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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Get Over Yourself

I (Shelly) spent a lot of time lying awake last night. My baby, who is normally a great sleeper, started crying around 2:30am. She promptly put her little self right back to sleep but her cry had jolted me wide awake and I found myself lying in bed having the following conversation with the Lord...

Me: "Lord, please help me go back to sleep." 5 minutes go by. "Lord, please." 30 minutes go by. "Lord, PLEASE!!!" I have to get back to sleep. I will be exhausted tomorrow. My husband is in Uganda for crying out loud and I have two young children and a baby to take care of alone. Furthermore, I have all kinds of stuff to do tomorrow... I have to take my 4 year old to gymnastics, I have to drive afternoon carpool for Madeline, I even need to give Davis a couple of breathing treatments because he sounds congested. With all of these overwhelming tasks on my plate Lord, could you please, please help me out here??"

Lord: "Shelly, let me ask you a few questions...  First, are you comfortable right now?"
Me: "I guess so. I wish I wasn't awake at 3:15am but I am laying on a $5000 tempurpedic mattress and covered by some cozy sheets and blankets."

Lord: "You said you have a lot to do tomorrow. How much of it did I ordain? Did I specifically call you to sign your 4 year old up for a gymnastics class?

Me: "Well, no I don't think you specifically spoke to me about gymnastics but shouldn't my children be involved in various activities? They need them for athletic and social development purposes. Everyone I know has their children in activities.

Lord: "Does tomorrow's very important to-do list include digging through the garbage in order to find something to sell so your children can eat?" Do you need to spend a good chunk of your day fetching clean water for the family?


Me: "Of course I won't go digging through the garbage tomorrow... if there's nothing in the fridge we want to eat, we'll just hop in the old Volvo and buy some more food at the store. Fetching water? From where, the filtered water disposal on my sink?

Lord: "Tell me about these breathing treatments you might have to give to Davis. Is this something serious? Something he might die from? Do you  have everything you need to take care of him?"

Me: "We do own a nebulizer and have a cabinet stocked with medicine but it's all such a hassle. As I mentioned, I'm very busy right now and giving Davis breathing treatments takes another 10 minutes or so out of my day every few hours. It's annoying."

Lord: "Shelly, I love you enough to tell you the truth. You need to get over yourself. You need to remember why you are alone this week and who your husband is serving. You need to think about the children in Mukisa who are "sleeping" on filthy foam pads, not mattresses. Think about the many women around the world who have real "to do" lists for tomorrow and no means by which to do them. Think about how blessed you are to have instant access to medical treatment for Davis... you are so very spoiled that a sick child is just an inconvenience."

Me: "Thank you Lord for the perspective. May I never, ever lose it... and may I always use the many blessings at my disposal to serve those less fortunate than me."
Monday, April 19, 2010

Month One: Update

It has been about a month since we first started on this endeavor and I thought I would take a moment to evaluate and see how far down the path we've come. As you may recall, we had decided to take a break from eating out in March in order to see how much money we could save. I went back and looked at our expenses for March and found that we didn't exactly make it. But we didn't do too bad either. There were a total of 5 visits to local establishments, but before you start angrily admonishing us in the comments section, I have some really good excuses; at least for a couple of them. Altogether, in March we spent $114.65 buying food from a restaurant. About $80 of it was for an event that we had agreed to cater before our March Eat Out Recess. So I'm going to say that doesn't count. OK, you can start your angry comment posting frenzy if you like now.

Another thing we started in March and are continuing, at least for now, is Rice Nights. Monday nights we eat rice and beans to help us identify with the majority of the rest of the world - at least those that have even that much for supper. It is also a way to eat very cheaply and we figure we save between $10 and $20 each week. This comes to an additional $80 to $100 per month in savings (on the high end). As my grandpa used to say, That ain't chicken scratch. I still don't really know what that means, but I'm inclined to agree nonetheless.

