Adventure lies ahead

amsterdam Or rather, the adventure is laying out now. As I prepare for the Amsterdam Discovery trip, I am already amazed at the growth and stretching that is taking place in my own life.

In celebration, Wendy’s trip costs have been covered by donations, plus she will have just enough extra money to cover the meals and expenses not included in the trip cost.

For my own fundraising, I have been holding classes in my home. So far I’ve taught several soldering classes, and a visual journaling class. I have a couple more classes lined up for the month of October. I’m also selling an Amsterdam soldered pendant from my Etsy shop. Amsterdam Pendant

While all of this is helping to pay for the trip, I’ll be working into 2010 to fully recover the costs.

Here’s what I’m discovering:

  • I love to teach
  • I love to prepare classes
  • I love to get others excited about creativity and expression
  • I am inspired by the uniqueness of each students work
  • I love the relationships that are developing from these classes
  • I feel that I am being prepared for something else
  • I don’t enjoy marketing myself
  • I don’t like collecting money
  • I have a greater respect for all teachers that are prepared and thoughtful about the classes they teach and the time invested to bring the classes together

All in all, I have learned so much by holding the classes, and the experience has affected the vision and goals for my future. Exciting times!

Soldered Jewelry Classes:

Visual Manifesto Journal Classes:

amanda ∞

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Amsterdam bound

Amsterdam bound. Yes, I am, thanks to a dear friend who asked if I would join her on the Missions Focused trip with our church. With this trip, we will learn from our pastor, Jeff Adams, who will teach us about the missionary view and cultural sensitivity. I have heard of so many life-changing experiences from those who have attended this trip in past years, both in their worldview and understanding of God’s grace.

My friend, Wendy, has such a huge heart for reaching out to others. I’m sure this trip will be one of great growth for the both of us. I thought of sharing in my own words why this trip will be so amazing, but allowing my friend, Wendy, to share her story with you will be more than I could ever say.

Wendy’s Story:

But by the grace of God…..that is so true to my life.  I had the husband, two children, two new cars, nice house in the suburbs. Then one day it was gone. The marriage was over, husband did not support us and in turn I could not support my children. He also made threats to harm my children, so I had to make one of the hardest choices of my life and place my children in my brother’s home for him to raise them for me.  It was then and still today is the best choice for my children.

So then I had to try life on my own, well I always had God, but I didn’t access Him. I felt unworthy of God and his blessings. So I tried to control my life on my own…and guess what…it spun out of control. I got a great job for a major company making $38K a year. Bought a car and purchased a house. And oh yeah, the man….he promised me so much and gave so little. But I believed he loved me and if I stood by him and trusted him..well,  I thought he would see his own mistakes. He had a gambling problem, drug problem and loved a life of drama.

He introduced me to the world of prostitution. At first he just asked me to come up with catchy little ads to run in the Pitch (a local newspaper here known for its sex ads). Then he would bring young girls home and ask me to talk to them about how to treat a man, to take the street at out of them, and explain to them how much they would receive and why we would keep their money. At first I thought I was helping them, since they all had drug addictions and would sell themselves for a piece of crack. He convinced me that we were showing them how to make more money to help themselves. I would clean them up, get them a nice outfit, new under clothes, shoes, take their pictures and post an ad on the internet. Didn’t take long to realize, they never got ANY of the money and he keep them under control by supplying them with their drug habits. Sure we gave them a place to stay and fed them, but I would soon find out the price they were paying was much higher than money alone.

The girls would all leave after time and next I was hearing how I didn’t try hard enough for our home. Even though I still had my job making $38K, I needed to do more.  So one day I did.  I posted an ad for myself. The phone rang 15 minutes later and I was off to my first “call”. I don’t remember being nervous on the way there. What I do remember was collecting $700 for a little less than two hours of my time. I remember walking out and getting to the car and crying all the way home. And then when I got home he  was absolutely horrible to me. As a matter of fact he beat me the next day, so badly that I couldn’t go on my next “call” for two weeks, because of the bruises and cuts. Well, this became my life…I would go on calls and about every three weeks or so he would go into a rage and beat me. Each time took me to the hospital. Once I came home on crutches, once I was in shock and didn’t know my name, twice I had a broken collar bone, and once I bled until I passed out on my bedroom floor. But I always went back, I mean he would pick me up from the hospital. I can’t explain to you why, but all I wanted to do was go back to him. Twice I did go to a shelter for battered women, but I had him come and get me. I even went to Minnesota to live with my brother for three months, and guess what….that’s right I came home to him again.  And after being home for two months…he had convinced me to start running ads and make him money again. By now the car and been repo’d, the house in foreclosure, and I had been arrested several times because I was taking the fall for him. Well between the second week of Sept to the last week of Nov. I had made over $40K selling myself, but I was getting evicted and never had any money and life just keep spinning.

