Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas Miracle Called "Elizabeth"











Elizabeth. What a beautiful name. To most who glance at her pictures, the little girl in purple is just an ordinary girl. A big smile on her face, feeding her baby doll, you might be fooled at first sight. Elizabeth is no ordinary girl; in fact, she is absolutely extraordinary. She is a recipient of one of God's greatest miracles this season! Oh yes, this little one has been chosen to receive a gift from the King of Kings Himself!!!






Elizabeth was born with Down Syndrome and has lived her life in an orphanage. Orphanages are not joyful places, for many reasons, but primarily because "family" is missing from them. Each child is simply a number that needs to be fed each day....and they are not fed a hot meal cooked by a creative mom who wants to warm her child's tummy and nourish a growing body....but a paltry meal served out of basic necessity. Orphan boys who are born with the God-given desire to rough and tumble on the floor in a fun wrestle with dad, never experience the thrill. And as for the forgotten little girls with delicate fingers designed by their Maker to be tucked safely into daddy's strong hand, she never feels the scruffy cheek of her father's face nestled close to hers when being comforted after a frightening nightmare on a blustery winter night. Getting tucked in at night? Hearing a bedtime story? Tickles under the chin? No, those are pleasures orphans know nothing about.




However, life is too seldom measured in absolutes, so on a comparative basis.....when the standard is a mental institution, orphanges would be called the "Taj Mahal". The little girl called Elizabeth wearing purple in the pictures above is in a mental institution this moment....because she has Down Syndrome and because she is seven.


When orphans with special needs turn 5 or 6, they are determined to be unadoptable and are sent to mental institutions with people of all ages (including aging adults). In this place, orphans like Elizabeth witness all kinds of frightening phenomena: persistent screaming, people being tied to beds, abuse of the worst kinds, etc. Because funding is sparse and adequate help is even more sparse, it is not unheard of for children like Elizabeth to be tied down to beds and never held again when they enter a mental institution.
In thinking of Elizabeth today, I was reminded of another one who shares the name which means "My God Is Abundance":


"During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned to service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old." (Luke 1 The Message)


You probably know the story from here...an angel plans a surprise meeting with Zachariah in the temple to tell him some terrific news and scares poor Zachariah into a paralyzed state of shock. I can almost hear his heart thumping through his temple garb when Gabriel began to speak:


"Don't fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You're going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you---many will delight in his birth. He'll achieve great stature with God. He'll drink neither wine nor beer. He'll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother's womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God's arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics---he'll get the people ready for God!" (Luke 1 The Message)


Zachariah, the highly respected servant of God, we would suspect to be a man of great faith....eager to accept God's Words given to him via the messenger of God. But no, like many who receive a calling from the Almighty, Zachariah doubted.


"But the angel said: I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won't believe me, you will be unable to say a word until the day of your son's birth. Every word I have spoken to you will come true on time----on God's time."


And every word spoken did come true. John the Baptist was born to the barren Elizabeth and her doting husband, Zachariah. "And in all that Judean hill country, people talked about nothing else." (Luke 1 The Message)


Today, I am just as thrilled as Gabriel must have been when he met Zachariah to announce God's miracle in that ancient temple: Miss Elizabeth has been given the gift of a family! The little forgotten girl wearing purple was never forgotten at all; God never forgets a single one of His children.


When parents are unable to parent, or when they choose not to parent, God intervenes and searches the earth for new ones who will step in their stead. The world is full of wonderfully capable parents who just haven't recognized "God's Message" to them yet (which explains the overloaded orphanages and foster care systems around the globe). Thankfully, Elizabeth's family overcame doubts and fears when the call came halfway across the world to their hearts regarding saving a frightened little girl who is living in a strange new place without the love of a family.


So there we have it: two females who share the name Elizabeth with two great miracle stories: One story encompassing the birth of John the Baptist, the one chosen to spread the news about the Savior of the world to come......The other a perfect picture of the Savior Who has already come and Who will come again.
Stop for a moment and think about it, is there a more accurate picture of what the Messiah did for us than the story of little Elizabeth? Jesus adopted us, we who are handicapped in every way and in desperate need of being saved from certain suffering and death....in the Savior's eyes, we are all like Elizabeth. And just as she is being ransomed, we have been ransomed.


"Oh Israel, the One Who formed you says: Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name, you are Mine." (Isaiah 43:1)


Blessed Be Our God Who Is Abundance!!!
To give to Elizabeth's adoption fund, go to http://www.reecesrainbow.org/ and find her in the "My Family Found Me" section....and please don't forget our family's Christmas Angel: "Cutie-Pie Carlene" who is facing the institution and still in need of a family. To give to Carlene's adoption fund, go to: http://reecesrainbow.org/Carlene-gypf We have all been called to do something.






Sunday, December 12, 2010

This Is What Christmas Is All About.....

On Friday afternoon around 2pm, I received a call from Lydia and Natalie's school asking that I come retrieve the money that had been raised during the week for our sweet little orphan with Down Syndrome, Carlene, who is living in Russia.

Since Fridays are my cleaning days, I quickly took inventory of my disheveled body and noted I was definitely not prepared to make a run to the school....and then I looked at Hope and Charlie who were still in their jammies....and unfortunately saw they looked more of a mess than me. Since the school is a five minute drive from my house, I had approximately 15 minutes to get the three of us together and out the door before the school closed for the weekend; they were not taking "no" for an answer:

"We do not want to be responsible for all of this cash over the weekend; I am sure you understand. And we feel it would be too dangerous to send this much money home with Lydia and Natalie on the bus," was their final answer. Teachers trump Mom.

Have you ever seen a tornado rip through a town? Well that is sort of what Hope and Charlie saw coming at them when I hung up the phone. I ripped off Charlie's feetie jams and Hope's Elmo P.J.s in one fell swoop before they even had time to process what was happening to them....within seconds they were fully naked and then fully dressed. Equally as fast, I decorated my face, brushed my hair, and made my best attempt to give my hair a "fixed" looked with a few squirts of "White Rain" (every southern girl's secret)......I then tore out the door as M.O.A.M. (Mom on a mission).


Thankfully I arrived with enough time to walk into the school at a leisurely pace, pretending, of course, that I had been relaxing at home when they called....prepared for this visit all day long. When the school administrator left to get the bundled money, a teacher entered the room wearing a "Carly Bell" necklace around her neck.

