Saturday, January 24, 2015

Will They Ever Know?

       In the instant I humbly agreed to take a position back into the working world, my mind raced back to each of my kids. Will they ever understand how much I love them? Will they forget that one teacher who had no idea what she was doing in the south side of Chicago, but chose to stay anyway?Would they ever know how much joy they bring to my heart? Will they remember how much it meant to me to get to know each and every one of them? Will they ever realize that God used them to show me such fearless and unrelenting love? I will never be able to repay them for what they have brought to my heart. God used every smile to brighten my world, every troublemaker to help me learn and value patience, every hug to help hold me together, every story to bring about a new sense of adventure and imagination, and every voice to speak refreshing life into my soul. I pray no one ever turns down the opportunity to meet my tiny humans, they have super powers to change your life in so many ways! 
     I face a week like none other... my last. How I wish I could explain the hole that is already forming in my heart as I prepare to leave a group of people I have grown to love like my own family. I would love to find the words to describe how much it pains me to think that my kids may not understand my situation and think less of me as I leave. And even though it can be beyond crazy around there at times, I am going to miss how God can be found in even the most chaotic moments. No one will ever truly understand (even I don't at times) how life changing this adventure has been for me. The people, the experiences, and those beautiful children have opened my eyes to a world I would have never known if I didn't take the step of faith God asked me to take. He has shown me the value there is in being vulnerable, it allows for others to love you just as you are. He taught me how much courage it takes to stand when others refuse to rise. He explained to great extent what it means to love others just as He loves us, even when it's inconvenient. He shared with me what ministry is all about, and amazingly, it's not about anyone involved at all, but how He uses each and every one of us to bring about His glory.
       What an honor it has been to serve along such amazing women. To see their strength and efforts to support their families and raise their children. I thank God for allowing them the chance to walk through Ms. Pearl's doors. Even if they are not fully prepared for God's plan in their life, God is ready for them and will take the necessary steps to draw them closer. And what better place to meet Him than through the life of one of His most precious creations, Ms. Pearl. I know she is still human, but this woman has been blessed with God's hand upon her life, and does her best to share all she has been given. She extends such grace, discipline, love, and humility to so many who are in need of such attention. I have been truly impacted by her example and convicted to have the faith it takes to live sold out for the cause we have all been called by a God who does everything in His power to move in our lives. Time and time again, Ms. Pearl has reminded me of what a mighty God we serve and how faithful He is when we remain faithful to Him. Oh how I pray to not lose that glorious reminder and be renewed by His redeeming love. A huge shout out to to Pearl Willis for this opportunity, she will never fully comprehend how God has used her in so many lives!
     And I cannot forget my wonderful friends I have made along the way. So many memories that I will hold dear in my heart, and will always keep in that silly journal I wrote in so much over the year. (I know I am a nerd, but I didn't want to forget anything!) You have taught me what it is like living with someone I've never met before or the fun you can have getting to know someone new. You opened doors for my taste buds as I tried so many different foods and shared so many laughs over meals that ran late into the evening. We have shared many random moments, whether awkward or just plain bizarre, we were in it together. You have helped me find humor in the difficult moments and joined in on the laughter as we looked at the craziness our lives contain. Please know you have enriched my life and encouraged my faith, and for that I am forever grateful! 
    And to my precious kids, oh how Ms. Wendy loves you. I'll never forget the first time Ms. Tay Tay left me alone with a room full of you as she went to class. I was terrified you were going to eat me alive, and even though I was left with some battle scars, you all learned to love that crazy girl who thought she could handle you all. I will always remember the day each one of you came to realize that I wouldn't let you get away with just anything anymore. As I looked at your tearful eyes as you went to time out, I also saw that you knew I was serious and would do it again if I had to. You will never know how hard that was for me, or how much joy it brought to my heart as you began to listen to what I had to say and did what I told you. We have been through a lot together, I have seen you grow into some pretty amazing little people. I'm asking God to keep you safe and may you never lose the memory of Ms. Wendy, because she will never forget you and will never stop loving you! (Even when you tell me I can't love you Janiyah! :) )

