Monday, November 30, 2009

Tomorrow Marks Two Weeks For "Project Darya"!

We had a wonderful weekend. Thanks to all our "new friends" who stopped by to add to the "Darya Project" money. We LOVED meeting you all and are thankful you took the time to come by in person. So far, in only two weeks, we are hovering just around the $30,000.00 mark. I still can hardly believe it; in fact, I laugh constantly when I look at Lydia with her big ole' grin.

I think we are going to go ahead and send out a "test balloon" with the "$100 for 200 in 2010" project. "Why Not", asks Lydia. And she is right. Why not? The key, however, is for people to give whatever they can. While the goal is to have 200 donors who agree to give $100.00 a month during 2010, the beautiful part of the "Darya Project" has been how many people were a part of it through donations of $10.00, $25.00, etc......Last count, every single state was accounted for in donations, 4 countries, and over 300 people. That is astounding.

So, if you want to be a part of "$100 for 200 in 2010" , send me your home address and your monthly pledge via email (, and I will put you on the list. If we have enough interest to move forward, each month, you can send a check to us through the mail, use the paypal button on the Reece's Rainbow site, or use the paypal button on our blog to make your donation (all will be tax-deductible donations). In turn, we will let you know which child we are sponsoring for the month, and you can post his/her picture in your home. By the end of the year, if it all works out, twelve orphans with special needs will have a home. Wow!

I REALLY think this will be a fun project for teens and even children to get involved in too! A resounding theme through this experience has been kids get involved when they know another child is in need....and seeing a face with a name makes an even greater impact.

Maybe two or three can form a group in order to make sure they earn whatever their target is for the month.....bake sales, babysitting, lemonade stands, raking leaves, etc. AND what a tremendous result everyone who participates will obtain from their donations....seeing a child's life literally saved. The work involved in the "$100 for 200 in 2010" project will be well worth the effort when each family sees the pictures of the sponsored children with their new "forever families" home, safe and sound because of them.

If we receive a good response within the next couple of weeks, we will know the Lord wants us to move, don't delay if you want to be involved. If not, we will still keep everyone updated on our progress with Darya. Again, thank you all so much!

Tomorrow will be another bake sale for our kiddos....they are raising money for another family now.

I think it goes without saying, but just in case: Our family will not take even one penny from the money that is donated. Every single cent will go to help orphans with special needs through

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It is Official!

If you go to and look at their waiting children, you won't find little Darya's picture anymore; she has been moved to the "New Commitments" page under the "support an adoptive family" part of the site. Also, if you check out their blog: , you'll find a sweet article written about Lydia's fundraising story on Friday, November 27th.

We are thrilled and already picking out things for our new baby girl. You KNOW Lydia has already got a list for everything she will need. Wow, the difference a few days can make!

Yes, money is still coming in. I know, amazing.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Money Continued To Come In Today!

This was left at our door today along with a container full of dollars and change for the "Darya Project". These precious girls set up a "Hot Chocolate and Pie" stand this morning to raise money. As it turns out, one of them was adopted from Guatemala when she was one year old, and she is the one who spear-headed the effort. All together, they brought over $125.00 to our house.....isn't that great???

The more I have thought about the "$100 for 200" (or as some have suggested, "$50 for 400") ministry idea, I have started to lean toward allowing Lydia to lead it (she certainly wants to).....and welcoming young people to join in and get involved to make the commitment for 2010. Wouldn't it be awesome to see our youth babysitting, doing bake sales, chores around the house, lemonade stands, raking leaves, etc. in order to send in $50.00 a month to save an orphan?? They could see the picture of the child, even post it on their fridge at home, and know their hard work is going to literally save a life. At the end of 2010, they would have the incredible blessing of knowing TWELVE ORPHANS with special needs were saved because of their efforts....literally, our youth becoming the hands and feet of Christ. What a life lesson, don't you think?

So, if you have any thoughts, suggestions, ideas.....let us know. Maybe as a big group, we can all commit to being crazy in love for those Jesus called: "the least of these". We can't save the world, but together, we can save the worlds of twelve lives next year. Maybe it is possible.

"Whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done it for Me."

Friday, November 27, 2009

$28,500.00 And Still Counting!

You would think once Lydia announced she had raised OVER her $20,000.00 goal, people would stop giving and just celebrate. At least, in my human nature, that's what I thought.


Since yesterday, $2,000.00 more dollars have come in. I am blown away by the generosity. When families learned that Lydia is now raising money to help another family adopt a little one who has Down Syndrome in Eastern Europe, they jumped in and have joined her. Amazing. Well, it is just a miracle, don't you think?

Can you believe it has been suggested several times that Lydia start a ministry called:

"100 FOR 200"

WHAT? An eleven year old leading a ministry effort? I am hesitant to say I doubt anything anymore, so I'll be careful not to voice my doubts and fears.

The ministry would be to gather 200 believers who will commit to donating $100.00 each month through 2010 in order to fund 12 special needs adoptions and save 12 orphans. Lydia would provide a picture of the child each month, details that are known about the child, and fund the adoption. Sounds simple? Yes, unless you are the mother of the daughter who is on a path to save the world. I keep thinking to myself: "she is only eleven."

So, stay tuned and let's see what God is going to do. Lydia keeps saying: "With God, nothing is impossible". All smiles....continuing to skip through the house with Hope in tow right behind her.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Miracle

Here is Lydia's interview.....she did GREAT!!

We want to thank all 300+ individuals who have participated in the "Darya Project". From Mr. Tim's Candy Canes to all those who brought their cars through the car wash.....from Ondrea's photo shoot to all those who purchased the bake sale goodies.....from the Poppy Dip Dress sale to Stephanie's dirt and lace design donation....from the 147 million orphan tshirt contribution to the free haircuts offered by Angie at Great Clips.....from almost every state in our great country....from several who are serving in our armed forces.....and from four countries abroad.....each of you are a part of this Thanksgiving Miracle.

Donations have still been coming in this morning, so Mr. Tim, the Candy Cane Maker, wants to contribute his handmade candy canes to be put in your yard to commemorate Darya's Thanksgiving Miracle for the next 10 donations of $25.00 or more who live in our area (They are too big and too heavy to ship--sorry). You can pick them up at our house.

We have already raised money for Darya, and now, all additional gifts will go to the Hook family for their adoption of a child with Down Syndrome through Reece's Rainbow. Just like the fishes and the loaves, God multiplies, and His arms are far reaching beyond our comprehension. I believe in His excitement in seeing all of the generous giving, God was anxious to provide for another family's adoption too. Through you.

So today, in an orphanage far away, a little girl with big brown eyes who is never spoken to....never held....will get a visitor. The visitor will walk to the lonely crib that is tucked in a corner and say: "Darya, your family is coming to get you real soon."

Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I logged off my computer at 5:30pm and didn't check it again until 11pm. Here is the latest:

Most of you know by now, our family decided three years ago to forgo giving presents to one another during the holidays. Instead, we reach out and raise money for orphan ministries.

We just finished going through the book, "Crazy Love" by Frances Chan with our kids and decided this year, we wanted to be CRAZY for Jesus! He is so crazy about us, we wanted to share His love with everyone throughout the year, but especially during November and December.

Lydia took "CRAZY" to a whole new level, however, when she approached me (while her dad was on a mission trip in Africa) and asked if she raised $20,000.00 before Thanksgiving, could we adopt a little orphan girl, Darya, who has Down Syndrome in Eastern Europe. (A friend of ours adopted a little boy from the same orphanage and reported that Darya gets no attention at one speaks to her or holds her.)

THAT WAS 8 DAYS AGO! Being a sensible 41 year old, I told Lydia she would never be able to raise $20,000.00 in 8 days.....she is only eleven. She didn't hear me. Instead, she asked again, "But if I do raise the money, will you adopt her?" I responded yes, if she raised that much money in 8 days, we would know God is in it and would travel to adopt Darya!

Tonight, I would like to report that Miss Lydia has raised $26,550.00 and the donations are still coming in. It just so happens, we have good friends who have been planning to adopt a little one with Down Syndrome through Reece's Rainbow, but lack of funds has delayed them. Not anymore, everything above $20,000.00 goes to them.

So, friends, you have been a part of a double Thanksgiving Miracle. Not only will Darya have a home ....but through your gifts, another little angel will be given hope for a family tomorrow too! God is so great, isn't He?

Lydia will be on the local Fox Morning Show tomorrow at 6:45am. I will try my very best to post it to the blog, because I know so many want to see it.

"Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say REJOICE!" Phil. 4:4

We Are Still Counting....Will Give A Grand Total At Midnight!!!

This was left in our mailbox today.....Isn't it beautiful to see "who" God is picking to be a part of Darya's journey home. This is truly a Thanksgiving Miracle!!!

$13,000.00...Still Counting On A Thanksgiving Day Miracle!

I heard from our local Fox News affiliate this morning, and Lydia is still on at 6:45am in the morning to announce her earnings for "Project Darya". What a perfect way to finish this race strong.

"Joy comes from seeing the complete fulfillment of the specific purpose for which I was created and born again, not from successfully doing something of my own choosing......Have you received a ministry from the Lord? If so, you must be faithful to it---to consider your life valuable only for the purpose of fulfilling that ministry. Knowing that you have done what Jesus sent you to do, think how satisfying it will be to hear Him say to you: "Well done, good and faithful servant." We each have to find a niche in life, and spiritually we find it when we receive a ministry from the Lord. To do this we must have close relationship with Jesus and must know Him as more than our Personal Savior. And we must be willing to experience the full impact of Acts 9:15----"I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."

"Do you love Me?" Then, "Feed My sheep" (John 21:17) He is not offering us a choice of how we can serve Him; He is asking for absolute loyalty to His commission, a faithfulness to what we discern when we are in the closest possible fellowship with God. If you have received a ministry from the Lord Jesus, you will know that the need is not the same as the call---the need is the opportunity to exercise the call. The call is to be faithful to the ministry you received when you were in true fellowship with Him." (Oswald Chambers)

In 2001, we adopted Natalie Grace from Russia. James 1:27 says we are to care for widows and orphans, so after learning there were many orphans in Russia, we decided to rescue one. We had no idea how God was going to use it for His Glory.

In 2005, we found out we were expecting little Hope. During my 16th week of pregnancy, we learned she would have Down Syndrome, a heart defect, and a stomach defect. Expecting a broken child......we had no idea how God could use it for His Glory.

Last year, we adopted little red-headed Charlie who has Down Syndrome....and now it looks like we are on our way around the world to adopt another with Down Syndrome. Finally, we see with clarity, this is God's ministry for our lives, and we are completely humbled by it. I even cry as I type this. The Creator of the world set this call before us.

It didn't happen over night....the Lord has had us on a race that began with Natalie's adoption in 2001.....a race blocked with many hurdles to overcome: Natalie's struggle with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Hope's three open heart surgeries. However, Chappy and I now see He took us through the suffering to draw us closer to Him, so we could hear him better.

I just want to say, "Lord, I hear you. Thank you for calling us....thank you for taking us through times of suffering and heartache. We are thrilled to share Your glory with so many others through the incredible outpouring we have received on Darya's behalf. May your name be lifted high, and through this, may many shout and praise Your Holy Name!"

"None of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus." Acts 20:24

P.S. Ondrea, thanks for reminding me of Finland....Barb, thank you for your donation. Since it went straight to Reece's Rainbow, I didn't account for it here at home. And Arizona, you know who you are, I should get your donation in the mail sometime today I expect. Still looking for it. Thank you both!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

$11,500.00 and still counting!

Lydia, Caleb, Natalie, and some neighborhood friends painted candy canes from 1pm until 6:30pm today. WOW! For those who don't know the story, a neighbor has cut out and sanded candy canes for families to put in their yards to show they are donating to the Darya Project. Awesome idea??? I think so too. Many hours of time and effort for a little orphan with Down Syndrome. Only God can do stuff like this.
Lydia's deadline is drawing near. You think she is getting concerned? As I am typing, she is in the foyer playing chase with Hope. Hope is squealing with delight. Nope, no worries. Lydia is still "faithing".
I thought it might interest you to know where the donations have come for fun, here goes:
FL ...Florida
NY...New York
SC...South Carolina
NH...New Hampshire
NJ...New Jersey
NC...North Carolina
NM...New Mexico
Washington, DC
British Columbia Canada
(Forgive me if I left anyone out!)
If you are counting, half the states in our country have been represented in the Darya Project!!! 117 people have given....add that to the kids at school who bought the baked goods, the neighbors who bought baked goods, and the 20+ who came to the car wash.....200 people have given something to bring Darya home.
Today we received a $10.00 donation from a college student who doesn't have a job but wanted to give all she had on hand to give.........another family gave $500.00. A HUGE difference between the two gifts in the world's eyes, but not in God's eyes. Both gave what they could from hearts that are full of love and hope. Both gifts are needed to reach the $20,000.00 goal.....and both givers were selected by God. He is the One who is prompting the outpouring....even the unexplainable love for Darya is coming from Him. Does that stop you in your tracks? It does me.
Only eight days ago, she was a forgotten child. Today her name has been spoken by thousands. In twelve hours today, we had 2,000 hits to our blog. THIS IS CRAZY LOVE!!! The Darya Project makes no sense to a society that is often plagued by the "What Can You Do For Me Disease", but it makes perfect sense to our heavenly Father and to those who belong to Him. And through acts like this, maybe the world will be saved. That is my prayer....I know it is yours too.
"Let your light shine before men , that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Donations Just Passed $10,000.00....Can You Believe It???

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lydia Update....Hi Everyone!!!

It touches my heart to know that so many people, even people from other countries, have taken time out of their day to mail a donation or drive to my house to tape money to our door. You can't even imagine how much that means to me. Then, if you stop to think how much it means to Darya, it makes me want to cry.

I believe God sends Angels to tell Darya that so many people love her as much as I already do, so at night she can sleep not feeling alone.

Tomorrow is another big day, and yes, we have had alot of big days lately. In 7 days, we have had a car wash, three bake sales, and a Christmas Picture day (thanks Mrs. Ondrea). Now, a man in our neighborhood has made candy cane yard art out of wood. He cut them and sanded them for me to sell. Tomorrow, my brother and sister and some friends are going to his garage to paint them and then take them door to door to sell in our neighborhood. So far he has made twelve.

Think about what it will look like if our neighborhood is full of candy canes. A candy cane for Darya. I think it is a great idea. Each time we look at them, we will think of her, and so will everyone else in our neighborhood.

Our total right now is $7,021.00. Wow! We are really going to reach $20,000.00. I can't wait! Some people are calling the Darya Project a Thanksgiving Miracle, and that is exactly what it is. I used to think that no one cared about kids with Down Syndrome, and that made me sad, because I love Hope and Charlie (my sister and brother) so very much. But now, I am beginning to see that people really do care. Isn't it wonderful? There is nothing sweeter or happier than a little child with Down Syndrome.

We only need $13,000.00 more dollars. If 130 people would give $100.00 we would have everything saved up.

I love all of you and am so thankful!
Lydia Kaye Hollis

Lydia's Total

As of 12pm today, the total raised is: $5,556.00. Not bad for an eleven year old who started raising money last Tuesday.

Next post will be 9pm tonight for an update. PayPal has been busy for the "Darya Project" today. Thank you for all of your donations!

I am going to let Miss Lydia post tonight. I think you all will "hear" the excitement through her post.

Blessings Galore!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chappy Is Home From Africa!!!

Not a long post this evening.....if you had been away from your husband for two weeks, would you spend time on the computer???

I will be giving Lydia's total tomorrow after I check the mail, so check back. We still have a loooong way to go to reach $20,000.00 by Thanksgiving. It is a huge amount to earn in only 9 days, however since Lydia ingeniously broke it down to 200 people giving $100.00, it still seems possible. She keeps reminding me of the millions who live around the world and says we only need 200 people to step up.

Today, we had 600 hits on the blog----which means the word is spreading. I know God is working on hearts and bringing all who are supposed to be a part of this mission together. You might not be able to give financially, but you could be the voice that carries Lydia's plea to someone else who can give. And every person can pray. I hope you own this project, because each person visiting our blog has become a part of it. The Father has brought us together from all over to rescue one of His who had been forgotten by the world.....but never forgotten by Him. Can you picture Him looking all over the world and picking each of us out to be a part of Darya's life??? Indeed, we are privileged. I'm so excited to be a part of it, aren't you???

"But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish." Psalm 9:18

P.S. By the way, I appreciate all who pushed me to do PayPal. I am a slow learner, but you were right, it does make it easier for people to donate. We had 7 PayPal donations today. Praise the Lord!!