Then the most amazing thing happened…I was arrested in Wyandotte County for prostitution. It was amazing because now I had a GOOD reason to stop or at least slow down. With all the money I had made he couldn’t even bail me out. I had to call my parents. My dad. I has daddy’s little girl and I had to tell him what I had done. But he loved me. He came and bailed me out. Had to wait seven hours outside the jail for them to release me, but he waited.

The courts had me go to this place called Veronica’s Voice. I had never heard of it and didn’t want to find out either. But it was go there or get a felony conviction for prostitution and go to prison. So I went. At first I hated it. Didn’t talk much and thought I was different. I’m not. Every single women I met there had been molested as a child (like me), been raped (like me) and choose prostitution for survival (like me).  We were all just women broken.  Needing love and support. God had an angel there waiting to reach out and help me. There was this wonderful family there, a mom and her two kids. They came every week to feed us lunch. The meals were incredible. You felt fed with love at the end of each meal. I began asking them questions about different things; cooking, music, art. I discovered that they attend my church. Wow, what are the chances of that? This is when I started to see God’s love for me and he uses everything in your life to bring you back to him and his love. I started going to church again. But this time I started to listen, not just hear. This time was different. This time I heard God answering. Not long after, that man…well he went to prison and within a couple of weeks, I stopped going on “calls”. I started to understand what I was learning in church, and believe it. That amazing mom that once fed me on Fridays..well her name is Amanda, and she began feeding me with God’s word. I became Amanda’s disciple, which was all part of God’s plan for me. I began to grow through Christ and suddenly life looked so different. And the day came when I just trusted the Lord for everything! No more worries. No more stress.  Just grace and mercy and LOVE.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have struggles, big ones even. But now I trust God to see me through them all. God has never lied to me, never let me down and most important…God has NEVER left my side.

I completed my sentence with the courts, but still am very active with Veronica’s Voice, I have a new job in which I get to help young adults with mental illness learn to live independently, I have been part of a documentary on prostitution, I was asked to speak on behalf Veronica’s Voice at a charity function. I have so many blessings in my life that it would take less time to count to stars than my blessings. I have a wonderful relationship with Christ, and I have devoted my life to do His will. God is awesome! Amen.

Over the past year, I have seen Wendy make the most God honoring choices, difficult choices. Her spiritual growth has in turn caused a greater passion and love for God in my own life. While I was supposed to be the mentor in the relationship, Wendy taught me time and time again about total reliance and faith in God’s providence. And she has been so patient, waiting on God’s timing.

Wendy felt very pulled to go on this trip to Amsterdam. When she asked me to go with her, she was confident that God would provide the money. I have no doubt she is right, and no doubt that this trip to Amsterdam is God calling her further into service for him.

The reality of Wendy’s financial state is not bright. She is now working two jobs to not only pay for the trip, but also to continue to stay above water with her daily living expenses. As one can imagine, a woman with a court record does not get paid a large salary. And she recently experienced vandalism to her car costing more financial pressure.

In an effort to help Wendy raise her funds, I have set up a chip in site for those who would like to contribute. All the money contributed will be sent to the church to be applied to her trip costs.

One very exciting side note for the both of us is that we will have the opportunity to work alongside some people in Amsterdam that minister to women caught in the life of prostitution. What a thrilling opportunity to carry on hope with Wendy’s own life story.

amanda ∞

Final cut

From our trip in June, enjoy the video my husband produced for Won By One To Jamaica:

I must agree with Tayler’s ending statement. My experience with Won By One To Jamaica, my time with my Jamaican family in Harmons, has totally changed the direction of my life.

amanda ∞

I Have 2 Homes

Our recent trip to Jamaica was one of renewing dear friendships. I consider so many of my friends from Harmons, Jamaica as my 2nd family.  When we arrived, it was as if we had never left. That feeling of comfort, of arriving back home, came instantly. I was saddened though as one of my dear family members, Sammy, had passed on since our last visit. I found myself grieving the lack of his earthly presence, the sound of his voice, the smile on his face. I missed him gracing me with a pet name (nickname) for our visit.

Quite humorously, the first thing I mentioned while journaling about our visit was the care and nurturing of my coffee addiction. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I learned that they had begun roasting their own coffee right where we were staying, so each morning was begun with a cup of freshly roasted, freshly brewed, very native Jamaican coffee. Roll that glorious bean footage:

Coffee tree. See the green beans?

Raw beans.

Ira stirring a batch of beans over the fire.

Mmmm, roasting beans.

My husband gave it a try.

Cooling the freshly roasted beans.

Dean, the coffee expert.

And me drooling over the beans:

Jamaica is full of beautiful wonders, the Doctor Birds, the flora and fauna. The fruit trees are always in glorious display. I love to recall the sights, but the smells of Jamaica are what truly linger. With every turn I was infused with a new smell, very pungent, very pronounced, some divinely sweet, others I would categorize as distinctly odd. Even the earth evokes a greater sense of earthiness by it’s smell, richer, heavier than I am accustomed to. I feel a greater connection to nature in Jamaica, perhaps because everything is fresh, different and therefore I stop to linger on the details.

