedication.
A Christian church service. I was blessed by their passion and dedication.
The girls of Jyothi Nivas Children's Home helping with dinner.
The girls of Jyothi Nivas Children’s Home helping with dinner.
The kitchen at Jyothi Nivas Children's Home
The kitchen at Jyothi Nivas Children’s Home
The boys at Jyothi Nivas pull out mats and sleep on the floor in this room.
The boys at Jyothi Nivas pull out mats and sleep on the floor in this room.
I was amazed at the loads they were able to transport by bike.
I was amazed at the loads they were able to transport by bike.
Bike repair shops get good business in India -- they seem to keep those bikes running for at least a century.
Bike repair shops get good business in India — they seem to keep those bikes running for at least a century.
Streets are full of these, oxcarts, bikes, fast cars, and roaming cows. No traffic lights or signs anywhere, so it's quite an experience.
Streets are full of these, oxcarts, bikes, fast cars, and roaming cows. No traffic lights or signs anywhere, so it’s quite an experience.
The girls at Jyothi Nivas during an evening session. I loved to hear them sing.
The girls at Jyothi Nivas during an evening session. I loved to hear them sing.
A local school assembly.
A local school assembly.
The classroom at a local school.
The classroom at a local school.
Chicken stand…get 'em while they're fresh!
Chicken stand…get ’em while they’re fresh!
We toured Narsapur one morning in an auto rickshaw.
We toured Narsapur one morning in an auto rickshaw.
Cows roam the cities freely and are considered sacred.
Cows roam the cities freely and are considered sacred.
This guy at the fish market was serious about getting fish cleaned quickly for customers (no time to wipe excess from his legs and feet!)
This guy at the fish market was serious about getting fish cleaned quickly for customers (no time to wipe excess from his legs and feet!)
This fruit stand got my award for the best display and product positioning.
This fruit stand got my award for the best display and product positioning.
Seamsters line the streets.
Seamsters line the streets.
The bananas are so sweet and tasty!
The bananas are so sweet and tasty!
Government workers on strike! They created human roadblocks to prevent any transportation. Thankfully the strike was over after one day and we were able to get to the airport.
Government workers on strike! They created human roadblocks to prevent any transportation. Thankfully the strike was over after one day and we were able to get to the airport.
Garlands for sale
Garlands for sale
On our 45-min. drives to the pastor's convention each day, we saw workers in rice fields lined by coconut trees on each side of the road.
On our 45-min. drives to the pastor’s convention each day, we saw workers in rice fields lined by coconut trees on each side of the road.
The dear woman washing dishes at the pastor's convention.
The dear woman washing dishes at the pastor’s convention.
One day Kumari set us up for a lunch she had packed for us to have at convention. The tables were set up in a small bedroom. Just a few minutes after I snapped this photo, a leg on the left table gave way and everything went into the floor!
One day Kumari set us up for a lunch she had packed for us to have at convention. The tables were set up in a small bedroom. Just a few minutes after I snapped this photo, a leg on the left table gave way and everything went into the floor!
On a mission trip, ALWAYS be ready to give a message or sing a song at a moment's notice. They even pulled Neha up to the front for a few words at the pastor's convention.
On a mission trip, ALWAYS be ready to give a message or sing a song at a moment’s notice. They even pulled Neha up to the front for a few words at the pastor’s convention.
This is the hall that the girls do their homework in each night at Jyothi Nivas.
This is the hall that the girls do their homework in each night at Jyothi Nivas.
Normal traffic in India.
Normal traffic in India.
It's amazing what a small tractor and trailer can move!
It’s amazing what a small tractor and trailer can move!

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The road is shared by oxcarts and cars.
The road is shared by oxcarts and cars. I’m pretty sure the strategy for drivers is dart quickly left or right, whichever direction you think someone else is not darting.
The kids were excited to receive Bibles, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and bars of soap from donors through Lifesong for Orphans.
The kids were excited to receive Bibles, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and bars of soap from donors through Lifesong for Orphans.
Getting through the long line at immigration in the Bombay airport was an experience.
Getting through the long line at immigration in the Bombay airport was an experience.
Having eaten more curry than I've ever had while in India, I just had to snap this pic of this fast food restaurant at the airport.
Having consumed while in India more curry than I’ve ever eaten, I just had to snap this pic of this fast food restaurant at the airport.
The slums of Bombay - just over the fence from the airport.
The slums of Bombay – just over the fence from the airport.
Lots of love.
Lots of love. I pray for God’s continued protection, guidance and blessing on the the sweet orphans of India and those caring for them. Amen.

 

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Chris and I just returned from Europe last week, where he was speaking for a missions conference near Budapest, Hungary. I had a few surprises along the way.

  • The French computer keyboard. I used a friend’s Apple computer, and had a hilarious time trying to type!
  • A young Hungarian couple exclusively played traditional polka music at their wedding reception.
  • The flight to Europe seemed short compared to my recent trips to Africa.

At the conference we had the joy of getting acquainted with church leaders from all over Western Europe. My friend Vicki from Switzerland shared with me this story:

A couple dreamed of beautiful roadsides in their community. Pulling a large portion of the money from their savings account, they invested in a great amount of poppy seeds and joyfully scattered them on each side of the road for miles. Eager to see the flowers crowding each side of the highway, they watched and waited, watched and waited. Years passed and not one poppy grew in the area they had planted. Assuming they had wasted their money and time, the couple was greatly disappointed.

Then one spring years later, they were driving along and could not believe their eyes. Beautiful red poppies graced each side of the road. When the conditions (temperature, moisture, and sunlight) were right, the seeds bloomed. The flowers were beautiful in their time. The couple saw the realization of their dream, and experienced the fullness of Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” And others also were blessed because of their work.