The "Carly Bell" necklaces have been a successful fundraiser. They are easy and inexpensive to make, and students seem to love them. Lydia and Natalie came up with the idea and wrote the following to their school principal a couple of weeks ago:

Dear Dr. Staggs:

Here is a plan to raise money for Carlene, and we hope you like it. We have made over a hundred jingle bell necklaces. They cost almost $2.00 to make, so we are going to sell them for $3.00 each. We thought we would call this the Carly-Bell Project. Hopefully each time the bell jingles around the kids' necks, they will think of Carlene and be grateful for all the blessings we have been given because we live in the United States of America and hopefully it will make us more mindful of people who are less fortunate. Especially at this time of year. We hope you love this idea.

Lydia and Natalie Hollis

When the teacher entered the office wearing the official "Carly Bell" necklace, I could not help but smile. A little forgotten girl, thousands of miles across the world, was being honored today by this teacher and by a whole school full of fifth and sixth grade students in America.

"I like your necklace," I giggled.

She grabbed the silver bell hanging around her neck: "This has been a wonderful project for our school, and we are all so thankful Lydia and Natalie came up with the idea. All of the students seem very excited about helping an orphan," she replied, "and let me tell you something else......" she paused for a second and took a few steps closer to me to speak quietly as she shared with me one of the most wonderful Christmas stories of this season:

"I have a little girl in my class whose family has nothing; literally, they have nothing. This morning, this little girl came to me with $9.00 to purchase three Carly-Bell necklaces. I was shocked, because $9.00 for her family is alot of money....money needed for essentials like food and heat. She said something about wanting to help the little orphan when she handed me the money, and as I walked to the office to purchase her necklaces, I admit I was confused about why her family would allow her to do this. Throughout the day, I realized Carlene's story has touched this little girl. Perhaps for the first time in her entire life, Carlene has given this little girl an opportunity to reach out and help someone who is even more less fortunate than her. There was such joy on her face as she handed me the money for those bells. It wasn't about the bells for her at all, however, it was about her having the chance to reach out to help another little girl in need." she finished the story and turned to leave with a "Hope you have a Merry Christmas and I hope Carlene finds a family very soon!"

I took the money from the school and added it to our ziploc bag when I returned home. The bag in our house is loaded with $20, $10, $5, and $1 bills. I counted it this morning, and so far it contains nearly $2,000.00 raised for Carlene from bake sales, the Carly-Bell Project, Babysitting, a plea to Chappy's co-workers, etc. As I placed the wad of cash in the bag, I thought of the wealthy folks all around us who could write a check for $20,000.00 and save Carlene's life with the simple stroke of a pen without it impacting their lifestyle at all....I thought of other folks who could agree to forgo eating out for a week and give the $100.00 savings toward saving Carlene....yes, I was reminded, for most of us, giving is not a sacrifice at all. It is a choice.

For this little mystery student at Freedom Intermediate School in the small town of Franklin, TN, however, giving was a sacrifice....the fact is, she gave more than she had to give. And as she walks down the halls with those bells jingling around her neck, I can't help but believe those bells are being heard throughout the heavenlies as a reminder of a heart that truly pleases God. Her gift certainly opened my heart toward God.

"Can I see another's woe; and not be in sorrow too? Can I see another's grief, and not seek for kind relief?" ( poem: "On Another's Sorrow" by William Blake)

Digging deeper than the little girl's gift, interwoven beautifully, is the familiar story of the Widow's Mite (Luke 21:1-6). Most people see the story as a measure of giving and the widow's heart to willingly give all she had; however, the story is actually much deeper in my opinion. The Pharisees of that day (church leaders) were so preoccupied with the beauty of the temple and with religiosity, they were guilty of completely missing God's heart. They had gotten so caught up in mistakenly believing their beautiful temple symbolized success with God, they missed opportunities that were slapping them in the face. If the Pharisees had been busier pouring money lavishly upon the poor and needy instead of their place of worship and all the trappings therein, the widow wouldn't have been so poor and needy. Luke 21:5-6 is very telling: "Some of the disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, "As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down." Jesus' point: These monuments are meaningless to Me! I care about my children!

So I am left with the little mystery girl who gave all she had to give to Carlene. What will I do? That is God's question for me. Will I go about my business telling others about this little girl's wonderful heart and do nothing for her? Will I sit in my heated home with a full refrigerator of food and my knowledge of another in my community who is in need and do nothing?

When God left glory on high to live among us, He literally came alongside us. It was never a "Me" and "Them" scenario to Jesus at all....It was an "Us". And if we seek to honor the Lord and love Him with all of our hearts, souls and minds, then we are to come alongside our neighbors just as Jesus did when He came to earth. God has an unusual way of waking us out of our spiritual slumber when we are simply willing to "see"....the irony of ironies is this: while I was rushing to make myself "presentable" on Friday afternoon, God was more interested in making my heart more presentable for Him. To the Creator of the Universe, my outside appearance is just as valuable as the beautiful stones used to make the temple of old....some day it will all be rubble. God is more interested in things that have eternal significance. Our hearts.

"He doth give His joy to all; He becomes an infant small. He becomes a man of woe; He doth feel the sorrow too." (Blake's Poem: "On Another's Sorrow")

As He did this for us, we are to go and do likewise!!! And that is what Christmas is all about.....

If you would like be a part of giving Carlene a home for Christmas, click on this link to make your tax deductible gift via paypal: http://reecesrainbow.org/Carlene-gypf

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When God Gives A Gift

"I know this is late notice Ronnie, but we really want to paint Hope and Charlie's room before Christmas; we are having some built-ins brought in for their bedroom in a couple of weeks. Could you make room for us on your schedule?" I asked, secretly hoping he could use some extra Christmas cash.

"I can be there tomorrow if you will call me back with a paint color." was his reply. I could distinctly detect a hint of pep in his voice confirming my suspicions.

Smirking a bit as I hung up the phone I thought: "Yep, tis the season that everyone is looking for a little "moo-lah"; and better yet, another mark off of my "things to do before the end of the year" list."

1:30pm, always on time, Ronnie and one of his helpers show up at my front door ready to paint. I quickly ushered Hope and Charlie into the great room, put a baby gate up to block little fingers from wet paint, and opened a few windows to ventilate the house. Within minutes I could smell the job being done and sniffed in the satisfaction thinking how great the babies' room was going to look.

At 4:30pm, three hours from when he stepped into my front door, Ronnie called for me and told me the job had been completed. I quickly scooted to the baby gate to find him standing on the other side wearing a big ole grin.

Taking a quick peek to view the freshly painted walls, I asked: "How much do I owe you Ronnie?"