I've Shut Satan's Trap (for those not in the South, trap means mouth)

Amazing what a good night's sleep can do! I awoke this morning with a fresh outlook and told satan to "shut his trap". So, if you didn't read my post last night, don't. If you did, just understand that faith is a process. I am human, and I give into doubt and fear sometimes.

The answer: Whatever the Lord calls our family to do, we will do. Adopt Darya? Of course....Adopt Nadine too? Maybe. How about Vivienne with the heart issue?....if He asks us to, yes.

What I know for certain at this point is God's plan is for us to adopt Darya. I have never questioned that part of the plan.....the question that was nagging me all day yesterday was whether we are to bring home one or two more children with Down Syndrome when we are in Eastern Europe. And when I started mulling that over in my mind, Enemy jumped on me and wrestled me to the ground. It was awful.

So, to sum up, I went to bed in prayer and awoke this morning with energy and assurance. God will tell Chappy and me in His time who He has chosen for us.....just Darya? maybe. a couple more? maybe.

And if He calls us, He will equip us too. Waahooo!!!! (That is a literal, out-loud shout of Glory!)

Ondrea comes to our house today to take Christmas photos for a $25.00 donation. I truly hope 100 families show up. It would be alot of fun!

200 people to give $ is NOT too much!!! It has to happen by Thanksgiving for little Lydia! If you aren't able to give, maybe you could pass the word to someone else who can. Let's do this! If God has called us to it, it must be accomplished!!!! And I know He has called Lydia to this task!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Can I Be Real With You???

The flow of money slowed significantly today. Maybe because it is Saturday. Lydia's skip to the mailbox continued, however, throughout the day. Her smile is still bright , although I know she noticed. She never commented on it.

I'm feeling very contemplative this evening. I've spent much of the day in quiet conversation with the Lord:

"Father, help us help Darya."
"Are You planning to provide $20,000.00 by Thanksgiving, because we still have a long way to go."
"By the way, how many orphans do You want us to take into our home?"
"What if one of them struggles with ongoing health issues like Hope has?"
"Do You think I could handle that?"
"What would our future look like with a house full of special needs kids?"
"I absolutely believe with all of my heart that every child deserves a family...especially the special ones."
"What would I do for You?....anything, Lord."
"No, Father, I can't bear to allow myself to think of Hope or Charlie being sentenced to life in a crib with no human touch or love."
"If I could only see the future, I would follow You without hesitation."
"Why didn't you make faith easier?"
"If Lydia earns the $20,000.00 by Thanksgiving, that will be a sign."
"I'm sorry for asking for a sign."
"I know what You are asking of me....others don't know yet, but I do."
" is my choice...really....up to me?"








"I can do ALL THINGS through Christ, who gives me strength!"

Friday, November 20, 2009

Answering Your Questions....

I have had a flood of questions today, and I am going to try to answer them here.

First, your gift to Reece's Rainbow is a tax-deductible gift.

Second, if you email me, I will send you my home address where you can mail a check made payable to Reece's Rainbow.

Third, I have set up a paypal account, so you can put a donation on your credit card! Check out the sidebar for the Donate to the Darya Project button!

Last, PLEASE feel free to share Lydia's project with everyone you know. We are honored that so many are passing the word to family, friends, and churches. Thank you!

Today has been another day of donations flowing into the Hollis home like a flood. Again, I am amazed. A fifteen year old boy baked 71 muffins and sold them to earn $135.00 to give to Darya today. A student from a local private school asked her parents to drive her to our house so she could give Lydia all of her savings this evening in person, $40.00. And when we awoke this morning, $200.00 was taped to our door. Unbelieveable? Yes. Crazy Love? Definitely!

This morning, the local Fox News Channel called to request a live interview on Thanksgiving morning for Lydia to publicly announce her earnings. THAT will be a big day for her.....only 5 days away.

Imagine Lydia, eleven years old, marching into that live interview to tell all of Middle Tennessee that people (mostly strangers) have donated $20,000.00 to save an orphan with Down Syndrome who lives in another country in only 9 short days. I think people would be in total shock. But Lydia wouldn't be surprised in the least. Excited, yes. Surprised, no. She is totally expecting to receive all of it by Thanksgiving just as she has prayed. I know I wrote that detail yesterday, but I want to make sure it is sinking in. The child REALLY, TRULY believes with all of her heart that God is going to provide this money by Thanksgiving morning for Darya.

In Lydia's mind, she has already pictured the following scene and has played it out in her mind a hundred times:

It is early Thanksgiving morning. The orphanage workers are getting ready for their usual routine....changing diapers, feeding babies, and mopping floors. However, the routine of the day is broken by a phone call from America. The news comes that a little orphan has a family coming to get her. The worker has to be told two or three times exactly WHICH baby, because she can't believe an American family would want the little one with Down Syndrome who is in the corner crib. Finally, she realizes yes, it is Darya this family has chosen. The worker hangs up the phone, and following the instructions she has just received, she walks over to the crib, looks down into big brown eyes and says: "Happy Thanksgiving, Darya, you have a family now.....and they are coming to get you real soon."

Do you sense my doubt? Is it because I am cynical? Is it because I have lived for 41 years and have more wisdom and experience than my eleven year old daughter? OR is it because I lack her faith?

I am on the Lydia bandwagon like many of you. Part of me really wants to see God do something THIS BIG!!! I wonder what this would do for Lydia's ask God for $20,000.00 to save an orphan by Thanksgiving.....and then to receive. I wonder what this would do for your faith and for my faith.

Father, show us Your glory. Give us a Thanksgiving miracle so we can all rejoice and proclaim Your marvelous love for "the least of these"....for Darya, Your precious little girl. I believe.....forgive my unbelief. I praise You, Lord!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


There has been so much money flowing into our home for Sweet Darya that we haven't even stopped to count it all. Overwhelmed, that is what we are. We heard from our local Fox News station this morning; they want Lydia to appear on Thanksgiving morning to talk about her story. Again, overwhelmed. Would you be surprised if I told you children were sending their allowance money? We received a bag of change today. Would you be surprised to learn a twelve year old girl gave Darya $100.00 of her babysitting money? She did....with a bright smile on her face. How about if I told you an elderly lady walked slowly and carefully all the way up our driveway and sidewalk because she wanted to hand us $100.00 and say "May God Bless Your Efforts" personally? It happened.

Do these stories bless you? Then you can imagine how we, the recipients, feel. I have decided to wait and give a running total on Monday. Until then, we will wait and watch with anticipation. I am beginning to feel like Lydia is feeling.....God is doing something through the life of Darya. She may be stuck in a crib all day without any attention from the orphanage workers, but I have a hunch the King of Kings has been speaking to her about what is going on here.

He shows up in the most unlikely places, doesn't He? In Bethlehem tucked into a lowly manger surrounded by homeless shepherds, having a meal with tax collectors who were considered cheats, healing the demon-possessed and diseased no one else would touch, and hanging on an old wooden cross......always bringing the gift of hope to the hopeless.

Darya is one of the hopeless, and He is using many to bring hope to her. Can you feel His presence? He is bringing hope to us too. Have you stopped to fathom that you are a playing a part in saving the life of one who has been left behind....unwanted....forgotten? Can you grasp that He already knew ahead of time you would give? When we received the bag of change today from the two little boys who gave their savings, I knew Lydia would raise the $20,000.00. That money is going to come, and God has already accounted for every penny. The bag of change is part of His plan and is needed just as much as the $100.00 checks. When God starts using children, I have learned He is getting ready to show up BIG!

I quoted from Oswald Chambers a couple of days ago, and if you'll indulge me, I want to quote from him again. In a sermon about my favorite disciple, Peter, jumping out of the boat and walking on water when he saw Jesus, Oswald Chambers writes:

"If you debate for even one second when God has spoken, it is all over for you. Never start to say, "Well, I wonder if He really did speak to me?" Be reckless immediately---totally unrestrained and willing to risk everything---by casting your all upon Him. You do not know when His voice will come to you, but whenever the realization of God comes, even in the faintest way imaginable, be determined to recklessly abandon yourself, surrendering everything to Him. It is only through abandonment of yourself and your circumstances that you will recognize Him."

Two days ago, Lydia came to me and said: "Darya needs a family, mom. We can be her family." I immediately thought of one of my favorite verses: Proverbs 24:12 "Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know and holds us responsible to act." So, the realization of God comes.....and Lydia recklessly abandons herself to Him. And He is meeting her there.

