Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updating on Ethiopia

Hey friends! Just wanted to give you all a little update on our upcoming Ethiopia trip. Time is drawing closer - only 136 or so days left until David and I leave for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We are incredibly excited and are literally counting down the days. We have even gotten the kids excited about this trip and they are now asking how old they have to be to be able to go! I believe the answer to that is 8 or 10, but whatever it is, they will be going as soon as they meet requirements. Team Blevins' passion and heart for serving the people of Ethiopia is only growing more and more by the day and we can't imagine not taking Chloe and Brody with us one day to serve together as a family. How awesome would that be?!?

So, let me take just a moment to update you on how things are going in the fundraising department because God has shown up and shown up BIG! As of now, we are only $969 short of having my entire trip paid for. HOWEVER, we have been promised a donation of $1000 so in all actuality, my trip is paid for and David's balance is beginning to be chipped away at. So what does that mean for us? Well, it means that we have received donations (including the pledge) totaling $2700 thus far. WHAT?!?!?! We only started raising funds 30 days ago. All I can think of when I look at this is the scripture that says: "All glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). This is for sure more than I ever thought of when I prayed over the first batch of fundraising letters that we sent out.

What else does this mean for us? It means that we still need to raise $2819 but we are trusting in God to supply all of that and we are even asking for an abundance because any and all extra will be used to purchase goats, sheep, chickens, etc...for the Ethiopian families. It will also go towards donkeys for the women to use to transport humongous loads up and down the mountains every day in order to make a tiny amount of income for their families. When I say humongous I mean these sweet ladies carry 200 pounds (literally) on their backs of sticks that are used for building things etc..(picture is below). David said on his last trip there that they stopped a lady headed up the mountain to give her a new pair of shoes and that it took 6 guys to handle the load that this one poor woman was carrying by herself. Can you even imagine?!? 

So all of that to say, please please please keep praying about donating to our trip if you haven't already done so. It goes well beyond blessing David and myself into blessing the Ethiopians. And of course, we will always covet any and all prayers for our trip. We can't wait to see what God is going to do and will of course update you periodically so that we can give all the glory back to the only One who deserves it.

This little guy who was an orphan at the time of David's trip is probably 2.5 years old by now. I have no idea of whether he is still in the orphanage or if he has been adopted yet, but isn't he the cutest?!? We will be visiting orphans on our trip by the hundreds.

This is an example from David's last trip of stopping on the side of the road to pass out blessing bags to the children. The bags include shoes, socks, underwear, and and outfit. Look how they line the road! Any extra money we raise will be used to give these blessing bags out as well. David and I will also be packing extra bags of our kids' clothes and shoes to take with us to give out.

Check out these handsome little guys! My heart just breaks thinking about these little boys needing things as simple as underwear and socks and not having them. I just wish I could bring them home to Tennessee with us. Who knows...maybe one day???

This is a lady carrying the heavy load as described above. Think how amazing it would be to be able to give her a donkey to carry this physical load and while we are at it, we could show her Christ and hopefully help her see what it means to let Him carry her heavy emotional loads.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

God Is Always Good - No Matter What!

As I posted a few weeks ago, the word that the Lord gave me to focus on for 2013 was FLOURISH. After doing a little digging in the dictionary and thesaurus - okay, maybe I didn't dig but just went to - this is what I came up with:

Main entry: Flourish
Part of Speech: verb
Definition: exist in abundance
Synonyms: be alive with, be all over the place, be knee-deep in, be no end to, be plentiful, be thick with, be up to one's ears in, crawl with, crowd, abound, flow, have a full plate, infest, overflow, proliferate, swarm, swell, thrive

Can you even believe those synonyms? My favorites are thrive, be alive with, and be no end to. And how about that definition - to exist in abundance! The scripture that God has given me to go along with my word for this month is John 10:10b which says: "I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly." 
To ensure my successful flourishing this year, I am setting some goals. I have found that it's really easy to have good intentions and say that I want to flourish this year, but if I don't have an action plan that it probably won't happen and I will go on living a good life - but not necessarily the greater life. The abundant life. The life that flourishes. So, goal #1 is to find a way to live abundantly EVERY SINGLE DAY. I am literally waking up every day and asking the Lord to help me flourish that day...even in the mundane, day-to-day tasks, I want to flourish. Goal #2 is to pick a new verse every month that speaks to me about living a full, abundant life, commit it to memory and say it EVERY SINGLE DAY (see a pattern here?) And goal #3 is to blog my experiences here - good and bad, abundant and scarce. I want to be able to look back and see how faithful God has been. If you have read my blog any length of time, you will know what I mean when I say that I often will reference back to the beginning of this blog (when I was first diagnosed with cancer) and can read for hours and constantly see how faithful God has been to me. One way that we honor God is by remembering His goodness and so I want to make more memories so that I can always and forever honor Him with my thankfulness and praises.