"uuuuuuhhhhmmmmm......I'm not going to charge you anything....and let me" he began, but I quickly interrupted: "Oh, no, Ronnie, I am going to pay you for this job...tell me what I owe you."

He answered softly: "Just let me explain."

Folding my arms, I tilted my head to search the eyes of this gentle man before me....crows feet firmly outline years spent in laughter and joy.....and Ronnie has a scruffy gray beard that moves with his mouth as he slowly speaks with a very distinctive country-sounding drawl that will endear you to him immediately. All ears and a bit taken off guard, I listened as he spoke:

"My daughter has M.S. you know, and there was a time when she was on life-support. That was a difficult time for my family, and friends brought over food and money to be a help to us. We didn't need it, so alot of times we would try to turn them away, but pretty soon we realized that people just wanted to bless us with something so we learned to accept it. Alot of those folks who gave us things didn't have as much as we did, Melanie, and that was humbling........And you know, I go to church every Sunday and alot of times the pews aren't filled. A few months ago I got to thinking....just wonderin' why. I believe the reason is because believers just don't show alot of love to one another. Now Melanie, ya'll are going through a tough time right now will all the uncertainty about Hope's little heart, and you know I love that little girl, so I want to show you all love. I don't have alot I can give you, and I know you can pay for this paint job without any problem at all, but I want to give you something I am able to give. This paint job is a gift of love to you and I want you to accept it."

With a baby gate separating us just above the knees, I reached out and grabbed that sweet man's neck and hugged him like he was Jesus Himself. I guess in that moment, He was as near a likeness to Jesus as any I have ever known. I hugged Ronnie tight for a long time while I cried. Still sobbing, I couldn't speak a word as he turned to leave saying: "Merry Christmas to you all."

God touches the world every day when we touch the world......I am thankful God touched my world today through a man named Ronnie Smith. ......"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is LOVE." (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dr. B (Part 3)

Dr. B. spent only a few minutes describing his thoughts on Down Syndrome, but Chappy and I have spent days discussing those memorable moments.



The doctor's cowboy hat now in hiding, Dr. B. the grandfather to Seth, a little boy bearing an extra chromosome, softly spoke: "I have spent countless hours considering how Down Syndrome fits into Evolutionary thought" , hand now on chin and eyes looking away as if trying to recall specific hypotheses he had drafted in a mental list now tucked away, he explained: "according to Evolution, only the strong survive....and obviously, since Down Syndrome has been among us for many, many years, there must be a reason."



Chappy and I wanted to interrupt this larger-than-life man, to debate Evolution vs Creationism; however, we bit our tongues and listened intently as he continuted:



"I have actually written about this very subject; in fact, one of the most read articles I have ever written concerned Evolution and Down Syndrome. While I am still unsure on the subject, the best I can figure is that Nature itself somehow knows there is a significant need of love for all humanity. Our survival depends on it. In my opinion, individuals with Down Syndrome exhibit the purest form of love in the world, so Nature routinely selects human beings with Down Syndrome to survive because the human race needs them. There was a time when I was part of the group that believed children pre-diagnosed in the womb with Down Syndrome should be aborted, but I don't believe that way anymore. I now believe it is the duty of doctors to tell expectant moms not only the risks associated with raising a child with Down Syndrome, but also the benefits and rewards. I now see they have a purpose."



Enter beautiful young wife number ? pulling at Dr. B.'s sleeve. Her brief glance our way revealed what she was secretly thinking: Chappy and I did not measure up on her "who's who" list. Suddenly the soft man who had gently opened his heart to us for a few moments to share his innermost thoughts on a subject that had not only impacted his beloved grandson, Seth, but had obviously turned his own Evolutionary teachings upside down in such a way, without realizing it, he was desperately attempting to hammer a round peg into a square hole..... this man suddenly morphed into Dr. Cowboy again right before our eyes.



"It was nice talking to you"...."enjoy your evening." And our conversation ended. We were dismissed. Chappy and I felt like poor settlers, who upon entering an old western town after months of traveling in a covered wagon, had been given a few moments with Clint Eastwood, the sheriff of the town, before being sent on our way to find lesser "like folk" to associate with. Dr. Cowboy had more important matters to attend to, and our social status had been aptly measured and had come up a bit short.



As Chappy and I walked through the Frist Museum later that evening, viewing artwork crafted by the infamous masters over a hundred years ago, we thought of Dr. Cowboy. Both of us shed a few tears for him that evening while surrounded by slightly intoxicated partiers dressed in ballroom gowns and tuxedos, giggling out loud from the buzz the alcohol provided. Each masterpiece from the renowned collection of art was miraculous in itself to behold. How a mere mortal can create such intricate works of art from paint and brush never ceases to amaze me. Mortals. Men. Each long deceased. Each amounting to a pile of dust beneath a marked gravestone. Eternity decided.

The irony hit me. On a chilly evening in October, hundreds of the Middle TN elite gathered at the highly anticipated Frist Gala to view valuable artwork that was masterfully crafted over one hundred years ago by men who are now dead.....and to my knowledge, it did not dawn on one party-goer that evening that all the fame, fortune, education and prestige in the world does not matter when death comes. And we are all dying.

If I had the chance to say anything to Dr. B., it would be this:

Like the artists of old, our God is quite creative. In fact, to draw Chappy and me closer to Himself, He allowed us the privilege of becoming parents to a little imperfect girl on September 14, 2005. Through Hope's life, He has taught two sinful, selfish creatures volumes about His love, patience, compassion, and forebearance. In the last five years, it has been as if God has taken a key and unlocked our hearts. Before Hopey, the truth is, we didn't know love at all.

Perhaps, Dr. B, Almighty God is the "Who" you refer to as "Nature" and/or "Evolution". Maybe it is He who perfectly created little Seth and placed him into your life, because His love for you is so magnificently grand He wanted to draw you close to Himself. Each time Seth holds your hand tightly with his pudgy fingers, could it be God is reaching out to touch you through that hand? And each time you sacrifice your pride in order to stoop and help Seth do something that comes easy for most children, could it be that God is receiving floods of glory from your simple act of choosing humility? Could it be that His plans are far grander than "Nature"; and could it be that He is a master painter who is intricately brushing every detail upon this great big canvas we have called Time and the Universe?

The truth is that God will go to any length to make sure we have every opportunity to attain eternal life....even to the point of leaving glory behind to be born a man in order to wonderfully become the supreme sacrifice which became a requirement the day sin entered the earth. Oh, what an awesome God we serve! And best of all, His Way is so simple a child can understand it. God is God, and we are not. We need only trust Him the way a child trusts His parents to care for him. What a plan! What a Savior!