At eleven, Lydia doesn't fully conceive the enormity of $20,000.00. In her innocence, she only sees that God is looking for a willing family....and then, He will do the rest. As she skips out to the mailbox every 30 minutes to see if another family has left a check for Darya, I marvel. Most of the time she comes back empty-handed, but when she comes back with a check in her hand, she shouts: "I told you so, Mom!" I can't help but laugh out loud. And cry. I have to admit, every time I see a car stop at our mailbox, I put my head down and cry out loud. Overwhelmed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's Lydia Again and I Have Something GREAT to Say!

GOD IS SO AMAZING!!! Just tonight when I was doing my homework, I had to find two Bible verses that talk about facing challenges. One of the verses I chose talks about how having faith like a mustard seed can move mountains. Get ready for this, today I raised $800.00 for Darya. In one day!!! I am so thankful that people are willing to give so much of their money to Darya and love her with me.

Can you believe that no one has ever thought about Darya for her entire life, and today, many many people learned her name, prayed for her, and gave money for her to be saved? She has gone from being all alone and forgotten to being surrounded by prayer. The other verse I chose tonight for my homework was Psalm 91:4 where it talks about God covering us with His feathers and protecting us under His wings. When I read the verse I realized God is covering Darya too.

My day was mostly great, but I did meet a lady today who made me frustrated. She heard I was raising money for Darya and asked how much it would cost to adopt her. When I told her $20,000.00 she acted shocked. Then she asked when I hoped to have all of the money. I told her Thanksgiving and she laughed and kind of rolled her eyes. She didn't give one penny for Darya. I could tell she thought raising the money would be impossible for me. For a minute I thought I should have made my deadline Christmas instead, but then I realized that I should not feel doubt inside but I needed to keep believing. If God can move mountains when we have faith, then $20,000.00 by next week shouldn't be that big of a deal. I really want Darya to be told "Happy Thanksgiving, you have a family coming to get you."

Tomorrow is another bake sale at school. My mom and I baked three pumpkin pies and made more "Muddy Buddy" mix for me to sell. We bought whipped cream to put on top of the pies, so I think my school friends will go for it. I hope so.

I think God is doing something big in my life right now. I can feel Him and I feel lifted up and happy. I am so glad we decided to do the Crazy Love Project. I really hope I will have $20,000.00 by Thanksgiving. I am so excited!!! Yipee!!! Dad, I love you. Only 4 more days until you are home again. What are you going to do if I have raised $20,000.00 by the time you get home? That would be so funny.
"Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If you have faith, and doubt not, you shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and be cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive." Matt. 21:21-22

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hi Blogger World.....It's Lydia!

The following post has been dictated by Miss Lydia (eleven going on twenty) and typed by the faster typist, Mom (who is probably going to be in trouble after Dad reads this):

I am so excited because I finally get the opportunity to tell everyone about the crazy love I have for God. First I want to say Hope and Charlie bring more joy and happiness to my life than you can imagine. I have heard laughing makes you live longer, so I will probably live to be 200 because Hope and Charlie crack me up every day. I also want to announce that we made $30.00 at our bake sale today. The Muddy Buddies were everyone's favorite. We sold out and could've sold more. We are going to do another bake sale on Thursday and I think we might make pumpkin pies. Yummy.
I love music. I play the acoustic guitar, violin, and bass guitar. I have written 8 songs and I sing. Someday I want to use my gifts to create my own music therapy for people with Down Syndrome, and I also want to use my music to tell others about how wonderful people with special needs are. This is the special calling God has for my life.
For the next four weeks, my mom challenged us to show crazy love for God by helping others, even if every one else thought we were out of our minds. Of course all of the kids wanted to do something to help orphans who have Down Syndrome....especially me. So we are washing cars, baking cookies, and babysitting to raise money. Today we were driving into the neighborhood and I looked at all of the beautiful houses and said: "If every single house gave some money for Darya, we could have enough money raised for her to get adopted."
When we got home, mom told us to come look at an email we had received from Mrs. Amy. Mrs. Amy is a friend that adopted a little boy from Reece's Rainbow last year. She had checked out our blog and saw we are raising money for Darya and it made her cry. Her email said she met Darya when she was at the orphanage in the Ukraine to get Micah. We never knew that. She said Darya was in a crib, no one ever spoke to her, no one took her out to hold her, and she was left alone by herself all day long. Mrs. Amy said she needs a home very fast.
Her email upset me a lot. My heart has been set on Nadine on the Reece's Rainbow site, and I pray for Nadine and Darya all of the time. But now it seems to me like Darya needs a family right away and might need a family more than Nadine. (I wish we could adopt Nadine and Darya). Mrs. Amy sent us a video that she took of Darya when she was there, and Darya looked so sad. I thought, what if that was Hope or Charlie stuck in a crib all day with no one to play with. I can't even stand to think about it.
So I asked my mom if I raised $20,000.00 could we go get Darya ourselves and be her family. My mom said yes, if I raised that much money she would know it was from God, but she said she didn't think I could do it because that is a whole lot of money. I told her I was going to try my best and nothing is impossible with God. Then she said if I raise $20,000.00 we could even adopt two kids from Reece's Rainbow, and we would try to make the other one Nadine. Now I probably won't even sleep because I am so excited!
Tonight, Caleb, Natalie and I made 200 flyers to tape on every mailbox in our neighborhood. We are going to set the alarm and get up very early to tape them on everyone's mailboxes. My flyer explains about Darya and asks the neighbors to give just $100.00 to save her life. Caleb and I figured out if every house would donate $100.00, we would have enough money. This is my crazy love. I want to save a little girl that no one else wants. I am asking God for a miracle, and I want him to do it before Thanksgiving so she can get the news that she will be getting a family soon. I know I am most thankful for my family.
Mom, Caleb, Natalie and I went to a party last week. Everything at the party was sold to support adoptions. One lady, Mrs. Sallee, makes the cutest dresses you have ever seen and calls them Poppy Dips. We bought one for Hope. I love the dresses because she finds really cool retro fabric. She is making the dresses to help raise money for her third adoption from Africa. She emailed us today and has donated three of her dresses to help Darya. Her button is on our blog now, so if you want to buy one of these dresses for $25.00, just email her and tell her you are buying it to help Darya. It will help!
Mrs. Ondrea is coming over to our house on Sunday to take pictures of anyone who wants to show up to have a Christmas picture made to send out to family and friends. She is a great photographer and I hope 100 people show up. It costs $25.00 to get 4 pictures and all of the money will go to Darya. My mom is giving alot of her money from Hope's book away to help Darya too. Lots of people are helping.
You might think I am crazy, and if you do, then I am doing my job. Dad, if you are reading this, I miss you and cannot wait to see you when you get home from Africa. I still can't believe you looked out your window and saw a rhino and elephants. I love you so so much. I guess this whole Darya thing is a surprise to you but mom promised if I raise $20,000.00 myself then that would be a sign from God. I'm crazy you know. Ha! Ha!
Thank you to every single person who helps Darya get adopted.

Crazy Love....continues

We are still in high gear raising money for Reece's Rainbow and thinking of other ways we can demonstrate God's love to others. Today, the kids and I baked 5 dozen cookies and mixed 15 bags of "Chex Muddy Buddies" for Caleb and Lydia to sell during lunch at their homeschool tutorial group tomorrow. Another friend in the tutorial group, Tori Hook, whose family adopted a little fella' with Down Syndrome last year, is joining the bake sale as well. With 220+ students, I'm thinking they might earn quite a pocketful. If successful, they say they will bake and sale again on Thursday. I'll report the grand total tomorrow!
In addition, a good friend of mine, who happens to be a fabulous photographer, has offered to come to my neighborhood to take pictures of families/kids for a $25.00 donation to Reece's Rainbow. The spirit of giving is catching on. Ondrea has adopted three orphans from Russia, so she is already on the adoption bandwagon. Thank you, Ondrea!!!
Any ideas??? Please pass them along. The children would LOVE to raise $2,000.00 by Christmas. It is a lofty goal for three kids to achieve, but they are determined. Caleb, Lydia, and Natalie have suggested our neighborhood adopt Darya from the site as a Christmas project. Wouldn't it be fun if our neighborhood joined together on this?
I heard from Chappy late this afternoon, and he made it safely to Cape Town. He called me from the airport this morning at 3am (I never went back to sleep). He put Mrs. Ellie on the phone and let me speak to her. She has the voice of an angel.....very proper accent with a softness that penetrates the heart. It was a privilege to speak with her, and I'm certain our paths will cross before any of us reach the other side......Chappy will make sure of it! In only a few short days, she stole his heart.
"Serve the Lord with gladness".....Psalm 100

Monday, November 16, 2009

$143.00 Success...

