Friday, November 22, 2013

Big Dreams, Little Me, Big God

Within the last year, I decided that I wanted to start a women's counseling center in Ethiopia.  Why not, right?

I don't know when this dream was originally planted, but I think it was growing long before I realized it.  It blows me away how hindsight gives us a view of our life that seems less chaotic and more seamless.

A few things have come together over the years to create this dream:

  • I saw the movie 58:The Film (see the full post here) about eradicating extreme global poverty
  • I've been frequently reading Isaiah 58 in its entirety and daily reading verses 6-11
  • My heart beats for the poor, broken, hungry, homeless, and oppressed
  • I adopted
  • I fell in love with my daughter's birth country of Ethiopia
  • My heart is torn daily wishing Feven's birth mother could be a part of this amazing little girl's life
  • I wonder who is counseling the birth mothers who have relinquished their children in Ethiopia
  • I wonder who is counseling pregnant women in crisis in Ethiopia
  • I wonder who is supporting women who are victims of domestic abuse in Ethiopia
  • I wonder who is helping to heal victims of rape in Ethiopia
  • I wonder who is crying with birth mothers on the difficult anniversaries of when they gave birth to their child, dropped off their child at an orphanage, or abandoned their child in desperation

I believe there is an unmet need.  I believe there is a way to assist women who have been through difficult situations in life to enable them to process what has happened to them and begin the road to healing.

But there are a few problems.  I don't know how to start a women's counseling center in Ethiopia or even if that would be helpful.  I don't know how to fund a counseling center or even how much it would take!  So faced with these questions I did the only thing I could do.  I started praying.

As I began praying, I remembered a children's book idea I had a few years ago.  I thought maybe I could get that published and the revenue from that would fund the counseling center.  The problem with that was that I don't draw.  During prayer one day I remembered that I had a friend who had illustrated a children's book one time.  I decided to contact him.

Amazing God Thing Number 1
Within 48 hours of contacting the only person I know who illustrates, he agreed to illustrate the book.  For free.

I continued getting excited about the counseling center and kept sharing my ideas with Zac.  I was also incredibly overwhelmed with life and was crying a lot during this time in my life.  Zac, being the truly amazing, protective, and thoughtful guy he is, advised me to stop working on the counseling center idea right now.  I had too much on my plate and it wasn't a good idea to add something else - especially something else that big.

So I kept working on it behind his back.

I wish I could say "just kidding" after that statement, but it's true.  I continued my slow work on the counseling center and stopped talking to him about it.  Not a shining wife moment.

I knew I could not do this on my own, so I decided to put out some feelers to one of my Ethiopia Adoption Facebook groups.  I was praying for 5 people to come alongside me to help research what it would look like to open a counseling center in Ethiopia.  I also prayed that at least one of the people would be a guy.

Amazing God Thing Number 2
Within about 3 days, I had 3 women who showed interest.  And one of them "happened" to be a travel agent who frequents Ethiopia, another "happened" to be a licensed counselor, and another happened to be 100% awesome.  So I had my 3 people interested + me making 4.  It wasn't 5, but I was pretty happy nonetheless!
By this time I was feeling awfully guilty for continuing my work when Zac was assuming I had laid this project down for a time.  One night after we crawled into bed I said, "Uh, Zac.  I have something to tell you..."  I told him everything and was expecting him to be (rightfully) upset with me.

Amazing God Thing Number 3 
Instead of being upset, he was energized by all the good ideas the team of people had come up with, he was amazed at how God was working, and...

Amazing God Thing Number 4
...he wanted to be a part of it.  He went from encouraging me to drop the project for an indefinite amount of time to supporting me continuing with it AND wanting to be a part of it. His interest made him the 5th person that I had asked God for.  AND Zac joining the research team made him also the "at least one guy" I had prayed for.

A few weeks later I was out weeding in the front lawn with Feven.  A lawn service solicitor walked up the street, saw me in the yard, and began chatting with Feven and I.  Quickly into our discussion he realized that I was not going to purchase his company's services, but we continued chatting anyway.  He was a good-natured man, kind, and had the build of an NFL player.  A few minutes into the conversation, he looked at me and said, "Are you a Christian?"  I was taken aback by this forward question.  I said yes and he said, "I thought so.  I am too."

Amazing God Thing Number 5
He then shared that he's an ordained pastor who is not serving at a church right now and wondering why God has him pounding the pavement for this lawn service.  He told me of 4 different mission trips he's been on and for some reason I told him of my dream to open a women's counseling center.  After I shared my dream with him, he quoted Matthew 18:20, "Where two or three gather in my name, I am there with them." and he grabbed my hand and said, "Let's pray over this dream."  So he took my hand in his big paw and we stood there in my front lawn and he prayed over my dream to start a counseling center in Ethiopia.

We talked a little more after that, but then his cell phone rang and he had to go.  His ringtone?  The chorus of "My Savior, My God" and I heard these words, "My savior loves, my savior lives, my savior's always there for me."

Indeed, my Savior lives!  He is listening to my prayers and He is moving in this world in ways I can't fathom.  He is placing big dreams in my little heart and moving to build those dreams for His glory.  Amen!


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Comfort on a Cold, Windy Night

I hear the wind outside blowing against the house tonight, forcing these walls to groan in protest with creaks and pops.  The wind chimes on the north side of the house, normally quiet and unaffected by the winds, are shouting tonight.  

Inside couldn't be more opposite.  I sit at a quiet desk, the office illuminated softly by a small desk lamp on the corner of the desk.  The dishes in the kitchen have all been washed and put away for use tomorrow.  Feven has been asleep and the baby monitor quiet for an hour and half.  All is still.

