Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016 Thanks for all you have taught me.

Goodbye 2016 ~ Thanks for all you have taught me.  

Every year life has gotten better for us and 2016 was no different.  Life has not necessarily gotten easier, but better!  Despite still facing challenges, the years continue getting better because with each life experience God teaches me something new. 

Even the tragedies and crisis we have endured over the years have offered me opportunities.  Opportunities to grow in the Lord.  Time and time again God has showed up in our lives.  He has reassured me that he will never leave me nor forsake me and his presence in our lives reminds me that God ALWAYS wins!  Learning to put my trust in God has been a long process.  A process that has taught me to trust and embrace the journey God has us on.  

At 37, I have a better understanding of my purpose and God’s plan and purpose for our journey.  I no longer spend my time dwelling on what should have, could have, would have been.  I don’t seek to understand things, because I know my God promises to offer me a peace beyond my own understand.  

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

Over the years I have gained tools and strategies the help me find comfort and delight in the Lord, no matter where life is at or how dark the moment may be.

My once constant need to control things for all of the complications in our lives that were out of my control, has diminished.   I have learned to lay my burdens at the feet of Jesus.   Countless mistakes have taught me that learning to rely fully on God is the only way to overcome the obstacles in our lives. I no longer waste my thoughts and energy worrying about the things I cannot control because I know I serve a mighty God who's plans and purpose for my life are far greater than I have the ability to control anyway.


I have spent many years of my life fighting an uphill battle. I have failed, fallen and learned how to get back up, and even injured myself in the process.  All of that being said, what God has taught me is that I don't need to climb mountains when I serve a God who can move them.

I know that the coming year will include challenges, for that is the nature of life. I also know that through those challenges God will allow me the opportunity to grow, better understand my purpose, the purpose of our journey, and to trust him even more. God has yet to change my situation and if that is not his plan for me, I'm content with that because I trust him.  What has changed is my heart and perspective.


So my resolutions going into do 2017 are much different than what they've been in previous years.  My resolutions are to learn to trust and rely on God even more, to let his voice and promises speak louder than the voice of fear and doubt in my mind.  I want to continue to find opportunities to grow in the Lord, relying on him more and myself and others less.  I want to love a little harder, give a little more, encourage, inspire, empower, and to allow the love of Christ to shine through me in all things that I do and all encounters that I have. 

I'm devoting 2017 to living more intentionally for Christ!

I want more intimate conversations with him.

I will read his word more frequently and faithfully stand on his promises. 

I will not spend my prayer time asking for what I do not yet have and instead will spend our time together thanking him for all the provision he has already blessed us with.

I will seek discernment, listen for his voice, and fearlessly go wherever he leads me and do whatever he calls me to do.

I will look at obstacles and challenges as opportunities to grow closer to him.  

I will learn to worship him through the storm and in the sunshine.

I will count my blessings without complaint of the things my flesh desires.

I will keep my eyes on the prize.

I spent a large part of my life questioning my purpose and how the difficulties in our journey could create anything beautiful.   Once I learned to fully rely on God, he answered those questions for me.  God is always there, he is with us even in the moments we feel so alone, God and God alone can transform any crisis, trauma, and/or tragedy into a beautiful piece of art, we just have to be willing to surrender the brush and let him create our masterpiece.


So I might not get skinny or give up habits in 2017, but I will definitely continue to give up my life as an offering unto God.

“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ's triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Happy New Years… and remember that THE BEST IS STILL YET TO COME!  Walk into 2017 with confidence!

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Christmas Project ~ Thank You!

Now that Christmas has passed and all of our Christmas projects have been fulfilled, I find myself in awe, reflecting on the events that transpired this Season.  I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who was part of making Christmas a little brighter for incredible children and families this holiday season.

Here is what we accomplished this:

As a result of our efforts, 14 children in group homes were sponsored. Each child received clothes and items from their wish list.  A group of us were able to go into the group home and deliver the items on December 23rd.  My hope is that beyond the gifts, we deliver a message to these children, that no matter where they are, who they are with, or what their circumstances may be, they are loved and cared for!

A 5 year old, recently diagnosed with Leukemia, undergoing Chemo therapy, got a special Christmas delivery to her hospital room.  


ASU adopt a family sponsored 7 low income families from Ignacio Conchos Elementary, providing those families a Christmas they couldn't of had otherwise.

A team from Wells Fargo sponsored every child in my classroom with a toy that they wished for and Treasures 4 Teachers presented each of my 15 students with a backpack filled with school supplies.

Remnant South Phoenix church held an event called Affordable Holidays which provided 16 families from both the community we serve and my church to shop for Christmas items at a 90% discount. 

In addition Re/Max New Heights Reality, The Birthday Club, A Second Look Consignment Superstore, The Greater Purpose Project,  NFL Yet Academy’s leadership program, Students from I. Conchos, and my classroom (room 28) collected donations and made 60 stockings for children spending their holidays in a crisis shelter while waiting for a placement/home.  In addition to the 60 stockings we were able to collect over 500 sensory items for Child Crisis Arizona to distribute to new children who may come in traumatized and afraid. 

Now that things have slowed down and I've had the opportunity to reflect back on the many projects completed this season, I find myself overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness and provision.

Christmas is not about the gifts we give it is about the love we share. Watching so many strangers and companies come together to share love and support for those who need it, was such an incredible experience that I am proud to have been part of..  Not only did our efforts impact the children and families we served, it taught the children involved in the projects some very valuable lessons.  They leaned the value of sacrificial giving, they where empowered knowing that no matter what adversity they may face, they too have the ability to make a difference in the lives of others, and most importantly they learned that love truly does conquer all.

