Monday, June 20, 2011

Venting and Praising - Nikki's Story included

So, I do not know if any of you read one of my first blogs, but I shared that this blog was set up as a journal for me to simply share. To vent, to rejoice, and to share with you some of our heroes that we meet along the way.  Well, today, I need to vent, but I am hoping that by the end of this I will be able to rejoice!  We are on this journey towards moving to Brazil and it seems that we have one obstacle after another...first we worked really hard to get out of the house by the 15th of June thinking that we had a lady ready to move in, but when it came down to it, she was unable to move in at that time.  Next, we had a placed lined up to stay in Oxford, but the pipes were busted and we were unable to stay there.  We found out today that Jon's brother's dear pet is very sick and this is our "base" home for the next three weeks.  So now, so that we do not add to the craziness to their house, we are moving to "plan B", once again, so that their sweet pet can get some time to recover.  We all love their dog and feel as if he is part of the Isbell family!  My mom is opening up her home for us to stay there.  We are so grateful to the homes that have been opened up to us so that we could crash at them.  It is so humbling to ask your friends and family if you can come with ALL your stuff and stay at their house.  Praise the LORD, everyone has been so welcoming.  THANKS EVERYONE!!! 

Yesterday, a message that I heard at church was about Father's Day, of course, but the ONE THING that stood out was "God doesn't allow things to happen sometimes because He is protecting you."  So, I am trusting HIM, that he is allowing, or NOT allowing certain things to happen because HE is protecting US.  Even though I may not understand everything I DO UNDERSTAND that God is Sovereign and I KNOW that HE is STILL in Control.  I have seen an example of this lived out by one of my dear friends.  I know she may not understand WHY everything has happened to her, but instead of complaining she has chosen to see it as a platform to share the LORD with others. 

Imagine being young, mid-twenties, and being confined to a wheel chair because your legs hurt so bad.  Imagine that your long beautiful hair is now shaved down to your skull and some even confuse you for a boy at times.  Imagine that you once were one of the top soccer athletes and now you can barely walk up stairs....this is the life of my dear friend Nikki.  I sit here and whine and complain about not having this or that.  I complain because my house hasn't sold or because we need extra money for visas or airline tickets, yet my dear friend has hospital bills because of brain cancer that once again has returned...yet she continues to allow the LORD to use HER!!!  She continues to depend on HIM and MAN, DOES HE SHOW OUT!!!!  He has been providing and providing!!!  It can be from something as simple as extra gas money to make it down to Jackson for her doctor visit or something HUGE like a tumor being GONE within a month!  A verse that God laid on my heart to pray for her was that she would continue to be strong and courageous.  I have seen her be SO STRONG!  I must learn from her example, I feel so weak so many times when I whine over so many SMALL things! 

So, I am learning something NEW everyday...God placed her in my life for moments like this when I just want to SCREAM and then I think of my dear friend who spent many a days in a bathroom vomiting and in the mist of that, crying out to the LORD.  May I learn to praise HIM in the GOOD and the BAD times!!!!! 

My I learn to be strong like NIKKI!  Her picture encourages me....

I am attaching NIKKI's personal story....I know you will be encouraged by are more than welcome to leave comments here for her, to encourage let her know HOW encouraged YOU are by her strength that is only found in the LORD.  SO if today is day that you feel defeated...continue to praise HIM....because even if our circumstances change....the LORD is still in control...HE still reigns and HE will fulfill HIS purpose. 

So, as I leave you with Nikki's story know also that God has already been answering prayers on her behalf... 
A scripture that has really been encouraging me ....
Psalm 91:1-2
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Nikki's Journey/Latest Update 6-11-11
            What happens when you grow up without God, and the one thing you’ve lived your whole life for, is about to be taken away? That was the question I faced at eighteen years of age as a freshman in college. I lived my whole life with one goal: play college soccer. I was determined I would and I did. I made my dream a reality but after one test it was all going to be taken away. Well that’s what the doctors said at least. In fact they said many things. Things like paralyzed, chemo, mentally damaged, and different personality. A brain tumor was my diagnosis and I needed surgery immediately. A surgery that would change me forever!

