Next Stop on the Globe: the Dominican Republic 2015

Next Stop on the GLOBE ||  San Cristobal, Dominican Republic

DR Missions  – Summer 2015

#sarahgracegoestotheDR

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I am currently preparing to embark on a journey to one of my favorite Caribbean islands – Hispaniola! This June I will be serving alongside of some of my favorite missionaries in the city of San Cristobal, DR near the nations capital, Santo Domingo. The island of Hispaniola is home to two nations that are very dear to my heart: the Dominican Republic and Haiti. As many of you know, God has opened up doors for me to serve in both of these nations. I recently returned from my second trip to Haiti where I had the privilege of leading my first missions team to Carrefour.

My very first experience with missions, in any capacity, was interning in the DR when I was 16 years old. In the summer of 2010 I lived and served in the DR for four weeks with a beautiful group of people whose main agenda was to love and serve – no matter the cost and no matter what that looked like. God completely turned my world upside down in the most extravagant way and I’ve never been the same. During that month while living in the Dominican Republic God birthed inside of me a passion for the nations and for souls. I have loved missions ever since. I couldn’t be more grateful for the door the Lord opened for me there, all that we experienced, the family that was cultivated, and the seeds that were planted in my heart. Thanks to that experience I’ve now also been able to serve two consecutive years in Haiti. In Haiti God has, once again, brought me to an incredible group of people who have taken me in as family and have shown me what it truly looks like to serve and love the Father. I’m excited to return to Haiti again in the future and to continue to serve the mission of Heaven there.

Now that I’m back from Haiti, God and I have been dreaming about where to go next. What always comes to mind is this beautiful island that is home to many people who I love and two of my favorite nations. So here I am… Planning my next adventure in missions with the Lord.

I am going back to the Dominican republic after five long years! I’m excited to see my friends and family in the DR again. I’m especially ecstatic to see my three BEAUTIFUL god-children: Danni, Leonidas, and Danielle who are the sweetest and most caring children I’ve met. I am eager and ready to rejoin my friends and missionaries there, to serve that nation and simply demonstrate the heart of the Father through love. I will be going to serve alongside of the missionaries there as we partner with local churches and pastors, ministering in refugee camps, and spend time at one of my favorite places on the earth: the Pan De Vida Orphanage and Feeding Center!

The Pan De Vida (Bread of Life) Orphanage is run by a local pastor and his family and is home to a group of young girls. Daily the Feeding Center provides a safe and loving Christian environment, love, attention and care, hot meals and so much more to an average of 100 children from the surrounding community.

I could go on for hours and hours with stories and testimonies about all I experienced in the DR back in 2010, telling you of all the beautiful people I met and love. If you’re interested in knowing more please let me know or feel free to follow my blog (you can subscribe over here on the right side) and search for past articles from my previous missions trips to the DR and Haiti.

I’ve been overwhelmed by all the support I’ve seen pour in the past few missions trips I’ve been on and am constantly blown away by Gods faithfulness to provide when He calls. If you’re interested in partnering with me through prayer, finances, supplies, donations, etc., you can do so by visiting youcaring.com/sarahgracemissions or contacting me personally. I’m thankful for a believing community of friends and family who are standing with me!

Blessings,
Sarah

Surley you shall call upon nations you do not, and nations who do not know you shall run to you, because the Lord your God, and the Holy One of Israel, for He has glorified you. || Isaiah 55:5

Meet Schneider & Lavinski {Faces of Nations Series}

FON

Faces of Nations is my new “ongoing” blog series. To know more about this series and the heart behind it all you can read that here: Introducing Faces to Nations. I’m excited to share with you this new series where I will be introducing you to important people around the world!

silvana-di-franco

Faces of Nations

Meet Schneider and Lavinski

Just before heading back to Carrefour this last January I posted a photo of two adorable little boys on my Facebook. I found this photo on the Facebook page of the orphanage I get to visit and stay with when I go to Haiti. I had never seen or met these boys in the photo. I assumed they were either children from the community or two new boys who had joined the orphanage. I posted the photo (below) and wrote a blurb about my excitement in returning to Haiti. I didn’t think much about it. For whatever reason I hadn’t even entertained the thought that I might actually see or meet these two boys.
 
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Upon arriving to Carrefour and getting settled into our room at Good Shepherd Orphanage we found our way down to where the children were playing. It was a blast to reconnect with all the beautiful familiar faces I had met in 2013. Instantly I was greeted by two of the cutest little boys I had ever seen, Schneider and Lavinski. These boys made a home in my arms just minutes after meeting me and I was completely okay with that.
 
