Thursday, June 19, 2014 near and dear.

My second "thank you" is to those who are so close. There are many and the love is BIG. These are the folks that have pushed me to keep going, who have instilled in me to love God's people, the ones who have shown me what it looks like to help others and appreciate the things I have.

I will start with Mom and Dad, they showed me what it looks like to help others years ago. Each of them have pushed me toward Zambia in their own way. I doubted myself for months before getting on the plane to Zambia, I clearly remember asking my mom if I was the right person for this mission, I had not been to church since elementary school, I couldn't quote the bible, I wasn't (and still not) sure I understand all of the bible and only mildly believed in God at the time. My question to her was, "who am I to go to a Christian camp, tell children to believe in God and have anything to back up what I say to them?" she said, "you have love, you have all this love to give to these kids and the best example for learning about the Lord was to show them it was okay to ask questions", so I went, I loved unconditionally and I asked a lot of biblical questions from folks much wiser. Then I came home, joined a church and have been learning ever since! My Dad, was the one who asked me to start a blog about the experience, he was the first person to say he was "in this with me". He is an advocate for me and my kids like no one else. He agreed to sponsor Isaac before I got home from my first trip. My Dad had been preparing me for years without knowing what he was preparing me for. While working for him, I had the time to volunteer with a  lot of amazing charities. It was initially for business development, but quickly became clear to me that I wanted to do more to help people in a very personal way. My parents have done countless favors for my boys in Zambia, their love and thoughtfulness has extended to lengths I never thought it would for these kids. I won't ever be able to say thank you enough, I doubt any child ever can, but we must keep trying.

Steve and Trish, my father and mother in law. They have hearts for orphans. If not for them, I would not have gone to Zambia three years ago. I doubted every second leading up to making the commitment to go and then every other five minutes before leaving.  They have been there every step of the way, Trish literally has walked through this with me and I am so blessed to have had her by my side for this insanely emotional roller coaster. The three of us are off for round three at the end of the month. I cannot wait to see what God has planned for us! Steve is working in the medical tent at Camp, I haven't told him yet, but I have 10 precious patients for him to give a good look at.

My boys sponsors,  I won't name them by name, bc I have never asked if that is okay, but without them, my kids would be lost, uneducated, hungry and possibly not alive. Because of GREAT love and amazing people who are willing to open their hearts and checkbooks, all of my boys go to school, have a healthy meal each day, get medical attention and are loved unconditionally by our staff in Zambia and their sponsors here. I am eternally appreciative for these folks. This is a commitment to a child through high school, although most of my sponsors will not meet their child, I will be forever grateful for the love they show a child who they do not know. I will forever be grateful that they allow me to shower them with gifts, blessing and love for them each summer.

My MR. I could go on and on about him. He supports me on the good days when I can only think of the joy I find in Zambia, he hugs me on the hard days when I can only worry and fear what is happening in Zambia. He listens to me for countless hours while I ramble on and he has not (at least not yet) fussed at me for taking over an entire bedroom of our house (The Africa Room) in preparation for my next trip (starting the day I get home each year). He only gently makes fun of me for the amount of stuff I buy to bless our children in Zambia. I don't know that he understands my love for these children, but he never questions it and is always supportive of it.

My sister in law, asked me to go on a girls trip while the boys went to a Red Sox/Cubs series. What girls trip doesn't include going half way around the world to complete poverty for two weeks to love on orphan kids? Not one second of my life will ever be the same. I can never say thank you in such a way that would show the insane gratitude I have for Erin introducing me to this life. I. just. do. not. have. the. words.

God,  I thank him daily. My Faith is stronger, more peaceful and incredibly thankful for what He is doing in my life. I make sure to start my prayers with "thank you", because again, I can't say it enough.

I am grateful each day for the love that has been shown to me for the children in Zambia. I could never have imagined this would be my path. I still pinch myself sometimes. I cannot wait to share this journey with you all. Thank YOU for following me in this mission, for supporting me and praying for me. YOU are blessing these beautiful children

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

thankful...for those far away and in extended absence.

This past year has been such an eye opener for me. I have always known I was blessed with amazing family and friends. The thing is, when I thought about who that was, they were close, immediate family and friends I see and communicate with regularly. This year I was reminded that friendships last lifetimes, even if they are from a distance and left untouched for a while. Family runs deep and is an unconditional love that I have found a new respect for. Part 1 of my "thank you" is to my big, distant, spread out family and friends. Those of you who have come to me from years past and extended absence.

