Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Operation: 100 FAMILIES

DISCLAIMER: This post is REALLY long, and for that, I am sorry. If you simply want to know how Operation: 100 FAMILIES went, it went well, donations were few but appreciated and everything was brought to Deanna's house on time. We were able to donate useful things, thanks to everyone who donated. THANK YOU, ALL!

Also, this post is very jumbled. I am sorry for that. I spent the week trying to organize my thoughts, but I am not good at that, and I wanted to write what was on my heart, not what sounded "good" or sounded right. I was able to write what I wanted to say, disorganized though it may be.

Finally, this post does hold some "ugly truth". It may be difficult to hear, but hey, it was difficult for me to witness.

Operation: 100 FAMILIES was an interesting operation. I saw many things and learned many things through this operation! I watched as complete strangers reached out and donated to Sixteen Small Stones as a way to reach out to the people of Haiti. I also watched, as I talked about Operation: 100 FAMILIES, as people who profess to be Christian stuffed their hands in their pockets and turned a blind eye. I felt a deep, deep gratitude and respect for all those who donated. Penny by penny, dollar by dollar. People sacrificing the little bit that they could...REALLY sacrificing. While others, with more than enough, refused to donate even a tiny amount. Who refused to even sacrifice one second of their time to listen to the story of those families, to spend even one second of their time allowing their heart to break for their brothers and sisters in Haiti. I learned what REAL sacrifice is. It isn't a dollar amount, or an hourly amount. It isn't a certain amount of anything. BUT when REAL sacrifice is made, it is recognized without a doubt, as if it WERE a set-in-stone amount.I suddenly realized my own definition of sacrifice. I realized sacrifice is when you give up something that in some way benefits you. If I had ten million dollars, a dollar donation would not be a sacrifice for me, because that one dollar is insignificant to me. It would not benefit me. Giving a dollar away would not take anything away from me. At the same time, if I have only three dollars, and I give away fifty cents, that really is taking something important and useful from me. Monday was the day all donations needed to be to Deanne. My plan was deliver the collected donations to her house after work. So, before work, I scrounged through my closet and pulled out shoes I had either never worn or had worn little and were in good condition. I was so excited at all the great shoes I "found" to donate!And then, I came across Taiger's crocs. Now, STOP JUDGING me...I don't like crocs! Here is the story. When Taiger was little he was OBSESSED with the movie, "Cars", and with Lightening McQueen. One day, I was shopping for Taiger some new shoes. He REALLY needed some new ones! Shop-ko was selling these adorable Lightning McQueen crocs. The day I saw them, I left the store without them...and regretted my decision. As soon as I had some time off, I raced back to Shop-ko...but his size was gone! I panicked! What kind of mother was I, to not spend ten bucks on shoes, which he REALLY needed, that were SO cute and fun, not to mention TOTALLY practical?! My reprimanding of myself for being a terrible mother thankfully ended (for the moment! Ha-ha) when I found some at another Payless location.Taiger wore those shoes every second he could. No, really. He bathed in them. He SLEPT in them. Those shoes were ALWAYS on his feet! They were light-weight, so perfect for a little guy who loved to run and jump and play. He could wear them in water, rain, shine, dirt, mud...they held up through EVERYTHING. Until the day he grew out of them.A tragic day.But SUPER-MOM was quick on her toes! We went to Shop-Ko and bought another pair!Each year since then, he has gotten new Lightening McQueen crocs. The others he has worn until they are worn out, but that first pair he outgrew before they wore out. In fact, they were in amazingly good condition for the use they held up to! Fast-forward to last Monday. As I looked through my closet, I found that first little pair of shoes.Being a single Mom, I don't know if I will ever again have a little tyke toddling around the house. When my sister became pregnant, my Mom asked me if she could have my maternity clothes and I burst into tears! I wanted to hold on to the hope I may again someday have the opportunity to wear maternity clothes! I wasn't ready to admit that may never happen. Of course, I have always wanted to adopt. But that, too, may not be even possible. Without a huge income, and with my dreams to move to China, even adopting may never happen. So, I am sentimental about Taiger's baby clothes, baby blankets... and, apparently, toddler shoes! Anyway, I digress. I sat in front of my closet, thinking about how much some little child in Haiti could benefit from those shoes! Lightweight, they are perfect for a little girl or boy to wear to run, jump and play. They can be worn in water, sun, rain, dirt and mud. They are perfect shoes and super comfortable. I tried