"" Life A Bit Sweeter: April 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm Back!!!! Gotta tell you where I've been....so exciting!

Hey there friend!  I'm so sorry I've been gone so long but I just finished being a part of the most amazing thing at work/church.  Pastor Keith has been teaching on the poor, in fact, the main point in each of the past 4 sermons was "God is for the poor." 

For Easter Sunday, my boss/pastor decided to break us off into 5 teams, each with a budget.  The mission:  help a family in need resurrect a dead situation in their life.  The families were pre-chosen by our staff and it was a tough process to get down just to five but it was really as if God just stepped in and helped us wiggle it down.  Each family would be totally surprised by their blessing at the individual services.  Of course, the tricky part was making sure they came to their designated service.  I served as project manager for all 5 projects and also worked on the specifics of the 7am service.

Here's a profile of the families:

7am service: A third grade public school teacher who became homeless and was living in a shelter with her four children.  Our resurrection moment for them:  Among many other blessings, we purchased a home for her and her family and told her that morning that they no longer had to go back to the shelter.  The home was fully furnished.  Words cannot express the feeling when we showed the video of the home to her, the children, and our congregation. 

8:30am service:  A family where the husband needs a  kidney transplant and is unable to work.  They have been temporarily living with the one income with their two children and really just need a helping hand to get them back on their feet and moved into a new place.  Our resurrection moment for them:  Among other things, movers showed up at the service announcing their move at no cost to them, 6 months rent paid in advance, and a $1500 gift card to Costco to get started in their new home.

10:00am service:  A single mother with a 1 year old with 3 congenital heart defects and down syndrome has been struggling financially as she fights for her daughter's life.  The state medical assistance she receives for her daughter now helps to take care of most of her medical needs but it leaves her in a state of poverty as she still struggles to pay the rest of the bills.  (She's only allowed to make a certain amount of money each month to keep the state assistance -- in her case, it equals out to 4 days a month).  Because of all of the needs of her daughter, she had given up all that she needed. She was down to one pair of black pants that she rotates tops/blouses with and hadn't been to her favorite hairdresser in a while.  Our resurrection moment for them:  Among other things, a gift of $10,000 and after telling her story to her hair dresser, she donated 1 year of hair services to mom.  Simply beautiful.

11:30am service:  A man who needed a double lung transplant which cost $980,000.  He would need to pay $180,000 of that costs.  He's not a rich man by any stretch of the imagination but needs the transplant because the doctors have estimated that he would only have 2 more years left on his life without one.  He's on public assistance and was just on the verge of having his utilities turned off because he couldn't pay.  The bulk of his family doesn't live in the area so he deals with much of this on his own.  When the team first started working on this one, God kept stepping in ahead of us.  The week before Easter, the government decided they'd go out of policy and pay for the transplant at 100 PERCENT!  Our resurrection moment for him: where do I start...among other things, 6 months rent paid, 6 months utilities paid in advance, 7 months of groceries delivered, a like-new donated car to replace his old car, maid service while he recovers from his transplant, and to surprise him even further, his family was brought in from out-of-town to share in this celebration moment.

1:00pm service:  A single mother with six children wants nothing more than creating a better environment for her children.  The car she did have died and left them most times confined to having to ask others to get them to where they needed to be, including church.  Getting a ride with someone else as a family of 7, is no easy feat.  Most times when she was able to get a ride, although the children wanted to come to church, she had to pick which ones would get to go because they all wouldn't fit inside the car.  Our resurrection moment for them:  among other things, a like new Toyota Sienna mini-van!

We were so blessed that we had the opportunity to partner with God to help resurrect what seemed to be dead situations in the lives of our 5 families.  Awesome experience for each of us and we witnessed some unbelievable God moments as we worked on-behalf of the families.  Our work isn't completely done, we will be walking alongside these families to help them sustain these resurrection moments.  If you're curious about what the families still need, take a look here.