None of these projects could have been successful without the support, collaboration, and partnerships of willing vessels like yourself.  Watching a community, churches, business, and individual’s all come together to rise to the challenge and serve it’s own, was just the hope I needed this Holiday Season. 

On a personal note, this was the first time in many years, that instead of grieving the loss of my father this holiday season, I was able to see his passion for giving live on, which has been a very healing experience for me! 

I wanted to take the time to personally thank everyone who has inspired and empowered me through their generosity and willingness to help. 

My personal mission in life has always been to "change the world one person at a time".  A special thank you to all of the participants who were willing to be “world changers” with me.  Thanks to you, hundreds of people were impacted by your desire for change and mission to love. May you be blessed beyond measure in the coming year. 

I declare… THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

Treasures 4 Teachers Remnant South PHX Wells Fargo Arizona State University The Greater Purpose Project A Second Look  Remax New Heights Realty Child Crisis Arizona

Monday, December 26, 2016

This year is the first year since my father passed that I have been able to find the strength courage to overcome my holiday blues!  For me it was a matter of perspective. Once I was able to keep my focus on Christ and everything he has blessed us with instead of the things we were yet to have, God opened incredible doors for us.

I don't have my own little ones to be excited about Santa, but God gave me over 100 children who don't have parents to bless this Season.

My son is still in a wheelchair, but God gave us a vehicle that makes this world more accessible for us.

Although our family was not able to come together for the holidays, God provided me a beautiful family to share these special moments with so David and I did not feel all alone on Christmas.

And to top our Christmas off, today we blessed one of our youth James Cardenas Byus as he begins his journey in ministry! A young man that I have prayed for for many years!

God is a loving and faithful God, but the minute we take our eyes off him we risk missing out on incredible experiences God has planned for us!

Merry Christmas and a special thank you to everybody who made this Christmas extra special for us!

Friday, December 16, 2016

One of my students Michaels sister Brianna struggles with her speech. Since I have been doing inclusion during reading intervention in the morning, she's been coming to my classroom for reading. We have been working diligently on her speech.  Today her teacher called me with some proud news.  None of us have ever heard Brianna say more than two words together, but this morning after coming in she went to her teacher and said "Michael's teacher wants me"!

God has spent this entire month showing me how abundant his grace and mercy is for me.  These are the moments in teaching that deposit something very special into my life. #room28


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Love in Action!


As Educators we are responsible for teaching our students far more than academics.  My students have been learning valuable lessons about kindness and giving.  Witnessing my students love in action today made me extremely proud!  One of my Kindergartner's Christmas wish was "to give presents to the kids who don't have homes".  A special THANK YOU to all the extraordinary people have supported our cause, helping me teach my students young, that they have the ability and power to be "World Changers"!


Sunday, November 27, 2016

David... My Giant Slayer!

I know today is your special day, but is on your Birthday that I receive the greatest gift, another year with you my love!

On moments that I feel weak and alone, you remind me to stay focused on God,  that together we can conquer the world!

When I am tired and overwhelmed, your strength and perseverance encourage me to keep going!

When fear begins to whisper in my ear "your not enough", your courage tells me that God has selected only the best for you, and that was me.


Just when I feel like I can no longer bear the weight of life, you're contagious joy inspire me to smile my way through

When I reflect back over the past 20 years we've had together, it makes me proud to acknowledge that we've been one heck of a team. Needing to be your voice taught me the value of mine.  Knowing that my strength would be necessary to carry you to places your legs couldn't take you, taught me how to dig deep.  Discovering your heart would take mine to places I didn't know it could go, taught me to trust love.

You my son are responsible for the woman I am today.  I'm forever grateful for the miracle God sent me 20 years ago today. A "fragile" Child whose smile would change the world, at least my world.  I would've never imagined myself as a mother of a child whose every breath would testify of God's mercy and  faithfulness!  Here we are 20 years in the making, and I am so honored that God chose you for me.

Happy 20th  Birthday David



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The last few weeks of been tough as I faced one of the most difficult professional decisions I've ever had to make. I don't know why this decision was so extremely challenging for me, but it was.  
Eight weeks ago I got a very special student. He immediately stole my heart and I knew he was going to need a lot of extra love. I gave him all I had, but I eventually realized that even that was not enough in my current classroom setting. As a team we decided that he was better suited for another program on another campus. I know it was what was best, but goodbyes are difficult for me and my students mean absolutely everything to me.
Today we celebrated my friends last day in class with us. We celebrated his successes and all of the accomplishments and progress he's made in two short months. Still my heart was heavy that I wouldn't see him every day. I had to trust that the next teacher will speak life into him and love him through his conflicts as our team did.  
Today at gathering Circle the children were asked to share something they were thankful for and his first response was "Ms. C". I knew even for a brief time, his life was impacted by my dedication, and my life was impacted by his courage. He then looked up at me and said "Ms. C did you know that God is my father? That means that you are my sister and your son is my brother".  
In that moment God used my first grader to remind me that I was not handing him over to a system or program. I was handing him over to God. I also knew that God was going to take great care of this little boy who will forever have a place in my heart! #room28

Friday, November 18, 2016

Today my babies learned a valuable lesson. Friday is our class payday. Throughout the week they earn money for good behavior and homework and on Fridays they get to withdraw their money from their "bank accounts" and purchase items from her classroom store. 
Today we did things a little different. Each student hand selected an item from prize box to donate to our stocking drive. With no hesitation or resistance each one of them selected an item that they wanted, but were willing to sacrifice for a child in need. It's so beautiful to watch my students compassion and love in action!  
I have struggled this week. Because my heart and soul is invested in creating change, it is hard not to become discourage when there is so much change that needs to happen. Our educational systems are so broken and the same passion that keeps me a dedicated educator also makes my heart break for my students and any and all children who suffer. 
Sometimes as an educator we have to put down our grade books, stop stressing over lesson plans, and all other demands of teaching, to understand that above all else there are greater lessons to be learned. Today my babies made me proud! Along with academics they are learning to be compassionate human beings who care to make a difference in the lives of others. #room28

 



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Just one of those days...