We sat at the bottom of the staircase that first afternoon, watching the other kids play a game with some of the ladies on my team. Schneider and Lavinski took turns being held by me. Neither of them wanted to grasp the concept that I can hold both of them at the same time. Lol One of them would sit next to me while the other was sitting in my lap and the minute he would shift or stand the other would swoop in and take his place in my arms. It’s definitely not the worst kind of conflict to have if you ask me.
 
I quickly grew in love with these boys. Lavinski is Schneider’s older brother. They have been at Good Shepherd for just a short period of time up to this point.  These two boys have one of the sweetest sibling bonds I have ever seen or experienced. The way they love each other is astounding, especially for a 7 and 8 year old. They’re hardly ever apart. Although they are “typical” little boys and brothers there is something uniquely special about the bond God has cultivated in them.
 
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One minute they’re both sitting with me all curled up in my arms, laughing, smiling, joking with each other, kissing me on the cheek and telling me they love me. Then the next moment they’re arm wrestling each other (or me) and punching each other in the arm while laughing. The perfect picture of the relationship my brother Jared and I always had growing up. One minute my brother and I would be arguing and an hour later we’re apologizing and watching our favorite movie. This is the beauty of genuine family! One minute Schneider and Lavinski are fighting over who should be picked up and held by me and the next they are holding hands and skipping off to go play soccer with the other boys. It’s the funniest and sweetest thing you’ll ever see. They love and interact with each other as if they’ve been friends and brothers for a lifetime. I imagine this is a result of being the only one each other has truly been able to depend on.
 
It wasn’t until our second or third day there that it dawned on my why these two boys look so familiar. In case you haven’t already caught my drift, these are the two boys form the photo I posted! Schneider is pictured on the left and Lavinski is on the right.  I couldn’t believe it! When it finally dawned on my I was so excited. Something so simple totally blew me away. God is so funny like that. I’m convinced that the moment I posted the above photo of the boys God was probably laughing in Heaven saying: “Wait till she meets them! She is going to love them so so much! If only she knew.” Hahaha
 
A few days into our stay at Good Shepherd the ladies on my team and I were sitting down with Sister Mona who has worked with the GSO for many many years now. She was telling us some of the children’s stories and bragging about how they’re all geniuses. She began to tell us about the young brothers who she had seen me make a quick connection with. My boys! My beautiful Schnerider and Lavinski!
 
At just five years old Lavinski had witnessed his father kill himself, leaving their family to fend for themselves. The boys’ mother was very physically abusive. Sister Mona said she beat them often. Schneider and Lavinski would roam the streets to keep busy and look for or steal things that would be worth reselling for money. At the time the brothers arrived to GSO Schneider told Mona he had stole 30+ phones. While searching for things to make enough money to eat the boys would often go through a local garbage dump. One day while scavenging through the garbage dump Schneider saw a pig eating a baby. Yes, you read that right.
 
Eventually their mother gave up and decided she could no longer afford to care for them nor did she really have a desire to. She chose to leave them at her mothers house to be looked after and provided for. Normally, being adopted and cared for by your grandma wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately for Schneider and Lavinski their grandmother was very elderly as well as completely blind. She has enough to worry about trying to take care of herself. Although she wanted to she could not care for her two very young grandsons.  Eventually she was forced to give the kids away to the government for them to find a suitable living situation. As sad as that is, the government was able to bring them to GSO where they have finally found a safe home and a loving and godly family!
 

Lets back up though.
 
 
First of all, no one should ever have to witness someone else killing them self. Especially a five year old! To make matters extremely worse it was his own father. Lavinski was forced to see his father make this horrific choice…his father who is supposed to be there for him, teach him how to throw a ball and play soccer (like all true Haitians). His father was supposed to be the one who exemplifies how a man lives and loves. I can’t imagine the heartache involved when having to witness the one person who should always be there for you make the decision to leave you behind and alone in such a horrific manner.
 
Then after all of that to have a mother who abuses you and your little brother. When she finally decided to give you up…she leaves you at the doorstep of your grandmothers home who isn’t able to care for you in the slightest. The thought of anyone experiencing that much rejection in just the first few years of your life is incomprehensible. On top of all that they’re forced to roam the streets begging and stealing to make sure each other doesn’t starve. Remember, neither of the boys were even old enough to start the first grade while this was all going on.
 
Not that any of this is bearable.. But knowing that Schneider has seen a pig consume an infant right before his eyes is completely devastating. That’s something you wouldn’t even see in a horror movie – even as joke! I have images in my head that from past scary movies I’ve seen that, although they don’t haunt me, I would love to have erased. I would love the chance to rewind and make the choice to not see those ridiculous movies. Unfortunately I can’t. I wish I could do the same for Schneider and Lavinski. The twisted things we’ve all seen in movies pale in comparison to what some have seen in real life.
 
