Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Owen Rodney

After my initial visit with my sponsor child, Rood Phania, I was on Cloud 9! I was head over heels in love with her the second I saw her sweet little face. Sponsoring a child had just taken on a completely new meaning for me. With one kiss from Rood I had immediately become passionate about sponsoring these children and my wheels were already turning on how to get my little girl and her family a home.

In the middle of our trip, we got to spend an afternoon at The Children's Home, another piece of Lifeline Christian Ministries that would quickly find a place in my heart. The Children's Home isn't technically an orphanage. While some of the kids in the facility are true orphans, many do have a parent who was simply unable to care for them. The kids can stay at The Children's Home until they finish their schooling. In the United States we think of that as being eighteen years old but in Haiti, many students start school later or may have something disrupt their education and cause them to continue their high school level education into their twenties. At that time, it is hoped that the kids will go off to university in Port au Prince and/or reintegrate back into their family outside of the Children's Home.

The Children's Home is run by a married Haitian couple. Their love for each other is brilliantly evident. In our time visiting, he fawned over her as if she were the last soul on earth and my heart swelled at the beautiful love story these children all get to witness and the example they get to see of what a spouse should be.

When we walked in through the gate into The Children's Home's yard there were several children eagerly awaiting our arrival. As I stepped into the yard, a boy with a beautiful smile wrapped his arm around my waist and began escorting me inside. Inside the dining room area, he sat between me and my dad and held our hands. His name was Owen. He was ten years old. I was smitten.

I would later learn that the Children's Home took Owen in when he was just a baby. His mother and father had both died. He had a sister but she had been taken by someone else already when the Children's Home came for Owen. She's out there somewhere. I pray she's safe and loved the way that Owen is.

The kids performed several songs for us and we, in turn, performed one back for them. We held a small devotion and helped them with a small craft, a canvas bag they could decorate to carry their bibles and their new prayer journals that we had brought for them.

We got to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring their world with them, playing their favorite sports, swinging on swing sets, and having our hair done by some of the older girls. If Owen paused for any length of time from playing soccer, he immediately came to my side and took my hand or wrapped his arm around my waist. How could this ten year old boy who wasn't even able to experience the love of his own mother and father so affectionate and loving to a stranger from a foreign country?

We attended Lifeline's church service the next morning. The kids from The Children's Home attend church there and here came my sweet Owen looking for my dad and I. He and a friend sat between us on our jam packed wooden bench and despite how hot and sweaty we all were, he never let go of me for the entire almost three hours or worship and praise.

I knew in my heart that Owen was mine as soon as he wrapped that arm around me in the yard of The Children's Home and after church service was over I knew I needed to make it official. I went back to the dorms, found one of the leaders, and asked her if she could find Owen's paperwork for me. Signed, sealed, delivered.

On that final day in Haiti before heading home when we all got to see our sponsor children one more time, Rood Phania wasn't the only one on the grass in the shade under the big tree with me and my dad. Owen got to join her that day.

God, if you didn't already know, is a funny one. He has plans far beyond what we can imagine and I can picture Him smiling when I cried over Fednerline's absence on that first day in Haiti, knowing of the two children He instead had for me, saying "Be still. You have no idea what I have planned for you."

***If you would like to continue to follow our journey as I raise funds for a house for Rood Phania, click here

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Rood Phania (Part 2 of 2)

After the utter heartbreak of my sponsor child, Fednerline, not showing up with the rest of the sponsored children I was questioning my presence in Haiti. Fednerline had been my saving grace in giving me the strength to make it to Haiti. Meeting her was all I had thought about for several weeks and now what? What was I doing here in Haiti when the one thing I looked forward to more than anything else had fallen apart?

Christy, who led our mission trip alongside her husband, explained the process of tracking down the children and getting them to the compound to meet their sponsors. She worked diligently over the next 24 hours to find my Fednerline and get her to me but the next afternoon she pulled me aside to tell me that she had spoken to the director of Fednerline's school only to find out she had moved further away, they weren't sure where to, and that they didn't know if she intended to return. This isn't uncommon in Haiti. Sometimes people come and go and occasionally hardships force them to move in with friends or family outside of their city in order to support themselves.

Christy told me that her recommendation was that I take a look at the board of children still needing sponsors and pick a new child who they could immediately begin to look for and bring to me. It was unsettling to think of replacing Fednerline. Despite the fact of not having met her, not having even enjoyed our first correspondence, the idea of her and all that she is was what had battled my anxiety over the last several weeks. I knew that Christy was right and I tried to trust that God had His own plan in this matter.

