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:!