I've been dealing with extreme behaviors in my classroom for eight weeks. It's been hard for me to come to terms with the fact that some children need more than my staff, myself, and our program can offer. I've been emotionally exhausted and feeling defeated. 

The great thing about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is he knows exactly what you need right when you need it. 
I was feeling extremely discouraged, questioning my efforts. In that moment I got two phone calls about partnerships I have been diligently working to build for months now. Partnerships that have the potential to have a lasting impact on our school and the community I have passionately invested in. 

Only God knew how desperately I needed that reassurance in that moment. He reassured me that there is a greater purpose and my efforts are creating change where change is desperately needed. God has put incredible people in my life to keep me encouraged and focused on the great task at hand. I was comforted in the reassurance God sent me, reminding me of his promises. 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) 

Life is all about perspective and when we put our trust in God, God and only God has the ability to calm the storm.   

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

This how I find comfort tonight! Reminding myself that my savior is the King of it ALL.


"King Of The World"

I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind
I try to keep you safely in between the lines
I try to put you in the box that I've designed
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye

When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you're the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world

Just a whisper of your voice can tame the seas
So who am I to try to take the lead
Still I run ahead and think I'm strong enough
When you're the one who made me from the dust

When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you're the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world

Ohhhh, you set it all in motion
Every single moment
You brought it all to me
And you're holding on to me

When did I forget that you've always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you're the one who holds it all
When did I forget you've always been the king of the world
You will always be the king of the world









Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I am noticing that when God is about to move in our lives, often times a bunch of junk begins to surface. That's a difficult place to be in especially when that junk comes from sorrows in your life that have once bound you. 
There is always a purpose for our pain. God graciously allows us to deal with the pain from our past in seasons. Trust me, when that season comes rejoice because that means your breakthrough is just around the corner! Freedom is on its way.  
I'm truly grateful for my painful past which has allowed me to gain such unique perspective and find purpose in my life! I'm going through a few growing pains right now, but I know when everything is said and done those pains bring growth!  
I do not know what but I do know God is doing something in our lives right now.
#godhasgotit

Saturday, October 15, 2016

It was an honor to share in such an incredible event, for a cause I'm very passionate about, with people I treasure! The 2016 Best Buddies Arizona, Spirit of Friendship gala was a huge success. I just wanted to personally thank everyone who diligently works to create change in our communities! Your friendship matters and has enriched the lives of both David and I and my precious students who mean the world to me! #bestbuddiesaz


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Reminiscing about all of the incredible encounters and life changing events I have had the opportunity to experience around the World and praying for our nation!

#prayforournation #friendsforlife


HONDURAS 2014




MEXICO 2015





AFRICA 2016



Most of us have fought a the battle that many will never understand. Be kind to one another because you never know what is going on behind the scenes in someone's life. Show the World Jesus so that they long to find the God they see in you!



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

One of my Tuesday highlights...

The district has been unable to fill the position for a one on one aid for one of my students to be able to participate in after school programming. Of course I was not going to let anything stand in his way so I signed up to be his one on one. 

As science club began, I overheard some of the students at Andrew's table asked him what grade he was in and when he responded 3rd grade they didn't believe him. The students were not at all trying to be mean they, were trying to understand. They then asked him "if you're in third grade, what is 100×100?" 

He couldn't respond so I immediately jumped in and explained to them that every class learns different things at different times and that he could not answer the question because we had not yet gotten to that curriculum. They were very kind about it and the conversation ended. 

When I came time to write their observations I took a highlighter and wrote the words on Andrew's paper. He has issues with fine motor so I write all of his words for him and he traces them. As The students began their next task I looked over and the same student who asked him about his multiplication facts grab the highlighter and wrote all of the words on Andrew's paper for him before completing his own. 

I know I'm a big baby but I cried my little eyes out! I can explain The joy that overtook me as I watched this encounter from the back of the room. watching one of my school babies get the opportunity to have this experience with his same aged peers, was too precious for words. I love how kind the culture of our school is!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Today was an incredible reminder of this! 
I never thought I would be a teacher. In fact, I was forced into it because being a single mother made it difficult to work around David's schedule. I figured special education was the one place I could share my very unique perspective as both a mother and an educator.  Today I can't imagine myself doing anything more rewarding or working in any career that could be a better fit for me!


Sunday, July 31, 2016



Today I was ordained as the Assistant Youth Pastor at the River of Life. I also had the privilege of being part of the baptism of children I have prayed for, for many years. I dreamed of this day as a child, but after making many different choice in my adolescent, at one point I felt as if I had disqualified myself from many of my dreams. Today I watch my life come full circle. I am now serving the special needs community for the same district that served my son for many years and I am now serving in ministry in the very same church that I can my first encounter with Jesus, almost 25 years ago. I am so thankful for God's grace. I am grateful that God does not choose the qualified yet qualifies the chosen. To God be all the glory.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

The World Traveler on Wheels


   Well, Europe meet David. David doesn't know he's not "normal" because we      serve a God far greater than our obstacles and have been blessed with the opportunity to live an adventurous life with no limits.