            Because I didn’t grow up in a Christian home I didn’t have much hope going into such a serious surgery. In fact, not only did I not grow up in a Christian home I grew up in a rather broken home. A home where I was exposed to everything from: verbal and physical abuse; suicide attempts; and, even the death of an alcoholic. Soccer became the one thing that got me away from the realities of my home life. If things were tough at home I clung tighter to soccer. It was the one thing I could always count on and so I gave it my life. You could say I worshipped it. It was my idol.

            So on Christmas Eve 2005 when I got the news of the tumor I was devastated. I worked so hard to reach my goal of playing soccer in college. It was quite the journey to make it happen. Senior year in high school I thought I had it all figured out. I was going to play for the University of Georgia. That was until the coach got fired and the new coach brought his own recruits. Then I was going to play at Rhodes or Arkansas State or Christian Brothers or… The list goes on until ending with Union University the school I didn’t want to go to. It’s a Christian University and I wasn’t a Christian so I wanted nothing to do with it. However, as the summer grew closer I knew I had to pick a school and I had lost touch with every school except Union. So I thought, “I’ll go here for a year and build my statistics then I’ll leave.”  It was settled I was going to sign with Union. Then suddenly all the schools I “lost” touch with were calling me again. It was too late though I was committed to Union.

            While I was attending Union, I began to be exposed to God on a daily basis. At first I didn’t really care to know God. I didn’t see a need for God. All I wanted in life was to play soccer in college and I was doing that so why would I need God?  Then my legs began to hurt and it was affecting my ability to play. I started wondering about God. I wondered if he was real and if so; did he not want me to play soccer? A teammate encouraged me to seek God. Since I was going to have surgery on both my legs I thought it was a good idea. So I took her advice and I prayed to God one night a simple prayer really. I prayed: “God I don’t know if you exist or if I’m talking to air right now. But if you are real and you don’t want me to play soccer then you’re going to have to do something drastic like not let my legs heal because I’m stubborn and won’t get it any other way.”     

            With that I went into surgery November 17, 2005 on both my legs. During my recovery I sought God through the scriptures. However, as soon as my legs healed I stopped and went back to feeling as though I didn’t need God. Since I could play soccer again I didn’t really care about God. I had what I wanted and plus I still wasn’t sure if he was real. So I went home for Christmas break unsaved and uninterested in being saved. That was, of course, until my “something drastic” happened.  A CAT scan would reveal a golf ball sized tumor on the right side of my brain. I was rushed into surgery and the doctor successfully removed the whole tumor from my brain. It was a miracle I recovered from surgery with no problems. I even went back to playing soccer just two months after having the surgery that was suppose to keep me from ever playing again. However, that wasn’t the best part. Even greater than my recovery from surgery was my receiving salvation in the hospital room.

            God revealed Himself and His son to me through the Holy Spirit. For the first time I knew I needed God. I needed Him because I was a sinner and needed to be saved from His wrath. It was then that I finally understood who Jesus is and what His death on the cross meant. I knew He was my way to the Father and He took my punishment. I can’t explain how it all came to me and made sense except that God revealed it to me and my life has never been the same since. I immediately wanted to tell people about God and how Jesus saves us from death. And I wanted to be baptized so people would know that I believe and that I gave my life to God.

            So the doctors were right, the surgery would change me forever.  Not only physically but God used it to change me spiritually too. He transformed me starting with removing my idol, soccer. I no longer worship soccer in fact I use it to bring glory to God. I know God didn’t give me athletic abilities for me. He gave them to me to use in the spreading of the Gospel and giving Him glory. Immediately He stated teaching me how. That summer after surgery and being saved I went on a coaching tour with Ambassadors in Sport where I began to learn how to use soccer to spread the Gospel. When I went back to Union in the fall, I realized I still let soccer have too much of my life. My life that I had decided belonged to God. So I gave it up not knowing if I would ever return to playing.

            I wanted to learn as much as I could about each member of the Trinity and how I was suppose to live as a believer. I was willing to give up anything and go anywhere to grow. That’s just what I did. I gave up soccer and transferred to Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. While I was there God gave me the opportunity to run track and study world missions. I was able to use track as a way to minister to my opponents. God gave me great success right away with track which allowed me to be known. Being known allowed me to talk to people about God and how he changed my life. I was really starting to understand how to use athletics to glorify God.