not to think too much as I placed them gently in the pile of other shoes. I had planned to take a picture of those shoes before I dropped them off to Deanne, but left my camera at work by mistake.So, I carried the Lightening McQueen crocs, along with the other donations, to Deanna's door. As I handed over the bag of shoes, I mentioned the crocs, and was thankful for her response. "Oh, those will be PERFECT! How wonderful!" Just what I needed to hear.I left her house that night better understanding sacrfice. It is not about giving. It is not about donating. It is not about time versus money. It is about if the sacrifice will effect you. It is real sacrifice if you give something up that would benefit you. In this instance, those crocs, old and useless as they may seem, gave me something. They gave me memories of my little Taiger, of his youth, of the joys of being a mother to a small child. They gave me hope that someday, I may again be a mother of a toddler. Yes, they gave me hope. And now, they will give someone else hope. This is just one story of many. This was MY story, so I shared it. Others have stories just as poignant, but they are not mine to share, so I will not tell them here. HOWEVER, I recognized their sacrifices. I comprehended the cost. I realized that what they gave, no matter how much or how little, was a REAL sacrifice...that it was them giving up something that could have benefited them. Every donation was very, very appreciated. Now, to make sure this post is the longest in blogging history (sorry guys!), I will tell briefly what I saw the night I dropped those donations off at Deanna's house! I will skip the part of the story where we got lost, our GPS failed us (CURSE you, GPS girl!), and we drove around really lost (but we DID get to see the Draper Temple, and boy! is it ever beautiful!) and start when we walked up to Deanna's door. They lived in a lovely home. Yes, it was a big home, but that it not necessarily what made it "lovely" to me. It was filled with a soft, bright light. The kind that makes it feel...homey. As the door opened, I saw many children of different ages, scurrying around busily. This is one thing that made it "lovely" to me. The next thing that made it lovely to me were the donations! Piled EVERYWHERE were donations! Boxes of shoes, bags of clothes, canned food...all spread out everywhere! Donations EVERYWHERE. To me, service is BEAUTIFUL. Then, I met Deanna, and she grabbed me in a warm hug. A hug and love, of appreciation, of sisterhood. Love was EVERYWHERE, and this, too, made her home lovely. From another room where he was busy organizing donations, Deanna's husband waved and smiled to us, a warm, welcoming smile. He was excited about spending hours organizing. He was happy to have his house filled with bags and boxes of donations. He was full of love for others, and it shone in his eyes and smile. The next thing that made their home lovely to me were all of the beautiful paintings on their walls. I am a sucker for good art, but these were breathtaking! What were they? Pictures of Christ! This may seem over-the-top to many people, but I am an over-the-top kind of Christian! I see nothing wrong at having paintings of my Saviour hanging around my house, not as a sort of "statement" to others, but rather as a reminder to me and to my family of who we worship and follow. Also, the paintings were tasteful and lovely. They brought at air of beauty and spirituality that was felt throughout their home life. They set the tone for the household and the home. They were very appropriate and lovely. And I LOVED seeing them in their home. They were matted and framed beautifully. They were not there to make someone feel like this family was "holier than thou", or any nonsense like that. The paintings were breathtaking and added to the beauty of their home. But the message they sent, that this family loved The Lord, was powerful and joyful! Their love of Christ portrayed in their decor was something else that made their home lovely.
One of my FAVORITE paintings was hanging in their home. (Taiger has this picture in his Church Book! We LOVE it!!)
The donations, provided by all of YOU, were very much appreciated AND NEEDED! With the money you all sent, we bought children, infant and adult Tylenol, something that I don't think had so far been donated, but that would be of great worth. We also provided non-perishable soup (my fancy way of saying Top Ramin...did you like that?). It was exciting to see all of the donations! To see many hands (Deanna's neighbors and friends were there helping organize the donations, too) working together for the people of Haiti. To sense the excitement that comes with organizing a huge donation collection like this. To feel the love of the many donars and volunteers. It was a wonderful experience to be in that room full of energy, excitement and LOVE! Thank you all who supported this operation, be it through donation, prayer, thought or encouraging word. I personally want to thank each and every one of you. This Operation was a success because of YOU, and I am so very, very thankful to you all.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Operation: LOVE Part III