The car wash fundraiser was a success.....the kids charged $5.00 per car and earned $143.00 in two hours! GREAT JOB!!! Every penny will go to help "Darya", one of the waiting children with Down Syndrome who is in an orphanage in the Ukraine. You can see a picture of Darya if you go to

What does a fifteen year old boy think about constantly (besides girls)? Yes, all of you moms who have raised teenage sons, you answered correctly: "How can I totally freak out my mom today?" Caleb found one of our hairbrushes that was in great need of cleaning (look at Lydia's long hair and figure out whose brush he raided). He tore out the hair, shoved it under his armpit, found me busy cleaning my bedroom, rushed in and asked in a very worried sounding voice: "Mom, is there a problem when hair is only growing under one armpit?" Look at the picture above....THAT is what I saw when I turned around.

Have a good day..... and remember to laugh at your kids and with them too!

Thanks to all who have ordered a copy or two of Hope's book. So far, over 50 have sold, and I'm shocked! Remember 100% of the proceeds go to Amazima Ministries and Reece's Rainbow Waiting Children.
(Chappy is flying to Cape Town today.....I'll look forward to sharing with you when I get an update.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dad's In Africa, And The Little Ones Finally Say "Da-Da"....Here Is Proof!

Chappy will be traveling to Cape Town late Sunday (our time). His reception should be much better once he is out of the jungle, so I hope he will get to see these videos. If you do, Chappy.....I'm not too happy that Hopey decided to say "Da-Da" before saying "Momma".....I'm just sayin'. By the way, Charlie, has become quite the over-achiever, hasn't he??? "Da-Da" at 15 months, wow!

Sunday will be a big day at the Hollis house. For the next four weeks, we plan to work tirelessly to raise money for the Reece's Rainbow Waiting Children, and from 2pm-4pm Sunday, we are hosting a neighborhood car wash! Hopefully we'll have several cars come through for a good wash and an excellent cause. At four years of age (Hope's age), children with Down Syndrome in other countries, such as the Ukraine and Russia, are removed from the orphanages and placed into mental institutions where they are sentenced to life in a crib. Even though they may have the ability to walk and run, these children are never allowed out of the crib for exercise. Even though they may speak, they are never spoken to again. And even though they may desire hugs and kisses, these children are never embraced again. Most die the first year. It is tragic. You saw the video of Hope imagine that sweet little pumpkin being thrown into a crib and left there to die, fed just enough food to satisfy but never enough to fill....just because she has Down Syndrome. That is what I think about, and it makes me sick inside.

Have you read the book, "Crazy Love"? (loved the book) Chappy and I hope to teach our children....and if successful, it is possibly one of the greatest lessons they will ever so recklessly in love with the Lord that you are willing to abandon "normalcy" and do crazy things to show His love to others. What doesn't make sense to the world makes perfect sense to the Father, doesn't it?

From Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost For His Highest":

"If you love Me, keep My commandments" (1 John 14:15) "Our Lord never insists on our obedience. He stresses very definitely what we ought to do, but He never forces us to do it......The Lord does not give me rules, but He makes His standard very clear. If my relationship to His is that of love, I will do what He says without hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, myself. Jesus Christ will not force me to obey Him, but I must. And as soon as I obey Him, I fulfill my spiritual destiny. My personal life may be crowded with small, petty happenings, altogether insignificant. But if I obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random circumstances of life, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God. Then, when I stand face to face with God, I will discover that through my obedience, thousands were blessed. When God's redemption brings a human soul to the point of obedience, it always produces."

What is He calling you to do? Are you crazy in love with Him today? Are you crazy enough to allow His love to flow through you in a way that makes no sense to the world around you? I am. He took me through a fierce storm to toss me around a bit and shake me up, but on the other side, seeing more clearly than I have ever seen before, I am ready to be that crazy person.....crazy in love with My Father......anxious to show love to others because of His crazy love for me!!!

Meet Mrs. Ellie....

I will have a picture to share with you soon.....I can hardly wait! However, for now, I want to paint a picture with words. Mrs. Ellie, 50+ year servant of the High King in one of the hottest places on earth (105 degrees yesterday and humidity capable of knocking a person down) has a medium build and sports grayish white hair. Along with her deceased husband, Paul, over the years Ellie has helped plant several churches in the Tonga where there are many tribes and 37 different dialects/tongues. She can speak them all. The people she serves are dying of AIDS. Many believe if they rape a virgin child, they will be healed from the deadly disease; as a result, most of the children have AIDS as well. The children are either born with the disease or given the disease in a most cruel way. In spite of their death sentence, Chappy says the children are a delight to be around and are happy, "typical acting", children. Ellie ran an orphanage in the Tonga for many years, but now runs a feeding station where hundreds of hungry men, women, and children gather to be fed.

Aside from loving the unlovely, Ellie's chief mission has been to teach her people that God loves them and thinks they are incredibly valuable. In her region, the caste system is very prominent. (Class (distinction) based on birth). Since she deals with those who are considered the lowest of the low, the churches spend much time teaching that all God's creation is special in His sight.....and the lowest of the lows will be the greatest in the Kingdom that is to come! Once the people grasp this truth, they can be becomes something that is worth living.

After leaving the jungle late last night, Ellie drove the men to their hotel and stopped at a large mud hut that housed a restaurant for dinner. When they walked in, there was a piano in the center of the room. While the others found their places around a table, Mrs. Ellie found her place at the piano. She began to play a beautiful African spiritual.....and then, the most amazing thing happened. The workers of the restaurant, even those who were cooking in the kitchen, gathered around her, and in Zulu, they all sang. Chappy said it was an incredible sight to see the natives Africans gathered around little Mrs. Ellie singing. He captured it on tape, so I will share it with you when he returns.

When leaving the restaurant, Mrs. Ellie announced she would return to pick the guys up at 5am to take them on a jaunt through the jungle to spot some lions. She has guaranteed they will see incredible wild life. Oh, did I mention she is in her seventies???? Don't you love her????

Have a wonderful day today----serve the Lord with gladness!!! Be reminded that YOU are so very special in His sight!!!

Good news: I mentioned yesterday that I had published Hope's story in book form.....40 books have already sold. Every single penny of profit will go toward either Reece's Rainbow Waiting Children OR Amazima Ministry! Thank you for giving. For anyone else who may be interested in purchasing the book, just go to the blog's sidebar and click on Hope's face; this will take you to the "Blurb" site to order.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Africa Update...

I heard from Chappy briefly late yesterday. So far, no one in the group is sick; however, from what I have been told, it usually takes 24 hours before any "flu-like symptoms" rear their ugly heads. The group will be visiting a feeding station in the Tonga all day today that is run by a modern day saint named Ellie. Her husband was tragically run over by a car last year while walking down a road......he and Ellie had worked together in the Tonga for over 50 years. Let that sink in. Can you imagine a couple giving up their entire lives to a people who are dying of AIDS, who sometimes are quite savage, and who are dirty and unlovely? When her husband died last year, she told the ministry team she is staying. Africa is her home, and the people of her region have become her family. Chappy gets to hug Ellie's neck today. I hope he hugs it tight, because today, he is hugging a high servant of the King of Kings. Awesome to consider, isn't it???
On another note, if you'll take a look at my side bar, you will notice I have published Hope's story in book form. 30% of the proceeds from the book will go to Amazima Ministries to feed the hungry and care for orphans in Uganda Africa and 60% of the proceeds from the book will go to Reece's Rainbow Waiting Children (a ministry that finds homes for orphans with Down Syndrome Internationally). I will keep 10% to pay for shipping costs for those who are not able to order from the internet. With the holidays around the corner, you might want to consider clicking onto Hope's photo on the right and entering the BLURB site to purchase a few to give as teacher's gifts or office gifts. With an order of 5 or more books, shipping is a flat fee of $6.99. While I am not a professional writer, it is a testimony from the heart and 100% of the proceeds go to help two wonderful causes! Over the years, many have encouraged me to write Hope's story in book form, but I couldn't manage to find the energy and time until I realized I could use her story to help support "the least of these".
Again, thank you for your many prayers for Chappy and his team.....he was unsure he would be able to contact me today, but if I get an update, I will post. The region he will be serving for the next couple of days contains the largest population of people with AIDS in the world. An estimated 10-15 children in this region die a day from AIDS, but Ellie, the 70-something year old widow saint (who has been described as a "real character"), continues to bring light and hope to those in Africa who have become "her people". Father, I pray you'll pour out your richest blessings upon Mrs. Ellie. Continue to give her good health as she literally embodies your hands and feet and serves the African people in the Tonga. May they come to know You as she ministers to them, and may thousands upon thousands enter Your Kingdom that is to come by way of the sacrificial service of Mrs. Ellie and her husband.
"And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand." Revelation 8:4