            With that understanding God lead me back to soccer. I played soccer for Grace College my senior year and it was such a blessing. They are a team that truly plays for the glory of the Lord. I was able to learn many biblical principles while playing for Grace. God used it to prepare me for where He would send me after graduation. Before arriving to preseason practice God sent me to Papua New Guinea to study Missions. A six week trip God would also use to prepare me even more for after graduation. One of our assignments in Papua New Guinea was to write a paper about what happens to the person who never hears the Gospel. It broke my heart to realize we’re all guilty and without Christ we will perish even if we never hear His name. I knew then that my life had to be devoted to telling people about Jesus. So I began to pray for the opportunity to live overseas after graduation where I can share the Gospel.

            My first choice was South Korea where I would teach English and do ministry after I graduated. I applied for a few jobs and it was looking good. Then I talked with a missionary couple at my church and learned there was an immediate need in Honduras for a kindergarten teacher. If I went I would leave just week later. Some people said it wasn’t a good idea and that I wasn’t ready. So my mom prayed, “God if you want Nikki to go to Honduras then make it clear to her that she is suppose to go.” Within two hours after she prayed I had all the money I needed to fly to Honduras and I didn’t ask a single person for any of it. It was clear. I was going to Honduras.

            Once I was there God put me on the village soccer team which became my ministry. God had just spent years teaching me about how to use sports to minister and now He sent me to a village to do just that. What a privilege it was. I wanted to stay in Honduras, so I began praying God would provide a job for me in the Capital city. However, one day God made it clear to me that after the school year was over I needed to go home. Not even a week later the International Christian School in the Tegucigalpa called and offered me a job. Now I would have to decide between doing what my flesh wanted and being obedient to God. It was a good thing God taught me what it meant to deny self and carry my cross. It made it easier to be obedient and return home.

            When I got home I had no idea why I was there and was trying to find a way back out. God wasn’t letting me leave and I literally began to get really bad headaches. I knew I needed to get an MRI because I missed my last check-up. The problem was I didn’t have medical insurance. However, God, in His faithfulness, always provides a way, it may be unexpected, but a way none the less.  The way came through a visit to the West Clinic with a friend, who the doctors said had cancer but definitely doesn’t. Praise God! I went with her for support and while I was there my mom and I talked with the lady in admissions, Etta. She told us what I could do to get a scan and that once I got the scan she could set me up at the Clinic if I needed an oncologist.

            We followed her advice to the emergency room and I received a CAT scan. The results came back and nothing showed up. Seems like that should have been great news! Only I knew something was really wrong and I was convinced it had to be a tumor. A couple days later I had the worse headache yet and couldn’t get out of bed. My mom knew I needed to get an MRI so still following Etta’s advice she called a doctor. We were told to go back to the emergency room. When we got there they told us I wouldn’t be getting an MRI because that’s not a test ordered in the emergency room. I began to wonder if I should be there at all if I wasn’t going to get an MRI.

            I went ahead and stayed so at least they could give me something to take away the pain. When the doctor came back to see me the Holy Spirit lead me to talk to him about what I was doing in Honduras as a way to witness to him. I found out later that the doctor is a Muslim. After talking with him he informed us that it “just so happened” someone didn’t show up for their MRI so there was a spot open and the technician was still there to read the results. Therefore, I was able to get an MRI against all odds. But isn’t that just like God to beat the odds?

            Once I finished the MRI the doctor came back almost immediately to tell me the results. He didn’t say much. In fact the conversation went like this: my mom said, “So what did you see?” He responded, “The tumor’s back.” Then I said, “What?” and again he said “The tumor’s back.” I suddenly knew why God told me to go home and I was so thankful He did. However, I knew what it meant to have a brain tumor and I was anxious to find out more information about the situation. I would have to wait for that though.

            First things first, they transported me to another hospital that had a neurology department. Then the next day my neurosurgeon from my first surgery stopped by to give me the information I was waiting for. Just as he arrived the worship pastor from my church also showed up. The Lord had laid it on his heart to drive a little further after work and stop by the hospital. It was perfect timing. The doctor came in and delivered some serious news. This tumor was worse than the first one. It was attached to two main arteries and a ton of blood vessels. The doctor said I needed interventional radiology to try to block some of the blood vessels to the tumor to help with the surgery. The problem was I needed to go to a different hospital for that and since I didn’t have insurance he didn’t think I would be able to. I asked him if the risks were the same this time as they were with the first tumor. He told me this surgery was a lot more dangerous and the risks were going to be greater.