The little town in which we stay has no running water. Electricity is available, but few people have jobs and therefore no electricity. Take our unemployment rate in the U.S. and flip it to approximate the employment rate in Harmons and surrounding areas. I am once again reminded of the blessing it is to have an indoor toilet and and sink and faucet with running water. The Harmony House, our home away from home, has water trucked in, so we did not have to go without during our stay, but most of the locals do not have this luxury. The cooking is also done outside over a fire when it is not raining both to keep the heat out and because there is not much room in most homes. Occasionally some have a separate kitchen like this:

Many families live in tiny homes like this:

There are nicer homes in the area, but among those construction is a slow process sometimes taking years. They build as the money comes in.

One woman invited me into her home where she lived with her 4 yr old daughter and another couple, friends of hers. The room we entered was the tiny kitchen that was used when it rained. I thought I would fall through the floor. The remaining 2 rooms were tiny bedrooms in which there was truly no privacy. And in that house I left my heart.

The organization that brought us to Jamaica is Won By One to Jamaica. They regularly bring missions teams to this area to build relationships and build homes. I am so pleased with what is becoming of the town in connection with Won By One. The locals are employed by the Harmony House to clean, cook, build, and to provide food for the missions teams. Several local men head up the construction teams when the missions groups help build the houses. Also, a couple large greenhouses have been built with more to come which employ the locals. The produce is sold to the hotel industry on the coasts which reduces import costs for the hotels and provides solid jobs for the workers in the greenhouses; win, win. In this town and the surrounding area, I see progress being made; I see hope.

The greatest aspect of growth that I’ve seen in this town is that of brotherly love. My first trip 10 yrs ago I noticed the children beating on each other, fighting, calling names. There seemed to be a disharmony, an imbalance. The fathers of the children did not seem to be involved in the lives of their “baby mommas” or their own children. Although I still see many lone mothers raising their children, I also have noticed that more couples are marrying. And although I did see a few outbursts of violence among the children, it was a much more rare occurrence. The love of God prevails. This love is becoming something very real and tangible to the locals and the missions groups as their lives collide. All who engage are transformed.

amanda ∞

Jamaica bound


Today is one of lists and packing. We are going to Jamaica. My husband has been asked to make a new video for Won By One. You can view his last one here which was done about 5 years ago.

My children from the last trip:


I am fond of this place. There was a time in my life of turmoil and unrest as I sought God, but could not seem to find Him. In 1999 my first trip to Jamaica with this group is where God spoke to me. He said, “It’s not about you. It’s about me.” This thought shook my world. Being the baby of the family, being a girl of brothers, I felt I had always gotten my way. And as I grew into adulthood, life was really about me and my happiness. I was crying out to God because I was not happy. When my focus changed from me to Him, suddenly life had tremendous depth of meaning beyond my little realm. Suddenly life was about loving others, not receiving love for myself.

God has since taken me on many adventures to grow me into maturity, and there is still much more ahead as He continues to transform me. I look forward to this trip 10 years from the point I surrendered my “self” to God’s hands.

Rose, the wonderful cook:

amanda ∞

Artfest

Artfest caused yet another shift within me. Surrounded by such beauty and so many others who think in ways similar to me, I felt that if I did have a place I fit on this earth, I had found it. I have never felt more comfortable around so many people I’d just met. Just being around so many other creative minds gave me such confidence in my own path. I envisioned and set goals, became more firmly established, found more of my self.

Now I am back to my “normal” life. Taxes and traveling over the weekend have caused me to push into high gear to get several much needed projects done while still maintaining the balance with homeschooling and my husband’s business. I feel a mellowness setting in where there once would have been stress. My dreams and goals are pushing me past this time of “catch up” to that of grand plans in my art studio.

I will share more fully over the months about specifics, the classes I took, the exciting things I learned. Until then enjoy some of my Artfest Art Journal filled with treasures from other artists and the outpouring of my thoughts.

amanda ∞

Art Journal Class

Today I was teacher to a group of women that have much to express. I had the opportunity to lead an art journaling class at VERONICA’s Voice. The enthusiasm was contagious as they set to work on their journals, personalizing and claiming them as their own private place for self expression. Profound and deep thoughts, meaningful sentiments, statements of self were made. It was all beautiful. The tables were strewn with art supplies. Joyous chaos. And the most exciting part is that they all loved it so much they want to work on their journals every Friday afternoon.

I am so thankful for those that chipped in and made it possible to supply the journals. The goal to raise money was met and then I found such a great deal on the journals bought in bulk at Dick Blick that I was able to purchase some other extra art supplies that really put the class over the edge.

I took pictures, but forgot to get permission to post them on my blog, so just imagine very happy faces laughing and sharing, and some very messy tables.

amanda ∞