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Friday, May 28, 2010

Josie Love Update pics/ One Million Arrows: Will your family change the world?

UPDATE PICTURE NUMBER 4:(they still "squint" when she smiles..YAAAY!)

There is still quite a bit of swelling and discoloration...hopefully to be gone in a few more weeks. Does she not just make you smile?!?!?


But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus- the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love. Act 20:24

This verse comes to the forefront of my mind often these days. Probably, because more days than not, I am crying out to Him "why Lord? why does life HAVE to be so hard? can I not just get up and eat breakfast without having to clean up 7 spills/messes in between each bite?"


During my time away I have had the chance to read a few books. One of which is ONE MILLION ARROWS by Julie Ferwerda. I spend a lot of time thinking "how do I train his/her heart in this particular circumstance? This book has quite a few tools and resources to apply to your parenting. You can purchase One Million Arrows on Amazon.com





Wednesday, May 26, 2010

time away...








God doesn't come and go. God LASTS. He's creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath. And He knows EVERYTHING, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind. Isaiah 40:28

To say that the past year has been a blur is an understatement. After meeting Katie, Gwen and I had an instant stir in our hearts to help..which led to sitting on Amazima's board...which led to starting the paperwork for adoption through Uganda. THEN, Gwen and I decided to start a little project to help people fundraise for their adoptions because all we EVER heard was "I would LOVE to adopt, but we just can't afford it"....SO 147 Million Orphans was created. Then our wheels started turning...why not feed children with each purpose?...why not help the women in the Karomojong village be self sustainable...why not employ some local refugees and let them make orphans bags and help them have a better life here in the US....on and on and on it goes....

Needless, to say, Gwen and I fuel each others fire. We know WITHOUT DOUBT that this was God's plan, because what we thought was going to be a fun, little project has grown and grown and grown and now we are LITERALLY chasing it. It is a fabulous thing now that we have an accountant, bookkeeper, 3 women who share our hearts and want to volunteer (BIG kudos to Jan, Michelle, and Amy!) throw in three surgeries for Maggie (Gwen's lil one) and the reality of Josie having HIV, and all of her medical appointments + surgery. With the end of school quickly approaching I started to feel as though I could not breathe. I have learned to not look ahead, and to just take one day at a time. BUT, the thought of summer being right around the corner is exciting yet COMPLETELY overwhelming.

SO, my knight in shining armor ONCE AGAIN came to the rescue and took me away. I left my children with 6 different people on a rotation for their "care taking" ( typically the first question that I am asked.."who keeps all of your kids?!?!") I slept the first 16 out of 24 hours that I was away. Every morning I awake to the pics that you see in this post, and I have just soaked up scripture. the Lord has been pouring HIS word over my heart like a river through a parched dessert. I have been reminded that He has me in the palm of His hand each and every moment, NO MATTER how chaotic life is right now. I just have to keep prayer in the center of my life so that I can stay in CONSTANT communication with him so that I will not only "know" but FEEL that He is in control, when I feel as though it is spinning completely OUT OF CONTROL.

When I look at Mike I am reminded that he is the most handsome man that I have EVER laid my eyes on. Just a glance of him gives me goose bumps. We have been able to talk through the loss of my sister-in-law....how to deal with my heartache for my brother and his kids... weed through situations with each one of our children and just be quiet.

I can't share this trip without the reality that accompanies it....(Just a funny little side story) Hearing Mike telling this story is actually REALLY funny, but I'll try to do it justice in words...