"Have you ever in your life commanded the morning or caused the dawn to know its place? Have you entered the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Have you understood the expanse of the Earth....where is the dwelling of light? Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or have you seen the storehouses of the hail? Where is the way that the light is divided or the east wind scattered on the earth? Has the rain a father or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb has come the ice and the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?" Job 38

"Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever humbles himself as a child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 18:3-4







Friday, November 26, 2010

emergency update about Carlene (from LYDIA)

My mom just heard from Mrs. Marianne Fick and got some very bad news about Carlene. The Fillmore family is in Russia adopting the cutest little girl named Tatiana (think they are going to call her Anna) who also has Down Syndrome. The person in charge who is helping them with their adoption gave them an update on Carlene. Carlene is 5 years old and should have already been sent to the institution to die, but the baby orphanage agreed to keep her because a family had said they would come and get her. Something happened and that family couldn't adopt Carlene, but the lady in charge of adoptions in Russia hasn't told the orphanage yet. In secret she has been hoping another family will decide to come rescue her. It has been almost 6 months, so very very soon she is going to have to tell the truth...that no family is coming to rescue Carlene...when that happens Carlene will be put in an institution...and it will be very soon. Once she is in the institution, she will never be loved on again and I think my heart is breaking. Please please please give some money to help Carlene as soon as possible. If her adoption was payed for, there would be a line of wonderful families who would go to Russia to get her. If you want to give money to save Carlene's life, just go to www.reecesrainbow.org/carlene-gypf This is an emergency!!!!! God made Carlene because he wanted her to be a light to the world and she needs to be set free so she can be his light. We need to set his little light free so she can shine!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hey Blogger World, It Is Lydia Again.




*****It is Thanksgiving time again, and I asked my mom if I could use her blog to share what is on my heart.


*****Last year alot of you might remember that with God's help I raised $30,000 for a little orphan girl with Down Syndrome. Her name is Darya and she came home to be with her brand new family last month in Florida! The Fick family! And I love them!


*****Raising that much money for an orphan has put alot of pressure on me. Kind of confusing, right? Well I have spent my days wondering if I can raise the money again this year to save the little girl we are trying to help as our Christmas project. Her name is Carlene and I put her picture at the top of this page. Carlene lives in an orphanage in the Ukraine and she has Down Syndrome. She is 5 years old and I have been afraid to let her down. The truth is I have been afraid to let God down too.


*****My family is doing the same kind of things as last year. We are doing bake sales and babysitting. But this year I have doubted a whole lot. I realized today I am doubting myself and God too. The Bible says God can do anything, but I have been thinking He can't really use me to raise that much money again because last year was a miracle. And if I don't raise the money, then Carlene will end up suffering and it will be partly my fault. I am struggling with putting my faith in God and letting Him be in control....I am sure everyone has struggled with the same thing, or will at some point.


*****Tonight my mom was cooking for Thanksgiving and I tried really hard to explain to her how I am feeling. I have been trying to explain it to her for days, but I just couldn't put it in words. I cried because I couldn't explain my feelings to her. Finally tonight she understood and I think you all need to understand too. It is ok for me to doubt God, because He understands. God is measuring my heart and all He is looking for is people who are willing to have faith. He is in control of Carlene's life and loves her more than we can imagine.


*****I want God to do another miracle and raise $20,000 for Carlene to be adopted. I can't stand to think about her being stuck in an orphanage every day of her life. She is five years old like my sister Hope and has been without a family all those years. Pretty soon she will be put in an institution with different kinds of people who scream all day and are unhappy. They will be strangers to her and she will be very afraid. The workers will probably tie her to her bed and not feed her very much because they are poor. She will be hungry and alone. When I think of Carlene, I think of Hope and how I would feel if that was her in that institution. That is what makes me cry so much. I don't want her to wake up one morning and be in a scary place. I want her to have a family.


*****I am not perfect, no one is, and I have thought that me doubting God would mean the money would not be raised to save Carlene this year. I thought my faith was too weak. But it isn't. God only needs a little bit of faith to do big things, and I am praying he will use this letter to all of you to make your hearts love Carlene like He has mine. Just like He did with Darya last year. And look at Darya's life now. She is the princess in her family and they love her so much. My family is going to visit Darya next month in Florida and I cannot wait to hold her. She is God's miracle girl.


*****More than 1,000 people read my mom's blog every week. If every person who reads this gives $20 then Carlene will have enough money to get a family for Christmas. My family is already going to raise $1,000 from our bake sales and babysitting. If you want to give money this year, just go to: http://reecesrainbow.org/carlene-gypf and do it online:)


*****Matthew 5:16 Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. That is what we can all do this Thanksgiving. We can let our lights shine all the way to the Ukraine and save the life of a little girl with Down Syndrome who is waiting on her family to come get her. And God will be glorified.
I love you all even though I don't know you. You all helped save Darya last year and I think we will save Carlene this year. Have you ever really thought about it like that? We are saving lives.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dr. B. (Part 2)











The Frist Gala is no oridinary soiree, and Chappy and I were honored when chosen to be one of several couples to represent Chappy's employer (UBS) at the event. While this year's sit-down dinner kicked-off the world renowned "Birth of Impressionism", showcasing several pieces of art from Musee d'Orsay, the real show to most attendees is rubbing elbows with the "Who's Who" list of Nashville's rich and famous.....a virtual Southern-Style red carpet. Dr. B., well-known in Nashville circles, was propped against a tall table, elbows planted firmly with drink in hand, when Chappy first noticed him.