            After hearing all of that heavy news I was so thankful the worship pastor walked in to pray for me and my family. God is so good. About ten minutes went by after the doctor left when the phone rang. It was the doctor and he had great news. I was going to the other hospital in the morning and I would be able to get the interventional radiology. God was definitely showing me He was all over this. It became my prayer that anyone who heard about what was going on would know that God is the Lord and He is sovereign.

            Unlike with the first tumor, I had some time before I would go into surgery. Time to think about what was about to happen but more importantly time to minister to everyone that came into my room or I talked to. This tumor wasn’t back to defeat me and ruin my life. It was back to bring glory to God and I was determined to walk in the Spirit to make sure that happened. Scripture says “apart from Christ you can do nothing.” so I knew I couldn’t be apart from Christ during this time if I wanted the end result to be God glorified.

            I didn’t start to get scared of what was going to happen as a result of brain surgery until the morning of my interventional radiology. The doctor came in and told me about all the risks and that’s when it became real. When I went into the room for the procedure the doctor said, out loud, to the nurse “She can’t be in this room. She has to be in the other room in case something goes wrong.” “Gee thanks! That’s just what I wanted to hear before I sign the consent form.” That’s what I thought.  With that they took me in the other room and informed me they didn’t think they would be able to block anything so I’ll probably just be doing the diagnostic part.

            When the diagnostic was finished they told me they would be able to block a couple blood vessels and they had a good map for the doctor to look at to determine how he will do surgery. So they put me to sleep and started blocking what they could. Afterwards I went to the ICU. The doctors were a little skeptical about how the surgery would go because the tumor was actually attached to more than the doctor originally thought.

            The next day, February 8, 2011 was surgery day. A day that I prayed would leave people praising God regardless of how I came out of surgery. And how could they not when once again God preformed an amazing miracle. The neurosurgeon removed the tumor and dug in my brain some to try and get more from the source. I was given a pint of blood and titanium pieces to take home. Then I woke up in a quite dramatic fashion as I spent the ride to the ICU throwing up. But praise God I was fine! After a few long nights in the ICU I went to a room and then home.

             I didn’t spend much time at home before I was headed back to the hospital though. My brain swelled and shifted some causing excruciating pain. I was placed back on steroids and the doctor watched me during the next week. The doctor told me all they could do is try to find the right dose of pain medicine. I wasn’t okay with that answer so I brought my case to God; after all He made my body. I trusted in Him to take my painful nights away. I knew the story in Ezekiel 37 where God raised dried bones in the desert back to life. So I knew God had control over my body and the power to heal it. I prayed He would and I trusted Him to. He did and I haven’t had a headache like one of those since.

            My health continued improving and the body of Christ was coming together. People from all over the world were in prayer like-minded and for one purpose. “What an honor” I thought. God was using my situation to show all these people the power of prayer.  He was also revealing Himself to nonbelievers. How could I be anything but thankful?

            At the end of the week I was released and had the next month to heal before radiation. During that month God continued to work. God provided me with Medicaid insurance only two weeks after applying, a process that should have taken 3-6 months. Then when my month of rest was up I went back to my neurosurgeon to set up my radiation. He wanted me to get gamma knife radiation. The problem was the place in Memphis didn’t take my insurance. I needed to find somewhere to get treatment. I knew exactly who to go to. Etta, at the West Clinic, I knew she could help me just like she did before.

            I left my neurosurgeon and headed straight to Etta’s office. This time when I went in I looked a little different than before, since now my head was shaved and I had a big scar. When I went in I shared with her how the Lord healed me and she was pleased to hear it. She got me a doctor right away and an appointment set up to see him immediately. She even brought people to me to witness to as I was getting my vital signs checked. I knew then that I went to the right person.

            After a very short wait I went back to see the oncologist. He was able to set me up with a gamma knife doctor in Jackson MS where I could receive treatment. At this point I knew I had part of a tumor in my brain and a few cancer cells. So I went down to Jackson to get another MRI that takes better pictures and they would use to make my treatment plan. What I found out was I have brain cancer that lines my brain, on the right side going from my optic nerve all the way back to my brain stem plus I have a good size tumor not a small piece. My doctor has never seen in all his twenty five years a case like this, and neither has his colleagues.

