Sunday, June 27, 2010

Too Much!

This summer is turning into an insane time for me and my family. In the midst of preparing for my 2 week trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we decided that now was the right time to look for a house to buy. Our current landlord is not interested in letting us rent on a month to month basis when our lease ends in July, which means we have to move one week after I get back from Congo. And before all this came up, I volunteered myself to help at Vacation Bible School every day this coming week. Oh yes, plus planning a meaningful birthday celebration for my soon to be 3 year old son!

Put it all together and it basically means that I have one week to get all my supplies and pack for my trip, find an apartment to rent, plan and shop for a birthday party while simultaneously helping at VBS every day, looking at properties and trying to make a wise choice on a home, and spending lots of quality time with my family before I leave for Africa. Am I forgetting anything? I'm sure I am!

All this to say quite simply that I AM FEELING STRESSED. Would you be? I'm trying to remind myself to breath and trust God for the results. If I live to tell about it, I'll be sure to write about God's faithfulness through it all = )

Philippians 4:13 "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Hard Heart

I remember quite a few details from my childhood, and many of them put me in a pretty bad light. I remember so often obeying my parents outwardly, but with a very defiant inward attitude. I remember following all the rules when adults were around to see me, but doing my own thing when no one was there to hold me accountable. I remember very clearly telling God no when I sensed Him asking me to do something. And I remember very clearly telling God that I would do what I wanted despite knowing he was saying no. These things are all blaring signs of the very hard heart I had. These memories also play a strong role in urging me in my adult life to say yes to God and to obey what He lays on my heart. Those days and years of saying no to God were very unhappy and uncomfortable ones that I do not want to repeat!

It is interesting to me that I rarely rebelled outwardly to my parents or other adults in authority. I was afraid of the consequences, and I liked "looking good" in the eyes of the world. But I found it so easy to directly tell God that I was going to do things my way, even though I knew without a doubt what He wanted me to do. I think that wanting to look "good" or "normal" to the people around me is still a struggle for me. But I'm daily striving to keep it from controlling my choices any longer. I'd much rather be weird for God than focused on following others expectations of how I am to live my life.

Here is what God has been laying on my heart recently, and it requires some obedience that is likely to be a little uncomfortable.

Luke 12:32-34 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

With this passage, some things have been clear to me. One of my possessions that God has asked me to get rid of is my car. My first response was, "Seriously God? That is my key to partial sanity when my kids and I are going crazy being cooped up in the house together!" But now I'm saying yes to God and goodbye to my car. The rest God and I are working on and I have a lot of questions for Him. "Do you really want me to sell these things God? Or is it okay if I just give things away? Selling things takes so much time and effort." I am also not sure how this verse applies to my kids' abundance of things. Should I be selling some of their belongings, or waiting for God to touch their hearts with a desire to give? I've been praying about these things and waiting for clear answers from God. But I wonder, has He already given me a clear answer and I'm just not listening well? Am I being disobedient by taking time to respond?

Here is a passage that stood out to me this evening while doing devotions with my daughter. Matthew 21:28-31 (Jesus said) "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?" 'The first,' they (the chief priests and elders of the temple) answered. Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you."

I'm done telling God no; I also want to be sure I'm not the daughter that says "I will" but doesn't follow through.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What and why?

Recently I read through the book of I Peter in the Bible. It contains so many words of truth and wisdom that require further study, contemplation, and most of all ACTION!

The verse that stood out most to me as I read was I Peter 3:15.
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."

The book of I Peter mentions multiple times the importance of, and a command to, show respect for others. I pray that my children will have this respect in their hearts, and outwardly in their behavior. How are they to learn this? By God working in their hearts, by me teaching them, and by the model I show them.

Dear Jesus, please continue to teach me how to respect everyone I interact with. Please soften my heart and keep it soft and pliable to your ways. Please open my eyes to see you and your will; my ears to hear you; my heart to obey you. Show me how to respect authority, my family, and every person I encounter. Thank you Jesus for speaking to me through scripture! Amen.

Back to the middle portion of I Peter 3:15. "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." Reading this reminds me that I need to take the time to put into words the reasons for my faith in Jesus Christ. I must have a ready response describing what I believe and why I believe. Also, what am I doing in my life, how do I come across to others in a way that leaves them wondering and compelled to ask about the reason for my hope?

I find that I'm able to give a reason for the hope that I have. Jesus Christ loves me, He has forgiven me, He is my daily hope! But what if someone needs or wants to know more than that? I don't necessarily have a succinct answer prepared to describe exactly why I believe and what I believe. What I have in my brain is more a jumbled mass of decades of Sunday School lessons,sermons, and Bible reading that I've never taken time to put into a coherent message to share with others.