    To my older kids, you have no idea how nervous the thought of working with you made me. My insecurities told me that you would be too much, I wasn't ready for you, and I would never make a difference. But God is using you to defeat the odds and has completely changed my view. As you are right now, you are more than enough, there is no need to change who you are in order to please others. God knew what He was doing when He created you and designed your life, be patient and He will reveal as He goes along. My heart was far beyond ready for how much I would care about you. Even though Ms. Wendy's face would get all red when I was upset or I made you do some silly game for our bible lesson, I always loved you. I was blown away by the random words of kindness you would let slip out as you let your guard down because deep down I wasn't out to get you. It was so hard to be consistent and not be a push over, but after some time, you may have even realized I was legit. And I can promise you that I was. If I could change anything, I would change the amount of time I had to work with you all. I am so proud of each and every one of you and pray God keeps you close as you journey through life. Remember your memory verses (no matter how dumb the actions are), be nice to each other for you may be all each of you have, and always know that you have someone in your corner willing to fight for you and willing to love you no matter the cost. I pray you never forget the lessons you have learned and one day you truly appreciate what the staff at Roseland Community Good News Daycare has done for you, because I know I won't. 
    And to the readers, thank you for your support. You will never know what it meant to see that someone read my story. I only hope I have encouraged you with my words and have shed some light on how God can use any of us do what seems impossible. I praise Him for your support and thank you for caring about this adventure. May I only encourage you in return, to be bold, be brave, and never fear of the next step God has in store for you. 

Love In Christ,
Ms. Wendy

Monday, December 15, 2014

Strangely Back At Square One

   After the two and half hour drive of over thinking everything, I found myself at the door of the new daycare. A little tired from the lack of sleep from the night before, but ready to hug my kids. Before the door opened, I heard a van pull up behind me and when I turned around, I saw Sherman and Dontrel smiling real big through their van window and I was greeted with a hug from their mother. After such a long wait to see everyone again, I had to hold back the tears as I gratefully embraced each one of them. How it is that God knows just what we need at the exact time we need it!?! I would love to tell you that the rest of the day went just like that, which it did in a way as I saw all the familiar faces that have made their way into my heart. But I was also faced with the task of learning the new schedule for our daycare kids and getting back into the mindset of working with three to five year old children. I won't complain too much about it though, I had my bouncers in the office. Ms. Pearl and Ms. Tay Tay had my back when a few notorious children got out of hand. I am determined to learn their skill of getting instant respect and having authority over every child that comes in that building. Until then, I will continue to do my best to read stories while I have one child running back and forth into walls, another one doing her best to sit as close to the other child to annoy them, or another one so caught up in a conversation with their friend that I am learning what they did over the weekend instead of getting to the ending of "Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea." 

  One of my favorite moments of these past two weeks has to be when I was teaching the boys and girls about the story of Christmas. I'm sure some of the older ones had heard the story before so they were very helpful in yelling out answers, but I can proudly say that my crazy group of kids know that Mary and Joseph were Jesus' parents. Ka'Mya is the first to tell me Jesus was born in a "barn" (Also known as a manger) in Bethlehem (that's right, my kids can say that word). Janiyah proudly tells me an angel appeared before the shepherds and scared the them, but after the "people" (heavenly hosts) came singing 'Glory to God' they went to see baby Jesus. And Jalia is all about telling me about how the three wise men followed the star to see Jesus. They catch on so fast and make everything so much more fun. They have re-taught me to get excited over the little things and the true meaning of Christmas. 
   To add to the fun I've had teaching them, I have also had a blast doing praise and worship with this group of kids. We sing "Every Move I Make," and "I'm Trading My Sorrows" every morning. The first week, they were quiet and shy, but danced along. But this past week, these kids were all about praising Jesus. Ms. Pearl and Ms. Tay Tay came out of their offices a couple of mornings to see what all the noise was about and I wish I could have taken a picture of their faces as they watched these kids give it all up to God. My kids rocked their songs and in return, they got to sing along to the silliest song called, "I Like Bananas," and they got all excited all over again. There are entirely too many perks that come along with working with children; I am incredibly blessed! 

