Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Merry Christmas bloggers! It's a beautiful, sunny day here in Arkansas. I am sitting here, wanting to write this post but I have a million thoughts running through my mind right now. A million that all circulate around the real meaning for Christmas. This whole commercialized idea of Santa Claus is fun and bring many people around the world happiness-but for what? For one day, then we all head back to the real world-the work force, school, or whatever else humans do. The real meaning of Christmas is not for just one day. The real meaning of Christmas is joyous and a daily living experience. For the real meaning of Christmas is love. God's love for us in sending his only son and Jesus' love for us in becoming sin so that we will no longer be slaves to this world. It's awesome to see how nice people become around Christmas, all of sudden people are buying gifts for the less fortunate, parents are actually spending time with their kids, and men and women around the world actually seem...happy. Smiling, laughing, giving...all these are great and wonderful. Can you imagine, though, if people were this way all the time? If we could have Christmas every day of the year? These ideas of helping people who dont have anything? These ideas of spending time outside of work with your family? The idea of smiling at people walking down the street? God is love, Jesus is love, Christmas is love. Oh, how I wish that people could realize that this love is available to EVERYONE, EVERYDAY regardless of how "naughty or nice" you've been, regardless of how much money you spend on presents, or how many presents you buy for the poor. This love, this feeling of JOY is ours, ours to treasure and ours to give. If everyone could spread a little "Jesus Cheer" all the time...would the world be different? Would people be changed? I love Christmas. I love spending time with my family. I love singing Jesus happy birthday. I love seeing my neice's beautiful face light up when she opens presents. I love seeing my mamaw smiling as we all gather around her kitchen for dinner. I love getting a new pair of pjs every Christmas eve. Everything about Christmas brings joy. Everything reminds me of what the true meaning of Christmas really Love that can only come from my Lord and Savior, for without Him, we would have no Christmas. Sure, maybe we'd have a Santa Claus and jingle bells playing on all the radios, but that isn't Christmas.

May you enjoy Christmas to the fullest. And, although it's easy to get all caught up in the presents and good food-may you take time to thank our Lord for coming to earth all those years ago so that someday we could experience true joy, a joy that only comes from knowing Him and the one true gift-salvation.

Tribute to a great dog

Pistol Cole was laid to rest at his grandparent's home on December 24th, 2007. He was 2 years old and the faithful and loving companion of Brandon and Bethany Cole. He is survived by his parents, B&B, and his sister, Lucy. Most described Pistol as a loving dog who was the 1st to greet his dad from a long, hard day at work. Pistol was also known as playful and rambunctious. The only words described by his parents was, "he was like a son to us." Pistol will always be remembered and live in our hearts. A small tragedy that reminds us to treasure every moment with those close to us! Pisser, we will never forget you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I go home on Friday. I am so excited and ready. Honestly, I love my kids and its not necessarily that I need a break from them, I just need a break in general. I'm so tired...I've been so busy with work and moving out, I haven't had a moment to relax in a few weeks. I know I can't complain because I'm so blessed to be at this stage in my life, but boy oh boy, am I looking forward to my queen size bed with large fluffy pillows!

Today was the last day of the program until January 7th. The kids got to shop in the Christmas store today, and it was so funny watching them trying to pick out gifts for their moms and dads. It was cute as they picked up hideous purses or candles or just random stuff and be like, oooohhhh my mom would like this! Then of course, you'd get the little boy who'd be carrying around a basketball or other toy and be like, my dad will love this...i promise! yeah, yeah right! It was awesome, though, to see some of them who were totally wanting to only get gifts for the family members and it didn't even really occur to them that they should get something for themselves. One girl got a whole 16 piece dish set for 5 dollars! I am thinking her momma is going to love it!

Our Christmas staff party was today. It was HILARIOUS. I haven't laughed so much in a long time. My co-workers are absolutely amazing and they make me laugh so much. I am so blessed because everyday I get to go to work with people I really love and enjoy being around. They have really made me feel like a part of team, from day one!

Goodnight all...hopefully I'll be seeing a lot of you guys soon!

