Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are...

I walked into the living room over the weekend to find ABSOLUTELY NO GIRLS.

If you know our house you know that is nuts, rare and worthy of panic... but then I saw this:

I may not have ever found them if Clay Bear wasn't craning his neck to see them. Well - that and the fact that they were giggling maniacally.

They have chosen to up the ante on the hiding spots. Daddy likey...

It's on girls. It. Is. On.

Monday, January 30, 2012

All Kinds Of Jealous


You've seen my hair. You know EXACTLY what I'm talking about...

Rock it Mebrate. Rock it...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Missing One


This morning - on Meron's prompting - we all wore our One Stars to church (mine aren't Velcro - I know how to tie laces). Nothing like matching shoes to scream "DORKS!" but I would probably wear matching ballerina outfits if she asked me to ...


Then we snapped a couch photo with mommy missing.

NOTE TO SELF: Sandwiching yourself between two cuties doesn't make you any more photogenic. Ever.

So glad our glue (see also, "mommy") is home.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

All Day, Every Day


Today was Laura's birthday. And though I am super proud of her and way blessed to have a wife who is willing to spend her birthday weekend away at a retreat focused on orphan care - we were sad to not have her around to celebrate with her... HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMY!


So I filled up the day hanging with two goofballs. And I loved every minute of it...


Pretty sure I could spend all day, every day with them forever and it still not be enough...

Totally, undeniably blessed.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Encouragement


I came home to this little gem in the mail the other day. It was a card full of amazingly encouraging words from a friend of ours. A friend we don't see that often but a great friend nonetheless.

In it he told us how we - as a family - encourage him so much in his walk. But wait - the reality of it is this - it's really the other way around.

This guy's Facebook feed is overwhelmingly and abundantly positive and he ALWAYS points it straight back to God. How on earth can we encourage him when he has been a solid inspiration for us for a LONG time?

Nope - Jeff... YOU are the one doing the encouraging. Don't ever stop being you man.

He also had put some money in there and said "Go buy the girls some ice cream..."

Tonight was for you Jeff - thank you so much for being the kind of person you are.



Being cut down by those close to you is one thing. But being built back up by those you have friendships with has God's name written all over it. Thanks Jeff for allowing yourself to be used in such a powerful way - even when ya had no idea it was happening...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Love. Not DNA...


I got this incredibly cool, incredibly accurate, incredibly true t-shirt in the mail the other day from Laura's mom. It couldn't have come at a better time...

How stinking true is that shirt? Man - I know so many incredibly awesome dads who don't share a strand of DNA with their child but share more love than you can ever imagine. And I know some dads who share DNA... and that is it.

Want some proof of the truth of this shirt? Check 'em out...




Enough proof for ya?

DNA. It doesn't matter.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Laying Down Some Vocals


We recently hit a friend's studio to have Meron lay down some vocals to one of her favorite tracks...


She had a SERIOUS blast! Now I just have to find some time to do some editing...

Tune coming soon!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Puffs and a Pony Hawk


Rocking some freshly done hair-dos...


And THAT my friends... is a PONY HAWK.

It lasted all of one day - but it was cool while it was here!

Monday, January 23, 2012

God's Timing

Ever since Brighton went home to be with his heavenly father - we felt a massive shift in our lives. We really felt the truth in His Word and started trying to live our life a little more like this here:

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
I mean - it's in His word. James 1:27. Right there - in black and white.

So we started praying a LOT about what God wanted us to do. Like... why did He give us Brighton? What were we supposed to do with that? We were just still and listened for Him. It took a while.

Eventually we knew we wanted to make a more lasting impression. But man - satan was there at every turn. Those who know us well and were close to this story from the get go know all about it. Pain, suffering, greed, lies, lost friendships, deflated dreams, discouragement and satan, satan, satan...

But this blog post isn't about that or him. Nope, it's about this.

Today - on my way in the house after work I grabbed the mail and excitedly rushed in to the house to show Laura the envelope from the IRS. This was after I had called her this morning and asked her to call them today and pester them about our status. We ripped into the envelope and saw this:


We got it - the coveted 501(c)(3) approval letter. We've been waiting a while for this. And honestly - it doesn't mean a TON to our supporters who aren't giving based on what they get out of it - but for me - it was like final confirmation from God that the decisions we had made - terribly tough, hard, decisions that we cried and prayed over - that they were right. And it also drove home to me that His timing is always right...