Hearing these things wrecked me. My heart and head were spinning. In one sense I was heartbroken and in another I was completely proud and humbled. These two boys have been through more in their few years of life than most adults I know. What I’ve shared with you above, I’m sure, is but a portion of their stories. I’m proud of my two beautiful boys for many reasons. One, I grew in love (a better term rather than “falling”) with Schneider and Lavinski from the moment I met them and experienced their love. The way they give and receive love at their young age is incredible. I’m proud of them that they’ve not allowed their past circumstances to dictate how they will live and love. I’m proud knowing that through all that these two have been through they have stuck together. Two boys who have been wildly abandoned by the majority of their blood family have held on to hope and loved each other through the most difficult of times.
 
I knew I loved them from the moment I met them. I could easily bring them home with me and adopt these two in a heartbeat if I were able to. And I’m sure you can imagine how much that increased after hearing their story. My heart was heavy listening to their story and having a million thoughts racing through my head. I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have been the one to step in and rescue them from that place called “home”. I wish I could make up for all the hurt, lose, and pain they’ve experienced. I wish I could adopt them as my own and show them what a home really looks like.
 
While feeling all these things running through my heart and mind Jesus spoke softly to me and showed ME what a home and family really look like. These two boys are more of a family than most have ever seen or experienced themselves. If anyone knows what family looks like it’s them. What a beautiful thing it is when two brothers stick closer than brothers! These two (as well as GSO as a whole and everyone I’ve met there) have taught me so much about what family and genuine community looks like. Saying “yes” to family and saying “yes” to community is being ALL in. No matter what it looks like, how long it takes, and how messy it might get – you’re THERE. Unfortunately not everyone choose this way of living. But the beauty that dwells in those who have made the choice is ever present and shines through the thickets darkness.
 
I will forever be grateful for getting the opportunity to meet, know, and love these two boys. I can’t wait to go back and hold them for hours on end, never wanting to let them go. Until then I will think of all the beautiful defining moments we experienced together. The one moments that others may not see as profound or monumental but they’re the ones that made my entire stay. I love all the times that Schneider would see me from a far and come running with the swiftest force just about knocking me over with his hugs, or all the times he would climb into my arms and kiss me on the cheek and say “I love you”. This is what missions is all about – that moment when Lavinski was lying in my lap while watching a soccer match and decided to look up at me and giggle while saying “manman” which is Haitian Creole for Mom or momma.. This is why I GO. Love.
 
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I love praying for people. I love the church services. I love getting to speak into peoples lives. I love the miracles. I love the testimonies. All these things are beautiful and so fun! But there’s something about just BEING with people, hearing their stories, and learning what love looks like. Jesus didn’t organize meetings, He ate meals. He listened and He loved. The meetings are important but not if relationship gets overlooked in the process. It’s the moments where you get to love someone agenda-free and regardless of their past or present circumstances where the Father is beautifully revealed.
 
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So this is Schneider and Lavinski. Two of the many beautiful faces of Haiti and two of the loves of my life!
 
 Faces of Nations,Sarah Grace

Meet Ashley {Faces of Nations Series}

FON

Faces of Nations is my new “ongoing” blog series. To know more about this series and the heart behind it all you can read that here: Introducing Faces to Nations. I’m excited to share with you this new series where I will be introducing you to important people around the world! This right here is my first article in this series. I’m excited for you to meet a special friend of mine and share with you all how she and I first met. Enjoy!

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Faces of Nations

Meet Ashley

I met Ashley for the first time while interning in the Dominican Republic when I was 16 years old. Ashley walks to the Pan De Vida (Bread of Life) Orphanage and Feeding Center every week day in the DR. There she receives a hot meal, love and attention, a safe environment to play in, prayer, the beauty of the Gospel, and a chance to embrace childhood. When we met in 2010 I sat with her as she ate and giggled through lunch. After she played for a few minutes, she decided to retire in my arms for the rest of the afternoon. I held her as she fell asleep. With her wrapped around me and held tight…I walked the property of the orphanage watching all my kids play. She was out like a light. A while later it was officially time to go. I waited until all of the kids had left to go home to finally wake her up. Trying to soak up every moment possible!

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Unfortunately, it was time for her to go home as well. I called her name, asking her to wake up in Spanish. She wouldn’t budge. Ryan and I both tried whatever we could to gently wake her. She whispered no and clung to me even tighter. She refused to open her eyes, let go, or even officially wake up. My heart was breaking – fast. I held her tighter and longer. But even still, it was time.

My mind was racing with questions and thoughts like; 

“When was the last time she was held?”

“The last time she fell asleep in her moms arms…?