Additionally, we sold my car and I got a scooter. Those were some big changes and allowed us to give a lot to some worthy causes. We also made a good number of changes to our spending habits and expenditures that were out of line. But the biggest change so far has been this whole venture with Uganda. As some of you know, we just started SixtyFeet.org last week and I'm headed to Uganda in a less than a week with Michael in order to get some documentary footage and hopefully fix some urgent issues quickly. This whole thing came about after we prayed for a specific area where we could give some of the money we had recovered from other places. It still hasn't really sunk in how exact and deliberate the answer to this prayer has been.

I keep thinking back to an analogy of how we live our life on Earth that David Platt gave near the end of his Radical Series. This is not earth-shattering and certainly something I have heard before in some form or another, but for some reason this time was different. He said something like this, and I'm paraphrasing:
"Imagine you have a great job working in France for three months and you are staying in a nice hotel while you are there. The rules are, you are allowed to send as much money back home as you want or you can spend it however you like while you are there, but anything you buy while you're there you have to leave. You wouldn't ever dream of going out and buying new furniture for your hotel room, or pictures to hang on the wall. It would all be left behind after you are gone. You would be depositing every paycheck and immediately wiring that money back home to the States. Back to your real home where you can have it forever."
I need to view my life on Earth like that; like a temporary situation, but one that can have pay big dividends for the life I live after if I make the right choices now.
Sunday, April 18, 2010

Less Is Definitely More

Sitting here thinking about our weekend and the completely insane amount of money that Cupcake Kids brought it, I have to wonder what is going on here. A few years ago we got involved in helping folks in Romania and held a couple of parties in order to raise money. The problem was, although we were able to raise a lot of money for a great cause, we spent a lot of money too. The parties became an end in themselves and a source of pride, quite honestly. We spent weeks and weeks planning, buying, setting up. And in the end we had a nice party and folks gave some money and everyone was happy.

Contrast that with what happened this weekend. Some cupcakes were made, some water and Crystal Light were stirred together and some children, our children, got to get involved and tell folks around us that there is a crisis in Uganda and that your money could make a difference for someone you will never meet. There was no set price for any of the items sold at the stands -- the children simply told their customers "give whatever is on your heart." And in the simplicity of this, God showed up. Big time. The glory and honor belongs to Him alone because by ourselves, we could never raise over $10,000 on treats and lemonade... I mean the cupcakes were good and all, but let's be honest.

And this all takes us back to the main point of this blog... we just don't need a bunch of stuff. We really don't. All we really need is Jesus and if we have Him, we have everything. He'll provide our needs.

Glory and praise to God for an amazing weekend. We are blessed to be a small part of His plan and a witness to His work on behalf of these children in Uganda. He loves these children more than we could ever imagine.
Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cupcake Kids - You Rock!

Seriously folks. I'm going to have to ask that you sit down for this one. Today's Cupcake Kids events (yes, there were many) in support of SixtyFeet.org went beyond what any of us even dared hope for or, sad but true, even pray for.

There were a total of 5 Cupcake Kids events today in 2 different states. Yes, the event in Colorado was hailed out, even though I thought folk in Colorado ate hail for breakfast. Regardless, that event is postponed temporarily. We have totals from 3 out of the 4 events today and it's getting late, so we'll post the grand total tomorrow. Of the 3 events here in Georgia - 2 in Atlanta, 1 in Marietta, we raised a total of $7,700 and the number is still growing and doesn't include one of the Marietta sales. Some of the leftover cakes have been shipped off to Sunday afternoon soccer games with more being baked as we speak to create yet another Cupcake Kids event tomorrow, so we'll just see where we end up after tomorrow. But that's not bad for one day.

Hey, I told you to sit down remember. Ok, while that number is sinking in a bit, here's some photos.

"Cupcakes! Lemonade!" You can hear it, can't you?
Almost too cute to eat... almost.
That's some good marketing in Spring Lake

What helpful counter staff

Cupcake Kids: The Next Generation

Like I said, we never dreamed a lemonade and cupcake sale would come to this. But God did, obviously.  It seems God has some big plans and we are excited to be a part of it. Thank you to everyone that helped out today. Thank you Cupcake Kids. Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Calling All Cupcake Kids!

Hey Kids! It's time for cupcakes again. We're planning an emergency bake sale this weekend - April 17 from 10-12 - in order to take advantage of a very generous donor's offer to match all proceeds received before the end of April going to SixtyFeet.org. That, and it's only a week before the big send off of me and Michael.