Wanna see it for yourself, check out the service here:  http://zc.sermon.net/sermonid/2669121
The sermon setting up the moments is phenomenal!  You have to take a listen to it but if you're pressed for time and want to hop straight to the 5 epic moments, place your cursor over the video and drag the time lapse bar to minute 21:40

So here's a question for you:  Are you willing to partner with God to help someone receive a resurrection in their life?  Who is it?  What can you do?  Don't be afraid to move.  I'm a witness that God is for the poor and will work alongside you to advocate on that person's behalf.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sisters By Adoption

No...perhaps it's not quite what you're thinking.  I'm not speaking about two girls joined and united into a family by adoption.  Instead, I'm talking about grown women, some many miles away, who have been united by a common thread that has deemed them as 'sisters'.  This common thread is adoption.

Along this adoption journey, I have gained many sisters, many of them also my 'sisters' in Christ.  They are adopting mamas at all stages of the journey.  I simply just can't bring myself to just call them friends because these women are simply incredible.  Some of  them I've met, some I have not, some I have chatted with on the phone, others we have talked through facebook statuses and late night facebook chats, and of course, the wonderful blog post comments.  Yet, no matter how we communicate, they are my sounding board, prayer warriors, and have become additional aunties to Selah.  (Woo! When this little girl finds out how many aunties she has, she'll be blown away!)

No matter what you do in life, I think it's so important to have a strong support system.  Ya know, people who are walking your course or have walked your course.....been in your shoes.  I have grown LEAPS AND BOUNDS with these wise women in my corner.  They pull me up and help me to blossom into my best....God's best.  What they have exposed me to has been simply beautiful.  They are too numerous to name but I'll just share a couple flicks of a few of them that I've recently met for some quick socials.

The picture on the left represents the ladies from DC and VA who have adopted/are adopting through the America World Ethiopia program.  We met bright and EARLY last Saturday morning in Tyson's Corner for breakfast.  There were lots of laughs, hugs, and of course we had our share of tears as we relished in God's love for these amazing journey that God has allowed us to be a part of.

Then there's one of my sweetie pies --Melissa.  Since she's on the west coast, she and I can be caught in the middle of the night chatting on Facebook about what's happening in adoption and life.  Our pic above is meeting each other in-person for the first time at Dulles Airport.  I was so excited they were stopping on the east coast before Ethiopia that I got up at 4am.  I needed to leave home at 5am, beat the traffic, and meet them for their early morning arrival at Dulles Airport.  Told you I loved these women! (smile)

So clearly, these are not all of the beautiful 'sisters' in my life.  They are numerous and I'm so thrilled to call them family....all connected by adoption.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Three Months DTE.....The McKinneys MEET Sushi!

Three months! Three months!  Three months!  Woo hoo.  That's right baby.  The 7th of every month, we celebrate the date our dossier (official stack of adoption paperwork) landed in Ethiopia.

....and you know how we do it over here in the McKinney household!  We kick it healthy-style....LOL.  So today, we thought we'd stretch our palettes.  We decided to trade our fried croakers in for Tuna Tataki Nigiri.

Let me be honest here.....I purchased it around lunch time.  Each time I'd go to the fridge to try to eat it, I'd look at it and put it back.  Raw fish?  Who does this????  The almost good thing about this piece is that it is seared a little...might I say VERY little.  The rest is well you  know......sushi.....raw.  eek!
I was SHOCKED when it was video time.  "C" in his usual form played the camera man but "MJ" decided he wanted to actually try it.  So he did.  I was such a baby about it. (You'll see my half-enthusiasm at the beginning of the video and how long it took me to respond after I started chewing.....smh at myself!)  So check it out.....but first can I get a WAHOO! for THREE MONTHS DTE?!!!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

One Day Without Shoes: Out of Our Comfort Zone

Wow! What an amazing day!  I'm going to be really transparent in this blog post so if you can't take some of it, please skip this particular post.