Through the years, the little white paper bag that is kept in the pouch in front of you in the airplane has become my best friend. I have mastered how to very discreetly pull it out, throw up very quietly, without anyone around me ever even knowing it. (Renee Manuel was very impressed with this gift of mine on our trip home from Uganda..haha) Our landing on this trip was ANYTHING but a smooth one. I reached above me to turn my air on HIGH, Mike reached for my little white bag and held it out for me, but thankfully I did not have to use it. My stomach started churning and continued to be unsettled for the next few hours. In the meantime, Mike and I decided to go the the grocery to get a few necessities for the week (i.e. coffee and yummy hazelnut creamer..) As we walked down each aisle my stomach started feeling more and more unsettled. I started feeling REALLY bad and Mike glanced over at me and said "why do you have such a scowl on your face?" and instantly my face went WHITE and I responded "i think that I am going to be sick". He started towards a worker to ask directions to the bathroom and when he turned back to me I had my head in a cardboard box that I found sitting on the floor that they unpacked. He stood there with buggy and groceries in hand while I very quietly and discreetly disposed of the rot in my belly. He said several people passed and looked over at me and just kept walking like it was just another day at the grocery. After a bit, I started feeling better and then was left with the decision of what to do with this box in my hands. I decided to carry it outside and put it in the trash. As I headed out the front doors, I was stopped by a guard who was BOUND and determined to see what my purchase entailed. I tried to explain to him that it was trash and not groceries but he didn't understand English. There are really no words to describe the look on his face as he stuck his nose down into my box in determination to see what I was so quickly trying to get out the door. It took Mike about an hour for the reality of what had just happened to sink in. REALLY?!? I know he was thinking "we have come all of this way just for my wife to puke and sleep the whole time?" Thankfully, I am now rested with a settled stomach and we have LAUGHED until our jaws have ached about out shopping experience.

He had NO IDEA what he was signing up for when he married me.....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

HIV and it's stigma




The other night I received a message on Facebook that took me to my knees in thankfulness and in awe of my Master. The stigma that accompanies a person with HIV/AIDS can be astounding. There is MUCH controversy over to disclose if you are infected or not. Since bringing Josie Love home, I have received NUMEROUS emails about "how did you know to tell?", "We have no idea how our family will react", "I carry this burden with me all day long, this secret, that I have to keep" "My other children are carrying this burden of this family secret, how do I help them cope?" "don't you wish that Josie Love was old enough to ask HER if SHE wanted others to know?""INSTANTLY she will be labeled in a negative way" yada yada yada...you get the picture?

First of all, my disclaimer is that I am a little more opinionated about this subject, but my sweet, sweet husband has a way of bringing me back to the reality that just because I believe it doesn't make it right for EVERYONE. (ha) So, I am going to heir on the side of caution in this post as far as my opinion. However, I will tell you about our journey.

When we traveled to Uganda to bring Josie Love home, we were blogging mostly for our children that we had left behind, our parents, and our closest friends and family. As I have stated before, I was NOT a blogger, and never intended to be. However, I was very familiar with the phone lines internationally from trying to communicate with Katie, and I knew we needed an easier way to allow them to feel as though they were on this journey with us. Through this journey, our blog went from close friends and family to HUNDREDS. OH, the power of social media!! And, I AM NOW A BLOGGER...hahhaha.

I will NEVER forget that day in the doctors office. When we were told that she was positive, I felt as though the world quit spinning, all of the sounds around me went mute and all I could do was look at the child that lay limp in my arms and think "she is going to die." Mike held her in his arms on the trip home from Kampala (back to the babies home). I remember laying my head on his shoulder, touching her soft hair, feeling that if my heart hurt ANY worse that it would literally just break in half. That night as we lay in bed, Mike and I were both staring at the ceiling, tears streaming down our cheeks, I remember saying "is this the hardest thing that we have EVER been through? Is your heart hurting more than it EVER has before?" (I think deep down I needed to ask him these things in order for me to believe that it was REALLY happpening) and he replied "yes." I had NO IDEA even HOW to begin processing the turn that our lives had just taken. A few days later, we blogged what we had learned of her sickness. While everyone was so encouraging, we still had NO IDEA what the future looked like. And guess what? WE STILL DONT HAVE ANY IDEA!!!