            I took in this new information, and waited for the doctor to make the treatment plan. During my wait God continued to share how He healed me during surgery. He gave me many opportunities to share with many people. When my treatment plan was ready, I was scheduled to have cyber knife radiation that consisted of five treatments for an hour each treatment. The first few treatments I wasn’t ready for. I didn’t prepare for what might happen to my body and so when I got sick I allowed myself to lack spiritual discipline. However, my brain swelled a lot so I had to take a week off. It would seem like a bad thing that my brain swelled and it was but it was also a blessing. That week gave me the opportunity to get back on track and be ready for the last two treatments.

            Therefore, when I went back for treatment I was armored up. I knew I would have to, make my body my slave, to remain spiritually disciplined, 1st Corinthians 9:27. So after a week of preparing I headed back down to Jackson to finish my last two treatments. The first one went fine. No problems at all. The last treatment, however, brought complications. Everything seemed fine until I arrived back at the hotel. Once back at the hotel I started having pains in my legs really bad. I thought maybe it would pass so I ignored it. As the night drew to a close it didn’t pass. Anytime I would walk somewhere my legs would start to hurt. The next day we called the doctor but they said it wasn’t from my treatment. Being in so much pain I had to do something so I went to the emergency room.

            While I was there I begin to wonder what was going on. I was getting better until this started. I was a little worried about what was happening and why it hurt so bad to walk. The doctor didn’t have any answers for me but she gave me some medicine so I could make it back home to my doctor. I then remembered that the Holy Spirit lead me to prepare for my body to be under attack. I guess I didn’t realize it would be attacked like this. I thought I might be sick but not unable to walk.

            The next day we drove home. We made it all the way and it seemed to be okay. Then when I got in the house and started to settle in, it happened. My legs started to hurt again. Only this time it was worse than before. We went to the emergency room closest to us which happened to be the same one that found my brain tumor. When we got there I was seen by a nurse who knew the Muslim doctor I witnessed to. When I told her my story she was so excited. She couldn’t wait to see him so she could continue the witness. She also told my story to another nurse whom it really impacted.

            Then that’s when it hit me. I was supposed to be at the emergency room sharing with this nurse then later with the doctor and that’s why my legs hurt so badly! I couldn’t be angry or bitter that this was happening to me because it was giving me more opportunities to glorify God. Two things came to my mind. One, we are to have the attitude of Christ .We find  an example of the attitude of Christ in Isaiah 53:11(“when he see all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.”). His anguish was going to the cross, being separated from the Father, and taking on God’s wrath, yet he is satisfied. How can I not be satisfied when my anguish is much less but what the Lord is accomplishing is so great? The second thing that came to my mind was something someone prayed for me. A lady prayed that I wouldn’t “waste the suffering.”

            I could have gone into the emergency room, got the medication, and left. Then I would have wasted the suffering. I decided instead to share what God has been doing through my battle with a brain tumor and brain cancer. When that was done the pain was under control and I went home. A few days later I scheduled to go to my oncologist. However, the day before my appointment I received a call saying something happened with my insurance and I couldn’t go to my doctors anymore. My mom called Etta. She told her what to do but that it takes thirty days to process. My mom then talked with another lady and she said because it was the thirty first they could do it right then and it could be fixed by the morning. So she did what she was directed to do and the next morning Etta called and said everything is back to normal I could come in for my appointment.

            When we got to West Clinic I went straight to Etta’s office to say “hello” and talk about what God’s been up to. Right away she told us how it was a complete God thing that my insurance was fixed. She said it always takes the thirty days no matter what. She said she’s never seen it not take the whole time and that God did this. What seemed like a bad situation was actually a chance for God to get the glory. After talking about God with Etta I went into the waiting room. Out there I met with Karen, who also works at the West Clinic. She spends a lot of time praying for me and sharing my story much like Etta does. I always love when I have appointments at the West Clinic because of those two women and how we fellowship together during my visit.

