Sunday, August 28, 2011

How my purple toes are helping Africa

Dear family and friends, 

Did you know that I am running a half marathon? Its true! On September 11th I will run in the Chicago Half-Marathon. I’m running with a great team too – I’ll get that later.

First, I want to tell you about my purple toes. Yes you read right, my purple toes! I began training for the race in March; back then I was exhausted just thinking about running five miles! I wish I could say training has been a breeze. Honestly, training for this race has been one of the hardest things I have done.

My shoes have been my bread and butter. I can’t imagine training without them, granted they have caused me a lot of pain, sores, and blisters. For example, they turned the big toe on both my feet purple! At first I didn’t realize it because I had pink nail polish on my toes. Then I thought I had a toe fungus. Finally I realized my shoes were the culprit. They were too small – a full size and a half to be exact. Almost immediately I decided to buy new shoes. Now, I have a new pair and I’m ready for the race. I can’t imagine running the race with my old shoes. It’s amazing to think how quickly I took care of my need. It may have taken me weeks to figure out such a need existed, but once I did, once I removed my pink nail polish, I took care of it.

I bet you would have done the same thing, which is why I am writing you. I want to tell you about another need, one that is much more important than my shoes. One that cannot simply be covered up by pink nail polish. Education – in Angola, Africa to be exact. While primary education is free in Angola, many children are not able to attend school due to a lack of school buildings. (During the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002) nearly half of all schools were looted or destroyed). This is where Team Rise steps in – I’m taking part in the Team RISE 2011 to raise money for RISE International.

The mission of Rise International is to partner with Angolan churches, community leaders and government officials to build primary schools in rural Angola. The first school was built in 2003, just 8 years ago - and now there are over 100 schools built, and more than 60,000 children in school learning, those that would not have had the chance for years to come!

Each and every penny you give matters and will make a difference.  Our team goal for 2011 is to raise $200,000 by running the Chicago Half Marathon and full Marathon.  It takes on average $125 to create space in a school for a student, so this goal represents an additional 1,600 students that will be able to go to school because of you. 

Would you consider giving $13 to Rise International? It’s an odd number – 13 – but also significant. Why?
…13 is the number of miles I’ll run on September 11th
…13 (dollars) is about how much you’d spend eating out…how about eating in for a change, to make a change? J
…13 (years) is the average length of time an American child – and hopefully an Angolan child, thanks to your gift – is afforded to spend in grade school

Click here to make a donation to Team Rise now. All donations are secure and sent directly to RISE International by FirstGiving, who will email you a printable record of your donation.

I’m so glad I got a chance to share with you about my race and Rise International.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

PS...I usually don't post stuff like this on my blog but thought you may enjoy knowing about a way the Lord is growing my faith muscles in a very concrete and physical way. Plus, I couldn't pass on the opportunity to tell you about the needs in Angola. I hope you will consider helping these kiddos out!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Spring Needs Winter

I’ve thought for some time what I would post today. Where could I begin to describe the last year of my life. A year ago today I said goodbye to Texas, something I had never done. After a loong road trip we arrived in Deerfield and finally saw our new home. You’d be surprised how many people ask Jon and me, “Why did you come all the way up here?”  Well, in case you forgot, we came up here asking for a challenge. And boy did God deliver!

There have been joys, triumphs, falls, and challenges this past year. Joys – having only my husband to cling to, especially on cold nights. Triumphs – finding a job at Trinity and gaining the benefit of tuition reimbursement for me and my man. Falls – Yelling “I hate it here” in response to the cold. Challenges – accepting that home is Deerfield and not San Antonio.

This past year my love for family, friends, and Texas was strengthened in new and inexperienced ways. And, in case there was ever a doubt (which sometimes there was) I firmly know now that I am deeply loved by my family and friends. Whoever said, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” was right. I’ve been amazed and blessed by the family and friends who, despite the distance, have continued to pursue and support us.

Illinois and I continue to have a love-hate relationship, but I do believe love is winning right now. And, I pray that it will continue like that through winter.  

A couple weeks ago I heard a message preached by a friend of my fathers. Although the message was in Spanish (a language I hardly know) God used it to pierce my heart through and through. The message covered a very familiar part of scripture and an overlooked part in scripture, Jeremiah 29: 4-14. Maybe you are like me and like to focus of the later part of that scripture.

In response to the message and recalling last year’s journey, I wrote the below poem. While I have your attention, I’d like to dedicate this poem to my sister, Joanna, who is also learning the ropes of a new place. I’m praying for you!

Brought here by God

As a father carries his sleeping child
So I carried you here
I cradled you in my arms
Knowing your fragile form

You must trust that I brought you here
That it was I and no one else
Doing so will help you stand firm
When Winter’s wind pushes against your back

Spring flowers only bloom
After Winter’s harsh winds
And as Spring needs Winter
So you need this season
Growth comes through winds of change

Allow me to take responsibility
Allow me to show you why

But you will never fully recognize Spring’s beauty
While holding onto the past
Yes, it feels as though you have been exiled
But do not forget – you are my child
And I am your merciful father

You must anticipate your restoration
Again and again
Remind me of my promise to you:
For I know the plans I have for you
Plans to prosper you and not to harm you

Then I will remind you:
Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which
I have carried you into exile.
Therefore, build your home in this new place
And devote yourself to your new community
And when it is time, I will carry you away

Wait patiently, Spring will come

Jeremiah 29:4-14

New International Version (NIV)

 4 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD.

 10 This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.[a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”