Ephesians 6:19-20 "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel... Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

It is time for me to take specific, determined action and put into words my belief in Jesus Christ... what I believe and why. I need to look up and memorize Bible passages that will help me share my faith. This is my goal for this week.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Missions Trip to Democratic Republic of the Congo

I will be traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo July 8th to July 22nd.  My husband's cousin will be joining me and we will be staying with my sister-in-law and her family.  They have been living and working in the Congo for the past 3 years.

As I was praying about this trip, and how little I really have to offer compared to the extreme levels of poverty and hurt in the Congo, God led me to this passage in the Bible:  Luke 9: 10-17.  The disciples wanted to send all the hungry people away, but Jesus used one little boy's lunch to feed over 5,000 people!  With this scripture in mind, I will be going to the Congo in trust and obedience to God.  I will go with the little I have to give, and trust God to multiply it to provide for many.

My hope and prayer for this short-term mission is that it will lead to continued opportunities, and increased awareness and desire, for all of us to give generously of our time and resources to those in need.

Things we will be doing:

1.  Taking formula, cloth diapers, and diaper covers to Kaziba Orphanage.

2.  If funding permits, have a wall built around the orphanage to help protect the kids and provide them with a place to play.  The estimated cost for this project is $4800.  There are a variety of other projects that need attention if we are not able to accomplish this one.

3.  And of course... Hold, feed, play with, and love the babies and children!

4.  Also, when I first began planning this trip, my sister-in-law and her family were planning to return to the United States this summer.  They will now be staying in the Congo an additional year.  They are making a huge difference there, but it is often so hard and draining for them in every way.  I am hoping that we can truly be an encouragement to them.

Things I am praising God for (and thanking many of you for)!

1.  Joel's wonderful cousin, will be joining me on the trip.  I don't have to travel alone!

2.  Our flights are scheduled and paid for.  We will be going July 8th (and arriving in Congo on July 11th).  I will be back in San Diego on July 22nd.

3.  Enough financial support has been received so far to cover the cost of my flight, with over $1000 left over to contribute to the orphanage.

4.  My mom and Joel's mom will each be coming to take care of my kids for a portion of the time I am gone.  With Joel, Grandma and Grammie here, my "babies" will get plenty of love in my absence.

5.  In the months that I've been planning and preparing for this trip, much has already been accomplished at Kaziba Orphanage!  My sister-in-law has been able to provide some training for the workers that has had a big impact.  A donation was given to the orphanage that allowed them to hire more staff and provide better nutrition for the children.

Please be in prayer about the following things:

1.  For wisdom in where to focus our time, energy, and resources.  For wisdom in what project(s) to support with the funds we raise.

2.  For health and safety while we are travelling and in Congo.

3.  For peace and freedom from fear.  So you can pray specifically, some of the fears I've been battling are:  that my kids won't be okay without me, lack of physical safety while there, that I will not be effective or that what I do will not be enough.

4.  That this trip will truly touch many lives both in the Congo and in the United States.  That God will prepare many hearts to be touched by the love and hope we have in Jesus Christ.

Many of you have already provided financial support for this trip, I ask only that you please continue to pray!

For anyone who is interested in contributing material or financial support, here is the information you will need:

Items that are needed (we will be taking these with us to give to the orphanage):  Other than the formula, none of these items need to be new!

 - cloth diapers
 - plastic diaper covers
 - powdered infant formula
 - small, safe toys that the babies can play with in their cribs.  Things like mirrored toys that are meant to be tied to the crib edge, and very soft easy to hold rattles, would be appropriate.

Please send any monetary donations (tax deductible) to New Hope Church, Attn: Lynne Newland, 10330 Carmel Mountain Road, San Diego CA 92129.  Checks may be written to New Hope Church:  please include a note saying the check is for Shauna Petracci's trip to Congo, but do not write any memos on the check itself.

I really encourage you to do some research regarding the Democratic Republic of Congo, and about orphans worldwide.  Below, I will include just a few of the heartbreaking statistics that I have found.

If you have any questions (I'm sure I forgot some important details) or would like to hear more about this journey, please post a comment and let me know how I can contact you.

Some Statistics regarding Democratic Republic of Congo:
 - 4 of every 10 babies born will die before age 1
 - 6 of every 10 children born will die before age 5
 - the sexual violence against women and female children is the worse in the DRC than anywhere in the world

A Worldwide Statistic:
 - There are 147 million orphaned children in the world

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Dream

About 2 1/2 years ago, I had a dream that I'll never forget.  I didn't understand it at the time.  My dreams are sometimes along the prophetic, but often in an exaggerated way.  For example, many years ago I had a dream that my younger brother got sick and died.  A couple days after my dream he ended up in the hospital, extremely sick and not too far from death.  Thankfully he lived!  But I spent the whole week he was in the hospital scared and certain that I was losing my brother.  My dream from 2 1/2 years ago had that same prophetic feel, but how could it possibly hold any reality?