Adventures in Europe…  WARNING: This read might require a cup of coffee or a cocktail. 

Our trip had been in the making for a couple of months.  We had a colleague from work whose husband was stationed in Germany; this what inspired the trip.  The plan was that we could stay with her at her place and together we would tour a few destinations in Europe. She had a house, a local phone, a vehicle, and experience in Europe, so much of our planning relied on her knowledge and accommodations.   I had been praying about the trip before the planning phases even begun.  As the date drew near I asked God to use this trip to grow us all in different areas of our lives and to draw us all closer to him.  I prayed that his will be done and that whoever was meant to be on the trip would be.  The thing about seeking God for his will is then being willing to accept that sometimes his plans don’t line up with ours.  At approximately 8:00pm the night before we planned to fly out on our adventure, I get a text from my colleague informing me that she would not be able to make the trip for personal reasons.  As panicked as I was about the lack of planning on my part, because I had relied on someone else, I had great peace knowing that God has responded to my prayers. There was not much time to prepare for the change so I knew we were going to have to figure out new plans when we got to Germany.  The colleague who invited us on the trip still offered her home and vehicle, but I was not comfortable driving in Europe nor do I have any sense of direction. 


GERMANY
After 3 flights and a day of traveling we arrived in Germany exhausted. No one else but myself had ever traveled this far or for this long and jet-lag was setting in. We where able to find a hostel/hotel which only had the current night available, so we book it and after dropping off our luggage and settling in, we set out to eat and explore the beauty of Germany. Unfortunately, we only exchanged a small amount of currency at the exchange station in the airport because of the low exchange rate. We assumed that it would be more beneficial to exchange our money in the city.  We assumed it would be simple because Germany is a tourist destination, but that was not the case.   We could only find two exchange locations and both were closed by the time we got there. 

We woke up the next morning knowing that the mission for the day would be to find somewhere to stay in Germany.  We were still going to try and utilize the resources our friend had offered, but after speaking to the employees at the Hotel we realize that her place was much further away than we thought, had limited things to see and do in her city, and the train tickets to get there we're going to be almost $150 a person. This was a very unexpected expense so we had to rethink our entire plan. 

As we woke up and began preparing for our mission, we found a weird looking bug on the bed.  I am sure you can guess what comes next.  It was indeed a bedbug! We brought the bedbug to the receptionist and explained that we had just found that in our bed, she kindly offered to allow us to wash our clothes so that we would not carry bedbugs along with us on our travels.  I explained to her that we needed to find a place to stay and exchange money so the staff offered to wash our clothes for us while we handled our trip planning.   Unfortunately for us, I guess they don't separate clothes in Germany, so what ended up happening was they put all of our darks and lights together and well I ended up with a whole bunch of "grey clothes". I was frustrated for many reasons, but I wasn't going to let that take the fun out of this trip and I realized clothes can be replaced, but memories cannot, so I kept my cool about the bedbug and the clothes and tried to remain composed.

I must say the hostel was amazing and super helpful. They tried their hardest to find us a room. Both employees were on both computers and both phones and there were no rooms available anywhere in Berlin.  We were getting desperate and after walking to a dozen hotels with no success we began a search on Airbnb.  At last we get a response from Airbnb, from a man named Mario that said,  "that room is not available but I have another one if you're interested.”  Since it was the only offer we knew we had to jump on it.   I negotiated a price, and then we threw all of our luggage in the taxi and headed toward our destination. The taxi driver was rude after we loaded all of our luggage, into the van.  Then when we got there the driver tried to rip us off and charge us double what he should have and he charged additional fees for the baggage we loaded ourselves (he even charged us for the wheelchair).   In that moment, I was to frustrated to even argue with him).  Once we got to the address we realized they were dorms and we didn't have access to Wi-Fi to inform the tenant that we where there. We sat there with David, and our luggage, with no way to enter the building.

After about 30 minutes we met a student who spoke English.  He seemed amused that we had thought we were getting a condo and ended up at college dorms.  Maria asked if she could use his restroom. One of my traveling rules is that no one ventures off alone so I go along with Maria.  I figured that since this man was kind enough to let us use his bathroom, he might also let us use his internet.  It finally looked as if we might be able conquer two missions at one time.  The man escorted us into his tiny apartment and gave us access to his restroom and internet.  Maria goes to the restroom and I started to log on to Airbnb to message Mario that we are in front of the building.  The guy, who was kind enough to let us use his bathroom and Internet asked if it would be ok if he left us there for 10 minutes while he “grabbed his laundry”. We couldn't really tell him no and I still hadn’t made contact with the tenant at the place we were staying at, so we agreed to stay.  He seemed harmless enough, but after my last relationship experience, that doesn't mean much.  I am always thinking on my toes, so I told Maria to look in his sink for a knife just in case. He didn't have one so we grabbed a bottle and waited to make sure that he came back alone with no friends. Sure enough he came back with his laundry and we knew that we were safe. 