            After my time of fellowship I went back to see the doctor. He couldn’t tell me why this was happening to my legs but he did order some tests and put me on a pain management plan. All the tests so far have come back clear. I have a few more including an MRI on June 14th. In the meantime I’ll have to use a wheelchair to get around outside of the house and stay on my pain management medication. Having graduated college as a four time All- American athlete it has been very humbling needing a wheelchair to get around. God has made it easier for me to handle though because he gave me a great opportunity to help others. When I was prescribed my wheelchair I asked Karen where I could get one from. What happened was great. She offered to make a few calls and in the end found a place that took my insurance. This is huge because the West Clinic didn’t have this resource for people with my insurance. Not only does this company take my insurance but there is no cost and they deliver the wheelchair for free. I will probably never know how many people will be helped by that but praise God I needed a wheelchair so they can be.

            So what’s next for me? I’ll do my tests and hopefully find out what’s causing the problem with my legs, then in about six months I should know if the cyber knife treatment worked or to what extent it worked. I’ll continue to use the wheelchair until I can walk again. I speak at Relay for Life Friday June 10th where I’ll share about the greatness of God. I’m also looking to move to Jackson TN where I’m working on opening a personal training and indoor soccer facility in. The facility will give people who don’t have the money to afford personal training an opportunity to receive training.

            There are many under privileged children in Jackson that never get the chance to train so they can play sports in high school and college or just be fit. I want to give them that chance and share the Gospel with them as I do. There are also those like myself whose bodies need to be reconditioned but can’t afford it. It doesn’t just have a physical affect on them or me, but it wears at the whole being when your body is not healthy. Scriptures tells us our body is the temple therefore I think it is important that we steward it well. I want to give people a place where they can do that. This is a great opportunity for me to use everything God has taught me about how to bring Him glory through athletics. Every person that comes into the facility will hear about Jesus and have an opportunity to be saved from the wrath of God. It’s a big dream but I serve a big God I believe He has called me to do this.

            I pray that my story will bring God glory as you read it. I pray that you will be encouraged as you read about how our God saves both physically and more importantly spiritually.  I pray that you will recognize that God is the Lord and He is sovereign and faithful to answer prayers. I also challenge you to take some time and look back at your spiritual journey. See all the things God has done in and through you and thank Him for it. Or maybe you’re reading this and you don’t know Christ as savior. My challenge to you is to seek God, and ask Him to reveal the Truth to you. Lastly I thank all of you for your prayers and support during my time of need. I have been overwhelmed and blessed by the love I have felt from all of you. I truly appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Dark storm clouds rolling in, a stillness that can be heard for miles, then a sudden gust of wind begins to blow, the snapping of branches and heavy thuds can be heard outside........ You wait silently, praying that God protects you as this storm rolls overhead, then there is silence once more. As you come out from you hiding spot you see a ray of sun light. You fear to even walk much further not knowing what you will see; will your home still be there? Will your neighbors? What kind of destruction will you find after this tornado passed?

This was an experience that was felt by many recently on April 27th, 2011. I still remember calling my mom who works at a school in Oxford. They had been sitting out in the hallways and she was fine, but she was not sure what she would find when she got home. Several hours later, when she got to the end of her street, she called me and said, "Well, I do not know if I will have a home! The two homes at the end of my street are completely gone!" Now, I thought she was exaggerating a little bit, so I told her to drive down the street, but she told me she couldn't because there were limbs all in the street. When she did finally make it to her home, she found that the tornado had danced around her home and it had been spared.

Now, you may ask, "Why are you reliving such a sad day?" Well, if you remember the point of this blog is to share about some heroes that we encounter a long the way. I want to do just that. They are a small group of men and WOMEN who live in the Yocona community and the surrounding area. I had the honor of hearing some incredibly stories shared to me by some wonderfully wise women.

You see the WMU group at New Prospect Baptist Church in Yocona had asked me several weeks before the tornado to come and speak with their group about "us" going to Brazil. And of course, I was honored! The date had been set for May 10th. Well, honestly after the tornados, I had been so worried about everyone in that area that I had figured that we would reschedule. But NO, not these sweet ladies, Mrs. Cherry, called me several times the week prior to May 10th and told me that it was still on. She told me that they had just recently gotten their power back on and that they had been working diligently to get their home cleaned up.  She shared with me stories of how right after the storm men from the community came down their long road and began clearing their road.  These men didn’t have to do this, I am sure they had some of their own clean up that they had to do around their own homes, BUT they volunteered their time to come and help others.  You see this is how small communities work.  People come together to help each other.  Everyone knows each other on a first name basis.  Mrs. Cherry even had a FULL COURSE meal prepared for the men that came and help cut up trees in her yard.  I heard the meatloaf was AWESOME!!! 