Friday, December 14, 2007


Oh my goodness...I know I just published another post a little while ago, but I just wanted to let everyone know that I can not believe that I am so blessed to be apart of Breakthrough Ministries. They do so much for the community. Granted, these past 8-10 days have been crazily busy because of prep for Christmas, but oh my gosh the things Breakthrough does for the East Garfield Park Community. For example, I worked around 12 hours today sorting, counting, and pricing items for the "Christmas Store." As I walked around today and just looked at all the stuff that people had donated (new of course) or we had bought (with donated money) it brought me to tears. I can't believe how much Breakthrough does to help our community out. See what we do is we buy or get donated items and resale them marked down like 80%...and all the procedes go to our youth's "earn while you learn" program. The Christmas store sales everything from towels, to cd players, to drills, to even microwaves. And everyone from the women/men in our shelter to anyone in the community can come shop in it. The amount of items we have for the store just absolutely blows me away. Tomorrow is the store and then tomorrow night, we are having a "Christmas Celebration" for our youth and their families. We are having food and some of our kids perform (essay reading, choir, praise dance...). Its a great time for the parents to come and see what we've been up to lately.

Oh, and the Christmas party for the kids was a big success. We only had a few who were upset about their gifts. Most of them were so excited they squealed and smiled and ran around showing off their presents! I took lots of pictures so hopefully i'll be uploading them soon to here!

Anyways, if you ever want to donate to a ministry or non-profit organization that is really doing some awesome and amazing things in their communities...check us out at Breakthrough. It is unbelieveable and humbling to me of all that we do! I love it and love seeing how much Jesus is working through us to change our community!

Another Day...Another Moment

This is an excerpt from our executive director at Breakthrough, Arloa Stutter's, blog:

"Saturday night I went to bed at about 10:30. I awoke at 1:30 AM to lots of voices shouting and screaming using the most explicit words imaginable.
Charlie (my dog) and I sleep in a bedroom in the back of the apartment. We hear lots of yelling, sirens, cars screeching and trains going by. Both Charlie and I have grown accustomed to it so that even with this extreme shouting that sounded almost like a riot, neither of us got up. Charlie didn't even bark. But when I heard about five gun shots, I decided to go to the living room window at the front of the apartment and see if I needed to do anything. There were about fifty young people embroiled in a huge fight in front of my apartment. Several of the young men were wielding baseball bats and two by fours and they were beating each other up. Evidently someone had shot a gun into the air and some of them were beginning to scatter.I wandered what it must be like to be the mother or grandmother of one of those kids, knowing they are out there and not knowing how to stop them from being there. Anything could happen.A 21-year old boy from the neighborhood recently was released from prison and has been hanging out at our offices. Today Bill and I were trying to find out what dreams he has for his life. He couldn't think of anything. I finally asked him when in the last week he had felt the most positive about himself and hopeful for the future. He said it is when he is with us at the Breakthrough Joshua Center. You can almost sense the fear in him that if he goes back out there it is only a matter of time, statistics indicate less than 90 days, and he will be back in prison. I told him that he should keep coming by and helping out around the center. It's a safe place for him, a place where he is beginning to feel hopeful. Please pray for him and for the young people who were out there Saturday night. I really believe many, if not most, of them would not be hanging out on the street if there were alternatives for them. They just need safe places where they can begin to dream for their future and experience positive life change."

I drive down the streets in the East Garfield Park neighborhood daily. I see things daily that sadden me to almost the point of tears. Yesterday I was saddened by the fact that cops had to be called after a "domestic violence situation" (shots were fired) in a house across the street from the center. I know for a fact at least 4 kids that are involved in one way or another with breakthrough live there. The thing is, it's so common now for things like this to happen, everyone around was like, oh its just so and so again. The thing is, do we have to be so "used to it?" So used to that it doesn't move us to do something? Is there the danger that working here for awhile will harden my heart to the point that shots being fired or any kind of violence is just a typical day? I hope not. I hear stories everyday about my kids and the lives they live. Some break my heart, others are stories of small hope...most though are stories of hopelessness and the idea that if they make it "it'll be a miracle." Oh I how I hope for a thousand miracles. That's what gets me through the day here. It's tough...tougher than sometimes I let on. But, knowing that I may be the only Jesus these kids see everyday...that's enough to tell me that I am where I am supposed to be. And someday, I can look at a woman or man and are a miracle...and I'm blessed because I was a part of that!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas is Coming!

