Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Mud House Mama: Sarah Barnett



I took a risk and messaged her: “This might sound creepy, but are you at the College of the Ozarks spring musical? I think I just saw you! I’m in row N with a red jacket on." 

“Yes! I’m in the balcony. I’d love to meet! This is so crazy!” she replied.

Moments later, I got to meet a woman I admired from afar, a BIG dreamer, a woman committed do WHATEVER the Lord asks, a wife and mother of three, and the founder of a business supporting 20+ artisan groups in 12+ countries, International Blessings.

From a young age, Sarah Barnett longed to travel and dreamed of being an agricultural missionary. She convinced her parents to allow her to travel to Ecuador during her junior year of high school. After college, she joined the World Race, which allowed her to travel to 11 countries in 11 months, serving people in poverty. The things she witnessed broke her heart. But in Burkina Faso, she says, “God began revealing a deeper purpose, a greater need, a crazy dream that I wasn’t sure I could ever accomplish.”

Graduation, marriage, motherhood, and pregnant with her second child, in 2012, Sarah Barnett founded International Blessings, a company partnering with fair trade companies like one in Haiti that creates jobs for mothers and fathers who do not want to give up their kids to orphanages because they can’t feed them.


International blessings offers fair trade items made by families living in poverty, to monthly subscribers. Subscribers receive 3-4 handmade products typically including a pair of earrings, a bracelet, and 1 or 2 other items such as a scarf, ring, coin purse toy, or home d├ęcor items.

Just last month, Sarah bravely took her husband and three young children to Guatemala to visit with artisans there! She is introducing her children to the world starting at a young age! 

I love that I got to meet Sarah, and hope that as my daughter attends College of the Ozarks in the fall, she will get to know this incredible Mud House Mama even better! Our meeting was a divine appointment only God could have arranged!

I sign copies of The Marvelous Mud House, with the message: “You are blessed! Be a blessing!” I love that Sarah Barnett is empowering people to do just that!

Allow me to challenge you in Sarah’s words:
“Together we can change the world. Every person has the ability and resources to make a difference in some way. It may be small, but it still matters. And if we all work together and support each other, the impact will multiply and make a ripple effect.”

Follow Sarah and International Blessings on Facebook HERE! Follow her on Pinterest HERE.

 


Friday, March 23, 2018

Why we all want MORE and what to do about it.



I’m heartbroken. The church I grew up in is going through a split, families and staff leaving or let go. Relationships shattered. The body of Christ in pieces. Sheep left grieving over a divided flock. I love this church, the people still in it and those who used to be there.

One time, my normally-passive older son, gave his younger brother what he thought was “fair warning” and then punched him in the face. Something about Legos.

I confess. Multiple times a day, I impulsively check my book’s rating on Amazon. Unfortunately getting published won’t fulfill all of my dreams. Somebody else’s book is always hitting the best seller list over mine.

We all want more. 

The conflict, comparison, and discontentment that results are a product of misplaced desire.  

Because they refused to enter the Promised Land, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. God miraculously provided manna from heaven every day. It wasn’t enough. They craved meat from Egypt. They grumbled and complained. They desired what God had not provided. (Numbers 11)

The Levites were set apart by the Lord to serve in and guard the tabernacle instead of going to war. They ministered before the congregation, but that wasn’t enough for some of them. They desired the priesthood and confronted Moses and Aaron. And the Lord caused the ground the swallow them up. (Numbers 16)

Even Aaron and Miriam fell prey to desire: “Has the Lord indeed only spoken through Moses? Has he not spoke through us also?” And the Lord struck Miriam with leprosy for seven days. (Numbers 12:1-16)

“It’s a terrifying reality,” as I heard a pastor recently say, “that people can believe in God, and yet still love themselves more.” 

Misplaced desires will ruin you and those around you. Misplaced desire ruins families, marriages, and churches. It causes fights, divisions, and quarrels.

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote to the Israelite believers scattered among the nations, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.” (James 4:1-2)

The problem is that misplaced desires is something we ALL struggle with, from those living in poverty to the most wealthy, from the lowly to the most powerful. Every person thinks of themselves first. Without the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit transforming our hearts day by day, we are destined to be swallowed up by our desires, as the ground swallowed up those Levites.

I often have to ask myself why I want The Marvelous Mud House to be a bestseller. Is it because I want His glory or my own?  I need the message of contentment in the story as much as anyone else. 