“Slept safely in peace..?”

“Does she even have a mom?”

“What about a loving Father who will rock her to sleep?”

“Anyone.”

My face was streaming with tears as her own eyes weld up. I took advantage of every second she hugged and held onto me. Not knowing what she was going home to. I could have stayed there holding her in my arms for a lifetime. Our circumstances said otherwise. I kissed her and asked Ryan to please take her. We peeled her off of me (which was one of the hardest things I’ve done in life) and walked her to the gate. I watched her walk down the dirt road looking back every so often.

It was a heart-wrenching and defining moment for me. This was one of many moments during my time in the DR where I knew that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. His timing is a beautiful thing. And as painful as it was I’d do it all over again. Cause even though mine and Ashley’s time together and me holding her had come to an end… It still happened. It’s one of my favorite memories from my DR experience.  

Needless to say, I headed straight for our bus and had a good cry until it was time for us interns to go back to our apartment. 

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I adore this girl. She is pure beauty. I could never forget her. 

Gracias Señor por esta hermosa niña! Ella es un regalo para mí y para el mundo.

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Faces of Nations,

Sarah Grace

Introducing the NEW “Faces of Nations” Blog Series

Faces of Nations

My new “ongoing” blog series.

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If you know me at all you will know that I have a genuine love for nations. Which nations? All of them. Every single one…even the ones I have yet to meet. Of course, there are a few specific nations that I hold especially dear to my heart, being that they are a “home” to not only me but many that I love. I recently returned from a 9 day missions trip to Haiti where I led my first missions team. Having been my second missions trip to Haiti God continued to pour into me and speak to me about this beautiful country and my call to people/nations while staying there.

If you follow me on social media then you have probably seen my countless posts lately that have to do with missions and my family around the world. I can’t help it. This is a big part of me, a part of who I am. Ever since I returned from my most recent trip to Haiti I just can’t help but share about all of these friends, moments, memories, and encounters with the world. Trying to put into words all that God did during our time there seems impossible. When a memory or a face comes to my mind and the words start flowing, I go for it. So if you’re into that sort of thing you would probably love all of my recent Instagram posts! Haha Feel free to come join me.

With each internship and missions trips that I’ve been part of I always have the same resounding thought, “I wish I could bring everyone with me”. Every where I go in these countries, everyone I meet, the things I see, what God is doing…I can’t help but want to take you all with me so you can experience it for yourself. It’s an indescribable beauty.

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While in Haiti this last January, God and I talked a lot about my heart for nations and missions…why I go on these missions trips, why I wanted to lead a team, why I want to return, and so on. If you asked me what my number one reason was for taking part in missions and going to serve in other nations, (aside from the somewhat obvious fact that this is a part of my calling and God has placed it in my heart) my answer is: PEOPLE. This is all about people. That’s why I GO. I go because of people. This whole thing, life, is about two things: Jesus and souls.

That leads me to this new blog series I’m starting. I want to introduce you all to people I’ve had the privilege of meeting while being involved with missions. During this ongoing blog series you will have the chance to meet ones who I love and adore. You will see their face, hear their stories, and be invited into the experience. The family. This is an invitation into what God is doing in other nations and what beauty resides in His people across the globe. Some stories will be funny and others you might need a box of tissues nearby just in case.

 My absolute favorite thing about missions is the people I encounter, the ones I meet and get to know. I refer to these ones as my family. I call the children my babies. I mean this with all of my heart and I don’t take it lightly. I absolutely love them. I couldn’t be more grateful for the privilege and honor God has given me in being able to be a part of their lives and have them in mine. The connections, the friendships, the family that God connects you with when you’re involved in missions is a community like no other. This is it. This community is what I want to invite you into. I pray that God moves upon your heart as you hear these stories and you see these faces. And that you too would find your place among this family as a child of God.

Are you ready?

Lets GO.

Haiti – The Loudest Place on Earth

Haiti – The Loudest Place on Earth

I just got back from Haiti on Monday afternoon. I spent 9 glorious days in the beautiful city of Carrefour. This city is another one of my “second homes”. This year I lead a team of five ladies from my church Harvest Christian Center. I fell in love with Haiti in the fall 2013 after joining a team from my church on our first venture to Carrefour. I can’t explain the pure joy it was to be back in this beautiful nation and city, seeing all of my Haitian family again and holding all of my Haitian babies. Man, I really missed this place. God is so good. I woke up this morning to something strange. I woke up to sheer silence. Nothing but the sound of my alarm. It felt strange.

So, naturally, I grabbed my phone and opened up my notes to a little something I had written my first morning back in Haiti. I’m glad I was able to capture this moment. I wrote this on Sunday, January 4th early in the morning. I laughed as I read it this morning because it couldn’t be more true.

