Sweet Embrace: A Letter to Elliot

Dear Elliot,

I was browsing through one of my favorite shops in a small North Carolina town when I saw this sculpture. I picked it up and read the description from the artist. This is what it said;
Thankfully I know the owners of the store because I could not hold back the tears that were imminent. While holding the artwork tightly in both hands I was able to tell them about you, your life and your legacy. That makes two more people who know how incredible you are and what a difference you are making in the lives of others.

Mary carefully packed the figure in brown paper to ensure a smooth trip home. That was three months ago. I put the bag in my closet and looked at it several times a day, but left the statue securely wrapped.
I finally sat down and slowly pulled the pieces of tape away from the brown paper. As the image began to appear I was overcome with emotion. It sounds silly, right?

Like certain music, art has the ability to move us from where we are, right back to a moment in time.

I wanted a place where, not only would I see it throughout the day, but others could as well and ask about its meaning.

While admiring it when first getting up this morning, memories began flooding in. Sleepovers with singalongs on our hairbrush microphones and talent shows from the school’s cafeteria stage. Tennis matches in the heat and humidity we had grown accustomed to in the south and seemingly never-ending miles on the church van. It reminded me of the long days of summer and the childlike anticipation of Christmas. A time that was good and innocent. A time when divorce had not been intrusive, cancer wasn’t personal and we were unaware of how incredibly cruel the world can be. I had to smile.

I am quite certain that each time I look at it another memory or emotion will surface. I’m okay with that. I don’t think chance is what took me into the store on that particular day, I think it was God.

Wyatt is celebrating his 7th birthday today. He is so grown up! I love seeing the pictures that Chris posts on your Facebook page. It’s amazing the difference a year makes between six and seven.

El, I still haven’t written those letters. I don’t know how. I don’t know what to say and yet there is so much I want to say. I have things for them that, just like the figurine, remain in a bag, undisturbed. Do you think I will ever have the courage to put my thoughts on paper and stop worrying about whether it’s worded perfectly?

The children are beautiful, Elliot. I know that you are so proud. And Chris is doing a wonderful job. It is evident how much he loves and misses you. We all miss you.

Love and Light,

Related Post:

Oh my soul

To see more sculptures by Cindy Burden click here

Five Minute Friday: Race

The texts started lighting up my phone around 9:30p.m. They continued throughout the night and early morning. By mid-morning Wednesday, I knew I needed to go. I would get in my car and race to the hospital just inside the city line of the town I grew up in.

It was Tuesday when my sister almost died. And though some would say, “But she didn’t die.” The fact that we were hours from losing her is surreal.

I am having quite the time processing every thing from the last few days. I go between anger, sadness, gratefulness, hope and so many other emotions. Truth is, she is in a race. Against time…against disease…against unrealistic expectations… A race that she runs accompanied by those who love her the most. It will be a lifelong event. Life as she knows it must change or an early death is imminent.

We are all running a race. Some days are better than others. If you are in the midst of a time that is more difficult than serene, I am praying Psalm 34 for you;
“God’s angel sets up a circle
of protection around us while we pray.
Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.”

What / Who are you running to?

Now, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes to just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

The Hands, Feet and Faces of Hope

Never underestimate the power of hope. The potential that it gives the helpless, the change in perspective that it gives the skeptic, the restoration it provides for the lost.

Hope does not come dressed in riches, it comes dressed in willingness to use what one has, to do what one can.

There is hope. It has a face and a name. It has breath and a heartbeat. It has a future because someone like you said, “Why not me? Why not now?
So today I ask you, “What are you waiting for?”Yesterday’s post was an introduction into the world of a mother and a husband who had a vision, made a plan, asked for help and are changing lives for eternity. Asher will be giving birth in October to her and Drü’s third child and a few short months after, they will move their family of five to Africa. Can you even imagine?! I can’t. I wouldn’t. But they can and they are. “Why?” is what you may be asking. It’s what I wanted to know. So I asked.

Q: At what moment did you realize that God was calling you to move to Africa? Was it a moment of terror, excitement or a little bit of both?
A: “It was a growth process and not a sudden “ah-ha!” moment. After visiting several times a year, we realized that with coming and going we could only monitor the growth and success of Sole Hope so far. We knew we needed someone on the ground there who knew the vision of Sole Hope, who we trusted and who was like-minded. We started looking for people to move to Africa to really run our program, especially the first few foundational years.