Mrs. Cherry told me that it may be a little dusty at her house because of all the tree dust that had fallen. I was just so completely humbled that even though the sweet families had gone through SO MUCH they wanted to stop cleaning up, repairing, and honestly, STOP… to hear what God was doing in our lives! So, the date was set. That evening at dusk as I rode down 334 and down Mrs. Cherry's road I became so OVERWHELMED with emotions because even though it had been almost a week and half there was still SO MUCH destruction! I began to just cry and PRAISE GOD for sparing people's lives in this area. It could have been SO BAD, but it was NOT! When I got to the house I could tell that there were SO MANY trees missing, but as Mrs. Cherry pointed out that there was NOT any structural damage! WOW!!!! About 15 women came to her house and just seeing them after such a long week, OH, I was overwhelmed by their LOVE! One lady even shared that her husband got caught out in the storm and had to hold onto a pole and his stomach and ribs were still bruised from holding on so tight. Well, these sweet ladies full of wisdom and grace just BLESSED my heart. I left there so filled with joy!!! I have known many of these ladies for years and I was so grateful for their faithful prayers and support. I left there even MORE motivated to be faithful friend like them.

In my prayers MANY times I pray that God will make me faithful. I pray that he will find me to be His faithful servant. I pray that I will be faithful to my husband, my children, my family, and my friends. BUT today as I was doing my quiet time something "clicked"....Have you ever had one of those "spiritual" clicks? Today, I prayed..."LORD, thank YOU for being FAITHFUL to ME!!!!!" Oh, I am so grateful to a God who has been Faithful to me ALL of these YEARS!!!!! Even when I have NOT been my BEST...HE has still been FAITHFUL! Well, as I finished my prayer time I was reading His Word and then...Oh, don't you LOVE THIS...WHEN GOD JUST SPEAKS RIGHT BACK TO YOU...confirming ....YES, I AM FAITHFUL TO YOU....Psalms 89:1-2 "I will sing of the LORD's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you establish your faithfulness in heaven itself." vs.5 "The heavens praise your wonders, O LORDS, your faithfulness too, ...." Oh, I could keep going and going!!!!! I am just so excited about HOW mighty OUR GOD IS...HOW FAITHFUL HE IS!!! May you too....THIS DAY, REJOICE with ME in HIS FAITHFULNESS!!!

I want to share with you some pics of the tornado damage around the Yocona area....Keep in mind these are pics that I just took in June. Over a month and half later!!!!

Notice the metal chair sitting next to the tree on the right.

Driving around Yocona area

The home at the end of my mom's road.

The sweet ladies at NPBC restocked our First Aid Kit so that we would be ready for Brazil!  :)  We are so thankful because we didn't have the funds to get all of these little extras that we needed!  :)  THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Since the Beginning....

Right now I should be packing all the items that are just laying around our house...oh, it sometimes overwhelms know the last detailed stuff is what is the hardest.  But instead I am sitting here at the computer because I have a special prayer request hoping the ones that read this may pause and pray for us...and along with this prayer request I have a short encouraging story to share about a friend.  They both kinda go just follow me.  :)

I will share the story first because I have been dieing to share this story for several days now.  One of my dear friends (another "hero") that I have known since 2003 came by to visit the girls and me the other day.  She and her family watched us sell everything the first time and go to Brazil in 2006.  They supported us and encouraged us along the way.  They actually gave us our English/Portuguese Bible.  Along the way, we have spent countless hours praying together listening to each others burdens and then taking them to the Lord.  Late in life she decided to have a career change, actually a couple of them.  She is SO PASSIONATE about the Lord and sharing Him with whoever she encounters. 

Well, she is now going to nursing school which in itself is only because of GOD.  English is her second language (which she speak English WAY better than I do!) and she has been out of school for a while.  What is cool is God loves to use the weak to show HIS Strength, He loves to use the foolish to show HIS WISDOM...and she continually gives HIM all the Glory!  So anyways, she is SO excited about being in nursing school about loving on the sick and wounded...but not only that she sees it as her mission field.  She prays with the sick...she shares Jesus with them!  Oh, it is awesome! 

