Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My heart..

As I prepare to leave for Africa in just 4 short weeks I feel a little mother hen coming on. I am busy writing lists, checking off lists, adding to my list to make sure I can check it off (come on, you know you've done it), and in the midst of the madness I felt a little tug in my heart. Somehow over the last two years I've absolutely fallen in love with these rascals.  I remind the kids in the after school program often that I'm going to be gone for a few weeks- mostly so there are no surprises and somehow I can bribe them to have great behavior. But, after two of them begged me to take them with me yesterday I got just a bit sadness in my heart. These kids have become my joy and two weeks away is going to be quite the challenge on this heart of mine. I know my days and heart will be full while in South Sudan, but what a blessing these kids have become in my life!

I have two kids who are experiencing quite a heart breaking situation at home. They are confused and know way too much and my heart breaks for them. Mother hen wants to just keep them and all their middle school boy stickiness behind my safe doors :)

However, the good Lord has kept me and will continue to hold me and provide and I know they will be well taken care of. I have an incredible army of volunteers who probably happen to love them just as I do and I know it will be a great two weeks. Again, so blessed.

Pray for these boys, pray for the kids and for my mother hen heart :)


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

That's really what they said...

I interact with many different groups of people throughout a typical week. Keeps life exciting, but more than that comical. Here's a peek as to why..

"I didn't poop my pants this morning" Kindergartner on the playground at school (sidenote: her story was a different a few mornings previous...)

"It felt yummy outside yesterday" First grader refrencing the beautiful weather we had

Me: "Thanks for being so nice and well-mannered today Jim*"
Jim*: "Yeah, it's not so fun for me, don't get used to it" can dream of well-mannered students and every once in awhile dreams really do some true
*Students name changed for his protection, but you can could probably take two guesses and be right :)

"Who's poop is on the toilet seat" Moritified midde school girl (are you noticing a trend..lots of poop in my life)

"You should have just fixed the Bonnie, it had so much class" Wise wise freshmen student in the tutoring program ...the Bonnie will be dearly missed by more than just me :)

"Jessi is always nice" Piano student, who didn't complete theory assignments assuring her mom it would be ok...maybe I'm TOO nice!

"Love you's" Plenty of people in my life that encourage, uplift and support me through this crazy journey of life. Grateful for who you all are and how you not only love me but 'my kids' too!


Monday, February 27, 2012

Important matters.

"People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I've noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: they hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one would. They aren't determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they're satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world." Beth Clark in the forward for the book "Kisses from Katie"

I read these words today and needed the 'one smile' reminder after weeks of long to do lists and crazy days. Life is good- but the tempo of my rhythm moves quite quickly and though I feel like I've hit the sweet spot of four part-time jobs I wake up most mornings awfully tired. I have been incredibly blessed though and am daily reminded that individuals are extremely important and every life matters.

3 Important matters: day at the tutoring center. we roasted marshmallows (with a sterno obviously) and built tents and we WORKED TOGETHER, in peace. This is important and the group dynamics and teamwork that I'm seeing each day is blowing my mind. These smiles, these kids...they are what matter

 Inside girl tent #1 (there were mutliple rounds of fun folks!)
What currently hangs in my basement and has been named "The Hut"

2.  this kid. Last year at this time I was ready to throw in the towel...with him as the ring leader. Fast forward one year and he has on my pink apron and we bake together in the kitchen, weekly. I have seen glimpses of love and grace shine through even just in the last few weeks and he is an example of 'one smile' and unshakable conviction of individuals matter. It's beautiful to walk this journey of life with him and the 15 or so others. Each student that attends Powerhouse could have an important bullet written about them

3. South Sudan. April 10th-23rd I'll be going on another adventure to South Sudan, Africa to dig a well, plant a farm, work in the schools and whatever the good Lord has in store for us. I'm excited, I'm nervous, I'm far from ready- but excited to see what lies ahead. I have three things on my big dream list...check off number 2, see an African sunset. I feel so blessed!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A tribute to my Pa

I have been incredibly blessed in the family department. My family is seriously my biggest fan in life and for that I am so grateful. From afar they cheered me on, and being closer is even better. My mom comes to my house weekly to volunteer in the after school program and has recently recruited my dad. It's a huge help and a precious blessing to have them join me and love the kids I love.

My dad came the first week on his 57th birthday. I can't hardly believe my dad is 57 and that he would choose to join the chaos of Powerhouse on his big day. But, he pulled up in his clown car and I should have known not to be surprised.