*****
To give a bit of brief history, I am a mom with five children, and for those of you who don't know me yet, my children are my life. You can most often find me donned in worn-out jeans and a simple tshirt while sporting barefeet so I can crawl around on the floor with the little ones on a moment's notice, join my pre-teen gals in an impromptu dance around the house to Michael Buble's "Haven't Met You Yet" or the all time best hits of "Abba", and still be ready to take time to shoot a couple of baskets on the driveway with Caleb (taking his corrective criticism with a smile on my face, of course). Like most doting husbands, Chappy loves to see me dressed up, because over the years it has become a rare occurrence as our family has grown. So, on the evening of the Frist Gala, I crammed my bare feet into high heels and quickly noted that twinkle in my hubby's eyes. Well, suffices to say, that adoring twinkle was quickly replaced by the serious glare of a man on a mission when my husband noted Dr. B.'s presence at the Gala. He went from Casanova to Jason Bourne in 2 seconds flat....from holding my hand on a leisurely stroll while viewing masterpieces of artwork by Monet and Manet to dragging me in my high heels through throngs of Nashvillians in a mere blink.
*****
"I'm wearing heels, honey", I managed to grit through a toothy smile while being pulled hurriedly through the main hallway. The entire time my mind was reeling as I conjured how I would break my fall with my right arm (since hubby had my left one)....how I would at the same time make sure my skirt did not fly up over my head showcasing the pair of "Spanx" I was wearing to hold all my flab tightly in place....and how if I pulled hard enough I might manage to yank free from Chappy's death grip so he wouldn't continue to mercilessly drag me along behind him without noticing I was flat on my rump.
*****
Still pressing forward, Chappy answered me loud enough for anyone interested to hear: "I see Dr. B. over there at a table and no one is talking to him right now."
*****
Roledexing....roledexing....then I remembered him....Dr. B. More motivated now, I forgot about my heels and and my "Spanx" for the time being and put my game face on to join Chappy on his mission.
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Clint-Eastwood Cowboy types typically do not wear monkey suits, but as Chappy and I came to a screeching halt at Dr. B.'s table, it seemed more like we had arrived at a saloon bar from an old Western movie. Just as we arrived, cowboy threw back a sip of his drink, let the glass hit the table with a clunk, and looked up at us with piercing eyes. He obviously had no clue who we were and I am sure was wondering why we were out of breath.
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It was the perfect moment for cowboy doctor to tip his imaginary hat and ask: "What can I do for you folks?" but instead, he said nothing. He just looked at us until Chappy broke the awkward silence:
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"Dr. B., I am Chappy Hollis and this is my wife Melanie....since you have seen thousands of patients in your career, I am sure you will not remember us, but five years ago....." and Chappy recanted the story. Hope's story.
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I stood by Chappy's side as he used his hands to reel the cowboy in to the story. The inflection in his voice would change from a fast paced stormy rush of words to a soft patter when he would speak of his little Hopey and all the struggles she has been through in her short life. A sentimental fool in love with his imperfect daughter, tears rolled from his eyes when he spoke about how God perfectly formed Hope to teach us about a deeper level of His love we would have never known without her being born into our family....Chappy unashamedly let tears drop, one by one, onto the table top without seeming to notice.
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Every once in a while, I would allow my eyes to dart across the table to see how receptive Dr. Cowboy was to the story....to see if "Chappy Bourne On A Mission" was stealing away too much of the Doc's weekend social time or if he had magically become engaged in the tale of a love that has overcome many obstacles. However, the majority of the time I blocked out the hustle of the elite dressed in ballroom garb, the endless chatter about vacation homes and job promotions, to intently look at my husband's face and listen to him pour out his heart about little Hope and about the Creator of the Universe who doesn't make mistakes. The Purest form of love oozed from his lips, and from my perspective, fell onto the ears of a prominent man who was already calculating his response.
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Chappy finished: "Do you remember when you told us that our paths would cross again in the future, and how we would have a mutual understanding in that moment of meeting....how we would both know what others have no clue about..... that we are indeed uniquely blessed beyond measure to have your grandson, Seth and our daughter, Hope in our lives?"
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"This may surprise you, but I do remember; in fact, I remember the appointment well", he responded with a sort of chuckle while nodding his head and swirling the drink he held with both of his hands. Head still dipped down, his eyes shot up at Chappy when he smuggly announced: "But my perspective about how God fits into this is far different than yours."
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To be continued......
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dr. B. (Part 1)

Pregnant with Hope, I learned quickly that doctors' visits were eerily equal to withdrawals from my spiritual bank account. To remedy, Chappy and I would attempt to make spiritual deposits by digging into God's Word days before, reminding ourselves of His unfailing promises. The news was too often grim and so it seemed the enemy would literally extend his long pointed claws deep into my soul to gut and steal away every ounce of hope he could find in my body. Dejected and dismayed, it was common to see my head hung low and tears streaming when I would climb into the minivan for the ride home. Chappy would often hold my hand in complete silence...giving it a squeeze every now and then as if to say: "I wish I could make this better."

But this doctor's visit was different.....enter Dr. B:

It was a sunny day and all the regular doctors were out on the day I met Dr. B. The way he glided into the room with his shoulders straight, head held high, and nod of the head, it was evident immediately that I was not his first patient. Portraying the confidence of a leather-skinned cowboy proudly wearing calloused hands born through years of handling rough rope and wide-eyed cattle, this was definitely not Dr. B.'s first rodeo. It seemed equally evident that Dr. Cowboy would rather be anywhere else than in the examining room with me.

After a brief introduction, explaining he was filling in for the high risk doctors I was accustomed to seeing on my frequent visits to Vanderbilt Hospital, he leaned against the counter and began flipping through my file. I suppose he was wearing bifocals of some sort, because his glasses were hanging precariously onto the end of his nose, and as he would flip the pages, he would glance up to look at me every few seconds over the top of the glasses before looking down to begin flipping and reading again. Closing the chart with a loud thud between his large hands, he finally asked:

"What in the world are you doing here?"

Having felt subtle pressure from the medical community many times about our choosing NOT to abort little Hopey because of her extra chromosome and heart defect, my husband was a bit edgy with doctors in general. In response, he nearly rose out of his chair as his voice boomed to the arrogant Dr. Cowboy:

"What do you mean....'what in the world are we doing here?" His tone was full of sarcasm.

Dr. B., catching on very quickly to Chappy's response, stood straight, waved his hand and answered with a smile: "No, no, no. You have taken me the wrong way. When I asked what your wife was doing here, I meant that the high risk clinic typically sees mothers who are at high risk during their pregnancies...high blood pressure, sugar, etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your wife; she is very healthy. In your case, it is your baby that is at risk."

From there, Dr. B. went on to explain how he could view hundreds of ultra-sounds of babies with Trisomy 21 and every one would be born unique. Markers that are seen in the womb do not signify developmental milestones a baby with Down Syndrome will achieve or not achieve. And then he reached for his wallet.

"I don't ever share this with patients, but I am going to show you something" he mumbled as he dug into his pocket to pull the wallet from his pants. He then proceeded to open it and flip through colorful pictures of a family he was obviously proud of. Looking up with a sort of smirk, Dr. B. lost his cowboy persona and began to speak to us as if we were his dear old friends:

"I know grandparents are not supposed to have favorites, but I have a favorite grandson." Pointing to a sweet little face, he gently whispered: "His name is Seth."