  And I haven't even gotten to my after school kids yet! We finally have a room to ourselves, unlike at the church where we had to share it with the kids and the church. My bookshelves have been generously filled with books, games, school supplies, and love from so many people who have donated more than I expected. We are slowly but surely filling up the room with kids. I have been busy planning, organizing, and doing my best to meet these kids where they're at and let them know how much they mean to me. We finally have an opportunity to make things our own and actually follow the schedule I have planned for them. I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching "new to them" games such as Old Maid and Slap Jack. Never thought we could laugh that much over a silly game, but they do, every time. This week we added two brothers to the class, and after their first day, I know without a doubt, I will have my hands full. They all have so much energy and at the end of the day, I find myself joyously drained of all the energy I had from the morning. Caffeine has become my sidekick and has helped me keep up with all my kids. But even more than that, God has blessed me with the time to work and play with these kids, the strength to face new expectations, the encouragement from friends living this life with me day in and day out, and He has covered me in grace as I continually stumbled along the path laid out for me. I daily thank Him for the opportunity to be used by Him in one of the most unlikely situations to reach out to His children. It is a humbling and rewarding job that I will always be grateful for. 
Waiting for the kids to get here for the Bible lesson
Found this book I brought from my elementary school
Turns out it was my book for a year! Thought that was pretty cool!
      As I think back to this time last year, I was hurrying around, busy visiting people, preparing a budget, savoring my last days with the people I have grown to love and call my own adopted family. I was worried about leaving a place of comfort for the unknown, afraid of venturing out into what God called me to do, not ready to let go of my responsibilities here. And today, I find myself in the very same place; it is almost humorous how God works. Who knew I would feel so comfortable in such an unsafe environment. I would have never thought there would be such a huge part of me that wasn't ready to leave my new family behind. And I didn't think that all the plans I had for when I came back would be thrown out the window and I would anxiously find myself thinking about the unknown that lies ahead of me. I have definitely learned that our lives ultimately belong to our Father and there are times that we have no other choice but to completely trust Him and take that step of faith. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014


     Well, I have had a month to think about today. Little did I know that it would be a month until I made the drive back North. Ms. Pearl had to wait to get approved in a ton of different areas and then waited for what seemed like years for the state to give us the official license for the building. Each week, I tried to enjoy my time home, but in the back of my mind, I was trying not to get too comfortable here at home. I needed to stay mission minded and not get distracted by the luxuries or comforts that I left behind. But with each week, a phone call was either made or received saying that the building wasn't quite ready yet. And with each call, I became more discouraged because I miss my friends and my kids, and I didn't want to waste any of my time during this year. And at the same time, I wanted to be able to fully enjoy the people here at home, which wasn't the easiest while riding the traveler's roller coaster. 
    Fortunately, the license is in hand and the kids are anxiously waiting at the doors of the daycare for today and all I have to do is get in the car and go meet them. However, with each mile I drive towards Chicago, I feel the familiar ache of wanting to be home. With each song on the radio, I think of the time I could be spending working, earning a living again; but then I wouldn't be able to hear the laughter of my kids or fix their pain with a hug or a tickle. With each bag piled in the back seat, I yearn to no longer feel like a nomad and find rest in my own space. But if I'm back home, I miss out on the joys that come from meeting so many new people and making so many precious memories. I think of opportunities that wait for me at home, although new and exciting, none will be able to compare to the opportunity to fully allow God to use me in the most unlikely community. I will miss the lessons I learn on a daily basis of what it truly means to follow God and trust Him in every circumstance. Back home, it is so easy to take advantage of the power of Jesus instead of giving Him room to move in His mighty way. Every smile, laugh, and joke shared with kids, young and old, now bring bittersweet tears and cause my mind to wonder how I will ever be able to say my final goodbyes. 
   A friend of mine told me that I only have eight weeks left on this adventure. With that came encouragement that I could finish strong, but then a wave of sadness swept over me at the thought that I will have to leave my new found favorite people. So here I go, trying to make the very best of whatever happens in the next two months. Pray for strength, patience, and for enough tissues to dry the tears that are falling entirely too easily. I can't believe the end is almost in sight and can't thank God enough for everything He has brought me through! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Mother's Heart

    As I anxiously awaited their arrival at church a couple weeks ago, I couldn't help but think of how excited I was for my kids to come and see Ms. Wendy's friends. But I also couldn't wait to spend some time with the moms outside of work and to enjoy a fun day being our silly selves and to do something they don't always get to do at home... relax! I am so incredibly thankful that my church family had the opportunity to meet my Chicago family! It warmed my heart to see everyone preparing for their arrival and the smiles that God brought to their faces while they served! After a missing bus in the morning, and a four and half hour caravan drive and a few missed turns, they arrived! The kids of course had their endless supply of energy and were ready for an adventure when they saw the church. But I could see the stress the drive took on the adults and I could only pray that God blessed the hearts of each mother as the day went on. As lunch was served, smiles returned and liveliness filled them again, and they were just as ready for the next adventure as the kids. So much laughter could be heard from everyone as we walked through the pumpkin patch and as the kids chased each other with pumpkin blossoms. 