The kids know who my dad is- a select few of them have a very healthy fear of him (I completely understand...and will keep that working in my favor for as long as possible!) One time when one of the boys broke a window I told him my dad was coming to fix it and he looked at me with big eyes and said "Is he going to be mad at me??". Double bonus: My dad lives close enough to fix my broken windows, and he has the scare factor still!

So, here comes Larry to join the fun. He was so fortunate to join us on gingerbread house day. My well intentioned themed days don't always play out as beautifully as I picture them in my head. I remember calling a parent that day, counting to ten more than once (one of my boys and I learned that from his anger management class :), and bribing the kids with a $10 cash money award for the best gingerbread house...I'm certainly not above bribes.

There was a whole lot of action going on- and I got a few concerned looks from my old man. But, it's just another day with my kiddos to me and I try to keep that brave face on in the midst of it. One thing led to the next and somehow all the kids were 'peacefully' creating their houses upstairs. The few who were mad at my insistance on partipcating even found themselves enjoying it.

I had snapped a few pictures and then turned around to find this:

I had to just pause for a moment and smile. It was quite beautiful and brought back many memories of sitting with my dad at the counter cheering me on then- and here 10 years later cheering on the ones I love.

The next week this is what I saw in the midst of the Christmas madness. And again, I am so humbled and blessed.

He brings to us so much confidence and peace, and provides a bit of security and love that so many of these kids crave- especially from a father.

I know you probably aren't surprised to hear that the kids aren't always angels. They have very trying moments and somedays I think to myself if I were a volunteer I'd be a goner. But, through those trying moments my dad and all my other volunteers have found what makes a person want to love these kids through those moments and for that I'm forever grateful.

To my dad...thank-you for loving the ones I love, and for loving me. It means the world to me to have you and Mom at the house each week and always just a short drive across town away. I am so lucky. Love you!

and...for your viewing pleasure...look at this fox :) ...
...his senior prom! homemade suit and all!

Friday, December 9, 2011

My personal weight watchers

My two boys- the ones that are rather famous at my house, the ones I would keep if it weren't weird, the ones that I learn more about patience and grace from than most anyone- they are to die for with one liners...

Nathan: "Kelsey, did your mom make this caramel puffcorn? It's delicious!"
Kelsey: "Yep, she did"
Nathan: "Gosh, it's so good but listen everyone be careful- it'll go straight to your thighs"
(sidenote: Helen and Deanna who provide weekly treats for us are bad news bears for my thighs ;). But, they pack so much love into their treats and the kids seriously love it. And I made sure to enjoy many pieces of that deliciousness"

Cheri: (referencing the same treat): "You just take one piece and walk away"
Joe Joe: "You know what a square is?" A square and a square and a square, you talk one small square after another and another and then before you know it you ate two whole pieces. You gotta watch out for those squares"

Sound advice my boys, sound advice.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I spoke briefly at the Women's Christmas Tea at my church this weekend. The theme was "Welcome to my Table" and I shared a bit about the beauties who sit at my table each day! Enjoy my cheesy tie ins to the theme :)

The knock on the door is like clockwork most afternoons at my house. It’s 2:55pm and if you know me at all you can probably picture my kitchen covered in cupcakes and frosting with a minimum of three to do lists hiding under all of the mess. I have a quick thought to hit the floor as I know they can’t see me but their laughter quickly changes my mind. I round the corner to the window at the door and I hear the announcement to the crowd, “She’s home!” followed by running feet and laughter. I am greeted by multiple smiles and great big hugs and quickly they come filing in. Somedays there are just a few, most days at least 10 sweet little babes. These are my neighbors that come to my table and without a doubt I can always say the cup at my table overflows. They make their way to various places in the house- the girls in the craft room, the boys fighting over the wii that we consistently can never figure out, and a few little ones at my feet trying to get a lick of frosting or a treat of some sort- they are smart kids. I have four hundred things I should accomplish before the middle school crowd arrives but those things quickly exit my mind as I listen to a story, quiz spelling words and lose in wii bowling almost every time. A quick 40 minutes and it’s time to clean up the glitter and pass out the Hershey kisses and I love yous  as I usher them out the door. In my heart I’m so grateful they sit at my table but devastated to send them away so quickly.

             Then before I know it the middle school kids begin to pile in. I’ve created a space for them at the table and with the help of an incredible team of volunteers we welcome and love them as they come through the door. This love might look like a plate of pancakes or sometimes just  a genuine hello how are you is all it takes. We have our trials, we spill milk and sometimes we even cry but above all else we try to serve patience, grace and above all else love. 6 usually quickly rolls around and we begin the cleanup and goodbye routine. This usually includes one moment of frustration with a gentle reminder to serve them patience. I normally take a few kids home and have some sacred car moments where suddenly barriers no longer exist and I listen and share. This is my table!