It only took a quick glance for Chappy and me to realize that Seth had been blessed with an extra chromosome. We all smiled. Chappy and I teared up, but nothing more was said for a few moments.

Dr. B. slapped his wallet closed and shoved it back into his pocket, leaned back on the familiar counter again with folded arms, and with great sincerity he spoke these words that Chappy and I have remembered for over 5 years:

"You don't know it yet, but you are in for one of the greatest blessings of your lives. The little baby you are carrying will teach you about a love you have never experienced before. She will love you unconditionally. If our paths ever cross in the future, we might share some words or even a glance, but on that day, we will both know that you understand what I am telling you today is true....that indeed, you little girl is one of the greatest blessings of your life."

Chappy and I left the hospital with a deposit in our spiritual bank account after that appointment with Dr. B. It was a few weeks ago, over five years later, that our paths crossed with him again at the Frist Gala in downtown Nashville. What transpired between us will amaze you....God, truly, works in mysterious ways.

(to be continued)



Monday, November 8, 2010

He Takes My Breath Away


A few weeks ago, Chappy's office manager gave us tickets to attend the Frist Gala. Chappy dressed up in his penguin suit...I made my best effort to get gussied up for the event...and we prepared to leave our children behind for a fancy evening out on the town.
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Caleb, our 16 year old (and the oldest of the kiddos), stood up when I entered the great room where he was watching a football game.
His exact words are etched on my memory and will never be forgotten: "My mom is gorgeous." As I caught my breath and willed tears to not come forth from my eyes, he stood and took three gigantic steps across the great room floor, bent down to give me a delicate hug, and then pulled away to just look at me with a smile.
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Determined not to cry, I grinned for a moment, then as Chappy walked into the room, Caleb followed with a: "You guys have fun!" and took his place in front of the TV again....back into football.
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I could not speak for thirty minutes. I knew if I said a word I would weep like a baby and end up looking like a raccoon for the evening. Chappy was so busy trying to get us to the Gala on time, he didn't notice how quiet I was. Finally, I gained my composure enough to say: "You are never going to believe what happened tonight before you came out of the bedroom." Chappy's reply: "Hmmm....what happened?" as he continued to speed down I-65.
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My voice cracked as I told him: "When I walked into the great room tonight, Caleb stood up and said: 'my mom is gorgeous'". As I recanted Caleb's words to Chappy, all the tears I had been holding back came gushing.
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Laughter from Chappy. I gave him a sideways glance through my blubbering and swiping of tears. More laughter from Chappy. Very out loud laughing!
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"Why are you laughing?" I asked, still half crying but with a bit of an edge to my normally somewhat sweet southern accent as I rifled through my purse for a spare tissue.
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"I am laughing because I know Caleb is going to be incapable of doing anything wrong in your eyes for a very very long time dear." Then he smirked....that kind of look Chappy gives when he realizes something has happened to make me very happy.
Of course he was right. In my 42 years of life, it is quite possible sweeter words have never been spoken to me than those coming from my sixteen year old, 6 foot tall, athletic boy who is dangerously close to becoming a man. On October 7th, 1994, a seven pound, three ounce little boy with big brown eyes took my breath away. Sixteen years later, he is still taking my breath away.
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

LOVE This Time Of Year

Our family chooses to celebrate the holidays by raising money to help an orphan each year. Instead of buying gifts for one another, we find creative ways to earn money to help a child in need. This is a time we look forward to with great anticipation.

Last year, Lydia (along with her big brother and sister) raised nearly $30,000.00. The majority of that money was used to bring Darya home from the Ukraine to live with her new family (the Fick family) in Florida, and the remainder is being used to bring Evangeline home from a Russian orphanage to live with her new family in TN (the Hook family). Both Darya and Evangeline have Down Syndrome, and both are treasured by their forever families.

This year, we will once again set up bake sales, offer babysitting services, and rake leaves to raise money for the little angel girl we have chosen this year: her name is Carlene, she too has Down Syndrome, and she is living in a Russian orphanage. Unlike other orphans, an orphan with Down Syndrome is routinely placed in a mental institution, tied to a bed, and left to die following his/her fifth birthday. Carlene is five.

I have put together a book to help raise money for Carlene, and it can be viewed by clicking her adorable picture on the sidebar. Every cent of profit earned from the sale of the book will go to Carlene's adoption fund. If you purchase this book, or if you go straight to the http://www.reecesrainbow.org/ website and make a direct donation to Carlene, you are literally paying a ransom for her. Without our help, she will likely die very soon. Overwhelming statistical data shows orphan children placed in mental institutions only last a few months before going home to be with Jesus. Tied to a bed and never held or touched again, their death is a tortuous one. Carlene deserves a chance at life, don't you think?

The book is full of photos of orphans who are available right now on the Reece's Rainbow site. I have introduced the book as a ten day project for families to enjoy together over the holidays. Full of yummy recipes, the idea is that a meal will be cooked each day in honor of the child that is listed on the recipe page. Gathered together around a table, an empty chair will be used to symbolize the child who has never known the joy of eating a family meal. Prayers are said for the child and orphan awareness enters the minds of all those gathered around. It is so easy to be thankful for what we have when we become mindful of what others are lacking.

In scripture, Jesus fed the multitudes while He taught them about His way. It is my hope that families will hear from the Lord as they make this ten day project a priority during the season we are entering....the time of year when our Savior came to earth and adopted us, orphans as we once were. He wiped away the sin from our lives....never noticed our disabilities and failures.... He then took us by the hand and asked: "Won't you be mine?" I praise the Lord for His invitation to all who will come to Him!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thank You!!!


Tomorrow is November 2nd....Election Day! I am thrilled my campaign efforts end tomorrow, because I am exhausted from the hoop-lah!


I want to sincerely thank each of you for sticking by my side while I have waded through this uncharted, often storm laden, water. In running for State Senate as a write in candidate, I believe I have somewhat successfully taken a stand for not only Hope and Charlie, but for every special needs individual in the state of TN. Channel 5 and The Tennessean Newspaper were kind to run stories on my efforts and have helped me get the message out about restraint and isolation practices in our state. Hopefully I can be a part of a movement for more favorable legislation toward the special education students in the near future.


I will not be victorious in the eyes of many tomorrow when the announcement is made that Jack Johnson has been elected for a 2nd term, but in my eyes, I am a huge winner. Scared out of my mind, I managed to step out of my comfort zone to speak out for those who cannot speak up for themselves. I have been made fun of, heckled at, and chided by many....but through it all, I have kept the faith and have found the strength to stand.