As no one was rising to the plate to accept this low paying, unclear job in a third world country-we realized we were being called, softly, and nudged but kept ignoring it.  During this time though we were able to grow our relationship as a family, gain clearer understanding of the direction of Sole Hope, and really get to know the community of people we would be going to live and work with, and more of the realities of the problem we would be facing-jiggers.

Of course this was and is scary…we are being called onto a battle ground. There will be sacrifice, suffering and trials.  But we are confident that God will complete a good work in and through us with only His power. There is also excitement as we do love Africa, and this is a new adventure like none we have ever taken before as a family!

Q: Asher, will you deliver your third child in the states? Are you apprehensive about taking a newborn to a third world country? How are your kiddos handling all of the change?
A: “I will deliver our third child in October in the States, and we will move in January. Of course it makes me nervous to take any of my children to a third-world country, but perfect love casts out fear, and I have to hand that over daily to the Lord. We feel this is where he is calling us, so we need to be faithful. It is a good test of faith when you get your children involved. Our two oldest are handling this transition very differently. The oldest is excited, and a bit apprehensive, and the youngest really would be just fine with staying in Asheville the rest of his life.” 

Q: What is your biggest area of need right now? How can we help?
A: “We always need people to keep our family and Sole Hope in their prayers! We don’t take that lightly and are so grateful when people commit to pray for us. Our family raises our own support, just like a missionary would to live and work in Africa. We need people who will come along side our family and support us financially.”

Q: What sets you apart from other organizations ministering in Africa?
A: “We don’t have a tract we hand out, or a church we are affiliated with. We do however have many believers that hold us accountable and check in with us regularly. We are Christians who take very seriously listening to the Lord and following his call on our life. We believe Sole Hope was something the Lord laid on my heart (Asher). We start sharing the Lord by building relationships and letting people get to know us and why we are doing this [Sole Hope].”  

Q: Have you set a timeline for how long you will stay?
A:We know we will be there at least a year.”

Q: How can we keep up with you while you are there?
A: “Check the Sole Hope blog regularly!”

Q: If there was one thing on your “Dreaming BIG” list that you would like to see happen, what would it be?
A: “To eradicate jiggers from an entire village/slum area in a sustainable way.”

Q: Can others bring teams over to help with your mission?
A: “YES! We will have 5 planned trips during 2013 and we are open to organizing small group trips throughout the year as well.

Q: Will there be a mailing address where we can send fun packages to you and the kiddos? 🙂
A: “We would LOVE that!  We will need to get you an address. For right now packages and letters can go to our office in Asheville and be brought with the next team.”
Sole Hope
P.O. Box 1492,
Asheville, NC 28802
Sole Hope
2 Wall St. Ste. 114
Asheville, NC 28801

Did I miss anything? Are you as moved as I was by the courage of this little family with big faith? Want to ask them more questions, comment on their work or encourage them on their journey? Leave a comment here or contact them directly. You won’t regret immersing yourself in this cause with these people. No matter the depth of involvement. It all matters.Will you commit to telling at least two people about Sole Hope? I’m going to make it easy for you. Here is a downloadable PDF Sole Hope Reference Card that will attach perfectly to email or print. So tell me, “What are you waiting for? Now is the right time.”

*all media was taken from the Sole Hope Facebook page. Go check it out. And while you’re there, click the “Like” button.
Follow them on Twitter

What does Hope look like?

I am so excited to be sharing this story with my readers. It is one that has been on my heart since I first discovered it.

Many of you have heard of Sole Hope. For those of you who haven’t, I would like to introduce them to you today.

This is not a ploy to get your money. It is a conversation starter to make you aware of what is happening, maybe not in our country, but in our world. It is to shed light on something happening to little ones who cannot help themselves. It is in hopes that you will tell others and share what Hope looks like in the form of human beings dedicating their lives to eradicate a seemingly insurmountable problem.
The following video contains graphic images that may be disturbing to some. Please use discretion when viewing and allowing young children to view.

The first time I saw this video it made me want to know more. I had never even heard of jiggers. I read everything I could on the Sole Hope website and blog. I have to be completely honest, I became physically sick while reading and watching what these children are enduring day in and day out because they lack something that I often always take for granted. Shoes.

Asher, as a wife and mother of two (with a third on the way), decided she couldn’t wait for “someone else” to step in. She had to take action. That is how Sole Hope was born. One woman who had a choice either to ignore what she had seen or follow a calling to be a world changer.

I know for me personally, I don’t realize what my feet, or any part of my body for that matter, does until I can’t use it. Many of the children with jiggers in their feet are completely immobilized and confined to their home. Many don’t have parents or caregivers. Many will die.

