12.23.2009

11.19.2009

ONE

12 months ago, I learned I could love a little deeper then I ever imagined.
She is growing so fast!









11.13.2009

A Season to Refocus

So my days at the mission have come to an end. Although this was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, I see (pardon the Christianese I am about to use) God's hand in it. I have learned so many things.

Having spent a lot of time recently on the worlds of skype and gchat with friends who are overseas, the idea of back stories has been prevalent in my mind. We have discussed the horrors they have seen - mostly the idea of children begging for money instead of being in schools. . .Most westerners would look at this scene and be disgusted - as they should be. The problem with making those quick judgments is that we don't know the back story. Is this situational ethics? Absolutely. It is quite easy to say - "I would never make my child go begging for money." Put yourself in a situation though, where your family is in a war torn country, with a broken-or barely there educational system and you, yourself are crippled, leaving only your oldest child left to support your other children. Then your view changes and we understand why people make these choices. It is a broad example, but still an example. Black and white is not always an option. Lines get blurry and the shades of grey appear more understandable.

So it goes with how we view the decisions our Creator makes. We can view things from our point of view and not understand them. Why would God remove me from a ministry I love? Why would he take me out of these girls' lives? Why wouldn't He bring the reconciliation between two people who have been praying fervently for it? It doesn't seem to make sense.

Then He reminds me about the idea of back stories. Situational ethics. Sometimes things are not black and white. Shades of grey and other colors of the rainbow are part of the landscape. God has the one unique view that no other person has. He not only knows the back stories, but also the FRONT stories. He knows what will happen down the road. As frustrating and confusing and upsetting as our circumstances may seem, they ARE part of His plan. The children that are obedient to Him, in prayer and seeking Him, are promised that they will be used by Him.

So what does this mean? To be USED? Does it mean we never lose something that we love? Absolutely not. In the contrary, we are called to give up the things we love into His control and understand that all of our affections are to be focused on Him. Anything else is either to be seen as a bonus (which we recieve with abundant gratitude) or a hindrance. If a child is continually praying for deepening sanctification, then those things which become a hindrance of His plan, no matter how righteous they seem, can and should be taken away.

So, He removed me from the mission. From the girls who were coming to me, asking me to pray for them, asking to hear more from His Word. It didn't make sense over a month ago when it happened, and it still doesn't make sense now.

But the following is still true. God is still, and always will be, good. God loves me. He has plans for me. He knows these plans. I am still His child and I am still desiring to be used by Him. So I trust that He knows the front story. He knows where this is going. As I walk blindly into the future, I am thankful that I still get some bonuses.

Here are my students this year. They are one of the biggest 'bonuses' in my life right now. It could not be a more ideal setting for the urban teacher. Parents that care and students wanting to learn.
And they love me - despite the faces they make when I tell them they read a word incorrectly :)

God is good. All the time.

1 Peter 2:2-3

"Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."

9.02.2009

September

Ohh how facebook works. . . . I got some random application invite for a 'traveling balloon'. . . this one was to recognize september as childhood cancer awareness month.

i don't think i could be more aware of anything in september then childhood cancer.

it will be one year this month that ebony passed away. as much as we know the truth of the Gospel that there is eternal life for those who believe and I KNOW she is spending eternity with her SAVIOR! her FATHER! the ULTIMATE LOVER OF HER SOUL! . . . as much as i know these things, my humaity still kicks in every now and then and i just simply MISS HER!!!!!

i know she is in a better place.

i know she is free from the pain she endured for the last excruciating months of her life.

i know, i know, i know. . . but i still miss her. my human brain can't wrap itself around the concept of eternity - the idea that our time worshipping our Savior together will be so much that the time apart will be non-existant.

but i am human. and i am impatient. and i miss her.

ive been listening to this again. probably too much.


8.19.2009

READ THIS

I know I have like 3 faithful followers of this blog - but those of you that do. . .

can you please read/view this one?