If you are wanting to find out about Operation: 100 FAMILIES, or if you want to see the list of needed items for that project, please scroll down to my previous post. THANK YOU! I really wanted pictures to accompany this post, but it's not happening. Maybe I can get some on tomorrow, but I really just wanted to get this update posted...it has been weighing on my heart for a few days now. I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has donated time, money, Valentines and prayers on behalf of Operation: LOVE. For each of those sacrifices is a manifestation of your LOVE. And that, after all, is what Operation: LOVE ia all about. It is difficult to find the words to express how Operation: LOVE has touched my heart. We started Operation: LOVE so we could spread love to children who really need it. But it has evolved into MUCH MORE than that. It has been a lesson for me about love. I have learned about a heavy love. A love that comes from great sacrifice. A love that comes when you least expect it. A love that comes in your moment of despair. That is the love _I_ have felt during Operation: LOVE. I never expected to FEEL so much love during this Operation. I thought the idea was to send love. In the end, I was the one who felt it. We will have many Valentines being brought or mailed to us from around the US this week. Valentines from neighbors down the street, from California, from Idaho and from Illinois. From old friends, from new friends and from complete strangers. Once the Valentines are all gathered in, we will count, sort and organize them. Box them up, tape them up, wrap them up; address them, haul them to the post office, and away they will go, on a journey of love around the globe. To Uganda, Beijing, Ghana and Haiti. To children with straight hair, curly hair, black eyes, brown eyes, blind eyes. Children who are dressed in heavy, warm clothes against the cold winter, children dressed in shorts because of the heat. Valentines will be sent to the adults caring for these children; men and women, ages 19-50, married and single, dark skinned and light skinned, Christian, Buddhist, Mormon. All of these people NEED love. All of these people ARE loved. All of these people are children of our Heavenly Father. Thank you for being a part of something great. Thank you for being a part of gathering and sending out LOVE!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


We have been in touch with an organization working with an orphanage in Haiti. (See more information about them at http://www.ldsmag.com/churchupdate/100209protecting.htm) The woman, Deanne, contacted me today and told me there are families in Haiti living in their church parking lot because their homes have been destroyed. They have no food or water. They have NOTHING. This woman committed to help 100 of the families living at this church. Of course, as soon as I heard about this great need, I prayed and asked Heavenly Father if this was something in which Sixteen Small Stones should be involved. In my mind, I was thinking, "No way! We are still trying to collect the Valentines for Operation: Love. There is NO WAY we can do ANOTHER project, right now OR in the near future!" So, of course God smile and said, "Yes, you can. And you will! With My help, ALL things are possible." So, here we introduce Operation: 100 Families. And we are going to need TONS of help to accomplish this! We have a LOT of families who are in need of a LOT of things!! As you all know from our posts about needing to help OUR partner orphanage in Haiti, mailing donations right now is futile. The biggest and strongest muscle the donations out of the hands of others. SO...a group of kind Volunteers will HAND DELIVER the donations to the families!! In this way, we can ENSURE the donations make it to the right people. Ready for the big kicker? The first group of volunteers is leaving next week, so ALL donations need to be to me (or one of the drop-of locations) BY MONDAY MORNING!!!!!! Yes, THIS MONDAY! I know, it leaves everyone VERY little time to budget and buy donations or donate money...HOWEVER...I have FAITH that God knows each of those families. He loves them and wants to take care of them. He knows how we can accomplish this task. We need only be His hands and feet in His work. I am posting a list of items needed. When I first saw it, it seemed so HUGE and OVERWHELMING! Then, I reminded myself, "I cannot do EVERYTHING, but I CAN do SOMETHING!" So, I picked two things off the list and am going to donate those. I am also going through Taiger's closet and collecting all his old shoes to send (old, but still in good shape...this kid grows out of shoes like a potted pine tree goes through pots!). Let me know if ANYTHING on this list looks like something you could donate! Even if it is just ONE item, it will help! We have 100 families who are in great need...let's get them taken care of!! THANK YOU, ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Donation List Food Rice 25lb Beans 25lb Olive Oil Crackers – Saltine Candy Sugar 10lb Flour 25lb Water - bottled Spaghetti Corn Flour 25lb Powdered Juice – lg can Peanut butter Jelly Ramen Noodles – case Cereal – lg. bag Beef\Chicken Bouillon Personal Care Hand Towels Plastic plates Plastic utensils Diapers Female Sanitation Supplies Toothbrushes/paste Shampoo Bar Soap Dish soap – small Laundry detergent Body lotion Medical Supplies Mask Tylenol Cough Medicine Advil Alcohol swabs Cotton/ Gauze Household Items Tent– lightweight, family size Flashlights Batteries for flashlights Duct Tape Toys for children Shoes XXL Ziplocs XL Ziplocs The sizes indicated are the amounts going into each bag. There are some items that we will be putting multiples in the bags. If you donate items different in quantity than listed that is great, we will divide them up in Ziplocs.