Thursday, November 12, 2009

URGENT! Please Pray for Chappy and His Group

If you are reading this, please stop and pray for Chappy and the four men who are with him in Arica right now. I just got off of the phone with Chappy, and one of the men in their group was stopped by a customs official and hassled in Johannesburg, South Africa. The other four had made it through with no problem. This particular official demanded to see the man's Yellow Fever vaccination card, but he didn't have one. In fact, not one of the five men had the Yellow Fever vaccination before going to Africa, because it is not a required shot and reportedly can make a person VERY ILL!!! Some visitors to Africa take the shot and don't have a problem, while others, for some reason, become terribly sick for days following the shot. As a result, most American doctors are of the opinion that the reaction to the shot is much worse than dealing with the Yellow Fever if you happen to contract the sickness while in Africa.

The customs official demanded to know who was with this man and acted terrible marching back and forth shouting. The four other men in the group came forward (including Chappy) even though they had already passed through customs successfully themselves, then she personally escorted them to a clinic within the airport and forced them to have the Yellow Fever shot. All of the men are upset for two reasons: first, they have mission work to do in a few hours in the Tonga and do not need to be sick from a shot; second, who wants to have a shot in an unclean airport in South Africa???

Please pray their blood pressures will not be sky high from the ordeal, the needles used were clean and sanitary, the additives in the shot will not be harmful, and they will not become violently ill from the shot. I could hear the concern in Chappy's voice. If you join me in prayer, and ask others to pray, I know our Father will be faithful to answer. I ask you to set aside any judgemental spirit that might try to slither its way into your mind; I know some might be tempted to think the group has no business traveling to Africa to do mission work in the first place. This voice is not the voice of our heavenly Father who loves the African people, especially the African orphans, so very much. Our God has power over this, if we, who are called by His Name, humble ourselves before Him and pray for our brothers in Christ who are doing their very best to serve Him. I thank you right now, ahead of time, for your prayers for my love.

As an update, yesterday was an incredible day for Chappy. He visited the mission-sponsored orphanage in Kibera.....a literal Garden of Eden built just outside the walls of the slums of Kibera. Just a few months ago, their four water tanks (that are supplied by a deep well) began to run dry. Of course with no water, the orphanage would be in major trouble; in fact, they wouldn't be able to operate. This orphanage houses 100 children at the moment and many more children come in each day from the surrounding slums to attend school and get a warm meal.

The orphans, with great faith, went outside and stood around the almost empty containers to pray. They cried out to the Lord, their Life-Giver, and begged Him for water. As you know, it pleases the Father to give good gifts to His children. Praise Him, those containers were filled within three should have taken fifteen hours to fill them. Children who have been left behind by earthly parents who were ravaged by AIDS (the children probably watched their parents die a slow, painful death), shouted praises and love to their heavenly Father on that day. They had prayed with expectation, and in response, God provided. Can you imagine the beautiful sight?

Before leaving the orphanage yesterday, it was mentioned that one of the containers had cracked recently. Consequently, the orphanage was left with three tanks of water to supply all of the children instead of the usual four. This loss forced the Wombles (Missionaries who run the orphanage) to become more mindful of conserving their water instead of being able to allow the children to have freedom to consume as much water as they wanted. Chappy asked how much the tanks cost and was told $500.00. My sweet husband, in response, gave them cash on the spot and bought the orphanage another tank. It will be up and running within days.

When Chappy relayed this story to me, I cannot describe the joy that came through the phone. He was thrilled to be able to do something tangible for the orphans. The Wombles, in turn, wrote down each member of our family and committed to pray for us by name. They felt Chappy's love and wanted to give back. So, I am happy to announce, there is a group of orphans in Kenya who are praying for my family.....for my little Hope. Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is in me......Praise His Holy Name!!!

Chappy's group is traveling to the Tonga Region today to visit an orphanage outside of Kruger National Park. This orphanage sits in the middle of the largest population of AIDS in all of Africa, and there are mass graves in this area where dead bodies are placed in large piles and then pushed into holes and covered up with dirt by large tractors. In the middle of the devastation, is the oasis of hope.

If you haven't placed your dot on the map below, please do so today....I'd love to see how many warriors lift Chappy up in prayer today. When I hear from him, I'll pass the word along to his group to encourage them.

"I will surely hear the cry of the orphan....." Exodus 22:22

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Kibera Slum

Chappy is visiting an orphanage on the outskirts of the Kibera Slum today. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it is the second largest slum in all of Africa with an estimated 2000 bodies per acre. Kibera accounts for less than 1% of Nairobi, Kenya's size, but holds more than a quarter of its population. The density of people is 30 times New York City; literally, the people are living on top of each other with no schools, running water or restrooms. Probably most shocking: Half the residents are under the age of twelve......and 50,000 of the children are AIDS orphans.

Kibera is heavily polluted by human waste and garbage. Most often the residents defecate in plastic bags and throw the bags either on the rooftops or in ditches surrounding the community. The bags break and tear, as you can imagine, causing a major issue that leads to disease. In the rainy season, the water gathers into large puddles filled with the garbage and enters homes and children play in it.

Chappy is on this mission trip with the "Helping Hands Ministry", and they support an orphanage, called The Kibera Kids Center Orphanage, that takes in children whose parents have died from AIDS. They housed 180 children who had been pulled out of the slums, giving the children a bed, food, schooling, medical care, and love, until this year. Due to a shortfall in giving, 80 of those children had to be turned back out into the slums. Can you imagine tasting freedom and then having it yanked away???

This story has a happy ending, however, because Chappy's group is traveling to Kibera today with wonderful, life changing news. Last week, a benefactor from the USA gave $250,000.00 to this region. As a result, the missionaries who run the orphange (The Wombles) will be looking for the 80 children and hoping to bring them back again to be cared for in the orphanage.

I am expecting a phone call from Chappy within the next few hours and will post again when I hear directly from him. I know the sight will be shocking for him today, but he has a heart for the suffering people of Kibera and especially for the orphans who are living in the streets. I expect he will have alot to be sure to check back later for an update!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Snake and a Cat....

Yes, Caleb about jumped out of his skin when he pulled back the shower curtain yesterday and found the rubber snake Chappy had left for him. Hilarious. The snake had quite a busy day after that. He showed up in the girls' sock drawer to scare poor Natalie and in my bed last night (poor me). When the covers were pulled back.....well, you can imagine, can't you??? Let's just say Caleb is in a "little bit" of trouble.

I heard from Chappy at 1:30am; they had landed in Amsterdam and had a 2 hour layover before leaving for Kenya. He should arrive in Kenya at 1:30pm today (8:30pm Kenya time).

My night went downhill from there. Our 10 year old cat, Cassie, who is like a person in cat fur, decided she wanted in my room at 3am this morning. She pounded and pounded on the door (not difficult when you are a 25 lb. cat) I finally got up and let her in and jumped back in bed. Fifteen minutes later, just when I was about to doze off, she decided she wanted a drink of water from the bathroom (Chappy usually fixes her a cup of water and leaves it on the tub each evening.....I don' I forgot). As a result, she started banging her plastic cup all around the bathroom floor. I was determined NOT to give in to her, because afterall, she is a cat and should use the water bowl upstairs instead of expecting her evening bathroom "cocktail". God made man to rule over the animals, I thought, and she needed to learn her place. After several minutes went by, however, and the sound continued to get louder and louder, I gave in! Back in bed again, finally, I could rest. I had just gone back to sleep when the cat woke me a third time at 4:30am. This time, a neighbor's cat was in our window and Cassie was attempting to destroy the "enemy cat" by destroying our wooden blinds.....that seemed to be her plan anyway.....pow! pow! pow! (Chappy usually leaves the blinds slightly open at night because the neighbor's cat comes for frequent visits....I don' I forgot).