Thank you, and much love.

rachel goes to africa



Talks With Tori

I love my friends. . . one of the things I love is how they spoil me with quality time like that chubby kid who shouldn't have the ice cream cone, but he is just so cute with those cheeks when he asks for it. They know I suck up waaaay too much of their lives with my whining for quality time, but they cave and give it to me anyway. Love them!

Enter Tori D. Seriously one of the hottest girls you will ever meet. I mean, the girl guys become friends with me for to find out more about. Best thing about all of this? Tori really, I mean REALLY has no idea how freaking gorgeous she is. So she is amazing, and one of my people that I can talk to for hours and we can go from serious to laughing back to serious again in a matter of minutes. One of the people who truly knows my heart, so she calls it like she sees it. Aaaaand I love her for this.

Hang out with me long enough and you are sure to get a post about you. That a total of three people MIGHT read. Because I love blogging, but hate sharing . . . A shy girl trapped in a story-teller's body - something like that. . . .

So I convinced Tori to lavish me with some serious quality time type of love tonight and it made me really think. About myself. My stuff, my life down at the mission.

And how God controls all of it. Lately it has been a moment by moment living out of what God is teaching me. A season where I read a chapter of Scripture, or hear a sermon, or have a spiritual conversation with someone and moments, I am not kidding, moments later, God calls me to put it into use. So talking with Tori helped me to figure a lot of stuff out.

I got to share with Tori for the first time about the real conversations I have with the girls at the Mission.




I just LOVE this picture. I have no idea who wrote this on the steps, but I am sometimes amazed at my cell phone camera and sometimes super annoyed at how it takes the blurriest, worst pictures of all time. This one came out well.

So back to Tori - and how this applies to my recent learn-it-now-use-it season. Tonight in Bible study we talked about spiritual warfare and always being armed and ready. We talked about how each piece of the armor; salvation, peace, righteousnes - all of its components are things we cannot bring about ourselves. We cannot create peace or righteousness or salvation in our own effort. This requires the step asked of us in Galatians 6:18 - PRAY!

So I was talking to Tori about stories of some of the conversations we have had with the girls on Wednesday nights. She was blown away. She had no idea that these were the things that were happening. That girls who have been known to throw bricks at people's heads, are excited to learn about the Bible. They are making references to lessons two weeks prior and they are remembering things about God's grace, and they are excited to learn more. They ask questions, remember things, apply things to their own lives. . . . and no one other then Doreen and I have experienced this.

I was planning on not attending the Tuesday program this week, because its just unstructured time in the parking lot. Fights break out, kids are crying, it can be chaotic most often. . . . but every time I say I am not going to go, I go. And I get a smile from a kid or hugs and I get to see my girls in a non formal setting and get to experience the joy of them running up to me from across the parking lot. I love it. I get frustrated with it, get bored a lot, but all it takes is one hug, or one smile and I am loving Tuesdays again.

I got an email from Doreen today. She might be mad at me for saying this but . . . she wrote this (when I was still planning on not going) -

i will kinda miss you tonight.
):
but tuesdays are what they are.
wednesdays are the shiznit


And so it sums it up. Tuesdays are nice. We walk around the parking lot, grab a couple short conversations, but something magical, or should I say, SPIRITUAL happens on Wednesdays.

So I am sharing with Tori and she is welling up a little with tears, because the stories REALLY are crazy good. CRAZY God good. Like, girls who used to hide behind the industrial sized fridges in the kitchen because they were DYING for attention are now talking about how Peter rejected Jesus, and Jesus still forgave him. Stuff like that. Or the girl who we worry about with boys the most is talking about God's mercy. And girls are seeing how they live life saying they are a Christian but don't live like it. All of these things are unprompted by human forces, so the only other thing to be prompting them is Spirit, right?

So Tori says two things.
1) I need to share these stories with the group more.
2) There is no way I can leave the mission while these conversations are still taking place. They are the heart and soul of why God keeps us here on Earth. To proclaim His message.