Future BFF's!

Pumpkin Patch Lesson

And who could keep from laughing as we all made the mistake of following Tajhma in the corn maze and found ourselves completely lost but having so much fun together. After some gymnastics training on the blow up mat, we all piled in our cars to head back to the church for some good ol' central Illinois Trunk or Treating. 
Just as silly as her kids! Love this lady!

Why are we following Tajhma?!?!
Since we're lost, let's take a selfie!
Love this picture!

Tackled with giggles!
Brodie is this kid's new hero!

Costumes were tried on, empty candy bags were passed out, adorable pictures were taken, and then some serious fun was had by all. Shortly after the festivities started, we noticed some kids were missing. I know, every mother's worst nightmare, especially Ms. Pearl's! Phone calls were made that sent us straight to voicemail and minds began to worry and race with possibilities. Ms. Pearl and I set out to find the mom and children while the others enjoyed the hot dog roast and "Smore"gasbord. Thankfully we found her, in a completely different town, but we found her and got the kids back in time to get some pretty awesome pictures taken and bags filled with treats.

Right down the middle Ms. Pearl

There she goes....
Her victory move!

 I tearfully sent them home, missing them more than I expected, realizing how important all of them are to me, and praising God for blessing my life with each person. They will never understand just how much getting to spend time with them means to me. When I got back the next week, the kids were smiling ear to ear asking when they could come back to my church and dress up. Kenya is all ready to just come back on her own to hang out and have fun. And when I spoke with the moms, I could see the fun they had as they thought about their laughs and stories they shared. Despite how exhausted they were, I believe they truly enjoyed themselves, which made my heart super happy. 
   And then last Saturday, we celebrated our Grand Opening of the new building!! I can't begin to tell you how surreal it was to see all the people involved, and what a production it was. Serenaded by a couple of angels, Jamel and Audrey Lewis blessed us with beautiful songs, giving God all the glory for how great He is. There was a praise dance that brought many to tears, reminding us all of how faithful God has been not only in this project, but in our lives as well. The smile on Ms. Pearl's face was priceless. God had pulled through for her yet again, and reassured her that He was not done with Roseland. It was encouraging and overwhelming to think that all the construction craziness was over with, and now we could focus fully on the families attending the daycare. And no block party could be complete without a flash mob dance. So before everyone headed in to see the building, a few of the moms, a handful of kids, some new friends of ours, and myself all joined in the praise dance that was choreographed to "Every Praise" by Hezekiah Walker. Despite how cold it was, everyone had a smile on their face and joy in their heart. There is no denying God's hand upon this project and the future of this daycare! 

Praise Dance
"Every Praise"
It's officially a party!
Have learned so much from this woman!
This will eventually be my room!

   I guess where I'm going with all of this is that none of this wouldn't have happened if it weren't the heart of a mother. If Ms. Pearl had never been changed by God, if she had never listened to His calling, or followed His leading, this daycare wouldn't even be here. I look at the lives it has impacted. To some it offers hope for some women who can't see a way out, it provides support as they carry the load of motherhood and schooling, it offers safety and stability in the midst of the chaos they experience, and it prepares them to live their lives sold out for the God who created them for far more than they could ever imagine.  And there is another mother's heart that made this experience in my life possible. I think of my own under-appreciated, hard working, loving, generous, remarkable mother and can't help but thank God for placing her in my life. Living in Chicago has made me think of all she went through trying to support me after leaving an abusive relationship. I admire her strength, long to have that kind of courage, and I commend her for the life she made for herself. I find myself thanking God for watching out for her, for surrounding her with just the right people to support her, and for bringing her through one of life's darkest times to experience the joy He had in store for her. I see her in the women around me, I sense the energy it drained her of to keep going, I sense the forced smile hiding the tears, and I can see the broken pieces being delicately held together. In the most unlikely characters, I have learned so much about what mothers experience while the children are at play. I have come to a new understanding and greater appreciation for all the mothers in my life and all they selflessly do for those they love. I praise God for the strength, courage, determination, diligence, humility, faith, and love I have seen in the moms around me. To all of them in Chicago and back home, thank you for all you do! You do not go unseen, your efforts are not in vain, and I appreciate all you do! You have all given me just a taste of the lengths God would go to show His love for His children. You are more of an example than you give yourself credit for! I love you!