We finally got hold of the renter from Airbnb, we went back to the front of the dorm, and saw him hanging out the second story window, requesting that one of us come up to look at the place (really just a small room).  I yelled back “we only go in pairs” so he flagged us up.  Maria and I went to look at the room. FREAKING MARIO…. It was a hellhole, one small bedroom, a shared dirty bathroom, and a shared kitchen. The problem was it was our only option.  We had already looked for an entire day and there was nothing else available.  I had to make sure that David and his girls had a roof over their heads for the evening.  Our sleeping arrangements had to be strategic.  Juno slept on the desk, Maria, David, and I shared a twin mattress on the floor, and Laylanie slept on the other mattress.  I am not sure when or if the sheets or mattress had ever been cleaned. I knew the girls anxiety was high and I wanted to help them, but there was nothing in my power to change the situation and I was barely keeping my anxiety at bay by the grace of God. We tried to make the best of the situation, but it was rough.  Especially after reading the sign in the restroom that read.  “please run hot water to allow the steam to kill the Legionellosis.  


“Legionellosis (LEE-juh-nuh-low-sis) is a respiratory disease caused by Legionella bacteria. Sometimes the bacteria can cause a serious type of pneumonia (lung infection) called Legionnaires' disease. The bacteria can also cause a less serious infection called Pontiac fever that has symptoms similar to a mild case of the flu (Center for Disease Control).

There was no Wi-Fi there so it was difficult to even make plans for our next steps. We continue to explore Germany by day and sleep in our low-budget room at night, for three days. By the 3rd day, my head had begun to itch.  I felt like I had bugs, but I also was paranoid about the bathroom and the water, so I chalked it up to it being all in my head. We later found out it was in my head, “literally,” it was lice!  Everyone, who slept on that floor mattress, Maria, David and I, got lice.  We just didn’t figure it out until we were traveling home. 

Berlin was amazing! We got to see the Berlin wall and we walked the streets, adventuring out on their public transportation.  On our second day there, we were told off by an older lady who appeared to be homeless.  She was in her underwear screaming at me in Dutch.  I offered her a drink from our backpack but that just made her yell even louder.  For the most part everyone in Germany was very kind to us, and people seemed to be very intrigued to see a child exploring Germany in a wheelchair. 

We had decided that our next stop would be Prague so we set out to enjoy one last night in Germany.  We decided to take David to go hear music.  Side note, looking back on it, it sure looks like our last night in every city that we went out with a bang. As we were getting ready, I look over at Laylanie who is having a conversation with me and see a spider crawling behind her head on the wall.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am not scared of much, but I am however, deathly afraid of spiders! I tried to warn her, but after hearing their version of the story, no words came out. I guess I just pointed and she knew by the fear in my eyes that something was behind her.  She jumped up and ran out the room and the other girls jumped into action. Maria screams “shut up” several times.  We still are not sure why because no one was talking. I couldn't even get the word spider out of my mouth.  Like a Charlie’s Angel, Maria grabs a bottle of Windex and begins shooting it across the room, and then Juno grabbed the shoe and successfully killed the spider. This was how our night began.

We decided to go to local spot that played reggae. We started off on our journey walking, but had no clue where we're going.  We ended up walking almost 10 miles to get to a two-mile destination.  We were almost there when we spotted a big black dog standing in an aggressive position. We all thought we might cross the street but Juno kept walking. As she got closer, the dog jumped out and barked at her, at which point Laylanie and Maria wisely began to run.  Then the next second I look over and Juno is petting the dog. She assures us that it is safe for David and I to continue walking. We began on our way walking very cautiously when the dog jumps up and barks and starts to come our way. I didn't want the dog to sense my fear so I turned around and walked very slowly, fighting the urge to run with everything in me. I look over and Laylanie is climbing on tables across the street.  Eventually we got away from the dog and continued on our mission (just writing the story down has me in stiches). We finally got to our destination and everyone there was amazing with David. They danced with him and surprisingly it was the men who were interested in making sure David had the experience of his lifetime.   It was beautiful to watch, as a mother who sometimes longs for “typical” experiences with my child.

As we were leaving we encountered a man who was trying to speak to us in a mix of Dutch and English.  It was obvious he was on something or suffered from mental illness.  He got in my face and began to show signs of aggression, but once I explained that David was tired, he seemed to calm and we continued walking.  We get about 100 feet when I hear one of the girls say he's following us. Laylanie picks up a bottle.  I tried to stay calm.  I had Laylanie hand me the bottle and we began to discuss an emergency plan.  We kept walking, and the man continued to follow us.  It was then that I realized that we were in “a situation” and that I might have to fight this man with a bottle on a corner in Germany.  We needed to think fast so I told the girls that if anything went down I wanted them to run and find a store or something open to get into with David.  I would stay with the bottle and do what I had to until they could all get away safely.  Maria looks at me with great confidence and said,  “he can’t take two of us”.   Laylanie chimed in with “surely not three of us” and although I wanted Laylanie to run to safety there was no convincing her feisty self.  As the plan evolved, we decided that Juno could run off with David. All of a sudden I hear Laylanie say go Juno and Juno screams “make a way David, make a way”.  I looked back and the man is coming faster and faster.  In that moment I had no clue what to do and no time to think about it. From past experiences I have learned that at this point of crisis, best practice is to call on the name of Jesus. I loudly proclaimed, “in the name of Jesus I plead your blood and protection over us,” and in that moment we look behind us and the man just stopped following us and had turned around and walked away.

After the fact the night was hysterical, but in that moment I learned how to overcome allowing my fear setting-in and first call straight on the name of Jesus.  This was a very valuable lesson learned that I've been working on for quite some time. The next day we got our train tickets and we jumped on the train to Prague. We found favor at the train station and got first class tickets.