And what I love most about Wednesdays really is that my lesson are lame. I soooo dont do fun games or have crazy pictures and ideas, we sometimes use notecards that I scotch tape to my wall, and journals that they and jot ideas in, but for the most part- the Bible is opened, its read, we talk about it. Simple.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
~Romans 1:16

The Gospel doesn't need fancied up or watered down. It is what it is. We are called to speak it. "How will they know unless they have heard, and how will they hear unless it is preached, and how will they preach unless they are sent?" . . . I am summarizing a huge piece of Scripture, but it is the root of my point.

I really feel like I was 'sent' here for the sake of speaking truth to the girls. And so I am just doing that. I get sooooo caught up in the trials and the hardships that come with me being down here and I have sooooo lost focus on what AMAZING, MIRACULOUS stuff is happening with the girls that I can only chalk it up to not having spent enough time focusing on the Lord and recieving the pieces of the armor - acknowledging my identity as righteous and peaceful and saved.

There are no unwanted adopted children. Adoptive parents go through hell and high water to get their children. As an adopted child I need to remember the pains my Father went through to adopt me. He chose me for good works. I need to focus on the joys of that, on the joys of being used as planned, as designed - not on the millions of things that can distract me.

Talking with Tori helped me clarify a lot of things. The talks with the girls are unheard of type of stuff, and most definitely, in light of eternity, worth breaking through any walls that come up - and it won't be hard to do, because I will be heavily protected with the full armor of God.



8.18.2009

None of this is me. . . .

Some of you know that I am madly in love with John Piper. I say this half-jokingly. I just love his passion, his technique and his testimony. He has been doing what He has been doing faithfully through all the drama of all the big names in Evangelical Christianity. You never hint an arrogance, or a thought of deserving to do what he does, just a faithfulness to continue. As I think about how humble Johnny P is, I am severely convicted about how I can try to steal some of the merit away from the Lord for the changes He has made in me.

A little link to Johnny's . . . I think we can call it a poem.

Enjoy.

8.15.2009

What I Found Cleaning

So I cleaned out some boxes today. . . boxes that have been packed since I moved from Scranton. In one of those boxes was a journal, one of my first where I was really honest with the Lord about my life and where it was going once I had committed it to Him. It was so eye opening to look and see the journey since that point.

I was a sophmore in college. I had started working with the Scranton ministry. . . it had only been a couple of months. This was a month before the summer where I drove two hours both ways just to attend the Wednesday program while I lived in Glenmoore.

Before falling in love with urban ministry.
Before meeting Ebony.
Before God took me on the crazy first parts of my journey.

I just love the answers to the prayers, and the identification of things He is slowly and faithfully working on in me.

April 5, 2003

I look to the future and I see so much space. Where will I live? Who will I marry? Where will I go? What will I do?

My Creator knows.

Swirling, whirling confusion - what do I do next? every step has questions and every turn a surprise.

My Creator knows.

I feel insecure with every move and every breath. I want the world to see strength when they look at me. So I hold all of the tears. These are the tears of impatience and striving. I work so hard and I see no change. I reach out my hand, but there is no one there to grab hold of it.

The future is a wide open white canvas. I am so excited to start throwing down paint and create beautiful pictures. My heart bursts for excitement to get started on the rest of my life.

. . . . But am I ready?

8.13.2009

My Day With Myeisha


So here's the story. . . we planned a day painting pottery. As we got to the location of 'Color Me Mine' in Elkin's Park, I called them to tell them we were coming and discovered the number had been disconnected, sooooo we had to go elsewhere. The only place I knew of was The Painted Plate in West Chester. I called Keyhana (Myeisha's mom) and she said that she trusted me, and to not worry about where I took her! HAHA. . . . then I get a message from my Aunt Ginny - asking about my mom's surgery. . . REALIZING that I am the worst daughter ever, I ask Myeisha if she minds stopping by the hospital (on the way to West Chester) to check on my mom. So this clutch picture of my two worlds colliding took place in the main lobby of Paoli Hospital this afternoon.