My dad and I took a look at the board. Nobody immediately jumped out at me the way that Fednerline had. Nobody felt like The One. I told Daddy to choose. He pointed to two girls he felt pulled to and after looking at the two of them I pulled Rood Phania's picture off of the wall and took it to Christy.

By the next afternoon we had received word that Rood Phania had been found and that she would be at the compound that day! I grabbed the bag of gifts intended for Fednerline and raced to the waiting area, shaking in anticipation but trying not to get my hopes up as great as they had been the first time. There were several children in the waiting area and a couple of other American missionaries waiting to see their children who hadn't been able to make it the day prior.

Finally, after so much waiting, after so much heartbreak, Rood Phania's name was called and a beautiful 3 1/2 year old little girl walked up with her mother and right into my arms. My darling girl kissed me right on the lips and rubbed her tiny little hands in circles on my cheeks. My heart swelled, tears filled my eyes, and I silently thanked God for the series of events that had led this little girl into my life.

We all sat down on the floor; my dad, Rood's mother Annette, our translator and a tiny little girl in my lap. I pulled out the grey teddy bear that I had bought for Fednerline and felt filled with the peace that the teddy bear was meant for Rood Phania all along. As we started to go through the rest of her gifts I explained that the dresses would be far too big right now but she could grow into them. I showed her the barrettes my mom had bought and how she could place them in her hair. Playing with her new grey teddy bear, Rood Phania slowly began to come to life, giggling in my lap. She kissed my face, rubbed my cheeks, and let me squeeze her sweet little body.

Through the translator we began to learn more about Rood Phania and her family. The paper I had received with a summary about her life had said that her father was a teacher, her mother was a vendor, and that she had one brother. It turns out that since that paper had been typed up, her father was now unable to work, her mother had no money to purchase the shoes to sell and make money, and she now had a second brother. I'm still unsure what led to her father's inability to work. It's likely that despite his qualifications there just simply aren't enough teaching jobs available. As the money dried up, Annette lost the ability to purchase more goods to sell and they found themselves having to move in with a friend of the family in order to keep going. When I asked the translator if there was anything specific that Rood needed I listened to her speak to Annette in beautiful Haitian creole and then she looked at me and said, "She says they need a house."

I tucked my face into Rood Phania's hair and began to tear up. The thing about having to wait several days to meet my little girl was that in the meantime I had learned a lot about life in Haiti and what it meant to sponsor a child. After two mornings building a house for a local woman named Rose Marie and her daughter, Serafina, I knew the details behind the Haitian people needing homes, what it took to get one, and the amazing job that Lifeline was doing in building homes. A Lifeline home is a simple 12 ft by 24 ft two room home that costs roughly $4,700 in American money to build. To qualify for a Lifeline home, the family has to have the ability to purchase or rent land on their own and the funds have to be raised and turned in prior to the start of building. The money for homes is raised by churches across the United States and often times it is raised through the hard work of an American sponsor who feels led to get their sponsor child in a home of their own.

Is it an easy task to raise almost $5,000 to build a home for a child in Haiti that only you will ever know the pleasure of hugging, kissing, and holding in your arms? No, I don't really imagine so but when Annette spoke her plea I knew immediately that I would come home and get my girl a home, whatever it took.

For the remainder of the week, I held Rood Phania close in my heart and at the front of my mind. We got to meet with our sponsor children one more time the day before we were to head home. I packed up the second half of her gifts, including several new size 4 dresses that I had chosen from the donations Lifeline receives, and the money we had brought to give her mother, praying it would be enough to allow Annette to purchase the goods she needed to begin vending again, and headed back to the waiting area one more time. The room was fairly full but my little girl wasn't there yet. I sat with my heart beating a million times a minute waiting for her to arrive. A few minutes later I glanced up and walking in was a tiny little 3 1/2 year old girl wearing a dress several sizes too big, hanging off of her shoulders, with barrettes decorating her hair; all gifts that I had given her the week before. A huge lump formed in my throat and tears filled my eyes at this beautiful gesture from her mother.

We all sat together in the grass under the shade of a tall tree and Rood Phania played with the Barbie wearing a fancy dress sewn by one of the women at my church. I hugged her and kissed her and she rubbed those tiny little hands in circles on my cheeks once again. We didn't talk much that afternoon but I don't know that we really needed to. It's a funny thing about visiting a country where you know none of their language, sometimes you find out just how many other ways there are to communicate. I tried to commit every moment, every giggle she made, every kiss she gave me to memory and prayed that the Lord would never let me forget exactly what it felt like to be with Rood in Haiti.