So, here's the deal. We will be doing multiple Cupcake Kids sales in the Atlanta area. One at the Harty's in Brookhaven and one at the Kirby's in Spring Lake. And here's were you can help. We would love for anyone else out there that would like to, to set up your own Cupcake Kids stand and see how much you can raise for SixtyFeet.org.

All it takes is a batch of cupcakes, some ice cold lemonade, and some kids that want to help those less fortunate.

Send your photos to GoodToBeCrazy (at) Gmail (dot) com after your sale and we'll post them here on the blog. Start Baking!
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pray As You Go

Here is something I wrote for SixtyFeet.org and wanted to share it with all of you here:


Something rather astounding occurred to me recently about prayer and how we pray about things before we do them. As with so many similar things, this occurrence happened by way of my wife enlightening me after it had occurred to her. The context was that we had just moved into a new neighborhood and we were praying about how to meet some of the neighbors. It’s an older neighborhood with some residents having lived there for many decades, so naturally there are a few older couples and widows near us. What my wife realized while praying one day was that she caught herself praying whether or not God would have us get to know the elderly widow across the street. Suddenly it dawned on her that this was not the right prayer at all. Caring for widows and orphans is a command from God right out of the Bible. It’s not even an optional thing.

I feel this applies many times over with the children in Uganda that we are going to serve. There was actually very little prayer on our part as to whether or not we should go. It was a given. The prayers have all been about our protection while we are there and the means to help the children as quickly and completely as possible.

Imagine you were walking down the street and happened upon a house on fire with a woman outside screaming for someone to save her baby trapped inside. You would not drop to your knees and say “Lord, would you have me save this baby today? Is that in your will?” No, you might have time for a quick plea for help from God as you dash inside – hopefully.

That is how this venture feels. We can smell the smoke as the flames get hotter and the situation more and more desperate. We are praying for God to provide what we need while we are on the ground in Uganda and for wisdom in knowing how to proceed. Your prayers for us would also be greatly appreciated.
Monday, April 12, 2010

High Impact Man

Shelly and I were watching a documentary this weekend about a family in NY City that went a year trying to have as little impact on the environment as possible. He called himself No Impact Man (I call him NIM for short) - as in, no net impact on the environment. So his family went through a process over a 12-month period where they reduced their garbage output to nearly nothing, went without electricity, didn't use carbon-emitting vehicles (that would be about everything but a bicycle), only locally grown food, no meat, etc., etc. All well and good, but the thing that caught my attention the most was that their spoken reasons for doing the entire project were rather flimsy. In a couple of places throughout the film he, NIM, tries to explain why they went through this exercise and he honestly seemed to be making it up on the fly. Something about living according to his values and concern for the world and man's impact on it, and so on.

At any rate, other than the raging liberal mantra throughout the piece, aspects of what this family was trying to do resonated with us and what we as a family are trying to do. First of all, we do care a great deal about the environment, but I subscribe to a different set of values than NIM. My worldview is such that the world was created for man, as it says in Genesis, to subdue. So I think everything we have at our fingertips is ours to use. But I also feel strongly that we need to take good care of it and ensure that it is taken care of. Basically that we tend to the earth like we do our cars - as if any scratch or dent is a blemish and costly to remove, but important to do so.

We are interested in reducing what we use and watching how we utilize everything in our house in order to keep focused on the fact that we (the collective "We") consume as if we are entitled to everything we can possibly get our hands on. As if the money we have now is actually already spent (if only in our own minds) on things we want. You might interpret "want" as "need" as we used to.

Well, I shouldn't be so hard on No Impact Man since at least he is doing something. He is encouraging all of us to take a long hard look at everything we are doing and evaluate whether or not it's worth it. His conclusion is that most of what we spend our time and money on is not worth it in the long run. The overall "costs" are too high in most cases and changes need to be made. I couldn't agree more. This is similar to what we are saying: Look at everything, put it all on the table, and decide if it is really something you need to be spending your time and money on. If not, stop or get rid of it and give that money to a worthy cause.