This is a precious one whose foot is infested with jiggers. Gross right?! I beg you not to look away. This is about the size of one of my children’s feet. If this was my child, it never would have gotten to this point. I would have taken him to the pediatrician long before it was this bad. They do not have that option.

Now rewind. What if this child was wearing shoes. Not the latest athletic shoe, just enough of a shoe to act as a barrier between them and this parasite? What if this preventable affliction was expunged completely? What if you were part of that? What if you didn’t dismiss it with the thought, “Someone else will do it.” or “I already have my charities mapped out for the year.” Please hear me when I say that this is about so much more than money.

Of course they need financial support, but there are also many other ways that you can step in and make a difference in a huge way.

One way is by being a Sole Hope Ambassador in your area. Sole Hope Ambassadors are people who are pumped about Sole Hope and want to help spread awareness in their own community. This is a volunteer opportunity with perks. If you are interested and want more information click here.

Another way is by featuring these adorable shoes in your store, online, or by purchasing them for the favorite little ones in your life. When people ask you what they are (and they will), be ready to tell them.

You can also host a shoe cutting party. For more information, email Info@solehope.com or call 855.516.4673.

I know this is a lot of information. In an effort to allow you time to process what you have read and seen, we will continue the discussion tomorrow with a Q&A from myself, Asher and Drü. I asked the questions I most wanted to know and thought that you too would want to know. Questions like, “What sets you a part from every other organization with a heart for Africa?

Make sure you come back tomorrow for the rest of the story and a downloadable PDF with useful information.

“These feet are waiting for me…and that keeps me moving on the days when I feel tired and don’t want to do much.” ~ Asher

*all media was taken from the Sole Hope Facebook page. Go check it out. And while you’re there, click the “Like” button.
Follow them on Twitter

Oh my soul

Today started out like any other.
Get up.
Make coffee.
Eat breakfast.
Wake the boys.
Make lunches.
Go back upstairs to get the boys up.
Pack their backpacks.
Yell from downstairs for the boys to come eat or go to school hungry.
Go back upstairs.
Get dressed.
Go back downstairs to ensure the boys are eating and hurry them along getting dressed.
Get on our way to school and work (after a few other steps).

And then…out of nowhere….there she is…filling my thoughts.
The clouds in the sky, the sun hitting the early morning pavement. All of it reminds me of my friend who passed away only a few short months ago.

I think of Wyatt, her son, on his first day of school. He’s in 1st grade…just like my son. His daddy packed a picture of his mom in his backpack to show his friends. He looks just like her.

I smile at the picture of Bradford as she holds her teacher’s hand on her first day of preschool. She’s so beautiful in her blue dress with her blond hair pulled back and backpack on one shoulder.

I want to scream and cry and pound my fists on the ground. When I think of how badly she wanted these precious children and how she went to any lengths to give them life, I want to vomit at my hypocrisy and how nonchalantly I became pregnant even when I didn’t want to be (or so I thought). All that I took for granted and still do. All of it is put into perspective when I think about her.

Elliot passed away on a Monday in May and ever since then I have carried around letters for Wyatt and Bradford. Letters that I intend to send everyday, but never do. Letters that talk about the beautiful person that their mother is and how she not only showed love, but also lived it. Letters that make me weep just thinking about little hands opening them up to read.

Today…I’m not okay. I feel all knotted up inside.
Today, my heart breaks for a young husband aching for his wife and two beautiful children with only memories of their mother.
Today, the world is cold, and its demands relentless.
Today, the sun is hidden by the clouds and I want to close the blinds and stay inside.

I miss my friend and all of the time we didn’t have because of all the time I thought we had.

Posts written while walking through Elliot’s journey:
Girl of little faith…Why do you doubt?
When Cancer is no longer a Stranger
When the monster returns, Thy will be done
A Father’s Love
In the midst of the storm
A Tribute to Elliot
Saying Goodbye
21 Days Later
Finding God on the Farm
Five Minute Friday: Beyond
No more pain
Memorial Fund

As a child of God, we crawl before no one


“We must be entirely honest if we expect to live long or happily in this world.

We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for a lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them…

Love and tolerance of others is our code.

And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone… For by this time sanity will have returned. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we have been placed in a position of neutrality – safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.”

~ Taken from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, page 84-85 ~
AA is a group of individuals from all walks of life, who share the same ism. It is a program to which I owe my life.