My faith life in the last 6 months has been more like the calm inside my house tonight.  I've been praying regularly and specifically for certain people and situations and I feel that God is answering these prayers in ways I can see.  I feel like my faith foundation is becoming more solid and that regardless of the chaos around me, I can stand firm.

I'm anxious to tell you all about the things that I've seen coming together in my life.  I hesitate to call them miracles - that just seems like a really big deal and should involve feeding thousands of people with one person's lunch, walking on water, raising people from the dead, etc.  I haven't seen anything THAT extraordinary.  But I have seen some pretty wild, inexplicable details come together that I could not have orchestrated myself.

God is moving in my life.  I plan to write down some specific stories over the next few weeks which will have you shaking your head in awe with me.  Together we can marvel at our incredible God.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

$25 Gift Card Giveaway!

Just when I thought this week couldn't get any better, I learned that I get to give away a $25 Noonday Gift Card!  Yippee!

If you haven't had a chance to read my post from Tuesday, please check it out here.  I had an amazing experience this past week where 4 of my life passions combined into a single event!

The short of it is that a friend surprised me by raising funds for our adoption via a Noonday party.  Noonday is a company that works with over 1,000 artisans around the globe to provide them sustainable, living wages for their beautiful handiwork.  Another fun fact about Noonday is that the materials made by the artisans come from within their country, so not only does Noonday help to provide jobs for the artisans, but also supports the local farmers and economy as well.  Very. Cool.

I'm excited to pass along the Noonday catalog to you today.  I hope that you will bring your Christmas shopping list to the computer and find some things from Noonday for your friends and family.  My dream is that Noonday's demand would explode because of you, creating exponentially more jobs for these talented artisans who are often from impoverished and vulnerable communities.

A portion of the sales from this event will go directly to our adoption agency on our behalf.  That's right, Noonday writes out a check and mails it into our adoption agency for us!  What an incredible blessing that is to be able to partner with a great company empowering people around the globe and at the same time come another step closer to welcoming another child into our family.

Gift Card Giveaway Details

Each person is entered into the drawing when they place an order with Noonday.  To do this, first of all, browse Noonday's collection. I dare you to not find something you love. I may have already purchased this card set and have found 20 other things that I want!

When you find something you like, add it to your cart. At checkout, make sure that you select Sara VanZee as the Ambassador and then type in Lindsay Millard in the Trunk Show spot before completing your purchase. This particular sale closes on Monday, November 18th, so make sure to choose your items before then. Doing so will ensure that you are entered into the drawing for the $25 Gift Card.  

Please share with your friends and family as you see appropriate. I'm so encouraged by companies like Noonday and I want to make this company known, especially as the holidays are approaching.  What a great way to use our Christmas shopping dollars to not only get something unique and beautiful for the people on our list, but to help others around the world to provide for their families.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Passion Explosion!

Four of my passions are combining into a single event and I can hardly think straight because I'm so darn excited!

If you've been reading my blog from time to time, you know my heart for the poor around the world. You also know about the crazy kick I've been on the last few years, attempting to combat Christmas Consumerism. If you've seen any photos on my blog in the last year and a half, you know about my passion for adoption. And although I haven't blogged extensively about it, I've shared with many about my desire to somehow create more stability for vulnerable families to actually prevent orphans worldwide.

And YES, it is possible for these four things to combine into a single event. Let me explain...

Part I:
My college roommate Lindsay approached me a few months ago and asked if she could help me raise funds for our adoption. She knew of a company called Noonday that has some pretty sweet stuff for sale made by artisans across the globe. And YES, Noonday has artisans in the beautiful country of Ethiopia. :) Noonday provides a sustainable, livable wage to all their employees, and is working hard to better the lives and communities that their 1,000+ artisans reside in. Best of all? They're helping vulnerable families stay together and move away from a crisis point to a place of stability. (Read: orphan prevention)

Part II:
The stores have Christmas things out, friends! Christmas things! As we preview ads for Black Friday and map our store routes, let's consider again what our dollars do post-purchase. When you buy a Christmas gift from a big-box store, you pad the wallet of a corporate exec. When you buy from a store like Noonday, you help families around the globe survive and thrive. Noonday gifts are like a double gift - you get a sweet gift for your friend and you give financial stability to a family across the globe.

Part III:
A portion of each sale goes to support our family's second adoption. This isn't like a Tupperware party where I will receive $200 in Tupperware when the night is over. Noonday has a heart for supporting adoptive families, so a portion of all sales will be paid on our behalf directly to our adoption agency. This is especially meaningful to us at this time because we recently needed to raise our adoption fund goal. We have been praying for God to provide in radical ways, and we believe that our friend Lindsay hosting this show is part of God's answer and provision. Remind me to tell you more stories about this later. God's doing some crazy awesome things in our lives right now.

How You Can Be Part of the AWESOME
First of all, browse Noonday's collection. I dare you to not find something you love. I may have already purchased this card set while typing my blog tonight. Please take your Christmas shopping list and browse through Noonday's Jewelry, Accessories, and Home+Gift Items. See what you can find for the people on your list. My dream is that Noonday's demand would explode because of you, creating exponentially more jobs for people in vulnerable communities.

When you find something you like, add it to your cart. At checkout, make sure that you select Sara VanZee as the Ambassador and then type in Lindsay Millard in the Trunk Show spot before completing your purchase. This particular sale closes on Monday, November 18th, so make sure to choose your items before then! Doing so will ensure that a portion of your purchase will go towards giving Feven a sibling. In case you're wondering, she has stated on numerous occasions that she wants a "really big girl."  I don't know what that means, but we're leaving it up to God. :)

Please share with your friends and family as you see appropriate. I'm so encouraged by companies like Noonday and I want to shout their praises from the mountaintop!