That last part, about giving the remainder away as opposed to socking it away for the Playstation or Gucci bag, is where the High Impact version of this comes in. We are hoping that we can change how our family spends and re-focus that money in a way that will have a large and lasting impact on someone other than ourselves and someone in desperate need of life's bare essentials.
Friday, April 9, 2010

Better To Give Than Receive

We have all heard the phrase from Acts 20:35 "...it is more blessed to give than to receive" and it's obvious why that is. You, as the giver, are able to benefit from the joy of making someone else happy. You are receiving something while at the same time giving away. That's great. A win-win, as they say.

In her former pre-mommy life, Shelly was a professional fundraiser. For that reason, we've been called on (and sometimes "felt called") to organize and assist with a number of fundraisers over the years. We've helped raise money and awareness for various causes from orphans in Romania through Pathway to Joy to rescues of babies out of Uganda a la the Levy Family to our daughter's private school auction and so on. Raising money can be a lot of work but Shelly has found that it's typically something you can do without getting your hands too dirty and it usually ends with some kind of fun party or gathering with your friends and lots of food. And when everything is said and done, you get to look like a big hero by handing over a pile of money to some people or organization in need... the people who are really doing the work and getting their hands dirty.

We've now found ourselves on the other side of the fence. We are embarking on a mission to Uganda - with a lofty goal of improving the living conditions of a terrible place where children are housed in very bad conditions. It seems strange to be the ones actually going and doing this. We are so accustomed to writing checks, or hosting parties and asking other people to write checks or gathering groups of people to pray and hear more about the cause. But with this trip to Uganda, we are stepping out of our comfort zone.

We're not technically raising money (yet) -- although we cannot say enough thanks to the many friends who have already stepped up and donated money to meet immediate needs at this place in Uganda while we are there. What we really need right now, as we begin this "crazy journey" is prayer. Our good friends, Garry and Laura Hill, are hosting a night of prayer & desserts (see, I told you these things usually involve food) for me and Michael on Thursday, April 22. If you live in the Atlanta area and are interested in joining us, please comment below and I'll get you the details.

All of that to say it just feels strange to be on the receiving end of such a function. Shelly and I are used to hosting these things, cheering others on, praying for them, writing our little token checks... but typically we don't get our own hands dirty. For us, there is much safety in being the ones who give. But we're making some changes... and as Paul says in Romans 8:14 "God's spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!" (The Message)
Sunday, April 4, 2010

How Easy Was Your Easter?

The sign in Pier One Imports encouraged us, the other day, to "Make Easter Easy", and why not? It is already very difficult what with getting the eggs hidden in the yard, making up the easter baskets, preparing for a monumental feast complete with family and guests. And then there's deciding which church service to attend, getting everybody ready early to take pictures in the front yard, and fighting all those crowds of newcomers that want to take your favorite pew and parking spot. It's just a busy day, you know, so take Pier One's advice and just make it easier already.

We watched Gibson's The Passion of the Christ again last night and were reminded in great detail how very un-easy the first Easter was. It was difficult because it had to be. There was no other acceptable option. There was no other way to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind and no other person on Earth that could possibly do it. He even refused to take the wine and myrrh on the cross which would have at least deadened some of the pain, if not killed him outright.

Our lives are so easy in comparison to most others in the world, and it's easy because we make every effort for it to be that way. Our constant forward motion is in the direction of reducing stress and increasing comfort. Ironically with the result of increasing stress, but that's for another time and blog.

In light of the great and awesome sacrifice that our Lord made for us on the cross 2000 years ago, perhaps we can look at our own lives and consider what thing we can change in our life that might help someone else's, even if it causes us some temporary discomfort.
Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cupcake Kids - Sold Out

We are a little bit speechless right now actually. I've never heard of a bake sale with call-in orders until today. We are incredibly grateful to all of you that showed up this morning for Cupcake Kids and especially those of you that bought $25 cups of lemonade. All told, the kids brought in $260. And after the parent's matching donation that's $520. That's pretty amazing if you ask me. It's like what I imagine a post-apocalypse bake sale would be like - people spending $20 on a cookie because they haven't had sugar in 8 months.