Don't they both look sooooo cheerful? They actually both enjoyed each other very much. Myeisha was playing with Allie while Allie giggled and snorted away like always :) ohhhh and my mom was great by the way . . . .


Here is Myeisha, reluctantly letting me take her picture while she worked on the cutest little cupcake box.


This is mine. It is what it is :)


Suuuuch concentration. It is always awesome to watch some of the girls 'escape' when you take them to do something out of the neighborhood.


Mine again . . . I painted and scraped and repainted the brown a million times. Myeisha got impatient so I let her do a second piece.


Soooo cute.


Myeisha was in the zone. She would have painted for hours and hours if I let her.


I am so excited to see the final product!


I think we found the thing that keeps Myeisha busy and happy for extended amounts of time. I loved sharing this day with her.


Sooooo, she found my make up bag in the car. So funny. . . . she wanted to put my foundation on too, but was a little confused as to why it wouldn't match. . . . "I'll just keep rubbing it until it blends." - "uhhhh, I still don't think it will work."


:) a great moment.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
My Favorite Parts of the Day

Myeisha found my Israel pictures that were in an album in the back seat. This lead to questions about Jesus. . . . .
- Jesus was born in Israel? Yup. And see that sign that says 'Nazareth Hotel'? He grew up in the town of Nazareth.

- What's this mountain? There's a part in the Bible when Jesus sits down with thousands of people and tells them stories and talks to them about lots of different stuff. Thats the mountain that a lot of people think He did that on.

- Why is there a Jewish sign on this flag? Because that's the flag for Israel. So there is a lot more Jewish people there? Yep. So wait, was Jesus Jewish? Yep. But I thought He was a Christian? Well, Jewish people were always special to God because God knew all along that His Son would be Jewish. So there were no Christians until Jesus came, only Jewish people who believed someone like Jesus was coming. But if you believe in Jesus now, you are a Christian. Ohhhhh.

- When you were saying his friend Peter pretended to not know who He was, this is the same Peter whose house is here? In this picture? Yup. . . well, thats where they think Peter lived. That's so cool. ***statements like this make my teacher's heart flutter, because we had talked about Peter denying Jesus last night, so I loved how she remembered it :)

While at lunch there was a 'What if . . . " game on her menu. Here are some of her answers . . . .
- What if you had a million dollars. How would you spend it? Slowly
- What if you were trapped on a desert island. What one thing would you take? a boat
- What if you could have one animal as a pet, which would you choose? an ox, because its my sign (this one took me a minute until I realized we were both Tauruses . . . err is it Tauri?)

So all in all a great day with my girl. She loves one on one attention. She loves crafty stuff and loves being away from the neighborhood for a little bit. . . and I am finding, which is SO UNEXPECTED and SO AMAZING, she is starting to love asking more and more questions about Jesus, and is excited to share with me what she remembers and is thinking about. THAT is why I keep on, and while I can't help but smile and giggle on the inside whenever I hang out with these girls :)

7.30.2009

Are There Projects in Heaven?

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (ahhhhh Twitter . . . ) know that Wednesdays are by far my favorite night of the week. This is when the girls come over to my house for Bible Study. The sweetest times we have with the girls are during these nights. I love love love it because it is without excuse the time when we present them with truth - pure truth. We hand out Bibles, open them up and read. Its glorious.

What do we talk about? Well . . . the girls decided that. One of the last nights in the kitchen (where we met the girls during the school year) we had the girls ask any questions they had about God. They asked some SERIOUSLY GOOD QUESTIONS! So we took the deep-life-long-seeking questions that we couldn't get to in those 45 minutes and spread them across the summer.

So we meet on Wednesday nights and do our best to answer these questions for the girls. Where did everything come from? How do we know God is real? Who is Jesus? and so on . . . .