Thank you again for being the truest of friends. You could have turned away and decided that politics was not of interest to you....but you didn't. May the Lord use this experience to draw us all closer to Him. May we come away more bold, and radical for the cause of Christ! It is all about eternity and standing before Him worn out, ragged, and disheveled, knowing we gave it all.


Sincere Love And Warm Hugs To You This Evening!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Take 5 Minutes To Stand For The Weak!







The article below was on the front page of our paper today! I am asking every person who is willing to take a five minute stand for the weak to type the following comment at the end of the article: "Disabled children should never be locked in isolation rooms at school!"






I am not a politician, but I have received a big dose of political "smoke and mirrors" during this process. For instance, Jack Johnson proposed a bill that can be read online at the TN State Legislature site by simply typing in SB2517. The bill (that has been tabled) very plainly states that it would allow educators the right to physically restrain and lock special education students in isolation rooms at school based on the total subjectivity of what teachers would consider to be "emergency situations".






The current TN restraint and isolation laws , proposed and successfully passed by Jack Johnson, allow physical restraint and isolation rooms for special ed students. Johnson's addendum (SB2517) proposed early this year would have added a LOCK on the isolation room door....basically making the school a prison cell and the teacher a police officer.






If you read the Tennessean article, however, Johnson states he is against restraint and isolation rooms. What???












PLEASE, consider taking the time to post a comment on the article. If our voices are heard, perhaps legislators will think twice before proposing reckless legislation that impacts the most vulnerable of our society. To post a comment, you will have to register (it is free and quick)...and you will be allowed to use a fictitious name as well. Scripture calls us to stand for the weak. This is an easy stand to make!






On behalf of little Hope and Charlie....Thank you!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Watch This Video So You Will Understand

Watch this video and have a deeper understanding of what the disabled children in our country are facing. The video depicts the actual restraint of a young boy in a Knoxville TN school. His crime? He was crying when his mother left him. The mother heard her son crying and came back to his rescue only to find he had been locked in a room and was being forcefully restrained. The educators refused to let her in to help her son. For three hours he suffered the abuse. Physical Restraint with Special Education students in schools is completely legal in TN and throughout the United States. It is imperative that ALL Americans view this to better understand why we need change. Be prepared to be shocked....it is legalized abuse.

http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyTfOnPLnSM&feature=player_embedded

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CONTEST!!!

CONTEST!!!

If I receive 800 "likes" on my Facebook Community Page by Friday, October 15th: "Write In Melanie Hollis, State Senate" (shown on the right column), I will draw one of the names from a hat to win a $100.00 gift certificate to http://www.147millionorphans.com/ . They have a great store, and 40% of all proceeds go to feed the hungry in Africa (win/win for everyone!) So, if you haven't visited my facebook campaign site, do it today....and tell your friends to as well. When you get on the page, choose "like" and your name will be in the drawing.....it is that simple! Together, let's get the word out that it is the responsibility of the strong to defend the weak!!!

What am I attempting to accomplish? For me, every single time a person in my district (District 23) writes my name on the ballot on November 2nd, they will be writing in support of my disabled children and the disabled community at large. Every vote for me will send a louder message to our state senator: "Disabled school children do not need to be locked in isolation rooms when they are at school, they need compassion."


Yesterday afternoon, I officially began campaigning for State Senate. I am not a politician, so this is new to me. Have you ever stood on the side of the road holding a sign while waving at total strangers? It is an interesting feeling. Many people returned my wave, and some even honked their horn in approval. Score a few points for my babes. Thanks for your support!









Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy 16th Birthday To Caleb!!






























































































The Hollis family has had such fun over the last several days....On October 7th, Caleb turned 16. After his football game on Thursday evening, we hosted a surprise party for him.....And he was definitely surprised! Chappy served as resident Disc Jockey for the evening spinning some beach tunes while the kiddos did some old fashioned "shagging" to the old fashioned music. Shagging is cool at every age, isn't it? (To be honest, some of the teenagers thought so, but others didn't!)
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The following day, Friday, was Franklin High's Homecoming Celebration. At 10:30am, we gathered at the downtown square to watch the parade pass through one of the oldest towns in TN on a beautiful, warm sunny day. Excited teenagers filled the brick lined sidewalks while the marching band and floats passed by. Cheers literally filled the air! The Freshman float came in 3rd place this year (Caleb was hoping for 1st place since he had a couple of scraped fingers from stuffing tissue paper for hours last week)....and he shouted out a loud "Momma!" as the wagon loaded down with Freshman football players passed us on the street. Quickly, his sisters asked: "What about us?" Ha! Ha! I had to teach the girls a quick lesson on "who" comes first in the family pecking order with teenage boys---it's always the one who feeds 'em. Ha! Ha! The day ended at the Homecoming Game where Franklin High beat their opponent quite handily.
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The chaotic week was capped of with the Homecoming Dance on Saturday evening.....Caleb's first official "fancy/schmancy" boy/girl dance! He took a precious girl he has been friends with since 6th grade, and they double-dated with some friends. Chappy and I were the drivers for the evening, so we decorated the "party van" and had a great time (we possibly had more fun than the teenagers!)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Jesus"

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"God invites us to see His face, so He can change ours. He uses our uncovered faces to display His glory. The tranformation is not easy, but our Lord is up to the task. He loves to change the faces of His children. By His fingers, wrinkles of worry are rubbed away. Shadows of shame and doubt become portraits of grace and trust. He relaxes clenched jaws and smoothes furrowed brows. His touch can remove the bags of exhaustion from beneath the eyes and turn tears of despair into tears of peace."
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"How? Through worship. We would expect something more complicated, more demanding. A forty-day fast or the memorization of Leviticus perhaps. No. God's plan is simpler: He changes faces through worship. Consider King David's definition: "Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together."
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"Worship is the act of magnifying God. Enlarging our vision of Him. Stepping into the cockpit to see where He sits and observe how He works. Of course, His size does not change, but our perception of Him does."




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"Avibrant, shining face is the mark of one who has stood in God's presence. After speaking to God, Moses had to cover his face with a veil (Exod. 34:33-35). After seeing heaven, Stephen's face glowed like that of an angel (Acts 6:25; 7:55-56). God is in the business of changing the face of the world."

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"Our goal is not to conjure up some fake, frozen expression. Our goal is simply to stand before God with a prepared and willing heart and then let God do His work. And He does. He wipes away the tears. He mops away the perspiration. He softens our furrowed brows. He touches our cheeks. He changes our faces as we worship. But there's more....not only does God change the face of those who worship, He changes those who watch us worship."