I arrived late on the Crazy Bike and learned that the kids had decided to send the money with me and Michael when we go to Uganda later this month so that we can meet some immediate needs as they come to our attention while we are there. They are very excited about the turnout and response and have decided to do more of them in the weeks to come. Stay tuned for the announcement of the next location and date. And now, the photos. Thanks to Joy and Davis for taking such good shots of the event and sharing their pics with me.

OK customers, come and get it.

Salesforce is motivated

That's good service right there
Woohoo, we met our sales quotas
Here you go Sir, would you like some cash with that?



Friday, April 2, 2010

The Cupcake Kids

Our kids have decided to get into the act. They wanted to have some money to give away and our oldest suggested selling cupcakes and lemonade at the park down the street, and even came up with the clever title Cupcake Kids. I'm sure you're reading this thinking "No. It has to be 'Kupcake Kids'." Well, sorry, I grew up too close to Pigeon Forge and can't bring myself to hillbilly this up too much.

The park, it turns out, is run by the city and they don't take too kindly to selling stuff there, even something cute and tasty. So, tomorrow morning along with the children of our friends the Harty and Mitchell families, ours will be selling cupcakes, cookies and cups of lemonade in the Harty's neighborhood (off North Druid Hills near the Brookhaven Marta stop).

The agreement is that any money they earn, we will match. Then each child can decide where they want their money to go. Our oldest has chosen a lofty goal of a goat and two chicks from World Vision.

The Cupcake Kids

Baker Baby


Who could resist?
Thursday, April 1, 2010

Be Careful What You Pray For

You've heard the expression, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. Same applies to prayer it seems. Shelly and I have been praying recently about how we should use some money that was burning a hole in our pocket. Specifically, praying for a need to be put in front of our faces so that it was completely obvious that it was from God for this very purpose.

You may recall my recently I mentioned how the friend that had brought a terrible situation to my attention was on his way over to Uganda to film a documentary about it and attempt to get the attention of folks to help. Last week I followed up with my friend asking when he was going and what the latest scoop was. He told me that the sponsors of his trip had backed out at the last minute and he was going to have to cancel... [sound of crickets chirping]. Honestly, my response to him was something along the lines of "wow, that's too bad. I guess there's a reason for it. I hope a good reason. ha." At this point you, the viewer would be no doubt screaming at me, the character on screen as if I were sauntering about in a dark basement somewhere while the killer is sneaking up behind me.

Meanwhile I got in touch with the folks that wrote the blog about Mukisa and found out that they had received a pretty good response so far of people donating and that they were seriously considering using some of that to get my friend over there to proceed with the documentary. They felt it was that critical to get the word out to people in the rest of the world. Yeah, this is the point in the dark basement where I turn around just in time, dodge the killer's swipe of the blade and avoid an untimely demise. Shelly and I pretty much looked at each other and said, "Hey, I think maybe this is where that money should go."

So the latest is this: Michael and I leave Atlanta on April 24 to spend a week in Uganda. We will film as much as possible at the prison to bring back and create a campaign to help build an orphanage. While we are there we also will be looking for ways to help meet some of their more immediate needs.

All of this reminds me, inexplicably, of the spot in the New Testament where Jesus feeds the 5,000. If you are familiar with the story you know that Jesus was preaching somewhere way outside of town where restaurants were scarce and it was getting on toward lunch time. The disciples came to him and asked him what they should do. And Jesus responded that they should figure something out themselves. In reading this in the past I've always imagined the disciples coming to Jesus in a panic like "Hey! You have to Do something." But lately it has dawned on me that that probably wasn't the case. They had seen Jesus do a Lot of cool and unorthodox stuff, so why should this be all that hard for him. I can imagine them walking up casually and mentioning "oh hey, Jesus, the crowd's getting a bit peckish. Why don't you whip up something for them to eat and they'll be in awe and really ready to listen to your message. It'll be cool." So Jesus' response to them doesn't seem off base. He was just resetting their expectations.

This thing with the children's prison in Uganda kind of hit us the same way. We were saddened to read about it and thought "wow, God should do something here." and he said "why don't you go do something about it." And so, we are.