This was a huge stretch for me.  Especially considering I have had 'feet issues' since I was in high school.  I never had ya know what men would call 'pretty feet'.  I don't know about other cultures but I can definitely say that in the African-American culture, many men have a thing about women with pretty feet so for years I hid them. In fact, I remember during a summer break during college, I had foot surgery done to get rid of the extra long bones in my toes and to get rid of some corns....yes, I said it.  LOL.  For years, I wouldn't wear sandals because even after the surgery, I didn't like the way my toes looked.  They still weren't 'pretty' enough.  Yep, my own hangup.  It wasn't until I was at DSW shoe store with a girlfriend who also had some feet issues.  She simply did one of those girl please.  I wear my sandals.  Who cares!  As simple as it was, that 'Girl, please' and her encouragement got me over my 'feet issues'. 

Fast forward to today, TOMS One Day Without Shoes....how freeing to be able to participate in a great cause and not be hung up on my own insecurities about my 'appearance'.  But you know what....I discovered that there are still others, not just me, who have had/do have 'feet issues'.  Yet, although they had 'feet issues' they gave up their own will to be the voice of those who really do have major 'feet issues'.  Ya know, serious 'feet issues' like podoconiosis because of the lack of clean water and proper shoes to protect the feet.

So take the journey with me and my colleagues from Zion Church, even our Pastor, as we participated in TOMS shoes One Day Without Shoes.  A real good eye opener!

BTW:  Are you a TOMS shoe lover?  You can still get $5 OFF your pair of TOMS shoes through their online site when you enter ZION in the discount code at checkout.  Each pair counts towards Zion Church's April shoe campaign....we're collecting 4,000 pairs for local and international distribution!  Join the fun and make a difference!

Monday, April 4, 2011

$5 Off TOMS shoes!!!

You know I love TOMS shoes and my church.  So this is a super sweet deal!  It's almost too good to be true but I promise it's not!

Our church has partnered with TOMS for the month of April in an amazing effort to help us collect over 4,000 pairs of shoes.  Not only will we be collecting brand-new and like-new shoes BUT if you love TOMS and all that they do, you can now receive $5 off your TOMS on-line shoe order through the month of April if you put the code ZION in at the checkout.

The Benefit for Zion: each pair purchased using this code will count towards our shoe goal of distributing 4,000 pairs of shoes. But wait there's more (lol...I sound like an infomercial...sorry.)  This is really a three-fold win:
  1. You get a $5 discount off TOMS shoes.
  2. A child will still gets a pair of shoes donated through TOMS because of your purchase.
  3. Zion gets to count your shoe purchase towards our goal of collecting 4,000 pairs of shoes.
Please note: While our church's goal is to distribute shoes in targeted areas (DC/MD/VA area, Haiti, Kenya, and the Dominican Republic, we are leaving it to TOMS to decide where they will distribute the donated pair provided thru your purchase).  In the grand scheme of things, it's still a huge win, because a child somewhere will be served in an amazing way.

So here's your chance!  Share, share, share this with your friends and family!  If you'd like to donate your new or like-new shoes to Zion Church, feel free to e-mail me at michelle365@me.com OR hop on over to the TOMS site.  Remember, you have to put ZION in the discount code at checkout.

BTW: Our family has committed to collecting 100 pairs of shoes in this effort (new or like-new).  If you purchase on-line through TOMS because of this blog post, I'd love our boys to be able to add your shoe count to their goal thermometer.  The boys are excited and so am I as they try to change the world one pair of shoes at a time.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

goodbye 39......HELLO #34!!!

Perhaps you remember back on March 21st, I posted that we were #34 on the unofficial waiting list for a girl in the birth - 12 months category in our agency.  (details here) .  Well there has been quite a bit of movement since then and guess what, we have a new number.....yep, yep!  Even 'C' is thrilled!

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