I hope you enjoy reading this and that you find yourself caught up in the experience. I have a lot more to say about Haiti. Be sure to check back soon.

P.S. It’s good to be home.

xoxo Sarah Grace

Sunday, January 4th

Carrefour, Haiti

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“This is my first day waking up to Haiti again. It’s been fourteen long months. I’m sitting outside on our patio, before anyone else wakes up, just listening to the sounds of Carrefour.

Haiti is loud. Very loud.

Part of me is trying not to tear up and the other part is trying not to laugh too loud and wake anyone..
I knew I had missed Haiti deeply..especially the people! It just never occurred to me how much I also missed this constant noise.

The noises of Haiti are a myriad of sounds like; people singing as they walk down the streets, radios blaring as loud as can be, rooster crowing every five minutes, the church down the street singing “Just Because He Lives” in Creole, kids giggling endlessly, conversations, trucks, cars, tap-taps, and the honking!

Ohh the honking!

I didn’t know that I could miss these noises so much. It wasn’t until just now that I realized I DID.

America is loud as well. Depending on where you are, really loud. Yet, this is a different kind of loud. America is loud with busyness. Haiti is loud with life and community.

Two nations that I adore.

Here I am at 4:30am sitting outside after having been woken up at 3:20 by the neighbors rooster and I am overwhelmed at the fact that I am once again back in this beautiful place hearing these kinds of sounds.

I absolutely love that you can experience so much of the Haitian culture just through one of your five senses. It pays to be a good listener.

I’m so thankful I didn’t miss this moment.”

Please, Get Your Hopes Up {Scarlet Heart Co}

Please, Get Your Hopes Up

I recently wrote a two piece article on hope for the ever so lovely Scarlet Heart Co. Has any one ever told you, “don’t get your hopes up”? I had a feeling so. Do you want to know why they’re wrong? Read “Please, Get Your Hopes Up – Part 1 & 2″  and be encouraged to let your hope arise. 

 “But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.” – Psalms 71:14

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:23

Click each photo for part 1 and 2 of the article.

 

 

“The phrase “don’t get your hopes up” has been stirring in my heart and mind for a while now. I just find it interesting that a single phrase can influence whether a person will choose to have high expectations in life or possibly none at all. I’ve begun to realize how powerful hope can be and that somewhere down the road we’ve allowed great things like hope, joy, peace, happiness, faith, love, etc., to become mere words in our vocabulary.”

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“Life isn’t always fair. Life doesn’t always turn out like we plan. Life can be scary and embarrassing.  But placing your hope in God is nothing like tossing a coin in a wishing well.”

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How to Pack Christmas Shoe Boxes and Where to Send Them

How to Pack Christmas Shoe Boxes

& Where to Send Them

 

It’s that time of the year again where we hunt for great deals and the perfect gifts for those we love! Christmas shopping has become a real art form, especially here in America. We run each other over by foot and cart to save $200 off of a flat screen TV that’s bigger than the one we got last year for our Birthdays. We run down the aisle of the nearest target to grab the last of the 10 Kitchen Aid mixers that are 50% off. We camp out on the sidewalk in front of Best Buy and miss the last half of Thanksgiving to get another cell phone that our faces will be glued to until next years Black Friday extravaganza!

I say we…but I really don’t do this. I’ve only participated twice in Black Friday shopping. The first time was with my family to see what the fuss was all about and the second time was with my siblings. That second time, we waited outside of our car with Starbucks in hand and watched, with much laughter, as people literally rushed, crammed, yelled, and knocked each other over to get into the suddenly open store. It was hilarious and disgusting all at the same time. We went to breakfast and then returned to Target once the madness had settled a bit and I bought a coffee maker for my mother. Then, after having at least 10 people push me or run into me – I had to leave. ASAP.

I tried so hard to explain to my friend Gens, while I was in Haiti last October, what Black Friday was. Thank God he is intelligent and compassionate and could not understand why people would leave their families, especially on a national holiday, to wait hours in line, sleep on the street in the cold, be incredibly rude and inconsiderate, all for a discount on material idols. He was amazed. I was embarrassed. I don’t even participate in Black Friday but as an American I was embarrassed to even have a “holiday” like this to tell someone about.

I’m not writing this to make anyone feel guilty. If you do, then it’s probably a conviction in your heart you should be intentional to think about. Don’t get me wrong.. I love a good deal. I like getting more for my money as well. I really enjoy shopping favor. Black Friday and the attitude and behavior behind it is beyond my convictions. It’s not worth it to me. I’d rather be with my family and pay a few more dollars for those gifts the following week. It’s really the heart behind it all. Anyways. My mini rant is over.