Monday, February 8, 2010

God's Hand

Today, in church, we were asked a question: Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch me today? People ask me all the time, "WHY?!" Why do I want to help orphans? Why am I so obsessed with serving others in Africa, China and Haiti? Why do I want to move to China? Why do I want to open my food program? Why do I spend so much time working on Sixteen Small Stones? Why, why, why?! Why, indeed. Each day, we experience God's hand reaching out to touch our lives. Small or big ,things that testify of His hand in our lives. From a service someone shows us, to a miracle that takes place in our lives, to the way the sun warms our face, or the sound of a child's laughter. Each day, something happens that testifies of God's hand in our life. Those moments are so precious, so priceless...What would you do to receive ONE MORE of those moments? Even just one? When I am serving the orphans, when I am learning about their trials, when I am reading about the work others are doing for orphans, when I am hearing stories of someone serving the "least of these", I see God's hand in my life. I am able to experience just one more of "those" moments. Why indeed.


When Blake presented to me the idea to send Valentines to the orphans, I had mixed emotions. The IDEA of it was fantastic! It is an EASY way for many people to reach out to orphans without having to go through much trouble trying to figure out where to donate money or items, what items are needed or how much money, etc. At the same time, a simple card can lift a sad heart, can heal a wounded soul, can bring hope to a child lost in hopelessness, and a Valentine is a card PACKED with an extra PUNCH of love! Valentines are also traditionally colourful and cheery, as well as "cute"! What better item to send to an orphan (PS, they also are cheapish to mail and easy to pack into a manila envelope! ;)!) At the same time, I have experimented with collecting items and donations to send, and my experiences have left me jaded. A dark shadow hung over me as I remembered failed fundraisers, and promises to send items that no one ever donated. That leaves me having to tell the orphanage we can't send the needed items, or to just "leave them hanging". This kind of thing can really destroy the trust we try so hard to build with our partner orphanages. Maybe worse than that, however, is the disappointment it leaves in the hearts and minds of the children and workers at the orphanage when they are promised something that never arrives. Since HOPE is what we really are trying to give these people, these situations are very counter-productive and quite harmful to all involved. So, it was with some trepidation I stepped on board with Operation: Love. Yet, I held on to much hope, and immediately sent out emails to find out how many Valentines were needed at our different orphanages. From Bethel Foster Home, I heard back IMMEDIATELY! (It helps that I do all of my emailing at night, which means it was daytime in China at Bethel). Mr. Gauvain, who owns and runs Bethel with his wife and their children, was overjoyed and more than a little excited at the idea of the blind children for whom he cares receiving Valentine's Day treats. The next day, I was in the car when I suddenly thought, "What have I done?! I have promised this man that we would send the precious children for whom he cares Valentines. What if we can't fulfill that promise?! What have I done?!" What, indeed. For days, we heard nothing. No one donated. No one offered to send any Valentines. I began to despair. I posted on my facebook status's that were nothing short of BEGGING for Valentines. I looked at my own budget and wondered if I would have enough money to buy the required Valentines AND ship them, should NO ONE donate. Then, someone on facebook said they were making Valentines. Happy Day! A friend of mine from High School was going to make some with her children for the blind orphans at Bethel! She was putting cotton and pon-pons on them so the blind children could enjoy them. I was lifted by her willingness, and she gave me hope that others might do the same. They didn't. I felt so totally alone. People around me started saying that no one was going to donate. The economy was too bad, or most people had already donated to Haiti, or it was too soon after the big spending season of Christmas, or this, or that, or something, or another reason. I, again, began to despair. Then, Friday, I took Taiger in the kitchen and we made Valentines. Surprisingly, my brother, who was visiting from Idaho, joined us. Making Valentines isn't really his "thing", but he did it because, as he said, he wanted to help. Later, my sister and her fiance sat down and also made some Valentines. With Taiger and my siblings busily making Valentines, I was again encouraged. Another amazing thing happened. A family who has just suffered the loss of a child, offered to