This is what I DO KNOW....I opened my Facebook page tonight and this is what was awaited me:
I just saw the most recent updates after Josie’s surgery, and I felt so compelled to write you. Being obsessed with all things adoption (adopted from ET in 2008 and waiting on guardianship from India currently), I show my husband TONS of pictures of children in every facet of the adoption process. He is a nice guy, so he obliges me with polite “ooo’s and aahhh’s.” But then there’s your Josie Love. The photos of her in Uganda captured him. He fell in love with her and even named her Macy Gray (the singer) for our in-home purposes. :)

I don’t think you knew she was HIV positive at that time, so when you shared her diagnosis with blog world, the news captured his heart all over again—so much so that he used your family’s strength and willingness as a sermon illustration. Jake is on staff at a prominent, nearly all white, affluent church in our sleepy little town. These people have hearts of gold, but living life on the edge isn’t really at the forefront of most members’ minds. You could just feel the room tighten when he shared how you bravely chose to pursue her regardless of her sickness. Today when I saw the ADORABLE pictures of Josie’s eyes beginning to open, I just had to share that God has used your little miracle to open many eyes already—eyes that while functioning well enough were clouded to the idea that there are people ALL around us in need of love and attention. Her story and your family’s obedience are literally impacting the world.

WOW.....I sat with tears streaming down my cheeks as I read this message aloud to Mike. I HAVE to believe that God has his hand, his TENDER hand, rested right in the palm of Josie Love's. At the end of the day, we don't know how the stigma will effect her little heart. We have no idea what she is going to endure in her lifetime because of it. This is uncharted territory for us. It is uncharted territory for MOST. Even the "professionals" do not know the effects that all of these things will have on these children.

This is what I DO know. That Christ is already using this little girl to prick the hearts of many people. I KNOW of 10 children that are HIV+ that will be coming home to their forever families because of Josie's story. I know that many have been educated through our blog, that with meds, ou can bring a childs viral loads down from 800,000 to 256 in FIVE months!! I know that I serve a MIGHTY, MIGHTY Savior that is sitting on His throne while using my little girl to prick a strangers heart so much that he named her Macy Grey when talking about her around his home. I KNOW that I will do everything in my power to show her that while the HIV is part of her life, it does not make up WHO she is. She was wonderfully and perfectly made in Christ's image, and that has ABSOLUTELY no stigma to it.
I also know that a child can go from this.....
to this:

with love and medicine.


I also know that MaMa is tired.

Friday, May 14, 2010

update pic number 2 & 3



here she is....I couldn't resist posting these...I said "show everybody how big and beautiful your eyes are" and this is what she did! She is ABSOLUTELY hilarious!! I am laughing OUT LOUD just looking at these...gosh, this kid brings me so much joy!

update pic number 1

We had a great night. Mrs. Mayernick (LOVE LOVE LOVE my mother-in-law) kept Joshua and Caleb so that we could have a quiet night and I could give Josie Love some one on one attention without Caleb clobbering us both. Josie slept all night. She woke up, ate some breakfast and motrin. The TB nurse came in, gave meds, and now we are outside playing! She wasn't nearly as swollen last night as she is this morning (to be expected), so hopefully we will be able to watch the swelling go down and the eyes open! yipeeeeeee!
Thursday, May 13, 2010

love therapy




We just returned from Vanderbilt. Josie Love's eyelids were lifted and they are testing the tissue that has been making her lids puffy.

My heart is so full. Part of the fullness is pain. Part is joy.
After getting over the shock and heartache of Josie being HIV+, being on my knees for awhile begging the Lord to give me what I needed to be the very best mommy possible to this sweet little angel that he had entrusted me with....I SHIFTED INTO OVERDRIVE. Mama was going to do everything that needs to be done to get her baby better! I have had a mental checklist of the things medically that needed to be done for her to be able to thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally. In the beginning, I thought she would for sure need physical therapy to walk, speech therapy to speak, and occupational therapy for all of the rest. I did all of the research for the very best places specifically designed for HER needs. ONE WEEK HOME and little sister proved me wrong! She is walking, her speech gets clearer and clearer by the day.(although her spanish from Dora the Explorer and english are beginning to get a little bit intermingled) The child can pour drinks, twist bottles open, polish nails and whatever else that she puts her mind to do! So, I have decided that our family will just continue to give "love" therapy. The last time that we saw our infectious disease doctors I asked their opinion on what else that needed to be done for her. Their response: exactly what you are doing...it is working! Her viral loads are almost undetectable now, her eyelids have been lifted, and she is getting "love therapy".