I am also digging into a book that I have read before (and highlighted like nobody's business) and this time I am doing the work book that goes with it. It's by my favorite Bible Study gal - Priscilla Shirer. She pretty much rocks as she loves her some Jesus, is a mommy to young boys, and can bring the Word like you've never heard it before. I just "get" her and can relate on so many levels. Anywho...the book is One In A Million - Journey To Your Promised Land. I'm already, this second time reading it, finding new things and even old things that are speaking to me in a new way this time. And it helps to dig a little deeper and do the work book with it.

I've also been given a huge challenge this friend Cathey, who I blogged about recently, passed away last night. She left this temporary Earth and met Jesus face to face. I can only imagine the welcome home that she received and I KNOW without a doubt that she heard those coveted words "well done my good and faithful servant." The flesh part of me wants to retreat, cry, go into the world of survivor guilt that has been so much of my life for 3 years, and ask "why NOT me?" The flesh part of me has wondered how I am supposed to flourish when I have lost yet another friend to breast cancer. But the Lord is covering me in His grace and having mercy on this gal. It was not a random chance that Cathey died within a few weeks of God giving me the word FLOURISH. He had it worked out waaaaay before. He wants me to lean into Him and not give in to the flesh, but to press on and live the abundant life He has promised me even when I don't see how it is possible. He wants me to trust that it IS possible because He promised it to His followers, and He does what He says He will.

So last night after I got the word that Cathey was sitting in the presence of Jesus, and all day today, I have asked God to help me FLOURISH. To give me scripture, remind me of His faithfulness, and to comfort this broken heart. He has not failed all. He has reminded me that just as the Word says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, that Cathey is overjoyed and healed forever and basking in the glory of the Lord. She is absent from her broken and worn down body - praise Jesus! He has comforted me by bringing memories of my time with Cathey back to mind and I have smiled so much thinking about certain times and conversations we had. I have smiled. I have had joy. I have flourished today and for that I am grateful.

I will leave you with this - please lift Cathey's family and friends up to the Lord as they prepare for the services. I specifically have asked the Lord to be with them as the mourn and grieve but to then turn their mourning into dancing like He promises in Scripture (Cathey loved to dance).

As always, thanks for taking the time to read the innermost thoughts of this stay at home mom/cancer surviving/Jesus loving/flourishing/southern gal. I am humbled!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Finally Ready