PRAGUE
We get to Prague and the struggle for Wi-Fi was real!  Since our friend with a local phone didn't join us we were unprepared and left with no lines of communication.  We finally found a store in the train station with free Wi-Fi (footlocker of all places), so that we could connect to Airbnb, host of our Prague home. He told us not to get a taxi from the train station because they would charge us four times the amount, so he called a taxi for us and had them meet us there.  Our Airbnb host explained to the company that there was a wheelchair and five people with luggage, but the driver came in a midsized vehicle and was clearly frustrated about the wheelchair and bags.   He informed us that he could not transport us all.  We then had him call for another taxi while we loaded up.  I lifted David into the taxi and the driver attempted to get his wheelchair in the back.  I was trying to show him how to do it, but he insisted he do it himself, and then got frustrated and started complaining about having to get the wheelchair in the back of his vehicle. I looked at him very kindly and said, "I know it can be frustrating at times I sure wish his legs worked" and that was the last complaint the man gave us about the wheelchair. 

We get in the taxi as Juno and Laylanie wait for the next taxi to arrive. I didn't want to leave them there, but the driver was frustrated that it had already taken so much time. Five minutes in route a car cut-off our driver and we almost got into an accident. Another one of my anxiety triggers outside of spiders is car accidents.  As I caught my breath and made eye contact with Maria, who is clinging onto her seat, we realize we just dodged a car accident. We drive about 20 feet and came to a stop sign and our driver jumped out of the car. We weren't sure what he was doing, but he went to the car that almost caused the accident and started screaming and punching his vehicle. It was at that moment that Marie and I realize we are on a ride of a lifetime.  As our taxi-driver turned around to come back to our taxi, he didn't see behind him, but we sure did.  We could see that the driver from the other vehicle he had just punched had gotten out and was coming behind him. As our taxi driver went to get in the car the man slammed the door on his leg and then started kicking and punching the car.  The driver then return to his car and our driver pick up the phone and started screaming to the person on the other line in Czechoslovakian. He continued to follow the car when the light changed. We must've followed the car for about 3 miles while this man screamed on the phone in a language we could not understand. At the time, we didn't know that the cars were just going in the same direction so all we could think was this man was calling his mobster boss to come meet him to get this guy.

Maria and I where both thinking, “this is it, it is going to go down, and we are going to witness a murder in Prague.”  Too our relief the taxi-driver then turned into a parking lot where we were greeted by his incredible Airbnb host.  It was so nice to be in a place without bugs that was clean, furnished, with Wi-Fi.  I was a little nervous about how aggressive the people in Prague might be after our first experience, but we ventured out into the city.  In all my travels, I must say that Prague had the most beautiful architecture I had ever seen! Prague was the least accessible, but still managed to be my favorite destination on this trip.  Just to get in and out of our flat we had to carry David and the wheelchair up two flights of stairs and back down every day. In addition most busses didn't have lifts, which required us to have to lift David up three stairs to get him and his chair on and off the bus.  We refuse to let that get in our way and on our second day in Prague, David made it to the Prague Castle! 

There are no words to explain the gratification of getting David to all of our destinations!  Every obstacle we had to overcome to get him there made it that much more impactful, that much more meaningful, and that much more gratifying.  On our way home from the castle we were approached by an older homeless man. I had noticed his eyes sparkle as he admired David from several feet away.  Because of our previous experiences the girls got a little concerned when the man approached us and started touching David. From the minute the man and I locked eyes I felt the presence of God and knew this was going to be a very special encounter.  I assured the girls that the interaction was going to be beautiful. The language barrier prevented us from exchanging many words, but the moment didn’t require words.   The man could communicate with David’s name and a thumbs up which I understood.  I then took David’s Team David band off of his wrist and put it on the man.   It was so obvious that he was touched by David's presence.   I know without a doubt that the Jesus in that man was attracted to the Jesus in David. 


Our third and last day in Prague happened to be Juno and Jess’ 2nd year anniversary.  I got a whatsapp message asking if there was anyway I could arrange flowers.  Of course, we could make this happen, right? Finding flowers in Prague was a challenge.  We worked as a team dragging Juno around the city for an undisclosed mission.  After hours of searching we finally spotted a flower shop. Laylanie immediately jumped into action and convinced Juno to join her in a nearby Chinese restaurant, while Maria and I went to the flower shop. Maria was the look out and she located the girls and prepped me on their location.  I hid the flowers behind my back and enter the restaurant and delivered the flowers with a sweet message from Jess that “he loved her”. Their love is so pure and genuine and being part of that special moment was incredible.  



It was our last night in Prague, when we were approached by some one selling tickets to an evening boat excursion.  Everyone would meet in a lounge and then walk to a boat that would take us underneath the bridge and near the castle.  The boat had a DJ, which means music for David and they allowed David to go on for free.  When we got to the lounge we discovered that our boat would be occupied by approximately 50 other travelers, excited to enjoy an incredible experience. It was there that a 19-year-old little girl fell in love with David.  She was typical, but a little intoxicated.  She couldn't stop talking about him.  All she kept saying was “he so happy, I wish I could be that happy!”.  She talked about how beautiful he was and then asked if she could kiss him on the cheek and get a "cuddle" I assumed that meant a hug.  I was all for it until she tried to make out with him.



Everyone was so enthused to see David have this experience that as we were walking to the boat everyone began chanting "David... David".  This went on for a good three or four minutes.  The entire, 50 person, entourage was cheering my child on and in that moment my heart was overflowing with joy.  David danced with all the ladies and probably got more action than anyone else there.  My heart was over filled with joy as we ended our last day in Prague.

I realize we were doing it, we were touring Europe accessible or not, and that my son was having opportunities that children in his condition and even typical children don't even get to experience. That's what I live and work so hard for, to provide David those experiences.  I can't make his legs work, but I surely can put my legs in over drive to give him these opportunities and experiences.