Mama is toast from being at the hospital all day.......The scripture to which I cling the most these days is: And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the GREATEST of these is LOVE. Isn't it ironic that love is her middle name? Stay tuned....I will be posting pics of her healing eyes!!
YIPPPPPPEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"How do you do it?"


This seems to be the most frequently asked question that I receive. My normal reply is "day by day...I do not look ahead or I get completely overwhelmed with LIFE."

I had an interview with a journalist yesterday for 147 Million Orphans. Gwen and I usually "tag team" at this type of thing, but she had commitments with her children at school, so I went alone. The journalist had moved here from the North and our casual "chit chat" led her to tell me that she was appalled at some of the statements that she hears from "these southerners in the bible belt"(I don't know if that was her EXACT quote but it is close) She asked me what life was like to "look so extremely different" than everyone else in my community...and how I handle it. I started my answer by saying " I have no idea how liberal/conservative this newspaper is, but my story is a COMPLETELY faith-based walk, so you might have trouble writing this article. She replied with a smile, "you share, and I'll write." By the end of our interview, she was partially perplexed/TRYING to understand, with a smile on her face. She shared that she had never heard a story quite like it and was trying to digest it all. I could tell her heart had been opened, but mentally she had no where to compartmentalize what I had just shared.

The rest of the afternoon I pondered several of the questions that she asked. I couldn't help to wonder about some of the answers that I had given her....many of the "how's and why's" I had no answer....except "we just walked by faith through it." (not really what people want to hear...they want REAL answers.) But in reality the answer is the Holy Spirit. I read "the Forgotten God" by Frances Chan awhile back. He does a fabulous job of explaining that the only TRUE way to know that you are living the life that God has designed for you is to seek out the Holy Spirit. It is truly our only connection from earth to heaven. It is a gift that our Savior gave us to be able to follow Him. The problem that I have found, is that the people that are full of "the spirit" are deemed as Jesus freaks. (haha) To be "filled with the spirit" throughout my life, meant that you were religiously charismatic (snake handling and such).

The following of the Holy Spirit is what we are lacking today. This is something that I wrestle with on a daily basis. First, I forget to invite him in every morning. It's not until I am about to scream AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS at everyone in my path that I think "Holy Spirit...PLEASE give me patience". (and honestly the only reason that I do it then, is because I do not want the neighbors to think that I have lost my mind when they hear my voice ring through their windows) Why is it that when Christ beckons the storm clouds, they come. He tells the wind to blow and the rain to fall and they obey immediately. He speaks to the mountains "you go here" and to the ocean "you stop here" and they do it. IN COMPLETE OBEDIENCE. And when he asks something of us we have the AUDACITY to look God in the face and say "no".

I have learned the past few years. All it takes is a simple "yes." He intentionally puts His people in situations where they come face to face with their need for him. In the process He demonstrates his ability to provide everything that his people could ever have imagined. In the end, He brings glory to himself. I have giggled several times thinking of our time in Uganda when we traveled to bring Josie home. Mike and I are so stubborn, He KNEW that we would not give a simple "yes" to a child with HIV. So, instead he took us to the other side of the world for us to learn of her sickness where we were looking HIM in ALL of his sovereignty DEAD in the face. I have NEVER seen Christ as much as I have through watching Josie Love thrive and by watching miracle after miracle through her little life. He desires to give us these gifts. I often think, "what if I had missed this?"
In our humanness, we seem to think that He would choose the people with the most talents, gifts, and money to accomplish what He desires. After all, those are the people that can "make it happen!......can "get it done!" right? The disciples were Galileans, disrespected by the higher classes in Jerusalem as lower-class, rural, uneducated commoners. THAT is who Christ depended on to spread the word that he was the Son of God?!?!?!?! What I have also seen the past few years is that Christ uses the "normal people" to do MIGHTY works because in OUR humanness it seems MORE of a miracle when THEY could accomplish something so grand! hhhhmmmm......In the end, He brings the glory back to himself. What a sweet, sweet blessing to watch.
Don't we all just think of ourselves as "normal?' Then why is it so hard to speak a simple "yes?"