She shared one story with me that has had me thinking for a while now.  She said that she met a nurse in the NICU that takes care of the babies that were born early or with complications.  The nurse shared with her that she will never quit working there because she feels like God placed her there to specifically pray over this little babies while they are in her care.  So this nurse prays for them and simply loves on them using the "hands of Jesus".  She said that this may be the only time that this child may ever be prayed for as a child and she sees it as her mission to pray for them. 

I WAS SO BLESSED HEARING THIS!  So many times we think, "Oh, this child in foster care has no chance", or "That poor child over there",  or even sometimes you think ...."Poor me!"  But to think that God places people in your life that are praying for you from the BEGINNING!!!!  WOW!!!  For some it may be a grandmother, for others a nurse, some are blessed with godly parents...But the MOST comforting thing is to know that, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5  God has had a plan for us before we were even in our mother's we must choose to FOLLOW HIM...but oh what a blessing!

Now, to the prayer request...we have been praying GOD's WILL not we ask you to pray the same.  The lady that was going to move in to our house was going to lease to purchase.  She is moving in on the 15th of June.  Now, we are not thrilled about the lease to purchase, but once again, NOT our Will...but GOD's.  And we would rather have someone in the house, and we are praying that she will be able to buy the house SOON.  She is waiting for her house to sell up North.  

Well, we received word on Friday that she was having to wait for one more approval from her job BEFORE she could move here.  I think she was a little shocked by this and of course so are we.  But once again, NOT our Will, God's Will.  We have continued to pack and are moving out this weekend.  We have received escrow money, but no contract.  We just ask that you pray because we really would like for ALL of this to be settled by the 15th.  Once again, we have been praying if this is NOT who God wants in the house that HE would take care of the details.  We TRUST HIM.
The second thing is we also are trying to go to Atlanta for the VISAs.  All paperwork is in order praise GOD...EXCEPT for one little (or could be BIG!) thing...we have purchased our ONE WAY tickets...leave August 2nd because you cannot by TWO WAY ...we may return in late June 2012, but it would be more than 330 days out and the airline will not let you do that.  The VISA people want TWO-WAY tickets OR itinerary.  We have printed an itinerary that has the 330 day point.  We are just wanting to find favor in their eyes with ALL the paperwork that we have. 

Please pray for us over the next couple of weeks.  Life will be changing dramatically for us...Santeri leaves on the 12th, we move out of the house that SAME weekend, and go to Atlanta on the 14th?  we think...and if it God's Will we will finish signing the paperwork on the house on the

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Singing Songs

Tonight the girls had a request at bedtime that has not been asked in awhile, they asked if I would sing them a song.  It was already WAY past bedtime and they had ALREADY been out of bed 5 different times, but for some reason I had a sense that I needed to stop and fulfill this request.  As I paused for a moment in silence I could hear Jon in the next room, which we have all labeled the "packing room" packing away.  You could hear him moving boxes and placing items into our newly bought crates.  As I heard these noises it dawned on me that the girls are probably having some thoughts of..."Wow, we really are moving....Daddy is packing up our favorite toys...and we are leaving what we have called home."  So, I stopped and I sang one of their favorite songs, "Jesus Loves Me".  After I sang, we prayed and I reminded them that even after Mommy finishes singing then God, our Father continues singing over them as they sleep. (Zephaniah 3:17 "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  Oh, how comforting!!!  :)  As I left my soul was at peace too...just being reminded the Lord MY GOD is with me even when my life right now seems a little CRAZY!!!!  This seems so crazy but I am having issues just trying to go through my closest that is already pretty small...I mean, HELLO...we live in a house that was built in the 1920's...and dwindle down my clothes selections...because goodness gracious...I have SO many clothes!  How are we going to fit EVERYTHING that we want into 4 crates and 4 bags?  I have two crates with schools supplies and that crazy?  AHHHAAA...silly...but you know what...I know that God will take delight in me, even in this CRAZINESS and he will quiet me with his love and he will rejoice over me with I AM GOOD!  So these are my thoughts from a very tired mom and wife.  We are looking forward to tomorrow...the girls are going to VBS and Jon and I are headed to Jackson for a day of paperwork! :)  ..."he will quiet me with his love"...