We were back where we were supposed to be. An organization recognized by the federal government as a public charity trying to do good work in His name.


Even Meron was pumped and she didn't even know why! But that girl has been one of our biggest supporters and one of the biggest reasons we do what we do.

She can tell you all about babies in Africa who need to be fed, all about her brother Brighton who is hanging out with Jesus - AND she prays almost every night for "the babies in Africa without a family - that they will get a family."

So to all of our supporters, friends, families, mules and fellow fighters in this battle - THANKS FOR STANDING WITH US! We're super excited about what the future may bring for Brighton Their World and are humbled to have you guys walking with us!

Let's feed and cover babies and make a lot of noise...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

He Loves Us!


That's Laura's dad right there... better known as "Poppaw" around these parts.

The girls don't get to see him nearly enough... but when they do - it's all smiles and hugs!

So thankful for the people in our lives pouring heaps and heaps of unconditional love out on our girls!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Can We Watch a Movie... Please?

Sure... no problem. it's the weekend. You can stay up a little later and watch a Disney flick...


15 minutes after it started... here we were.

Of course - not the case with this one - who refuses to even blink an eyelid if given the rare opportunity to watch some TV...


We called timeout and will resume it tomorrow... #SleepWins.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 4: Church In Africa

The night we arrived at Cannan's they had an ALL NIGHT worship session happening in their church... it was incredible. It was as if you could feel God RIGHT THERE BESIDE YA...

But the morning after our exciting (see also: stupid) new years eve celebration was Sunday and I can't think of anything else we needed more than some more church after almost being run down by some crazy motorcyclists about 8 hours earlier!


Heading out of breakfast I bumped into this guy - Pastor Isaac - the incredibly joyful guy running Canaan's. He gave me a quick rundown of the day (kid's church for 2 hours, then worship, then we introduce ourselves, then the message is delivered... church in Africa can be long!).

And that's when he said it:

"Will somebody on your team be delivering the message for us this morning?"
Panic. Fight or flight almost kicked in. I slowly caught my breath and explained to Pastor Isaac that this would certainly not be me but that I would check with our team to see if anybody was up to the challenge.

I walked away thinking "There is NO way anybody is going to want to do this..."

Heck - it is typically hard enough to get people to pray or share a testimony or just speak in front of a larger crowd (myself included). So in my head I had already prepared the speech to Pastor Isaac about why we wouldn't be doing this but that we were excited to hear him preach...

That's when I came across Stefan.


That's him right there - and he was the first person I asked about delivering the message. His response...
"Sure... I'll do it..."
What? Come again? Wow... Tymm - ye of little faith... one of the young dudes on the team just put me right back in my place! I was excited to tell Pastor Isaac we had us a preacher!

The next few hours were spent hanging with the kids at their church - we sang with them, danced with them, prayed with them. We listened to them recite scripture from memory and share testimonies. We shared a bit with them and I got a chance to say what I say to my own two girls every night:
"You guys are NOT forgotten. God knows all of your names - they are written in the palm of His hand..."

After a pretty amazing time of worship with the kids it was time to go to grown up church. I got called up and introduced myself and said a few words about why we were here - and then let each team member introduce themselves. After some more singing and praising it was time for me to introduce Stefan and let him bring the Word.

Wow... did he ever. I was so excited for him - I felt like a proud dad.

When church let out we spent about 30 minutes hugging every person who was there and then we headed back to our rooms to rest/change before lunch. The rest of the day was spent either hanging with the kids or trying to do some shopping (which was pretty tough on New years Day).

But truthfully - all of that pales in comparison to what today was really all about...

CHURCH IN AFRICA.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Peace


Peace. It's rare around these parts.

When we get it... we relish it!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Words Needed

I HATE rushing through my daily updates from Africa - so I am taking a break tonight and posting a picture that needs no words...



She makes me smile. I am one blessed daddy...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 3: Amazima, The Nile and Whole Fish



Today was New Years Eve and we were scheduled to hang out with Katie Davis and her Amazima Ministry. We were all pretty excited about it - she is doing some incredible work there and clearly gives HUGE shout outs to God daily. Amazima is about a half mile walk from where we were staying so we got to get out and say hi to some of the neighbors as we made our way up there...