I was so blessed to have three amazing women with me, who, were just as willing as I was, to make things happen for David! These girls tirelessly lifted David’s chair on and off trams, buses, and up and down stairs while I carried David over my shoulder.  They helped me push David up and down hills and on unpaved roads and never once did one of them ever complain.  We actually joked about how David was making us all get into shape.  I couldn't have done this without them, David could not have had these experiences without their dedication and support.   For that I will be eternally grateful for their companionship. 

On our way home from our boat adventure Laylanie looks at me and says, “I hope you see that old man again” and sure enough as we walked up to the bus stop, there he was. The man immediately remembered David and again went up to him and admired him. We were all starving, so I grabbed something to eat at the Mexican spot right in front of the bus stop.  I felt God lay it on my heart to buy this man dinner and a water. I could tell he had been hungry and thirsty cause he thoroughly enjoyed the meal.   Eventually, our bus came and we lifted David and his chair on the bus.  As I looked back in the window I looked at the man and knew that we had just experienced a God orchestrated encounter.  This is the only way I could describe it. 



The next morning we headed to the airport to get to our next destination, Milan Italy. I must say in all my travels this was the worst airport experience I've ever had. The ticketing agent was very bothered by the fact that she had to process a wheelchair and she made that extremely clear. I tried to explain to her the easiest way to tag the chair and she put her hand in my face. It took everything I had to “be like Jesus” because in that moment I was being David’s mother.  I knew I was representing a population of special needs parents, clearly under represented in that region and I knew for that I needed to show the woman grace and educate her.

We were told that European airlines would allow David to have one luggage free for medical items like his diapers if I had a doctors note. This was honored by the other airlines, but was not the case for Whiz Air.   The agent informed me that I needed to go to a different desk and pay $70 for David's medical supplies and then come back with a receipt. Because the bag was free because it was carrying David's medical supplies I made sure to pack all of his things in the bag.   I also made the biggest mistake ever and packed a majority of our cash in the suitcase. I paid for the bag and returned to the woman who instructed me to throw it on the conveyor belt.  She remained rude and intolerant the entire time.  As I walked away I felt heavy on my heart that I had to say something to her. I turned around and went back to her desk and said, “can I please tell you something? The way you treated us made me feel like you valued my son’s life less than someone else's who is able-bodied and it really hurt.  I'm angry, but the truth is you really hurt this mother's heart”.  I felt the need to educate her and didn't want to be that crazy special needs mom, even though I had to battle my flesh every time she opened her mouth. The tears began to run down my eyes and I said, “please know for the next person that it's hurtful”.  She then said excuse her behavior stating that they were not prepared for the wheelchair and I just looked at her in her eyes and said, “sweetie you don't have to be prepared to be compassionate.”  She then began to complain again at which point Maria had, had enough put her hand up in the agents face as the agent had previously done to me and said, “no you stop now, enough,”   After all the delays with this agent we had to run to our flight and get told off by another airline employee who thankfully I could not understand and we barely made the plane.  We now have learned that she had never tagged the bag that she made me pay $70 for and that is why it never made it with us to Italy. 



ITALY
When we got to Italy we realized that David’s suitcase did not make it with us.  Not only was this all of his diapers and a majority of both of our clothes but it was also all the cash I had to exchange for euros.  Everything in me was going into full-blown panic mode, but I knew I had to keep my cool for the girls. They were my balance and saving grace on this trip. 

Getting to Italy was a process and because of our budget we needed to fly to Milan, which was $100 cheaper, and then take a train to Genoa where we would be staying.  Not only did we have to jump on trains which had three steps requiring us to take David out of his chair transfer him, lifted his chair in, and then all of our luggage, it also required us to get off the train with just that five-minute transfer time and do it all again. Both train stations had elevators but neither of them worked. In addition to the train transfers we had to take David out of his wheelchair, walk him down two flights of stairs and do the same with the luggage just to get around to the other side.


As you can imagine we got off the train exhausted and had no way to connect to Wi-Fi. We eventually got a man to let us borrow his phone and got a taxi to take us to our home for the next nine days. Again, we had to get into separate taxis and Maria and I began the ride a bit nervous, still traumatized by our experience in Prague.  We quietly sat (which never happens between Maria and I) as the taxi driver began to drive.  All of a sudden Maria looks at me and says he's falling asleep, and I look over and he's closing his eyes in the middle of two lanes. ‘s Everything in me wanted to freak out, but all I could do is laugh hysterically at the thought that this was really happening.  I think our uncontrollable laughter woke him up because he eventually got us to our destination safely.

Our first day in Italy we rested our exhausted bodies.  I was working frantically to try and get our luggage and at least temporarily replace  David supplies until we could figure things out.  It was our first day in Italy that we realized that Laylanie’s phone was no longer working nor was my professional Camera.  The people in Italy were probably the least friendly in Europe.   If you didn't speak the language they made no attempt to communicate with you.   They would simply say no and turn away. 

One of our Italy goals was the Aquarium of Genoa, which is the largest aquarium in Italy and among the largest in Europe.  They did not offer Dolphin swims, but David was able to get his Dolphin fix.  Watching David interact with the Dolphins is magical.  It is like they know how special he is and he appreciates them for that. In fact, one of David’s random chirping sounds began after his first Dolphin encounter.  I call it his Dolphin call.  After the Aquarium we did a little shopping for last minute souvenirs and got bamboozled by some men from Kenya who gave Maria a bracelet “for free” and then took 5 Euros right out of her purse to “help the Africans.”  We than met a man who was trying to sell us items from every shop on the block.  As we would walk he would run to the next store with new items to offer us.  It was quite comical.  After a few hours we got on a bus to return home and guess who was sitting right next to us, the man who had been running from shop to shop. We all made eye contact with the man and everyone including him began to laugh.