Moses was the humblest man alive because he knew that nothing here on earth compared to the glory of God. The only true place that we can put our desires is on our good shepherd. Only the good shepherd can lead and fulfill his sheep. Even when they are broken and hurting, biting each other and bleeding. Our shepherd, the Lord, will continue to guide, lead, protect, discipline, and comfort us, when we place our desires at his feet. 


"Yes, my soul, find rest in God; 
my hope comes from him. 
Truly he is my rock and my salvation; 
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken." 
Psalm 62:5-6
















Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mzungu!


Guest Blog Post by Dr. Jason Peters, CEO of Hope Haven Rwanda

Mzungu!

I couldn’t help but notice the variety of faces as we bounced along the dirt road to Hope Haven Rwanda in our dusty Toyota Hilux. Shouts of “Mzungu! Mzungu!” flooded through our open windows as children grinned and reached out their hands excitedly. In the midst of the chaos, there was a special connection between us as we exchanged glances, waves and smiles.

The word “Mzungu” has its historical roots in Niger-Congo languages and is thought to have initially referred to people of European descent who “wandered” or “explored.” The interesting thing about “Mzungu” is that it can be used in an affectionate or insulting way. Like some English words, the meaning of the word is often dependent on the nature of the relationship and the context in which it is used.



The variety of humanity is both stunning and beautiful! Do we see every person we encounter as created in God’s image, what the Church Fathers referred to in Latin as the “Imago Dei?” When we view people as intrinsically valuable, as image-bearers of God, we are able to develop healthy reflections of the intimacy shared by our Triune God.

When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples on the night He was betrayed, He challenged them to reflect God’s love in the way they loved each other: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Jesus calls us to treat everyone we meet with deep respect, to treat them as we wish to be treated, and to convey His love to them as fellow image-bearers of God.



At Hope Haven Rwanda, we want to promote a culture of love and respect within our staff, faculty, students and the families that we serve. My prayer is that every time we hear a child cry out “Mzungu!” it is a term of affection because they sense that our team loves them, that we want to listen to them and to honor them with the dignity that they deserve as image-bearers of God. This is a critical part of our mission to transform Rwandan families through a holistic approach to education and discipleship, actively demonstrating the love, hope and truth of Jesus Christ. 

No matter who we are, or where we live, we are deeply loved by God and we are called to love others deeply. In the fast-paced bustle of daily life, how can you be used by God this week to hear the heart of someone in need? May God help us all to be willing to listen to His promptings and to love and serve whomever He places on our path.





Dr. Jason Peters is a follower of Jesus, husband, father of five, speaker, author, and CEO of Hope Haven Rwanda (drjasonpeters.com). Jason has traveled to 48 countries around the globe to meet with Christians and to help share their stories. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, is a retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel and was host and producer of the national award-winning I Am N video curriculum.







Please check out Hope Haven Rwanda HERE!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Mud House Mama: Vanessa Jones


A thoughtful writer friend of mine gave me the inspiring idea to write features about “Mud House Mamas,"  women who embrace God’s incredible heart for the world, live their lives accordingly, and boldly share that passion with others.

As I considered writing my first post for this, I was compelled to tell you about this woman! 

She is soft spoken, wise, gentle and kind. I first met Vanessa when she worked as a summer camp counselor at New Life Ranch. I was pregnant with my first child, and scared because I just found out I might have gestational diabetes. If my husband couldn't make it to the appointment with me, the first person I thought of asking was Vanessa. She was a comforting person, a balm to the soul. 

And yet, as I would soon discover, surprisingly so fiercehearted

Growing up, I always imagined that women who chose to go to the mission field to places like Kenya, must be loud, passionate, strong, warrior type women. She wasn't the personality I thought would be headed to Africa. I was wrong. 

Several years after our meeting, Vanessa married my brother, an aspiring medical missionary doctor. Together, they survived his medical school years, and the birth of 3 boys. Then they packed their belongings in 12 suitcases, and moved to Kenya.



While Kyle serves at Kapsowar Hospital, Vanessa is cooking meals from scratch, homeschooling their now four children, hosting guests and visitors from around the world, and leading Bible studies with women in Kenya. She has supported and come alongside Kyle starting a medical clinic and a Christian school in the remote Lodengo area four hours down a dangerous winding mountain road from their home. Her children are growing up to be compassionate, energetic, souls who love Jesus.