I love giving gifts! Love, love, love it. So I really enjoy Christmas. Even though it sneaks up on you and comes quicker and quicker every year. My favorite gifts to buy and wrap are my Christmas Shoe Boxes that i make and send to my BEAUTIFUL god-children in the Dominican Republic who I met during my 2010 internship there. (You can read about that here: Dominican Republic) If I can’t be there in person to deliver them presents then sending them in the mail is still a great option. I’ve done this three years in a row now and it never gets old.

I make boxes for my own kids and mail them off to Grace Covenant Ministry who then ships them to my friends and missionaries in the DR. They deliver the boxes and throw a big Christmas party for all the kids at the orphanage and Bread of Life Feeding Center. Here are some photos to show you what joy looks like.

These are my three god-children and one of the cutest sets of siblings you’ll ever see ;)

Danni, Leonidas, and Danielle

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Confession time: I love a little friendly competition. So every year I like to out-give myself and up the ante in comparison to the previous years Christmas shoe boxes. lol Christmas 2013 I increased the shoe box size to boot boxes. They were very large. After filling them FULL I had this picture of my kids struggling to carry their gifts home as they walk down that dirt road…. So I drove straight to Target and bought them large tote bags! Hopefully that helped some :)

I’m getting ready to pack three more shoe boxes FILLED with goodies for this Christmas. I thought I’d share a bit about this amazing way to bless children around the world with a simple and fun gift. It doesn’t take much to bless a child.

Below you will find ideas of things to put in your shoe boxes and a few places you can partner with to send them off. 

Have you ever made Christmas Shoe Boxes? Tell me about it.

What was your favorite part? What kind of things did you add to the boxes? Where did you send them, etc?

Can’t wait to hear!

Here are some photos from past Christmases at the “Pan Da Vida” Feeding Center in the Dominican Republic.

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What to Pack in The Shoe Boxes:

Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Hair brush or Comb, Wash Cloth, mild Bar Soap, Sunscreen, a small First Aid Kit, Band aids, etc.

T-Shirt, Tank Top, Flip Flops, Sandals, Socks, Hat.

Bible (in specific language), Journal, Note Book, Coloring Book, Appropriate Reading Books, Pens, Markers, Crayons, Pencils, Sharpeners, Erasers, Drawing Pads, Stickers, Ink Pad and Stamps, Solar Calculators, Small Dry Erase Boards with Markers, etc.

Jump Ropes, Jacks, Travel Checkers, Playing Cards, Small Cars, Balls, Dolls, Stuffed Animals, Harmonicas, Yo Yo’s, Hacky Sacks, Kazoos, Small Etch A Sketch,  etc.

Non Chocolate/melt-able candy, Lollipops, Gummies, Gum, Mints, Animal Cracker Boxes, kids healthy Protein Bars, kids Gummie Vitamins,

Hair Clips, Toy Jewelry, Flash Light with Batteries, Toy.Kid Watches, Chap stick, Small Travel Mirror, Tote Bag, etc.

A Card, Hello Letter…

The Possibilities are endless! 

Items You Should Not Include: Used, Damaged items, War-related items such as Toy Guns, Knives or Military Figures, Crosses, Chocolate or Food, Out of date Candy, Liquids, Breakable items such as Snow Globes or Glass Containers.

 

 

Who & Where to Partner with for Christmas Shoe Boxes:

(Click on the photos for ministry links)

As you saw above, I send my Christmas Shoe Boxes to my god-children in the Dominican Republic at the Pan Da Vida Feeding Center. Grace Covenant’s DR Missionaries are The Bernard’s and Humble’s who are all amazing at making sure my boxes get to my kids! They have done this year after year for hundreds of children. It’s beautiful.

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Another amazing opportunity that is made available to all is Operations Christmas Child hosted annually by Samaritan’s Purse. I’m sure most of you have heard of them and the OCC at some point or another. These Christmas Shoe Boxes go around the world every year. They will even send you pre-made boxes to wrap up your gifts in.

Maybe you’re supper busy with the holidays but you still have a heart to give this season, you can do so by designing and ordering a Christmas Shoe Box for a child through OCC online! They have a whole selection of items to choose from to include in your child’s box. All you do is pick an age range, pick from the available items, include a note and/or prayer, pay for the gifts/box and boom! You have just blessed and taken care of a child somewhere around the world with their very own gift box. You can do so here: Build A Shoe Box

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These are just a few ideas and resources I thought I’d share with you! I hope it inspires you and stirs your heart to give this season and every day of the year.

Blessings!