So, tomorrow evening, after giving baths to the babies and getting everyone tucked in bed, I will remember to keep the bedroom door cracked for Cassie, fix her a cup of water and leave it on the bathtub rim, and open the wooden blinds slightly just in case the neighbor cat shows up again at 4am for a good fight! I guess the cat's in charge afterall.

On a positive note, the African food last night was FANTASTIC!!! The kids and I ate it all....even Hopey loved it!

"And God said, "Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness, and they shall rule over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the heaven and over all the animals....." Genesis 1:26

Monday, November 9, 2009

Leavin' On A Jet Plane.....

Chappy left at 6:30am this morning to fly a total of 20 hours to Africa. The kids wrote notes to send with him, and Caleb gave him a little "extra something". Deep in Chap's suitcase, Caleb hid a black rubber snake, hoping to completely freak his dad out when he opens his bag in Africa and starts digging around. (Fifteen year old boys....what do you expect???) What Caleb doesn't know yet is Chappy found the snake when he decided to repack his bag at 1:00am this morning. I was already asleep, but was awakened by a large thud and a shriek (yes, a 51 year old man can shriek). The thud was Chappy throwing his suitcase across the bathroom floor in an effort to get rid of the snake he had just grabbed. Needless to say, it took me forever to get back to sleep, because I laughed for thirty minutes straight.

To return the favor, Chappy has hidden the snake in the shower to surprise Caleb this morning. I can hardly wait for the reaction.......I love our life!

Today, in the Hollis Homeschool, we are having "Africa Day" to celebrate Chap's trip. In addition to getting the map out and plotting his journey, we will talk about each stop he'll be making. To say part of his trip will be heartbreaking would be putting it far too mildly. I plan to journal his mission trip through the blog and hope he'll be able to send some pictures as well. I plan to share specific prayer requests over the next two weeks, and hope some of you will join in and pray for Africa with us!

Our dinner this evening will be West African Black Eye Peas and Rice with an African Banana Bake for dessert. Just in case any of you would like to pull out your pans and taste a bit of Africa with us, I will include the recipe below.

Father, I pray for safe travel for Chappy and the men of the Helping Hands Ministry team. Thank you for seeing ahead and preparing the way for them even now. Open their hearts, Father. Allow them to see the African people as you do....Your love for them, Your compassion for them, and Your desire to draw them to Yourself and save them. In turn, may the men minister through Your perfect love, reaching out to feed and provide shelter for those who are impoverished and needy, but ultimately, reaching out to fill the void in their hearts. I pray especially, Lord, for the orphan children they will visit. For the short time Chappy will be in contact with the orphans, allow your love to flow through him and be captured safely in their hearts. Supernaturally, I ask you to allow Chappy to be a daddy to the children during his time with them---may his open arms, bright smile and laughter be a tangible sign of your unending love for them. May You be honored and glorified through all that is accomplished! Praises to You, our Most High King......Creator and Sustainer of all life......our Savior.....Amen.

West African Black Eye Peas:

16 oz raw black eye peas
8 cups water
1/2 tsp Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1/8 cup canola oil or palm oil
1 onion
15 oz. can diced tomatoes or 2 fresh tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp paprika

Wash peas and boil on high for 15 minutes in a large pot. Add salt. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 1 hour stirring once halfway during cooking. Saute onion in cooking oil for 10 minutes, then add tomatoes and spices. Cook for an additional 10 minutes before adding to the black eyed peas. Serve with rice.

African Banana Bake:

5 medium bananas
1 tbsp. butter
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup shredded coconut

Cut each banana into fourths. Arrange in a greased 9 inch pie plate. Dot with butter and drizzle with orange and lemon juice. Sprinkle with brown sugar and coconut. Bake at 370 degrees until coconut is golden brown (10 minutes)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Celebration Weekend!

We have had a fabulous weekend. Chappy leaves for Africa on Monday morning, very early. To celebrate his mission trip, he and I enjoyed an overnight "get-away" stay at the Opryland Hotel on Friday. The hotel has already decorated for the holiday season, so there are beautiful lights and decor everywhere. It was so much fun, and a wonderful opportunity for me to honor my husband. I made a concerted effort to make it all about him! So much of the time, Chappy has to share me with our five little "gremlins", and he often gets the leftovers after I have had a long day of meeting their needs. He is such a great husband and father; it was nice to remind him how much he is appreciated for just being him.

Saturday night, Chappy and I took our older three out for a "date night"; we try to take them out at least once or twice a month while leaving Charlie and Hopey with a sitter. Caleb, Lydia, and Natalie are good to help with our two little ones daily; to reward them, we plan "Big Kid Date Night" and do some things they enjoy. A local church raises money for missions by having a swing dance two weekends a month. The church offers a live big band, a good size dance floor, and dancing lessons, too! We attended last evening and danced from 7pm until 10pm and had a blast! Several students from the homeschool tutorial we are a part of attended the dance, so our kids had friends to dance with (and Chappy and I danced with each other). On the way home, Caleb asked: "Mom, where did you and dad learn all of those dance moves?"......Chappy and I laughed and laughed.....we've still got it!!!

"Live life joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of thy life....."
(Ecc. 9:9)

P.S. Thank you to all who have signed the map below....I love showing Hope her "Prayer Dots".

Friday, November 6, 2009

Regarding Natalie....

I received a few comments regarding my post on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome yesterday and several emails. First, I want to make sure everyone knows I received Natalie's permission (and encouragement) before writing yesterday's post. Now, I want to tell you "why" she wants people to know about her disability; I believe you will find this extremely fascinating:
Hope and Charlie have Down Syndrome and the DS physical features make them readily recognizable as disabled children. Upon seeing them, immediately, a certain expectation is automatically placed upon them by others. Natalie, on the other hand, has FAS and has no physical features that would cause people to 'size her up' and form an opinion before getting to know her.
Many might think that a blessing, but actually it has become a curse to Natalie. On many occasions, she has noticed people roll their eyes at her unintentional behavior and has wished she had a physical marker like Hope and Charlie do, or like a child in a wheelchair has. As a result, she watches the reactions of people closely and strives to live within their "approval range" which is terribly difficult for her.
Put yourself in Natalie's shoes for a moment with me: You are with your family in a restaurant and meet a new family (The Jones') for the first time. Your family decides to join the Jones' for dinner, and you realize they do not know about your FAS. To avoid being embarrassed, you decide you are going to work very hard throughout the meal to act normal, and the way you will gauge your "normalcy" will be through watching the reactions of everyone at the table. Beforehand, you ask your mom to give a certain look (cue) that will help you know you are either doing good or need to slow down. In addition, you plan to watch the Jones' facial expressions closely to make sure they are approving of the words you speak and the way you speak them.
Stressful, huh? Before taking off Natalie's shoes, stop to realize that you have not been born with the mental ability to know staring at a person who has a gigantic mole on his nose is offensive, so you stare without realizing it until someone reminds you to stop.....and Mr. Jones has a HUGE mole on his nose. You haven't been born with the ability to know it is not socially acceptable to go to the restroom four times during a meal just because the soap in the bathroom smells fresh after you use it, so during the meal with the Jones' you are up and down like a jackrabbit going to the restroom and returning to ask everyone at the table to smell your hands. Mrs. Jones has a magnificent purse decorated with shiny beads. She puts her purse down right beside you. Throughout the meal, you look at it from time to time and finally decide to touch it. You start playing with the beads, then you wonder how the beads move when the zipper on the purse is pulled back and forth, so you try that too. When the zipper is open, you notice a mirror and wonder if your teeth are still looking clean, so you pull out Mrs. Jones' mirror and start looking at your teeth. Finally, your mother coughs, you look to her and she motions for you to return Mrs. Jones' purse, you promptly obey and then realize going through Mrs. Jones' purse must have been wrong....and you feel sorry. You try to make it up with the Jones', but don't know after turning eleven it is no longer proper to ask people: "Do you want to be friends?", and before the meal with the Jones' is over, you have asked every single member of the Jones family if they want to be your friend. By the end of the meal, although you have watched cues from your mom and facial expressions of the Jones family, you realize your new dinner buddies are avoiding conversation with you and turning away when they see you are about to speak. You get in the car with your family and ask: "What did I do wrong?"
Now put yourself in our shoes for a moment. We try to explain rules of acceptable behavior to Natalie, what is deemed appropriate and what is not. But we know, through experience with her, the "rules" she tries to remember and tries to incorporate into her life, just will not stick. Not for lack of effort or lack of work, but lack of ability. It makes us sad for her. However, in the van, after having dinner with the Jones', we would never let Natalie see our sorrow for her. Instead, we would recount the evening in hysterical laughter, telling her how funny she is. Before long, Natalie would be joining in laughing at herself too.
To close, the visibally handicapped have problems people expect since their handicap can be seen outwardly. At one time, when I wore one of my Down Syndrome tshirts, Natalie mentioned she would like to have her own tshirt that reads: "I Have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and I Can't Help It". While I am not as familiar with autism, I would assume autistic children encounter the same problem. Many of them look completely "normal" and some act fairly typical until you spend a lot of time with them.
Please use this post to open your hearts even more to the disabled. My hope is you will count your blessings today (and every day), giving thanks to the Father. Natalie was fortunate to escape a Russian orphanage and find a place in our home----we love her (and will continue to love her) no matter what. However, there are an estimated one million orphans still in Russia, living day to day with no hope of escape. Statistics show the majority suffer physical and sexual abuse from the age of four until being released into the unknown "real world" at age seventeen. Upon being turned out of the orphanage, they have little education and no social network of friends. Half commit suicide the first year, and the others are taken into drug/prostitution enterprises.
"I lift up my eyes to the hills.....where does my help come from?" Psalm 121:1
If you haven't taken a minute to put a dot on the map below, please do! A good friend gave that to Hope as a gift so we could "show her" all of the prayer dots!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fetal Alcohol