And last week, Vanessa saved my brother’s life. While on vacation at a hotel in Kenya, Kyle hit his head on a faulty designed water slide and went unconscious. Thankfully, Vanessa saw the accident, quickly jumped in and yelled for their 12 year old son, Hudson to help her get him above and out of the water. Likely the scariest moment of her life were those 2 minutes he lie unconscious at the poolside, and the 30 minutes he was confused afterwards. (He’s recovering from a concussion, but doing well now.)



My sister-in-law is a fiercehearted HERO. I’m delighted to name her the first “Mud House Mama.” She loves the Lord and the people of Kenya with her whole being. She is living for Jesus and changing lives! I am forever grateful for her impact on my life! (and my brother's :)






Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Free donuts and an Invitation to the Movies

He was probably there for the free donut. 

We were too. 

My son and I bought two more donuts and a chocolate milk. 

From across Krispy Kreme, I watched him drinking coffee, eating his donut, and looking dejected. 

Lonely. Bored. Clothing tattered. Was he homeless? 

After our donuts, I planned to take my son to see The Greatest Showman

A crazy thought popped into my mind. Would the homeless looking man enjoy this movie too? Should we ask him to join us? No, that would be crazy. Unsafe. The thought wouldn't leave me. I mentioned it to my son. 

Who PROMPTLY turned and STARED at the man. Just briefly. From across the doughnut shop. 

Now we had to invite him to the movie. Otherwise, he might think we were staring and talking about him unkindly. I suddenly felt very brave. 

 "Excuse me sir. Hello. How are you?" 

"Okay I guess." 

"My son and I are about to go see a movie. Would you like to join us?" 

"Oh no, no, I couldn't do that." he said waving his hand across his chest. 

"Are you sure" big smile. 

"No no, I couldn't." he said. 

"Okay, well, have a nice day." 

My son may always remember the day his crazy mother invited a stranger to the movies. 

I will always wonder how our invitation made this man feel. Did it make him feel less invisible to the world? Brighten his day a little?  We may never know. 

If I could go back, I would do it differently. Introduce ourselves first. Sit down and get to know this man's name and his story. Maybe he would have felt more comfortable with us inviting him to a movie. Maybe we would have made a friend that day. 

If you live in the Tulsa area (we don't), and feel like swinging by Krispy Kreme (who doesn't!?), would you do me a favor and keep an eye out for this man? If you find him, tell him we're sorry. We're sorry we didn't spend more time talking to you. For not asking your name first. We'd love a second chance. 

My son would love to meet you, properly. 


Book a Reading of The Marvelous Mud House


"When you have a relationship with the Lord, 
a little seems like a lot." 

—3rd grade students after hearing The Marvelous Mud House


I love to share my children's book, The Marvelous Mud House with children at schools, churches, and libraries! Book readings with discussion afterwards take 20-30 minutes. Below are the responses from some of the schools and churches I have done readings for: 

Our school had the privilege of not only getting to see a beautifully illustrated book, “The Marvelous Mud House”, the author actually read it to our students.  April Graney has written a wonderful book that children of all ages will enjoy.  As I looked around the auditorium while she read her book to the students, I observed that they were totally engaged and listened as she shared. Our students range in age from 4 years to 12 years old. Each child loved the book, which was evident by the way they stayed attentive throughout the story and by the rich questions they asked at the end of her presentation. “The Marvelous Mud House” crosses cultures in a beautiful way and teaches some great life lessons about contentment with what you have, less can actually be more, working with a good attitude, and sharing with others who have a need. We hope she will write another book and come back again!

Libby Jeffers
Teacher, Chapel Coordinator

Mingo Valley Christian

      "Our Kindergarten through fourth graders loved  Mrs. Graney ‘s read aloud of The Marvelous Mud House. By evidence of their comments and questions, students engaged in perspective, empathy, and problem solving during the read aloud all the while experiencing “the God who provides” in a new way. Our students and team greatly enjoyed the experience and learning that Mrs. Graney brought to us, and hope to partner with her again in the future."

Ryan Schmuck
K2 Coordinator
Fellowship Bible Church, Lowell, AR

"The Marvelous Mud House is a delightful book which opens the hearts and minds of the reader to the possibility of joy and happiness while living in needs.  When reading aloud, April Graney has an engaging manner that pulled my students into the world of Kenya.  She interacted with the students and graciously answered the questions and listened to the comments of my little ones.  The Marvelous Mud House would be a great addition to any classroom and an excellent resource to start a discussion about having an attitude of gratitude and way we can make a difference in the world." 

Mrs. Karen Hodges
Elementary Teacher
Cookson Hills Christian School

  You may contact me for book readings or speaking engagements at: april@newliferanch.com!