I love these nights because the girls come, they act goofy, but then when the Bibles open and the questions start flowing. . . its just amazing. They really seem to think and contemplate and get excited to learn. I mean, COME ON, you can't ask for ministry like this. You can't make this stuff up - but God is good like that, and He wants to change lives, so I guess if we are willing to be tools, He'll make it happen.

This ministry has brought me to deep places in myself, learning, streeeeetching, straining, pressing places. . . but when I am sitting with the girls on a Wednesday, and one of them rests their head on my shoulder and asks questions about the God stuff, it is absolutely, completely worth every trial and test I have experienced down here. I mean it is what we were saved for, right? Honoring His name? Glorifying Him in obedience? I love this . . . .

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
1 Peter 4:19

So telling these girls about this Creator is doing what is right? I really think it is. And is fighting through the trials worth it? Absolutely.

So . . . on a different note - here are some of quotes from Wednesday night Bible studies . . .

- Are there projects in heaven? In Madea Goes to Jail they told her she was going to have to live in the projects of heaven because she was bad.

- I am a Christian, but I don't act like one. ***WOAH, this was a extremely honest moment that lead to a really good discussion.

- What would the world be like if Jesus were around today? I think people would be really disrespectful to Him, because people be irkin' round here.

- Jesus had to do something bad because why would they kill Him like that?

- . . . not a quote but a VERY AWKWARD video chat with my married male friend where the girls said I could take his wife's place. . . led to a discussion about marriage and commitment.

- Why does God let Christian people do mean things?

- Is it true that the only escape from pain and suffering is death? (this girl was asked if she felt that way, and she said no, someone else had said that to her. . . I was a little scared)

- . . . when asked to write things they knew about Jesus, Myeisha wrote 'Jesus loves Myeisha, Myhonia, Megan, K (this was for Carolyn) and Doreen'- Myeisha is one of the thicker-skinned girls, so this was a sweet look into her soft inside :)

- Jesus is a hero.

7.17.2009

you got so many men in your phone and no boyfriends

i am sitting in my living room, laughing out loud . . . by myself . . . because i am thinking about all that transpired tonight. doreen. . . .my LOVELY doreen and i took two of our girls out to talk.

about s-e-x.

hilarium. if hilarious were to have a noun version, whatever that word would be . . . that's what we had at dinner tonight. hilarium.

its so funny to talk to these girls about this stuff. on the serious side, they know we love them, they know we care. . . they know we are super accessible to them and really really want to see them make smart choices and not be held back by regrets. so this talk was good. it was amazing actually. i feel like doreen did a phenomenal job of making it about communication. the more these things are out in the open, the more its discussed in a safe place, with safe people . . . the less likely it is for those not so smart choices to be made. . . . its just really good.

so yes there was goodness. . . but also the fun site of seeing them squirm. . . i mean SQUA-IRRM!!! physically turning away, trying to join the conversation of other tables! strangers! it was awesome. but it served its purpose. they received it well, and they seemed excited to realize that they had people besides their moms to talk to about this stuff. people that won't make it a past-stuff issue, but rather, a look-at-where-we-are-going-from-here issue.

so of course this leads to discussion of my personal life. my cell phone gets taken and that is where we arrive at our quote, which became the title of this entry. laughing loudly. . . in the middle of red lobster. . . seriously drawing attention from multiple parties around us. once the ice of giggling was broken, we were done for. throw-you-head-back laughter. this is what these girls do to me.

they ask questions like. . . and i always answer with . . .

are you going out with nigel? -yes.
are you going out with trent?- yes.
is miss doreen going out with trent? -yes.
is that boy that came (the boy i never talked to at all, don't know his name) your boyfriend? -yes.
are you going out with vince? -yes
are you still going with nigel? -yes.
do you and miss doreen fight over trent? -yes.
do you have a boyfriend? -yes.