There's a stirring
In the Throne Room
All creation
Holds its breath

I've been putting off this post for what seems like eternity, but in reality has only been two days. Two very.long.days.
Eighteen months ago, I met a lady named Cathey. We were introduced via a mutual friend and we pretty much hit it off instantly. You see, we had something in common that I didn't really have with anyone else...breast cancer. She was a stage 4 who was in remission when we met, and I was a stage 3 back in treatment. We shared the same oncologist and chemo nurses and lived only a few miles apart.
My first thought after the first time we met was "Lord, I cannot lose another friend to breast cancer. I can't do it. Please don't let us be friends because it will be too painful." Horrible, I know, but in all fairness, I was still greatly grieving the loss of my friend Kate to breast cancer and the wound was still fresh. And then I told myself something really crazy...maybe God wants us to be friends as He wants me to be a witness to her. Maybe God will use me like he did with Kate.
So, we became fast friends and within a few months, she received word that her cancer had spread to her liver and bones. Not good. She immediately started back on chemo that brought her to her death bed and as she told me, she was knocking on the gates of heaven...she felt it was that close. It was the chemo though and they changed it and she proceeded to do really well with the next rounds and her supplementation that she was taking. Soon, the cancer stopped growing and even started "disappearing" on some scans. Great news! Our doctor told her to keep doing what she was doing and she would keep a close check on her.
During this time, Cathey and I had shared lots of intimate times together. She and I would meet for tea at the local coffee shop. I would go to her house to visit some and she came to mine a few times. My kids came to know who "Mrs Cathey" was, David came to know my new friend Cathey from all the stories I shared with him, and I came to greatly love this new friendship. We talked about everything from treatment, research, past times in each of our lives...I picked her brain about marriage and parenting as she was one great role model in those departments. We also talked about our love for Jesus and just how good He always matter what. I often would leave our time together telling myself two things... That I hoped my love for Jesus radiated like hers, and that I hoped my marriage would be that amazing after 34 years like theirs. Just the smile on her face and the sweetness in her voice as she talked about her dear Joe was enough to light up the darkest room.
Several months passed and Cathey's cancer spread to her brain. Radiation, detoxing, and increased supplementation were unfortunately no match for this metastasis this time. Within a few short months, my friend became short of breath and very weak. She was nauseated all of the time it seems and she just wasn't herself. Despite her feeling terrible though, she ALWAYS had a smile on her face...always. And then within a few weeks, she had been hospitalized a few times and was put on oxygen permanently. She was declining at a rapid pace.
Two days ago, on Wednesday, I got word that Cathey had been taken back to Vanderbilt for shortness of breath. I knew it wouldn't be good this time. A few hours later, I got another message that she had been admitted to the palliative care unit...hospice. I cannot even begin to tell you the heart sinking feeling that came over me. From that moment on and for the whole next day, I think I stayed in tears more than not. I had prayed and prayed for God to heal my friend, and now I changed my prayers for God to not allow my friend to suffer but for Him to have great mercy on her and allow her transition to Heaven to be easy and peaceful. To pour down His love and perfect peace upon her husband and children. To overwhelm the nurses caring for her with an extra dose of compassion. I have prayed so much that I no longer even know what to pray so I go to God and let the Holy Spirit intercede.
Well, this morning, as I was showering and getting ready, I realized that I was not put in the Cathey's life for the same reason as I was put into Kate's. My friend Kate was not a believer when we met and had no idea what being a Christ follower really meant.  I was able to tell her about Him on her death bed and she placed her trust in Him. But Cathey was different. She loves Jesus with all her heart and soul and might. She radiated him with every breath she took. To see and know her, was to see and know Jesus as she lived her life after Him. Her faith was strong and resilient - never wavering. She would tell people that yeah, cancer does stink, but she won't have it forever. WOW! What a great attitude and way to look at it. Even as our doctor had the end of life discussion with her on Wednesday, Cathey was able to look at her and tell her that it wasn't the end of life, but the beginning of eternity with Jesus. Still talking about Him even as she was preparing to say goodbye to her family. So what I realized is that the friendship that I so didn't even want to happen didn't happen so that I could influence her, but so that she could influence me. I've been so very blessed to know my sweet friend Cathey and I can't stop thanking God for not letting me run because of fear of losing another friend. It would have been far more sad for me to have never met and befriended her. Far more sad!
So as she is journeying still to her eternal home and getting ever so close, I have to say "I love you Cathey. I thank you for the beautiful picture of Jesus you have been. I cherish the advice and mentorship you provided for me. And I am above all thrilled that you are going to be cancer free soon and sitting at the feet of our sweet Savior, Jesus Christ. I will see you again when it's my turn and being the perfect hostess that you are, I know you will be there to welcome me home with the perfect glass of pomegranate green tea!!!

When the hand that bears the only scars
In heaven touch her face
And the last tears she'll ever cry
Are finally wiped away
As the clouds roll back
And He takes her hand
And walks her through the gates
Forever we will reign

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Out With the Old and In With the New

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I don't do resolutions in the new year. I think they are pointless and big set ups for failure and discouragement. Instead, I pray and choose ONE WORD...just one and that becomes my focus, or goal for the year. I have been given my word for 2013 and it was given to me in the most unexpected way, leaving me no doubt that God wants this to be my focus this year.
What's my one word? FLOURISH! That's it. FLOURISH! Want to hear how it came to be? I was praying about my word one day on the way to an appointment and telling God that I just needed a good year. That I needed some new hope and joy this year after almost 4 years of trial, suffering, and heartache. I needed a new perspective. Minutes later my text alert on my phone goes off and it's from a friend I haven't talked to in literally 2 years. This was the text from her "Hey Kelly! It's Erin Blair. SItting on the porch overlooking the ocean reading my Bible when I came to Psalm 92. Beside it I had written 'Kelly Blevins w/ cancer 5/31/11' then verses 12-15 it said 'new season for her'. I don't know how things are going but I prayed this Psalm for you this morning and believe 2013 will be your best year yet full of flourishing. Sending lots of love your way today!"
So after a lot of smiling and thanking Jesus for that text, I decided to go home and look up synonyms for the word "flourish." Yeah, I think I must be a writer at heart because who else would look up synonyms for the fun of it? Ha! Anyways, after looking and getting a strong sensing in my soul, I decided to stick with FLOURISH. To me it just means living well. Not just surviving but living abundantly the way God wants us to live. John 10:10 tells us that He (Jesus) came to give us life... life to the abundance.
So, here is to a year of flourishing as gracefully as possible. Here is to a year of living the abundant life that Jesus promised His followers.

What is your word for 2013? I would love to hear it and add you to my prayer journal that you may live out your word every single day of this new year.