Annette spoke to the translator and he told me, "She says that when you go home she will be praying for your family and she will be praying also that you do not forget your family in Haiti and will pray for her family as well." My dad and I took turns telling her that we would NEVER forget them and we would always be praying for them. I know that when Annette says she will be praying for our family that she will most definitely be praying for our family and with all that I learned while in Haiti, I know that despite the little, the almost nothing, that Annette's family has, she will still be praying with all her might for my family in America who has it all.

**** If you feel called to help me in my mission to get Rood Phania and Annette a home, please check out our fundraising page here. We have chosen a Christian based crowd funding site and would appreciate anything you are able to share. ****

Heartbreak in Haiti (Part 1 of 2)

Only a few weeks before leaving for Haiti, our church had a child sponsorship drive. Several tables were set up with pictures and information about different children needing sponsorship around the world. Lifeline Christian Mission, the organization we traveled with, had a table and pictures of several children living in Haiti near the Grand Goave compound that we would be staying at. My dad told me to choose a child and with a quick glance through the pictures, I laid my eyes on her. She was the one. I knew it. Her name is Fednerline.

Fednerline is six years old and if you ask what it was that led me to pick her, all I could tell you is that she was the one. We were choosing her early enough that they would get our papers turned in and we would have the opportunity to meet her when we got to Haiti! At this point in my preparation for mission work I was completely doubting my decision to go. As excited as I had been only a couple of months prior, now I was completely doubting God's choice to send me there. I sent my plea up to Heaven, "God, I'm going to be obedient. I'll go like you told me to but I'M NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT!"

Choosing to sponsor Fednerline was just what I needed to reset my heart to prepare to leave. My mind and heart were consumed with the idea of meeting her, touching her, holding her, kissing her. She wasn't just a face of a child in a faraway world who I would cut a check for once a month. She was a real little girl who I was going to hold in my arms.

We arrived in Haiti late in the evening on Monday and the plans were that the next day, our first full day in Haiti, we would all get to meet our sponsor children. I excitedly bagged up the gifts I had brought for her and headed over with my dad to wait for her name to be called.

As the names of sponsor children, their sponsors, and the translator they would get to use were called I slowly became anxious as the seats filled with sponsor children and their families began to empty and Fednerline had yet to make her way up front to meet me. My heart raced faster and my eyes began to fill with tears as I realized that my Fednerline, the little girl who had given me the last bit of strength I needed to get on the plane, wasn't there.

Sitting alone next to my dad, looking around at the smiling faces of American sponsors hugging their children, it was all that I could do not to burst into uncontrollable tears. We waited a little bit longer, just in case, before we quietly stood up and began walking back to the dorms, a bag of size 7 dresses and a grey teddy bear hanging like dead weight on my shoulder.

To learn more about our work in Haiti, visit Lifeline Christian Mission's website here!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Magic Shoes

I’ve never been a shoe person. I’m a flip flop and tennis shoes kind of gal. I’m a two loyal pairs worn until the soles fall apart kind of gal.

I’ve heard women talk about shoes like they’re talking about a loved one. I’ve heard women swear by THAT ONE PAIR of shoes that makes them feel strong and sexy and powerful. THAT ONE PAIR of blood red pumps they wear out to first dates and anniversary dinners and anywhere else where they just want to feel the very best about themselves. I’ve never understood that.

I love my flip flops. I have a pair right now that I have worn almost every day this past summer. They’re simple, silver, they go with everything. I love them but not like a best friend who gives me confidence and tells me that my butt looks good in my new jeans (or doesn’t look good if the case may be), more like a little brother who you kind of want to give a noogie to but you’re glad you have around nonetheless.

This past weekend, Zach’s sister got married. I had stressed for 24 hours over what to wear. I had a dress picked out but realized I had absolutely no shoes that matched it. Then I chose another but it was coral and can you wear coral to an October wedding? And were either of these dresses too dressy? This was a fairly casual wedding. I knew Zach would be in jeans and a button up shirt. I ended up going with the more casual coral dress paired with a jean jacket since the wedding was outside. This dress won out because I had a new pair of shoes I wanted to wear that didn’t work with the other dress.

I straightened my hair which is a daunting task for someone with hair like mine. It’s curly but not too curly, it tangles at the drop of a hat, it never EVER falls quite how I like and I hate to be that person who straightens their hair but misses one patch in the back that everyone looks at all day. I applied my makeup to the best of my novice ability. I did the dreaded panty hose dance as I wiggled myself in. I put on the coral dress I prayed didn’t look out of place in October and the jean jacket I hoped kept me warm enough. Finally, I put on my new boots.

You guys. They were THAT ONE PAIR. I put on the boots to finish the outfit and I felt sexy and powerful and IT WAS THE SHOES. I thought those girls were lying! Shoes can’t do that for a person, can they?