Our way home
After taking a taxi to the train station, a train to Milan, a charter bus to Milan airport, we had to wait about 10 hours in the airport for our flight.  While sitting in the Milan airport we met a man that my Maria had notice had been looking at David and smiling. He sat next to us in the airport as we all waited for flight.  We began to have a conversation and I quickly realize he was a believer. He was actually a gospel singer in Italy.

The Jesus in him connected to the Jesus in me and we began a two-hour conversation that would completely verify and confirm many things that I have been seeking God on.  We talked about our different struggles and how God uses them all to transform us into who we are. We talked about God's grace and love and all the miracles he performed in our lives. We were able to understand that it is in great darkness that you learn to appreciate God’s light.  Then he shared his story of losing both of his parents in Africa at age 6. We shared experiences about our encounters with God.   He then told me that when he saw me the Lord spoke to him and told him to pray for my son and speak to me, but he stayed quiet because he wasn't sure of my faith.

He then told me that I needed to quit worrying and just trust God that he had a perfect plan in his perfect timing and that God had given me David to rely on for strength. He asked if he could be blunt and of course I embraced him keeping it 100%. He told me that for him it was rare to see white women taking care of their children and surely not a disabled child in a foreign country.  He admired the adventures we had embarked on together. He then told me a story about a place in his life where he had been tormented by fear. It was fear about not being able to have children. This man had no idea how deep the root of fear about having more children has been in my life. The struggle I have had with trying to come to terms with the fact that maybe God’s plan for my life does not entail more children.   Trying to accept the fact that I might not ever be able to experience watching a child of my own walk or hit typical milestones, has been a process I have been silently working through of the last year.  He then looked at me and said “now I have a beautiful 9 month old daughter” don't worry just trust him. I knew those words were straight from God to me.

He then looked at Maria, having no previous conversation with her, and told her she needed to quit being scared and confirmed something her and I had, had conversations about in the previous months. 

As he left for his flight, I pulled out a little stuffed nightlight I had purchased for my students that I had extras of. I handed it to him for his daughter and then just as I had pulled the Team David band off of David's wrist to put on the homeless man wrist in Prague, this man took off his bracelet and put it on my wrist. When I looked down at the bracelet, it read, "I love Jesus". 

After our incredible encounter with this young man I felt at peace. We decided we would try and sleep for a short while, when all the sudden the airport guards come walking along the walls banging on them with their batons making everyone wake up. I guess in Italy after a certain time (4:00 am) you're not allowed to sleep in the airport.

We waited for the lost and found to open and after an hour I was able to claim my luggage. We had successfully gotten our tickets and boarded our flight to Berlin.  Once we got to Berlin we had to get our luggage and then get to a different airline terminal to check in our bags and get on our flight to return to the states.  It sounds easy enough, but we ended up getting stopped at security.  They did their typical pat down on David and swabbed his chair for chemicals. Next thing you, know people are speaking in Dutch and we are surrounded by airport employees and police officers.  It is then that they inform us that David's wheelchair tested positive for explosives.  Nope I am not kidding!  They then patted him down again and swabbed his chair several more times. At this point I offered to let them keep the cushion in his seat and we would just use a pillow, but they insisted they continue running tests.  I just wanted to assure them that Germany would never be worth sacrificing my child.  Eventually they cleared us we were able to head to our gate, but the police watched us the entire way.

From there we had a plane change in Iceland where there was a six hour delay. We then went through customs where we celebrated our arrival to a U.S. Territory.  Thank goodness we did not know about the lice until after customs because the customs form requires you to declare insects.  Does that make Maria, David, and I Coyotes?

Because of the delay in Iceland there were no more outgoing flights to Phoenix.  The thought of being stuck in an airport for yet another day and night had us ready to crumble under the pressure. We were all extremely exhausted and out of financial resources since the trip cost so much more than we had anticipated due to our friend backing out and all of the mishaps. Thankfully WOW airlines offered to put us in a hotel until we could catch a Southwest flight the following day. 

We were so close yet still so far away. The next day we found a loophole and were able to get home on an earlier flight, which kept us from having to sit in the airport for another 10 hours.  Finally we landed in Phoenix and we are home sweet home. I powered on my phone to call my brother for a ride and had a voicemail. I check the voicemail and notice a strange number from Washington DC.   The message said that I was being contacted by Special Agent Paul Colder calling me directly from the US DEA and that I needed to contact them immediately to avoid a warrant for my arrest.  I could not imagine what this could possibly be about.  As panicked as I was, I was still grateful to be home.  I decided to googled the number and discovered it was an extorsion scam.  Thank because you never know with my crazy life.  That settled my 20 minute panic attack and I was then able to enjoy the 120 degree weather in good old Phoenix Arizona. 

Man do I love and appreciate the USA!  I learned so many lessons on this trip, but my biggest take away was learning how to rely on God.  Not only when I can’t take it anymore, or when I am in crisis, but all the time for everything.   I would not change anything about the trip ,and after it is all said and done the trip provided us hysterical laughs that we will share for years to come. 


I have 4 witness (3 of which can talk) that can verify that this is just how our crazy life happens.  It is ok, you can laugh at us now because the ordeal still has me cracking myself up!