I don’t really know a life outside of this. My home has always been a place filled with kids and laughter my whole adult life.  It may sound just like roses, and a dream come true. Most days it is and all I can do is thank the good Lord for entrusting me with such a reality and opportunity as this. But, some weeks the days of why and how fill my head more than the smell of roses.  With having a table such as this comes the reality that my children live each day. Adults have wronged them, hunger has owned them and fear has changed them. They don’t always trust adults, they don’t always respect as though we often think we deserve and some days they just plain make you want to clear the table. But, if I pause for one second and “enjoy a meal” with them suddenly I once again can smell the roses. Their stories of loss, death, inconsistency and insecurity have caused in me a desire to show Jesus to them in the most real way possible. Luckily I am covered and filled with just as much grace as they need – enough grace to keep me seated at this table. 

At youth group at Wesley this week we read the birth story of Jesus. The kids then were asked to play a character in birth story of Jesus and interview them. Kid after kid they chose to be Mary and seem to be awestruck by her story. Funny as I so lightly state that Mary was the mother of Jesus and place her so easily in the manger scene, but yet through their child-like eyes they are fascinated. In Luke 1 it says this

Luke 1:38 and 46-55
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.

Our challenge as we left was to choose to be Mary in our lives throughout the week. This meant in their words to be strong and humble and filled with grace.  I told them I’d be taking on the challenge too. As we were leaving just a few days ago and my patience was wearing thin one of the sweet girls must have sense my temptation to clear the table and she ever so gently reminded me of the story of Mary- to be strong, humble and filled with grace. So, that is what I will strive to serve each day at the table He has set before me. I am the Lord’s servant, may my soul glorify the Lord.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An almost picture update..

I had a beautiful blog post picture update written in word- I did it in the know, didn't want any wasted time. But, turns out I don't know how to turn a word blog post into a published post. Also turns out December 1st is two days away which leaves a looming deadline more of a priority than figuring it out (and...Donnie, techonology wonder man, isn't hear to save the day, shoot)

So, instead you get three tidbits to leave you wanting more:

-I was typing addresses in to submit to a very generous organization who will donate holiday meals to the kids in the after school program. I asked one of the girls her address as I didn't seem to have it on her registration sheet (ignore that part, boss). She said oh just put this address down. I said no I need yours. Her response, "I don't know my address, we move so much I don't bother learning it at each place, so just use this one because this happens every day". I'm sure there are numbers and research I could give you on consistency and building relationships but those numbers don't matter when a living and breathing testimony from an 8th grade girl reminds you the importance of consistency and a safe place when many other things in her life don't provide that. We take it for granted so easily and I easily forget the reality these precious children live. So, the day in and day out that can seem hum drum to me is sometimes the most comforting and beautiful thing they will experience in a day. Talk about a little reality check

-I have two boys that I want to keep as my own that come to the house every day (Nevermind that we're closer in age than what would be appropriate, I adore these two). They are the most resilient and incredible kids ever- but of course the ones that keep me on my knees the longest. One of them needs to attend a concert for a school assignment. He didn't even consider asking his family but patiently reminded me the days leading up to the event about the concert. He's learned well how we work :). I texted one of my weekly volunteers very last minute (as is life right now!) asking if it was a possibility. His response was "3 people want a piece of me tonight but this would be my priority if nobody else can take him". Aside from how wildly popular this guys is (believe me, you'd enjoy a little time with him and his lovely wife as well!) I was so taken aback by his response. I gave him the details and of course proper dress attire and his response was, "Anything for the Nathanator". So blessed- these kids and myself are so incredibly blessed by a team of volunteers that give their evenings, days, hours, tears, and love each week. I daily am reminded when I turn off the lights and lock the door how perfectly this plan has fallen into place and how each person that joins us loves these kids as Christ has called us to love- and that, my friends, isn't always easy to come by. I am so overly grateful for each volunteer that has touched any part of this ministry. This dream would not be true without these incredible people. And by them I am so humbled and blessed!

-Living in Detroit we often shared the phrase to each other, 'get out of the neighborhood'. Sometimes you just need to step away and get a breath of fresh air. That I certainly did and I now feel as though I can conquer the world after an incredible vacation in Grand Rapids over Thanksgiving with the Mencke clan. It was everything beautiful that a vacation could be and I came back so refreshed and renewed. Keep my bed warm Mencke's...I'll be back!!

With Donevon and Delaney right before I left Grand Rapids- pure joy in those two little bodies!