In the dream, there was an armed group that was coming toward the city where my family lived.  It was known that this group of men would kill every person they saw who was over the age of 5.  All the small children and babies would be left to fend for themselves.  Everyone was running one direction away from these men, but we knew we would all be caught and killed.  I gave my son, then a small baby, to my husband so he could try to get away.  I started running, carrying my daughter (age 2 1/2) toward the murderous group.  I was looking for my daughter's 3 year old friend, who I thought might be able to help her survive when I was killed and there were no adults to take care of her.

It was an awful dream and I couldn't figure out why it felt so real and similar to how my "prophetic" dreams often feel.  A situation like this is so far removed from anything we can imagine happening here in the United States.  For the past couple years I've pushed this dream out of my mind, but lately it has been coming back to me.  I have 2 children at home, they have always known safety and a simple and carefree childhood.  I've "seen" them in this situation in my dream; but I can't really imagine them ever having to face it.  But I also have children in my heart.  I don't know how many, I don't know their names or ages or where they are from.  As I think about past events, and very recent events in some countries, I CAN picture my unknown children being faced by something like this.

It is purely heartbreaking.  In the dream I was fully there, knowing I would die and that my tiny children would be left with no one to take care of them.  As a parent, I care nothing about my life except in relation to my kids... what would happen to them if I was not able to care for them and protect them?  Would there be someone to feed them, protect them, hold them, love them?  I can think of so many people who probably could and would.

What about the parents and children around the world who don't have that same assurance?  What can I do to help meet the needs of the estimated 147 million orphaned children throughout the world?  What can I do to make a difference in countries that deal daily, or have dealt, with violence and instability like this?  What am I doing?  What are you doing?

It might be easier to turn our heads and look the other way.  It is easy to get overwhelmed and think there is no way we can have an impact.  But working together and with God's help, we can make a difference.  And I know some of you are!  Thank you for inspiring me and making me more aware.  I am not sure exactly what to do, but I do know that I'm done looking the other way.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Playground Woes

Last summer we moved, again.  Does anyone else think 6 moves in 6 years of marriage is too many?  Oh wait, that is not the point I want to make here!  Anyway, we chose our condo because our front door opens to a playground.  We thought that would make doing without a yard much easier on the kids.  This playground right outside my front door is providing me with lots of learning opportunities and hard choices to make.  And I always thought the playground was a place where kids live and learn...

Here is a summary of today's playground adventures.  A 3 year old neighbor boy knocked on our door (just like every day).  He is often out there playing for hours with no parents in sight.  They can see him most of the time, but at a distance.  Ugh!  "Can Tabby and Oliver come out to play?"  We all got our shoes on and went out.  His sister age 5, and 2 other neighbor boys (about 5 or 6) were playing as well.  Tabby and Oliver started playing with them and then one of the boys started calling Tabby names.  I waited a little while to see how she would respond, if she would know how to speak up for herself and tell him to stop.  She didn't, so I told him to stop calling her names, that he needed to be kind, etc.  I took the time to privately explain to Tabby what to do when someone is being unkind.

The kind and tenderhearted part of me feels very sorry for these kids who are often out there without the interaction of parents.  They always want to talk to me and the 3 year old repeatedly needs to be rescued from high places.  Some days I have the extra energy to pour lots of love into their little lives.  But I must admit, some days my own kids have swallowed almost every drop of energy I have.  And I find it challenging to answer the door day after day ready to provide playground duty for parents that I'm a bit frustrated with.

So, on with the story.  After a while, another mom came with her kids (age 3 and 1 1/2 years).  My kids play with her kids pretty often and they are very sweet and blessed by a mom who gives them lots of attention.  Today, Tabby was having a hard time sharing and was not being kind to "Fred" (age 3) who wanted to borrow her trike.  Tabby received more instruction on behavior and how to interact with others!  Then "Fred" went and asked the group of kids with no parents present if he could play with them.  These kids told him no and tried to show him something else to do so he wouldn't want to play with them.  He was so sad.  His mom was so sad, but did not say anything.  This time I did not confront the kids because I was unsure of my role since "Fred's" mom was there.

Now I find myself frustrated that I did not speak up again and talk to the kids about treating everyone with kindness.  If I was not there to correct my own children, I would want someone else to insist that my kids showed kindness to others.  I think I felt intimidated because I don't know most of these kids' parents and I really don't know how they would respond to me telling their kids how to behave.  Plus they know exactly where I live!  Next time I will not be quiet and watch.  I will speak up!  This shy, introverted, conflict-avoiding girl is going to share her mind!  I just pray that I can do so with lots of love for these kids.  And I will try to shower them with lots of positive attention before it is necessary for me to provide any correction.