i just answer yes because it ends the discussion. and confuses them. and its funny. i dont know why they take me seriously. two years later - i have dated every male that has ever stepped foot on the mission parking lot and they keep asking. . . but they KNOW its not real, and every time i say yes, they still get confused for a minute and they still ask more questions later. its the funniest thing. . . . i did the same thing with my students at school this past year. . . .

miss flinn do you have a fiance? - yes.
are you married? -yes.
do you want to date the janitor? -yes.
did you wear earrings today to impress the janitor? -yes.
are you wearing dresses now because you gots yourself a man? -yes.
did you have a date last night- there is still some mascara on your eyes? -yes.

its just easier that way. it ends the conversation. and its sooooo funny.

i will blog soon about the bible study we are having this summer. its really good stuff. i am just a little tired and a little too giddy from a night of giggling with the girls and doreen.

great night.

substantial conversation.

substantial laughter.

a substantially good time was had by all.

6.24.2009

out with donyae and rickyah


can you guess which one is me?

i love these two. they make me smile and throw my head back and laugh VERY loud :)

6.23.2009

The Day Girls, Books and Frog Legs

Tonight I came home from work completely exhausted. As I parked my car all I wanted to do was crawl into my bed and sleep, hopefully until the morning. . . . that all changed when I saw a little lady I love named Nashae walking up seventh street. She is not typical for this neighborhood. I feel like I could take Nashae out to Downingtown, where I went to high school, and stick her in class and she would still be the shy quiet girl. So sweet, so pleasant and agreeable, just a great girl. I quickly remembered - oh my goodness, God has blessed me with the chance to live in this neighborhood, with these great kids so close by.

After a quick hug, and discussion of summer plans with Nashae and her brother, I heard my girl Kaleeia calling from across the street. As she and Myeisha walked over, I was just so excited to see them. My girls. The reason I fight for this. The reason God has me living where I do and working where I do. So I can be in their lives. Abundant joy is knowing I am where I am supposed to be, at least for today.

So we made plans to go out later. They went home to do chores and round up the others, while I went to take a much needed nap.

I love these girls so much. The Day girls, Myeisha, Myhonia and Tahmyia have an amazing mother. Keyhana is always on top of them about their chores. She wanted me to wait until she got home from work before we left, so that she could check on their chores being done. While we were waiting, I experienced another favorite-mission-moment. As the girls sat in my car they discovered my huge box of books that I bought for my kindergarten class for next year.

While the boys literally climbed ON TOP of my car, banging on the windows, yelling unkind things at the girls, they found themselves completely wrapped up in the books. It was beautiful. The perfect moment for the always-teacher that I am finding myself to be. Tahmyia was reading to Myhonia, and Kaleeia and Myeisha were each swapping books and reading. They only became irritated when the loudness of the crazy boys outside the car kept them from focusing on reading. I loved it! Sitting in the car - chaos outside, while all was right with the world on the inside, for four girls and a box of books.

A moment of kids being kids in the midst of the chaotic world around them. I love this. I live for moments like this.

So then on to dinner. The girls picked the place. A Chinese-ISH buffet. Unlike any I have every been to. The pictures will explain it for me. . . . .



I am starting with the best picture of the night. Myhonia discovering the best item on the menu . . . FRIED FROG LEGS


I was gagging as the girls picked apart the crawfish. They smelled awful. . . .I know lots of people eat these, but it just didn't seem, or smell, right!


Hilarious - Tahmyia - examining her crawfish. Sooooo gross!


Classic Myeisha. . . .this one holds a special place for me :-) mostly because her bratty tendancies remind me of myself ;-)


I had to put this in here. Keyhana was genuinely embarrased that her child left the house with a shower cap on. She's a high schooler now though, so I guess those choices are all hers! What Not to Wear . . . mmmmm perhaps?


Kaleeia is just too cute. I love this girl. Sooo glad she is still around - she's a keeper!