My little Hopey told her pre-school class today about her very favorite Person in the world. Jesus. When I picked Hope up from class, her teachers said she had repeated His Name several times. Jesus. Jesus.
Our girl may not say alot of words, but how thankful I am to hear she is saying the most powerful Name in all the earth. The name of Love, Healing, Forgiveness, and Salvation.
Oh, Hopey, when I look at your precious face, I behold true beauty. And I find myself longing to know the Artist who carefully molded you, and then placed you into my life, even more! Just as you are. Just as I am. We come.

(excerpt above taken from "Just Like Jesus" by Max Lucado)


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Lord of the Flies" vs. "Lord of the Universe"


A few days ago, I left the girls and babes home with Chappy and took Caleb to get a hair cut. While he went in to Great Clips, I remained in the car for some alone time with a book. A beautiful day with a cool breeze, I rolled my windows down, curled my feet up under me, and began to read.
"Are you serious?" came a very loud man's voice. Startled by the booming sound, I jerked up and looked around to find a man standing near the front side of my car.
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"Hi, how are you?" I asked, not knowing what he was talking about and not thinking about the magnetic signs posted to my van doors.
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"Are you serious....are 92% of all babies with Down Syndrome aborted every year?" he repeated.
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I closed my book, sat up straight and answered: "Actually, sir, the rate has increased. Due to earlier genetic testing among pregnant women, the percentage is now 94%."
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"I just can't believe that. People who have Down Syndrome are like angels....they are so loving and kind. It is a shame, I tell you, this is a real shame".... he replied to me while looking closely at Hopey's picture on the car magnet. His voice cracked when he spoke and I quickly noted his sincere concern.
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He shook his head and walked away to join his wife in the parked car waiting for him, and they drove away.
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Ironically, when the stranger approached my car, I was finishing the book: "Lord of the Flies". Caleb's English class is reading it, and since I have never read the book, I decided to read along with his class so I could discuss the book with Caleb.
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"Lord of the Flies" is a brutal book about young boys who are stranded on an island during a great war. At first, they are excited about the adventure a deserted island might afford them; however over time, the majority of the boys become savage-like and do unspeakable harm to one another. The author, through his intricate work of fiction, powerfully shows the debase character of all men....sin nature in it's purest, animalistic form.
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I fell in love with the character, Piggy, in the book. Perfectly imperfect, Piggy is a bit overweight, cannot see without his glasses, and frequently wrestles with asthma. He is murdered in the book---a group of boys hate him because of his weaknesses---and so they kill him. I cried when Piggy died. It is only a book, I know, but I cried.
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94% of all babies with Down Syndrome are aborted in the United States every year.
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Approximately 60,000 unborn babies a year are murdered simply because they are not perfect.
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I also cry as I type those statistics. Unlike a fictional tale about an imperfect boy named Piggy, the statistics represent real flesh and blood. Life. Little Hopes and Little Charlies.
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"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside; then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, Oh God---You're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration---what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before You, the days of my life all prepared before I had even lived one day."
Psalm 139 (The Message)
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

WHAT DO HEAD LICE, VOLUNTEER PAINTERS, AND MALAWI AFRICA HAVE IN COMMON?














In addition to a football game, parent-teacher conferences, mountains of homework, violin lessons, guitar lessons, therapy for Charlie, a son running for Freshman Class President, and a State Senate Campaign to run.....
What do head lice, volunteer painters, and Malawi Africa have in common? The Hollis family week.


The Hollis family has had its first case, ever, of head
lice.....and it was a doozy! Natalie later reported she had heard people at school talking about lice, but did not know what it was until it found her. And boy, did it find her. After two days of picking through her hair with a fine toothed comb, washing everyone's hair in lice shampoo, and then washing every stitch of bed linens, towels, and clothing in the hottest water available on our machine, the nasty little critters are officially gone.




You would think head lice would be enough to deal with in a week, but Charlie didn't seem to get the memo. He awoke on Thursday morning with snot plastered from the tip top of his red hair clear down to his belly button. It was like green glue. I placed him, screaming, into a warm tub full of bubbles....the stuff would not budge. I had to use my fingernails to scrape off every square inch of the stuff while he wailed and cried, producing more and more of the goopy substance....not a pretty picture.




Not to be outdone by Charlie and Natalie, Lydia wandered into my room in the early morning hours Friday, leaned over my body, shook me and announced she didn't feel good through a very stuffed up nose that sounded a bit too much like Donald Duck. Before rolling over, telling her to get back into bed, and falling back asleep....I happened to look up at her face (which was right over mine) and notice her eyes looked funny. I willed myself to get out of the bed to take her temperature: 102.8.




In three days, Lydia somehow managed to go through 5 boxes of tissue and an entire case of orange Gatorade while Charlie painted my couch, floors and walls with the green goo that continued to flow from his nose. As of the writing of this post, it is still flowing, however a bit less.


Saturday morning, Chappy, Caleb, and Natalie packed up to do some volunteer work for Best Buddies of TN. Along with other volunteers, some disabled and others not, they painted the hallways of a high school in Antioch while I stayed home to manage the sick ward. They came home with the funniest stories and several new "special" friends. They got the biggest kick out of a guy named "Phillip" who continually marched the halls telling everyone how to paint while being fussed at by a female friend who would tell him to "get back to work"....following her orders, he would rush back to paint for a few minutes, but then put his paint brush down to "boss" again....it happened over and over and over again. Caleb has laughed and laughed about it.

Last on the list, Chappy and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. We went to dinner at a favorite restaurant (Sperry's) and then caught a Michael McDonald concert while the big kids did some babysitting. McDonald performed some of his favorites with the Nashville Symphony, and it was fantastic! After all these years, he's still got it!
To top off the week, Chappy and I gathered the kids together and announced what our anniversary gift was going to be to one another. To celebrate 14 years of marriage, we have joined some close friends in building an orphanage/school on land that will be used to grow sugar cane in Malawi Africa (the sugar cane will be sold and used to help sustain the orphange). The orphange will house 50 homeless children, and the construction will begin early in November!!! I wish I could bottle up and send my joy to each of you. Our family is absolutely beside ourselves about this ongoing project, called "Project Pure Religion"....and cannot wait until our first journey to Malawi.
Head lice? High fevers? Snotty-nosed babies? Cleaning house like a wild woman? Yep, that was my week....there couldn't be a better week, however, to end with a HUGE surprise! Plenty of details about "Project Pure Religion" will definitely follow....

James 1:27:
"Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the Godless world."
(The Message)