I’m unfortunately the heaviest I’ve ever been. A stint on an anti-depressant “helped” me put on a whopping twenty-five pounds. I don’t often feel truly pretty at this weight but can’t quite get my ass in gear to do something about it. But the shoes, oh, the shoes.

My THAT ONE PAIR weren’t anything obviously magical. They don’t have six inch heels. They aren’t a bright, sexy red. They aren’t the pair you see on the shelf and just swoon over, dreaming of the day you can afford a pair for yourself but it turns out, they’re my magic shoes. They involve floral and fringe and hey, did I mention floral?

I tested my theory and wore them again to church on Sunday. I left church, ran a couple of errands, came home and I didn’t even change into sweatpants before I went down to have lunch with family! This, my friends, is monumental. To willingly choose jeans over sweats just to have a casual lunch with family simply so I can wear a certain pair of shoes is, well, it’s a small miracle.

So today, at my heaviest weight, I’m thinking about my THAT ONE PAIR of shoes. I’m thinking about how good I felt about myself in those hours all because of a pair of shoes. I think I’ll try just a little bit harder to love myself whether I needed that last slice of pizza or not.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

So You Think You Can DS

Direct Sales.

You've either tried it for yourself or you know someone who has. Direct sales are becoming commonplace today as a way to supplement or completely replace your income. Me? I sell Scentsy. I breathe Scentsy. I am Scentsy.

Yep, I'm that person.

I recently saw a Facebook "friend" of mine posting multiple statuses slamming those of us who are involved in direct sales. In the comments, it appeared that one person believes us to all be "friendless" and if not yet, we will be after we "screw" all of our friends into working for us or "annoy" them so much that "nobody wants to associate" with us anymore.

I've seen it before, of course. Words like "pyramid scheme" aren't foreign insults to those of us who have chosen this path for ourselves. Last month I began my journey working from home full time. It has, if nothing else, solidified my love for my company and for what direct sales allow us to do. It has reminded me once again that there is no scheme in this three year journey I've been on to build my business.

I think some of the doubt comes into play when we as consultants are quick to share our triumphs but forget to relay the fact that we're still working, that this is still a job. Therein lies the problem that leads certain people to label companies as "get rich quick" schemes. I don't post on social media when my hostess cancels her party leaving me in a pinch to meet my monthly goals. I don't post that I get MULTIPLE no's for every yes when I reach out about hosting a party or joining my team but it happens. I'm not rich and I'm certainly not getting there quickly but I'm getting there nonetheless.

A little over three years ago I started my Scentsy journey. I didn't know what to expect or even what I wanted out of my little business, I just wanted something that was mine. I continued to work full time jobs and worked Scentsy on the side, when I had time, without a true drive toward any major goal. So many times I thought "I wish this was it for me. I wish I could do this full time" but I never did what it takes to really get there. Why? Because it takes work. Because it doesn't happen overnight. Because it's still a job, it's just far more enjoyable work than any of my past experiences.

Last month when I left my 9-5,  I knew that making Scentsy my full time job wouldn't necessarily be easy but I knew it would be rewarding. In my first month working from home I promoted to Superstar Consultant, a title I had been working toward for many months prior. With total dedication to my business, I did it! It was immensely rewarding and a complete validation of my choice to work my business full time.

Why? Because there is real money to be made here. This isn't a scheme but it's not always a cakewalk either. It's a business and growing a business doesn't happen without time and hard work.

My choice to work my business full time is allowing me to only answer to myself, to work when I want to and to enjoy the relationships I felt like I was running out of time for before. I don't have to miss out on special occasions or invitations because of a demanding work schedule and for someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I can step back and reset any time I need to.

As for friends, I'm still doing just fine. My friends believe in me, they support me, and yes, several of them have joined my team! I certainly didn't force them and I can't think of a single one who would say they regret joining me on this journey. In fact, I have far more friends today than I had three years ago when I joined. My Scentsy sisters. We are traveling the same road and there's no competition between us, just love and support. I imagine I've annoyed several people over the years and that some may have even, brace yourself, UNFRIENDED ME ON FACEBOOK! Gasp! But you know what? I think I'll be just fine.

I think we'll find as the next few years go by that direct sales continue to grow as more of us decide to take our futures into our own hands. Personally, I know that I couldn't be any happier that I'm the only one in charge of mine. We get one life. Just one. I don't want to waste mine. I want to be able to grasp all of the opportunities that appeal to me. I want to sleep in if it's rainy outside and binge on Netflix when I'm sick. I want to meet my friends for lunch and chase my nephew around in the middle of the workday. Scentsy is giving me that. Every day it's opening new doors for me and I am forever grateful.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What Do You Say To Taking Chances?