This is Natalie.....isn't she pretty? We adopted Natalie in September of 2001 from Russia, fully aware that her mother drank alcohol the entire time she was pregnant. Consequently, Natalie has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. FAS causes damage to the basal ganglia of the brain which impacts spatial memory and cognitive processes; it causes a reduced size of the cerebellum, a structure involved in balance, coordination, and cognition; and finally, prenatal alcohol exposure is the major cause of impaired development of the corpus callosum (a band of nerves fibers that forms the major communication link between the left and right brain). In the US, two children from every 1000 births will suffer contrast, in Russia, fifteen children from every 1000 births will suffer FAS. That is a HUGE difference.
The most tragic aspect of FAS is it is completely preventable and can be avoided. FAS has a broad spectrum of signs/symptoms, some mild and others severe, as do most "syndromes". Many orphans adopted from Russia suffer some affects of this syndrome, because alcohol consumption among mothers who birth these children is prevalent. Oftentimes, the orphans' mother grew up an orphan herself and has no idea how to care for and carry an unborn child much less parent a child. The cycle perpetuates itself resulting in an estimated one million orphans in Russia.
Yesterday, FAS looked like this in our home:
Natalie sometimes suffers from frustration because of her disability. Although she has a mild case compared to most, schoolwork does not come easy for her, she tends to be uncoordinated, she is language impaired, and socially immature for her age. To look at her, as you can see from the picture above, you would thing she is completely "normal". Therefore, others' exectations of her are usually too high. Admittedly, even though I am her mom, sometimes my expectations of her are too high too. All of these things combined together cause her to feel anxious at times. To remedy the situation, she started jogging a few months ago with our little Schnoodle, Trudy. Each day she jogs around the block a few times and loves it.
A younger girl that lives down the road from us seems to like Natalie alot. Even though Natalie is eleven years of age, she is developmentally more like an eight or nine year old like this little girl, Julia. Julia asked if she could jog with Natalie; so, yesterday around 3:15pm, Nat took off to meet her little friend to go for a "run". Before leaving, I went step by step with Nat about her run like I always do....."It is 3:15pm, and will take you 5 minutes to get to Julia's house. When you get there, ring the doorbell and tell Julia you are ready to go for your jog and see if she still wants to join you. If she does, then run around the block 2 times, take Julia back home, and come straight home. You should be home in 45 minutes to an hour. When you get back, you need to go up to your room and finish your reading for the day, ok?" Her reply, "Yes, Ma'am".
I had been gone most all of the day gathering Chappy's necessities for his trip to Africa. When I returned home, I was bombarded by questions from Lydia and Caleb regarding their school work. Lydia, in particular, needed to go to the store right away to get some poster board for a project that was due at her tutorial today. In the middle of the questions, Natalie was preparing to go on her run and I was giving her instruction. (Chaos is a fairly common event in our home--at this same time, Hope was also hanging onto my leg doing the sign for "drink" and Charlie was fussing because he had just seen me and needed some mommy love).
Natalie takes off to jog, and thirty minutes later, Lydia and I go to the nearby CVS Pharmacy to get posterboard, leaving Caleb in charge of watching Hope and Charlie for 20 minutes until I return. When Lydia and I get back home, we immediately sit down at the kitchen table to begin her project, and get lost in it. At 5:30pm (and almost dark outside), I remarked that Natalie was being awfully quiet upstairs. Caleb, who had been busy doing his own homework at the table with us, snapped his head up and said: "Mom, I don't remember Nat coming back." He took off bounding up the stairs, and sure enough, there was no Natalie.
Lydia called the neighbor to ask if Natalie was still there, I jumped into the minivan to go find her, and Caleb ran out to help me. We found her and brought her home. Caleb, Lydia and I were in a panic.....not Natalie. She couldn't figure out why we were so upset. It turns out, she had been jogging all over the neighborhood, not just around the block, they had even gone running on the trails behind the neighborhood. When I sat down with Natalie and explained my fear and panic to her, she reduced to a pile of tears. She felt awful. She had gotten caught up in her fun time with Julia and had never thought a single moment about home. Calling me never entered her mind.
FAS children are not predictable and do not comprehend cause and effect. What happened yesterday is not a "lesson learned" for Natalie, but a lesson learned for mom. Natalie, if given the opportunity, would unintentionally repeat the same action again today and would be just as surprised at my panic as she was last night. (Ever seen the movie, "Groundhog Day"?) The only way to "fix" the problem is to not let Natalie run with her friend anymore OR for me to join in the jog with she and her friend (have I mentioned I hate running???)
To give another example of how "cause and effect" is missing with FAS children, each time I go into a parking lot with Nat, I have to verbally say: "Stay with me and watch for cars." If we make a quick stop into a store, I say it when we get out of the car. Five minutes later, when we exit the store, I say it again. In those short five minutes, Natalie lost the reminder. In addition, when walking next to a large truck, I have to say, "Watch out for the mirror". If I don't, she will bang her head right into the mirror sticking out from the large SUV trucks, because she is busy looking everywhere else except where she is walking. It has happened more times than I can count----and Natalie gets into the car with a big blue pump knot on the front of her head---- And on many more occasions, she has come scary close to walking out in front of moving cars as well, when I have been distracted with another child and have forgotten to remind her of parking lot safety. If you were with our family for very long and didn't know about Natalie's disability, you would think I am a nagging mom. These are some of the things you'd hear me say to Natalie several times throughout the day:
"Hold onto the rail when you are going up and down the stairs" (EVERY time she takes the stairs)....."Don't leave your pencil close to the edge of the table, because Hope could get it and put it in her mouth" (EVERY time she uses a pencil)......"Don't get your face so close to Hope's face, because you'll cause her to fall down" (EVERY time she plays with Hope)....."Make sure your seatbelt is buckled" (EVERY time we get into the car).....etc. You get the picture. Chappy and I laugh about it; he is married to a broken record.
As Natalie gets older, her symptoms become more and more evident. What used to be passed off as: "Well, she is just a little child" can't be passed off any longer. Her peers are beginning to catch on and treat her differently. It is sad, because Natalie is one of the sweetest girls you will ever meet and works harder than anyone in our family. Her determination to overcome her disability is amazing.
There are not a lot of resources available to families who are dealing with FAS, because the range of symptoms/severity is so wide. To remedy, a parent has to learn what works for their child through trial and error giving the child only the freedom she has proven she can handle. If you know a family who has adopted a child from Russia, be aware the child will likely show some sign of FAS and be a support to them, be forgiving of their adopted child's behavior, and an encouragement to the family. We should always be reminded, EVERY child deserves a family!
This is National Adoption Awareness Month, so I will post about our adopted ones on occasion throughout the month. Adoption is a beautiful picture of our salvation. As believers, we are all adopted through Christ.....before accepting Him, we are needy orphans, full of defects and disorders called "Sin-Syndrome". But lovingly, our Father has made the biggest sacrifice of all. He died for us, taking our "Sin-Syndrome"away, upon Himself. No longer orphans, He makes us new and calls us His own.
"He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will...." (Ephesians 1:5)
Don't Forget to Add Yourself To the Map Below!!!