send some Valentines. I wanted to cry when I heard this news. For someone who so deserved to wallow in self-absorbed thoughts and to focus only on themselves to reach out, to reach beyond their pain and suffering to offer love to other orphans was incredible to see. I was inspired by the people around me reaching out to help. Saturday, I still had only a few offers to send Valentines. The few who had offered, were like angels to me...but still, I knew it was not enough. I had sent out an email to members of my church a few days before and had heard nothing from them. No one had commented on my blogs. No Valentines had arrived in the mail. Nothing. No one else was going to donate, I was certain now. Saturday, I heard from another of our partner orphanages. They, too, were so excited for Valentines for the children. The children at this orphanage as well as the adults who run it have experienced a trying year, and I know how desperately they need these Valentines! They needed a little piece of paper saying something like, "I Love You" to deliver a tiny bit of hope and love and joy in their corner of the world. How could I tell them that not enough people cared? There would not be enough Valentines? They had been forgotten? And that is when I (FINALLY!!!!!) prayed. (HELLO?!?!?! It's about time! I know that you are thinking that...to be honest, I really am, too!) I asked Heavenly Father to please let the donations come. Please let there be Valentines for the children. Today, at church, a woman with whom I have never before talked, a sister whose name I didn't even know, came up to me as I sat in my seat and handed me a zip-lock baggy of Valentines. She said she knew they weren't many, but maybe they would help. I didn't know the words to thank her ENOUGH. I am not sure there ARE words like that. So, I hugged her and told her I had prayed for Valentines. Perhaps she thought I was CRAZY...and I guess, I was. Crazy with gratitude. Crazy with the thought of Heavenly Father saying, "When you ask, I will help." Tonight, I had two new emails in my inbox. Two more sisters from my church want to donate Valentines. Again, I didn't know how to thank them. The words, the cold black letters on the white computer screen, were not ENOUGH. I learned a lesson this week. Actually, I learned several. The first is something I always "knew", but this week I was retaught, or maybe just saw it more clearly. Heavenly Father knows each and every single one of us. He knows the blind children at Bethel. He knows the hurting children in Ghana. He knows the girls at Katie's house in Uganda. He knows the 84 Haitian children at our orphanage there. He knows the people who care for these children. He knows me. He knows you. He knew the trials those children would face. He knew their pain before they did. He knew we would send Valentines. He knew who would donate. He knew the earthquake would hit Haiti. He knew who would die, who would live, who would lose loved ones. He knew their fear before them. He knows all. He knows all of us. We are His children, and He knows each one of us. Heavenly Father loves each one of us. He loves each of the orphans in our partner homes. He loves them enough to send His son to die for them. Can't we love them enough to send a Valentine? I also learned to be humble. In all things, be humble. In my service, be humble. It may not register in that moment that it is pride, but that is surely what kept me from asking Heavenly Father's help in the first place!! I didn't realize or think about it at the time. I just assumed, I am sure, something like, "Oh, it's okay...I'm good!" as they say. Or, "No big deal! I got it!" But we haven't "got it"...we haven't ANYTHING. ALL things come from God. ALL things. If there is something we need, we must ask for it. Even if it is something we can obtain for ourselves, we must ask for God to help us with our work in getting it for ourselves. This is a hard thing for me...I don't want to "bother" God...I know He MUST be busy. I also know the Lord helps those who help themselves. So, I can just take care of it on my own, right? WRONG. NOTHING is mine by my own hand. Nothing. I need to be better at recognizing that. I need to bring before Heavenly Father ALL of my duties, my obligations, my tasks, by jobs, my responsibilities, and ask for His HELP! Sure, there may be things I really CAN DO by myself, but that doesn't mean I don't need God's hand to guide me, or to strengthen me, or to help me. I need to be humble enough to ask. I have also learned what Sixteen Small Stones is for me. I may be serving and helping others through Sixteen Small Stones, but really...it is I who is benefiting. Each day, each time I work on something for Sixteen Small Stones, I learn, I grow, and I am taught by Heavenly Father. I am so, so thankful that I have this great work to teach me lessons from Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Operation: LOVE