Through the last year, I have asked for so much. To prepare a home for 12 precious girls at Della's House, as well as continued support for my sweet boys in Chaisa. I am continually blown away by people's love and giving for these kiddos half a world away.

I was at Office Depot buying supplies for the House and boys, a lady in line asked if I was buying my kids school supplies, I explained who I was buying for and she helped pay for the supplies at checkout. No name, no contact info, just a generous person who lent a hand to someone trying to help others.

I posted on Facebook that I was putting together gift boxes for the girls, I got replies instantly asking where to send money to sponsor a box. The love came from friends who I bar tended with in college, folks I work with now, and distant cousins that I have connected with via social media.

I made Christmas ornaments from beads made in Zambia to raise money for Della's House, sorority sisters who I haven't seen in years, friends of my husband who I barely know, family who sees more ability in me than I know I am capable of and sweet friends who live within a few miles that seem to be separated by a million miles; all reached out to support the project.

A beautiful soul who teaches at an AMAZING and "JOY"ful school, showed her class the lesson of loving a world away to raise money and pick out toys and necessities to fill Dellas House. Another creative lady who makes beautiful wreaths donated the perfect piece to welcome all who enter Della's House. So many people poured out to support each spoon, towel, pillow, outfit, rug etc to fill an empty home with all the comforts we are accustomed to.

A child who was in my group two years ago who's grandmother wouldn't allow to attend our school, came back to us and is now in our program, I needed to find a sponsor for him. One Facebook post led to numerous offers for sponsorship. So Robert is now in school with a sponsor from the love of a work friend, who I will never be able to thank enough for reaching out and supporting this amazing little guy. From that request, I found sponsors for other children.  I asked Family Legacy if they had any children that needed sponsorship, to no surprise, there are always children who need help and luckily I had a sponsor for them. These ladies are changing the lives of these boys. I can not wait to share there successes and stories with them when I come home from Zambia.

I asked for 10 people to sponsor a $20 blanket for each child in my camp group, over 33 blankets later, I am blown away by the love and support of folks that I haven't seen in years. Girls I went to middle school with and haven't seen since the 8th grade, a precious guy who I worked with in a bar in Austin, again my sweet friend who is so close (yet so far away), precious ladies who I have not spent much time with since high school, folks I have met through other philanthropic adventures, a friend who's music makes my heart smile, part of my extended Lucy's family, sorority sisters, work colleagues, family friends and the list goes on. These people jumped out there to love a child and make sure they at least get a warm blanket to cover them in the cold dark nights.

No doubt, I have been made more aware of the love I am surrounded by. I prepare for this trip to Zambia with a new respect for the love in my world. I am packing my bags with deep thought and full intentions of showing the love that has been shown to me to all of these precious souls in Zambia.

I have said it so many times, my heart breaks each summer I make this journey. It breaks when I say goodbye to MR, because even a few days away from him is hard for me. My heart breaks when I see the first child in the slums who needs their little nose wiped, a healthy meal and hug from someone who loves them. It continues to break when I hear that another of my kids parents have passed and they are sad, and fearful of where their next meal will come from or if anyone will want to take care of them. I continue to feel my breaking heart when I see the children who have been touched by the evil witch doctors that live a few doors down, or the little girl who is continually abused by men who are either trying to rid themselves of HIV or are just sick and violate the precious girls innocence. The hardest heart break is the goodbye, because it is not good, it is hard, and I worry for a year until we meet again. My heart is just broken each step, but as we touch the lives of these kids, as we reach out to the parents and care takers of these little ones who I love so much, we make a difference. We are showing parents through our love of their children, the hope for their future, that things can be different. We provide a new light and hope for what can be and what is to come. We introduce them to love of a "mazunga" (white person) from the "other side" (United States).

I am so proud to say "WE" because if not for each person who has helped me have the opportunity to do this, I would not be able to bless the number of children I do. With each heart break I encounter along the way, I also experience a tremendously strong thread that mends the break from the love of each of the open minded, loving folks that bless me to bless them.  You all keep healing my broken heart, throughout the year, you stitch me back up, you make my heart full to break all over for these babies I so dearly adore.

This is my thank you to those of you who have stepped up to my plea to help these beautiful children I have fallen so deeply in love with. I can never say it enough or truly show you the impact you have made on my life and theirs. My hope is that when you come back to catch up, you will see the love and excitement in the faces of the kids YOU are blessing.

From far away and extended absence, thank you, for reaching out from miles away and so many years between.

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