20 Things I’ve Learned In Twenty Years {Part One}

20 Things I’ve Learned In Twenty Years {Part One} 

I turned 20 a few months back and for some reason I still had not published this post. Well, here it is world. Here are 20 things I’ve learned in my 20 years of living. Thankfully I’ve learned much more than just these truths. But for now, here is part 1 of my “20 things list”. I hope at least one resonates with your heart as it does mine. I encourage you all to set aside some time to dwell and reflect on what you’ve learned through out your life time. Shine a light on some of the simple and profound truths. Maybe it’s 18 things, maybe 20, 30, 40, 50, and so on.  You wont regret it.

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1. We must acquire a lifestyle of love, honor, and humility.

2. Holiness is a sweet gift and privilege and one of the greatest ways of living our world will ever see.

3. People are more valuable then you’ll ever comprehend. Even the people we don’t like.

4. We’re not entitled to anything – no matter who we are or what we’ve done/do. In fact, we’re indebted for the life and breath we’ve been gifted by our Creator.

5. Grace is crucial.

6. Favor and promotion is a costly gift that is to be celebrated and stewarded well.

7. Getting your licenses and having your own car isn’t as glamour as we think it will be when we’re in Junior High. Just wait until you have to buy your first set of tires…. 

8. Love wins. Every time.

9. You’re never to young to accomplish and conquer much.

10. Peace isn’t about survival it’s about thriving.

Checks From Heaven and How I Reaped 10 Times What I Sowed

 Checks From Heaven and How I Reaped 10 Times What I sowed

Just in case you were curious what my Facebook status update was last Monday…Here it is.

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40 days ago I was sitting at the Wealthy Place Seminar that our church was hosting with Dave Williams (which i highly recommend) and within the first 5 minutes I saw a picture in my mind of myself writing out a check for a certain amount of money. I asked the Lord who that check was for and He told me. I had met this particular person at our Holy Spirit Conference and was able to pray and prophesy over their family and they just happened to be back in town for the seminar. The next day I put the check in a card and gave it to them. On October 1st I gave another check to another person after having seen an amount and who it was for. Today, exactly 14 days after I gave the second check…I was given three checks from one person for EXACTLY 10X the amount of those two checks that I had sown combined!

I have had some ideas/ministry projects on my heart lately to be able to make happen during our time in Haiti. These were above and beyond what I had previously budgeted for our mission trip already but I was sure that God would provide for them knowing that they were dear to my heart and would be great blessings to our friends there. Well this person, who wrote me these checks, had heard about those ideas and wanted to be the one to pay for them! (*insert big ol’ smile and “C’mon Jesus” right here*)

 

God always honors intentionalism and generosity. Whether you are the one writing $100,000 or $1,000 checks God honors each and every seed sown. Not just financial seeds…all other generous acts as well. I promise you, He is faithful to the dreams He has placed in your heart. This isn’t the first time I’ve had people hand me checks this big.

God had put on my heart two specific amounts to give to two specific people. Although they weren’t $250,000 checks like I would have loved for them to be – I was faithful with the amount that I felt like God put on my heart to give. And I gave with joy.

I’ve heard so many stories of people receiving checks for unbelievable amounts of money to simply bless them or to make some crazy God-dream come to pass and  I’ve always purposed in my heart that that will be me. As you know, there’s a process to becoming a person who can write $250,000 checks when you want to. So until then, I’m sowing what I can every chance I get! There was a small part of me that was embarrassed to give those two checks that I did because they weren’t the $100,000-$250,000 like I’d like. Against all awkwardness, I knew that this would be a great opportunity to make room in my heart/life for God to continue to grow a generous spirit within me that will last through out all of my days.

You continue to astound me in every area of life. Thank You Father for Your faithfulness and extravagant blessings! xoxoxo

Whoever can be trusted with small things can also be trusted with big things. Whoever is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in big things too.  -Luke 16:10 ERV

“Now, if you will be careful to obey the Lord your God and follow all his commands that I tell you today, the Lord your God will put you high above all the nations on earth.If you will obey the Lord your God, all these blessings will come to you and be yours:

The Lord will open his storehouse where he keeps his rich blessings. He will send rain at the right time for your land. He will bless everything you do. You will have money to lend to many nations. And you will not need to borrow anything from them. 13 The Lord will make you be like the head, not the tail. You will be on top, not on the bottom. This will happen if you listen to the commands of the Lord your God that I tell you today. You must carefully obey these commands.  -Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 12-13 ERV

Great blessings belong to those who live pure lives!
    They follow the Lord’s teachings.
Great blessings belong to those who follow his rules!
    They seek him with all their heart. I thought very carefully about my life,
    and I decided to follow your rules.  -
Psalms 119:1-2, 59 ERV

So don’t lose the courage that you had in the past. Your courage will be rewarded richly. 36 You must be patient. After you have done what God wants, you will get what he promised you.  -Hebrew 10:35-36 ERV

Why “Love Looks Like Sacrifice to Those Who Lack Passion”

Why “Love Looks Like Sacrifice to Those Who Lack Passion”

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“Love looks like sacrifice to those who lack passion.”