Today I'm home sick. I have left my couch long enough to make it to my bed and that's about the extent of my day. I have watched an unsettling number of episodes of Numb3rs and a Lisa Ling documentary series on Netflix. However, as I sit here watching quite possibly my twelfth hour of television, I am so grateful for the decision I made to become my own boss!

I had a plan for leaving my job to work from home. I needed to be at X level in my Scentsy business, I needed to be bringing in Y amount from my Etsy business, I needed to have Z amount in the bank account and THEN I could do it because I would have it all figured out. As it turns out, sometimes plans are just plans and they may never see action.

When I recently left my job, neither X, Y, nor Z were where I had intended them to be but I made a conscious decision to get them there. I knew this was my ONE chance to take my life into my own hands. I had to ask Zach to trust me and give me a little time to prove that this would work. Thankfully, he obliged....begrudgingly but he obliged. I realized that there really may never be a perfect time for someone to take a risk on their future. Your own X, Y, and Z may never be where you "need" them to be to change your life and less than a month after leaving my job I certainly wouldn't try to tell you that I'm there yet. But I'm on my way. I'm getting there. On my terms, on my schedule, with only myself to answer to and that is a pretty cool feeling.

In the last month there have been a couple of times where I had to remind myself why I'm doing what I'm doing. I scrolled through the employment ads and thought wouldn't it be EASIER to just apply to a few of these and go back to what I know? Wouldn't it be SAFER to just conform to the 9 to 5? Wouldn't my outcome be GUARANTEED if I just did what everyone around me was doing? Probably. Maybe. Sure. But would I be happy? Would I be doing what I wanted with my one life?

In the last year I have told myself constantly "this is my ONLY life." Finally, whether I was prepared or not, I'm living it. Sure, I have a long way to go. I have a lot of real work to put into this chapter of my life to get it where I want it to be but if I don't take that chance now, when would I?

So today, I'm grateful to my boss for letting me stay home and rot my brain away with Netflix. I promised her that tomorrow I'll get something accomplished.

"But what do you say to taking chances? What do you say to jumping off the edge? Never knowing if there's solid ground below, or a hand to hold, or hell to pay...what do you say?"
-Celine Dion

Friday, September 18, 2015

On North West

I’m not one for celebrity gossip. Sure, I can’t stop myself from checking out the trashy tabloid covers as I stand in line at the grocery store, but “Did you see what Miley did?” and “Guess who just got divorced?” are rarely found in my daily conversations. In fact, our limited cable channels has its upside as I don’t often even have the opportunity to delve into the private lives of those in Hollywood.

Recently, however, as I scroll through my social media pages, I’ve found myself unnaturally (for me, atleast) irritated at how many articles I’ve seen with baiting titles such as “You won’t believe what North West did at Kanye’s fashion show!” or “Wait until you see how Kim reacted to North West’s tantrum!”

The titles alone have been enough to aggravate me but, alas, I’ve also opened several of these articles and read the entire story. Did you know that a two year old’s behavior was front page news worthy? You guys, it IS! Extra! Extra! Read all about it! A toddler with one thousand cameras in her face who is being asked to sit still for the entire length of a fashion show is acting like a toddler with one thousand cameras in her face who is being asked to sit still for the entire length of a fashion show!

In the last article I read, and I mean that as both a timeline reference and in that it will be the LAST article I read, the author referenced North West’s “infamous meltdown” at last year’s fashion show. I’m not kidding, they used the word infamous in reference to a toddler not enjoying sitting still while The World’s Most Beautiful People walked in front of her. DOES THIS KID NOT UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF HER FATHER’S BUSINESS?! Get it together, North!

Listen, I’ll be the LAST person you meet to ever stand up for Kim Kardashian, and Kanye? Yikes, don’t even get me started there. No, seriously, don’t get me started. He’s a nightmare of a human being. But the kid? She’s a kid.

Is North probably a little more spoiled than your average two year old? I’m going to guess that, yes, she probably is. Is North allowed to get away with more than my nephew will be allowed to get away with over the next few years? I hate to make assumptions but yes, probably so. But people, she’s two. She’s a baby. She’s a baby followed by paparazzi with bright flashing lights yelling her name as her mom carries her to the car. She’s a baby who is taken to the kinds of events that my neighbors in Central Indiana couldn’t even dream of attending, much less think of toting their child to!

I guess my concern is that this is of concern to us. We’re living in a world where Donald Trump is running for President and a Miss America contestant was bashed for her career as a nurse on daytime television. Priorities, folks, get some.