That story encourages me as I reflect on what I believe God laid on our hearts in 1998 to pray for Phoenix: revival. Though we did not see evidence of revival before we moved from Phoenix in 2003, I believe the answer to our prayers is now coming into full bloom. It is heart wrenching on so many levels to leave McKinney, but I have an overwhelming sense that God has given us this invitation to go back and see the fruit of what we helped sow in prayer fifteen years ago. I eagerly anticipate seeing the “poppies” in Arizona.

I wonder how many people have a God-given dream in their heart that they have become hopeless and heart-sick over. Or how many have allowed the busyness of life to put a dream on the back burner to the point that it is almost forgotten. I wonder how many would be bold enough to take that dream to God in prayer and ask Him what to do with it. “We are not called to be spectators watching from the stands as the prince of darkness goes about to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus said there is a shortage of workers, but the actual work will be done by God’s Spirit through you and me doing great things beyond our wildest imagination. It all begins when you offer yourself to serve.” (Spirit Rising, 188, Jim Cymbala).

I’m praying for fellow poppy planters. People that will invest their efforts in work that will reap an eternal harvest. May we pray the prophet Isaiah’s prayer: “Here am I Lord, send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

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A Hairdo Adventure in Africa

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IMG_1764“Do you think my hair would do that?” I said as I looked at the cornrow hairstyles of my new friends in Sierra Leone. Eyes lit up and bright smiles shined on the girls’ faces as they called the name, “Yeama!”

2012 July-October 624These Sierra Leonean orphans, twenty-five of them sharing a house, all have their roles. Umaru leads a devotional for them each morning at 5:30 a.m., Abu #1 (the teenage Abu) trims the hair of the younger boys with a special comb, and the teenage girls help prepare their meals of rice. At 7 a.m. the teenage boys lead a workout routine. Though they have no running water in the house, they do have a gym. It consists of things like rigged metal pipes with paint cans on the end sitting in a corner of the main room. Who is the in-house hairdresser? Yeama.

2012 July-October 580And Yeama I needed. After spending just one day in the fierce Sierra Leonean heat and humidity, this girl’s locks were frizzing out like never before. I admired the girls’ elaborately designed hairstyles and thought I might just need one myself. Not only did I want to identify with them and let them help me with something, I thought my hair could really use some work.

IMG_1955That afternoon after I finished teaching some drawing classes, Yeama appeared with a comb and I knew my time had come. IMG_2010She moved a chair to the dirt yard beside their house, and then the fun began. With John and Mariama on my lap and at least a dozen kids gathered around, we got started. I took my ponytail holder off and my hair seemed to puff out to three times its normal size. Soon two more girls, Hanumatu and Animata were on the job (I think Yeama must have signaled for backup!) They were dividing hair, and pulling here and there (ouch). I loved having my new friends so close and visiting with them as they worked.

2012 July-October 570 “She’s giving you a plant!” Animata said. Not only is she doing my hair, but she’s giving me a plant, too? I thought. Yeama chimed in. “With roses!” Seriously, roses? That sounded special, but I sure hadn’t seen anything close to roses since I had been in Sierra Leone, and especially not in their poor village. Where in the world will they find roses? I finally figured out the hairdo itself was called a plant and that the braids swooping upward into a ponytail on the top of my head were called roses.

I couldn’t help but smile the entire time as I watched the faces of the dozen or so children gathered around me. They were mesmerized, entertained, and amused by the whole process of this white woman getting a plant. Some of the little ones caught hairs as they fell from my head and sat and stroked the long, smooth strands.  Others leaned their elbows on a nearby ledge and rested their chins on their fists as they sat quietly watching. Still others leaned in on me in whatever places the hairdressers weren’t standing.

We talked about everything from the bothersome acne problems of the thirteen-year-old to stories in the Bible. We sang some songs together, too. The praise songs were special, and they were impressed that I also knew some Justin Bieber songs. How they knew his songs I have no idea – they live in a primitive village in a tin home without electronics (nor electricity and running water, for that matter). As the sun lowered toward the horizon, we got a break from the scorching heat and an almost-cool breeze blew. Animata kept saying over and over again, “So beautiful, so beautiful, Auntie Brenna!” But, I didn’t realized just how awesome my hair looked until the end of that one-and-a-half hour session when the teenage girls broke out in the song “African Queen”!

2012 July-October 571 About ten minutes before they were done, John got down from my lap and ran off. He returned, quietly leaning on my side with my bright pink backpack on his lap and my large water bottle in his hand, one of the many times he looked out for me and carried my things for me. As the children all walked me back to the Brockelman’s home at sunset, some holding my hands and others happily flitting around me, I couldn’t imagine a place I would rather be at that moment.

2012 July-October 5742012 July-October 575 I kept my plant for a week. Through Brussels, Belgium; Chicago, Illinois, then back to Dallas. I guess I felt it was one way I could bring home with me a little bit of Yeama and my new friends. I wish they could have seen my hair the day it came out of the plant. I persuaded Micah to take the first shift. He worked undoing braids on the back for 30 minutes, and finally begged off the job by reminding me he had piano practicing to do. My ten-year-old Karis and her friends Kate, Bella and Meadow finished the job, leaving me with a hairdo bigger than the 1980’s Diana Ross had ever dreamed of.

2012 July-October 811 I guess it’s only appropriate that I would end this blog with a Diana Ross song dedication for my new friends – her #1 hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

It’s a tiresome 36-hour travel journey to you by planes, bus and boat, my new Sierra Leonean friends. But I want you to know that, Lord willing, there ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough to keep me away from you!

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