This is my absolute favorite quote. I stumbled upon this quote in something that I had read or heard (I honestly can’t recall) about four or so years ago and immediately wrote it down, in my bible, on a sticky note, and about ten other places. I don’t ever want to forget this truth.

There have been things in my life that I have steered clear of or have given up because I refuse to let those things interfere with my relationship with God. Contrary to what the world may suppose, there’s not an ounce in me (anymore) that wants those things. Now, I’ve said this while having conversations with people before and when I have I usually get this look that says “Yeah right, you know you wish you could be out there doing those things that the world says is fun and brings ‘joy’. You know you do.” I really don’t. Do you want to know the reason why I don’t long for those things? Do you want to know why those things I’ve purposed in my heart to stay away from don’t attract me or cause me to wonder “what if” like the world may suppose? Do you want to know why walking away from those things has been so easy that I almost don’t recognize what I’ve done?

 

Simply put… I’m in LOVE.

 

I am. It’s completely true. I am in love. I’m madly in love with God.

 

And when you’re in love, it’s said to be true that, you do silly things. It’s true. Since falling in love with God I’ve done some silly things like choose the path less chosen, the narrow road, etc. (Matthew 7:14(But that won’t always be the case because there is a generation rising that knows the faithfulness of God and who are willing to run after and seek His face knowing full well that what He promised He is also able to perform.) Apparently I’ve decided to live my life counter culture. I’d agree with that analysis but I recently heard that, “It’s not counter-culture if the culture isn’t heading in the right direction in the first place”.

Whatever they’d call it, let them. Whatever they’d assume, why waste time trying to stop them? Only one in love could understand this kind of passion.

A passion that drives you to do crazy things like walk away from all that the world says will make you ‘happy’ and ‘successful’. The best thing about walking away is you end up finding yourself a little ways down the road realizing that you were made for more and that was simply a poor knock-off failing to disguise itself as the real thing.

That’s when you start appreciating the power of your YES.

I’ve had a handful of people, while praying or prophesying over me, say things like, “God will honor your sacrifices” or “All the sacrifices you’ve made have not gone unnoticed” and so on. I totally agree and believe that these people were hearing from the Lord. For some reason there was always something inside of me that, when I’d hear those words, just turned. I can’t describe it. I was almost embarrassed really… That’s probably the best description of how it made me feel to hear those words. My immediate reaction was, “God! That was not why I did this and it’s not why I said yes!” As if God didn’t know my heart, I wanted badly to make sure He knew that I was not doing “this” and saying YES so that He’d repay me or tangibly honor my “sacrifices”.

I would find myself, after hearing those kinds of statements, going to God and just pouring out my heart before Him. I wanted Him to know that those things I walked away from didn’t feel like sacrifices to me. Those were simply radical acts of obedience out of love for my King. Those were defining moments where critical decisions were made and I saw His face as I chose which way to walk. Those have been the best decisions I’ve ever mad. I did this not because I wanted to be repaid but because of my love for Him and my trust in His faithful character. I can honestly say I never fully viewed those experiences as “making sacrifices”. Now, granted they are all technically sacrifices but only based on the dictionaries definition of the word itself. Not in my heart though. In my heart they were merely courageous acts of passion.

In all honesty, those decisions didn’t seem very courageous until now. Because I knew where I was going they weren’t hard decisions to make at all. (Psalms 16:11 & Proverbs 4:18 ERV) After a few years of having those words spoken over me I’ve had time to meditate on the concept and talk it over with God. It doesn’t bother me like it used to. I’ve come to a better understanding of what this love and sacrifice thing looks like between me and God.

Simply put, God will repay, honor, commend, etc., the sacrifices you’ve made in life to keep Him number 1 in your life…not because you sacrificed expecting “to be repaid” but because it’s His character as a Father to bless you and provide for you above and beyond what anyone or the world can offer. He can’t help but pour out His goodness on us. It’s one of things that attract us to Him – His faithful and extravagant Fathers heart.

 

For God is not unrighteous to forget or overlook your labor and the love which you have shown for His name’s sake in ministering to the needs of the saints (His own consecrated people), as you still do. Hebrews 6:10 (AMP)

 

Love doesn’t look or seem like sacrifice when you’re living with passion.

62407e7c6ca1c02471eed5cded2e1be1What does “love looks like sacrifice to those who lack passion” mean to you?