I am reading "Radical" by David Platt right now. A lot of what I just shared I got from this book. When I say that this book is smacking me right across the face...it is a mild understatement. IT IS AWESOME! BUT it is RADICAL! If you dare.....put on you armor! My goal is to wake up not only speaking "yes" but singing it with joy in my heart each morning. Won't you join me?
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Due to our distribution company being surrounded by water, allow 10-14 days for shipping from 147 Million Orphans. Our gear has not been affected, but it is LITERALLY sitting on top of a hill with water completely surrounding it like a little island. There is no way to get to it, and certainly no way to get things shipped out. Pray for QUICK absorption. Rain, rain go away, for we have beads to be shipped for Mother's Day!
Saturday, May 1, 2010


This is my niece Abbie. She is a beam of sunlight in our lives. She and Grace are 5 months apart, and have always had the sweetest friendship/relationship. I have watched her grow from the cutest little girl into the most beautiful young lady. I am posting about her for several reasons. Her faith is an inspiration to me. She is BOLD in her walk of faith and that is not always easy as a teenager. She BOLDY professes her love for our Savior and depends on Him daily.
She is gifted in many ways. The one that has shown itself in the past few days is her athleticism. She runs track for a christian school here in Brentwood. She is "freakishly" fast. She is in the 8th grade and has broken record after record. Yesterday was the finals for the HVAC and she broke several of the HVAC records....she literally made history. I cannot wait to watch her in the years to come. She runs with such grace. She is beautiful to watch. We stood on the sidelines yesterday and cheered her on.....Josie Love is one of her biggest cheerleaders. She screamed "ABBIE, ABBIE, ABBIE" over and over again. She wasn't content until Abbie came across the track and gave her a big "love" around the neck. I am so thankful that my younger three girls have Grace and Abbie to watch as they grow up. What a sweet blessing.

Speaking of Josie Love....GUESS WHO IS GETTING THEIR EYES LIFTED AT THE YOUNG AGE OF 4? Yep! you got it! We're going in for some plastic surgery in a few weeks. I must admit that there is a part of me that is going to miss those sweet little squinty eyes. I LOVE the way she smiles....her entire face beams with happiness, squinty eyes and all! May 13th is the big day. Please be praying for us. I'm a little anxious about the anesthesia and everything else that goes along with surgery. While they are lifting her eyelids, they will be draining some of the fluid off of her lobes that cause the puffiness. The specialist at Vanderbilt is little perplexed by the fluid. She will be sending it off for testing to figure out EXACTLY what is causing it. It will be out patient, and the recovery is only about 48 hours. I can't wait to post pics of her eyes open!! A whole new world is going to open up before her......yippppeeeeeee!

Thank you for lifting my family up the past 2 weeks. While it has been some of the hardest weeks of our lives, Christ has shown up. My brother, Tim, and the kids are doing okay. While we will forever miss Lane Ann, it makes my heart whole to know that she is in heaven in NO pain. Please keep praying for Tim. I cannot FATHOM what it must feel like to get into an empty bed each night.

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suzanne
I am a lover of Jesus. I have the most fabulous husband that anyone woman could ask for. The Lord has blessed us with 7 beautiful children. I started this blog so that friends and family could follow our trip to Uganda to visit Katie Davis. I have decided to keep blogging to help bring orphan awareness to the world around me.
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