And when we got there - there was no mistaking where we were! Katie had put together a huge festival for the local villagers and it seemed like they ALL showed up. We had a great time hanging out with kids and watching some of the Amazima kids show off some of their incredible talents...


Like these guys right here who could hang with anybody in the states for sure (and the crowd LOVED them)...

This kid here was hilarious - he loved our cameras and was trying desperately to convince us to give them to him.



My take-away from this visit was a little boy who had plopped down right in front of me.

He was all alone. His shorts were about 4x too big. His "shirt" (and I use the term loosely) was barely on and was really just a few strings of cloth. He had a big rusty nail and he sat - in the midst of all the laughter and chaos - and was just pounding that nail into the ground with a rock.

I felt God saying "Acknowledge him Tymm. Just show him you see him..."

I fought it at first - I don't know why. But finally we made eye contact and I smiled and waved him over. His stoic little face broke in to a HUGE grin and he scampered over and sat as close as possible to me. He spoke no english. We shared no conversation. I have no photograph of him outside of my mind. But we acknowledged each other. And we hugged...

And I will never ever forget him.

That evening we got to have a little team time. You give so much of yourselves both physically and spiritually on these trips that it's good to be able to re-energize and hang with your team some. We decided to have a dinner out at King Fisher lodge. While planning it - I was asking Pastor Isaac how late we could stay out and should we be back before dark. His answer:

"Oh no - you stay as late as needed in that direction. It's the other direction we don't travel in after dark. The forest is that way and the terrorists hide in there and kill people..."
Matter-of-fact statement... just like that. That's their day to day reality.

While at King Fisher we got to take a quick boat ride on the Nile River - and we stopped at a small island that is at the source of the Nile.



The guide there told us some great back story on the Nile and it's history. They also clearly have enough flowing liquids there (it's the source of the Nile after all) that they felt the need to post this pic:



After returning it was time for our dinner. I had ordered "W. Fish" which I thought was obviously "white fish" or something. I was wrong. It was "whole fish."



And by "whole fish" I mean the WHOLE FREAKING FISH. Tail. head. Beady little eyes. Let's just say the next three days I got to fully understand why Cipro is the drug of choice when traveling. It worked.

That night at midnight only about half the team managed to stay up to ring in the new year. Being the daring crew we are - we ventured out into the nearby streets to celebrate with some of the locals. Things quickly got a little bit rowdy what with motorocycles being pointed straight at us, tires burning and a LOT of people. At one point - Nate - our resident African expert (dude has been there like a billion times) said "Okay - we need to get back inside our gate." I knew if Nate was saying that we were well past "dangerous."

But we all survived and had a great experience to share - and to quote Hayden who had the comment of the night:
"That was really scarey!"


Nothing like celebrating the New Year in Africa! Now to rest - because tomorrow involved CHURCH IN AFRICA!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Color of Blood

Meron has taken note of her beautiful skin color. It's not something that weighs on her mind or anything - but she has noticed she is browner than me and Laura. We were chatting about the beauty of her brown one day and I said

"Yeah - but ya know what is neat Meron - check this out..."
and I grabbed a flashlight and held it to her arm. It made a neat red circle around the light. Then I held it to my arm and it made the exact same neat red circle.
"See - the outside is what makes us unique. But on the inside - we are all the same. All of us. All equal and all incredible beings made by God..."
Today I had the incredible privilege of sharing with the girls about an awesome man with an even more awesome dream.



The girls listened intently and as I looked at them I felt an overwhelming amount of love, gratitude and praise for God for creating this man. His work and ultimately his life was given so that I might be able to live in peace with a family photo like I have. I am forever grateful...

Last week - while we had family members willingly being used by satan to attack our family with racial slurs and some of the ugliest language I have ever read - I saw first hand that Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream has yet to be fully realized. We got work to do people. We need to keep on moving in the direction he set us all in so that we can one day find ourselves in full realization of that dream.



I can't say anything about him that would outshine his own words - so check out some of my favorite quotes from him:
"I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood."
"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
"I have a dream that one day, -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."
And perhaps my favorite...
"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
Thank you God, for Dr. King...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 2: Children in Prison

We woke up early today and we were all ready to go before our driver was. He was only 30 minutes late... which in Africa isn't late at all! That's right on time...