Valentine's Day is about LOVE! You may or may not know the HISTORY behind this holiday, but no matter who you are, what your religious affiliation, if you are single, dating, married, divorced, widowed, whether you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, if you live in America (or Hong Kong, Scotland, Korea, Japan, Denmark, or a number of other countries), you know Valentine's Day is about LOVE.
In the scriptures, we are asked to "love one another" as Jesus loves us. Jesus' love is HUGE. It is endless. It is powerful. It is empowering. It is unchanging. It is THE SAME FOR EVERYONE. His love isn't greater for the righteous, or for the rich or the powerful. It isn't contingent on who you know, what you know, or who you are. Jesus' love is for EVERYONE. So, how can we love as Jesus loves us? One way, I think, is by not being selective in whom we love. Is it easier to love your kind neighbor next door than it is to love the woman at the checkout counter? Is it easier to love the people in our church than to love the guy who cuts us off on the road? Is it easier to love someone who does something kind for us than to love the person who keeps complaining about the noise your child makes while playing outside? Why? Why is it is so hard to love? When we are small, it is natural for us to love everyone. Why does that innocent love go away as we grow older? Is it because we have been hurt by giving out our love so freely? Is it because we think our love is limited and we must "save" it for ourselves, or for those closest to us? Is it because loving requires energy and we are simply not willing to exert energy without being ensured something in return? My friend, Blake, has come up with a wonderful idea. He suggested that Sixteen Small Stones send Valentines to children in orphanages. We loved this idea!! We are sending Valentines to the children of Lucky Hill, Katie's girls, children at Foyer Coin Des Cieux Orphan Home, and to the children at Bethel Foster Home. We are asking you to join with us in showing great love to "the least of these". Let us reach beyond our "love comfort zone". Let us show love to children who need it so desperately. Let us try loving like Jesus; loving someone with nothing to offer in return. If you would like to participate, please mail your Valentines to us and we organize and send them out to the proper places. These Valentines can be store bought or homemade. They can be glittery, gluey, covered in stamps, colored with childish art, or bought with love. We ask that you write a special note on each one, even if it is nothing more than, "You are special! I love you!" Please send all Valentines to: Sixteen Small Stones C/O Breclyn S. Everett 1811 South 1800 East Salt Lake City, Utah 84108 Mosiah 3:19 ..."and becometh as a child...full of love..." Moroni 7:47 "But charity is is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever..." Moroni 8:16 "...for perfect love casteth out all fear." D&C 59:6 "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." D&C 88:123 "See that ye love one another..."