We jumped in the bus, full of enthusiasm, and headed about an hour outside the city to a pretty rural spot - this is where M1 is located. Today we would be visiting a government run "rehabilitation" center - also known as a children's prison. 60 Feet, an incredible organization doing amazing work in Uganda, has made some awesome progress with the government and has been granted access to these facilities to minister to the children there.



Let's get the formalities out of the way first - this place IS a prison. Bars on the windows, kids locked in a solitary cell kind of prison. A prison where the punishments are nowhere near fitting to the "crimes." The environment is scary at best. Very little supervision or guidance for the children. Meals looked to consist of water mixed with flour. No safe water. Harsh living conditions. It was tough to swallow the fact that these kids LIVE here and that we weren't really just visiting some movie backlot somewhere.



But now lets talk about how much God is here. First off - the very fact that these kids are alive is a huge testament to God. Barely any water, barely any food and hardly any nutrition. What else BUT God could be sustaining them?

As soon as worship broke out in the main boys area it was clear how much God was at work there. Loud, joyful praising was taking place. A conga line broke out (when's the last time you remember that happening at YOUR church?). The incredibly intelligent, incredibly joyful Kenneth who was standing with me said:

"This is how you do it - you take two steps forward, two steps backwards, hug somebody and tell them that Jesus loves them!"
How simple is that? It's so easy and so perfectly right... and so proof of God's presence in this place.



We hung out with them for the rest of the afternoon. We shared testimonies, stories, hugs and laughter. We kicked soccer balls, tossed frisbees and just acknowledged them.

About 30 minutes before we were to start packing up to head out I asked all of our team members to find some kids - 1, 2 or 20 - and just pray with them. I think it's the best thing we have to offer to these kids at this "rehab center."



It was a somber ride to Jinja that afternoon as we all tried to process what we had just experienced. I have been to multiple orphanages in various African nations and I can safely say that this was one of the harder things to see and visit. The injustice of it all has me screaming out to God even though His presence is clearly evident there. Yet again - I learned and learned and learned a ton from these kids.



We arrived in Jinja right as the sun started dipping to one of the most incredible welcomes I think I have ever seen. Pastor Isaac, of Canaan Children's Home (our home for the next few days), stood at our bus door and greeted everybody who exited with a bellowing
"Hellooooo my brother (or sister)!"
and then he buried us in a hug.

After the day we had at M1 - it was JUST what we needed.

P.S. i took hardly ANY pictures on this trip - so special thanks to Taylor and Sarah for letting me "borrow" some of these for this post!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 1: My Man Collins

I recently went on another mission trip to Africa. This time I co-led a team of 26 to Uganda and Kenya. It was another amazing trip (like always in Africa). God was there way before us and He met up with us big time.

We got in CRAZY late to Entebbe and after some confusion around picking us up and lodging it was about 4:00 AM when we pulled in to Kampala at our guest house roughly 24 hours after leaving Washington, DC.

We were tired... but excited.


I managed to be up early enough to catch a nice view the next morning before heading out into the city to exchange some money with Pastor Samuel.

After getting the cheddar squared away - we all piled into the bus for our first day of ministry with Pastor Samuel and his Return Ministry. What an incredible time. It was a fast half day of work but we got to hang with kids, help with their feeding program, got spoiled by Pastor Samuel's wife and her great cooking and then hung out some more with the kids.


I think my favorite time of the day was spent with my man Collins - the little guy in the orange shirt.


He crawled up in my lap after lunch and was having a hard time staying awake. It was hilarious... Every time he would doze off a nanny would come by and try to take him for a nap and he would fight it - HARD!


Eventually he crashed super hard and I was able to carry him inside and get him tucked away for a nap.

The day was over WAY too soon but it was a great kick-off to an incredible 2 weeks...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Right Where She Belongs


Mebrate is quite possibly one of the goofiest kids I have ever met... and she is right at home in this family!

God built her for us and us for her...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lacking


One night while I was in Africa - my girls set the table for four to include me in their evening...


They made me a plate and even had a conversation with me and asked me questions.

Laura texted me in Uganda and told me about it... and I wept. A little from missing them and a little from the overwhelming joy that comes from the blessings I have.

I thought about this today while I was thinking about the people who were attacking us lately. And I really felt God saying "They attack because they lack."

They lack love. Compassion. Relationships. They lack passion. Happiness. Warmth. But mostly... they lack God.

And they surely don't have this...


Thankful to not be lacking at all, but instead overflowing with abundance...