So yesterday, we (Breakthrough Staff) went shopping for the kids' Christmas presents. We each got a pile of the kids' wishlists and then were sent to different sections of the stores (Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys R Us). It was so fun. I got the 3-5th grade boys lists so pretty much all of them were all the WWE wrestling toys. Almost every boy wanted a John Cena figurine or the Great Khali figurine. It was crazy sorting through tons of different fighters that all looked the same trying to find specific guys. I had good luck, though, and was able to get most of all of their 1,2, or 3rd choices. We could spend up to $30 on them, so some of them got all 3 choices while others only got 1 of their choices. So, yeah, at Walmart the total for all the toys ended up being over 1,000 dollars. Then at Target, it was around 300 dollars and then they dropped another almost 400 dollars at Toys R Us. It was insane! But it was also awesome because it's so great knowing that for some of our kids, it maybe the only present they get. The Christmas party is on Wednesday, so i'm excited to see their faces when they get their presents.

On a whole different note, unfortuantely 2 of our kids got kicked out of the program on Thursday. They (one of them was 15 the other 13) got in a fist fight and it was really bad. On of our staff guys ended up having to pretty much take the 13 year old down to the floor and just hold him down while one of our other staff guys and I took the 15 year old was bad enough that their mom (yes, they are brothers) ended up bringing the police with her, just in case. Unfortunately for them, they are gone. The sad part is, the 15 year old is one of our mayors (leaders in the program) and I can't imagine him not being there anymore. He is one of my favorite older kids and I am sad that He has to go. I do know, though, that it has to happen because the incident was so bad. We've had fights before, but nothing like this. Let's just say, i'm the first to usually jump in and stop the fight and this time...I let the men handle it. I knew I wasn't going to be strong enough by myself to break it up. Anyways, of course, all the kids saw it and it sucks because all of them really look up to the 15 year old because he is such a good kid and he is a growing Christian young man. But, everyone makes mistakes, and I guess he just has to learn to control his temper more. I hate the thought of not seeing him anymore. It just makes me want to cry cuz honestly, I know he probably sounds like a horrible person but he isn't at all. He is so strong in his faith to be in the enviornment that he lives in. He comes and brings his brothers to church every Sunday and I just can't imagine what he'll do now since he can't be in the program anymore. It hurts to make decisions like this. Please pray for him and his brother (the 13 yr old). The 13 year old has had a lot of behavior issues and is probably being sent to a group home for troubled youth after Christmas. He (the 13 yr old) is a good kid he just has a lot of issues right now that he has to work out. He has even had a problem going home, half the time, he at 13 years old is out and no one knows where he is and doesn't come home at night. I know there was a time a few weeks ago where he didn't stay the night at his house for like 5 days and no one knew where he was. Anyways, please pray for these two boys. One who is really trying and just messed up and the other who really needs Christ in his life and messes up regularly. Neither are bad kids, both are just kids in need of love and someone to believe in them.

God bless you all. Have a great weekend!!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Loving Jesus

Dear Lord,
help me to spread your fragrance where ever I go. Flood my soul with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may be only a radiance of yours.

This was written by Cardinal Newman. This is my prayer today.

I've realized today that I haven't been putting on the full armor of God. These last few days, heck the last two weeks have been rough for me at work. The kids have constantly gotten the better of me, in particular one kid. And this morning, sitting here just thinking, praying and reading the word, i've realized that I've failed. And I will boast in this because I know that in so many ways, these past couple of weeks, I haven't been surrendering to God. I haven't been putting on any armor and how can expect to go to battle everyday without God's armor on? I can't. And, i've been trying. And I've failed miserably. I hate admiting that because, ya know, i'm Shasta. Everyone talks about how great I am with kids. But let me for a minute step away from that and say, I've failed and I'm not. I'm human. And, without God, I am nothing. So, I am going to boast in the fact that I am nothing without him. And boast in the fact these last two weeks have been...Hell in many ways for me. Why, because I've went away from the only thing that has brought me here. I had forgotten in not so many words to put on the full armor of God, walk out that door and remember that without Christ, I am nothing. I have nothing to offer any of these kids but Christ and his love. I will boast only in my weaknesses so through that, God's power will be perfect and his presence will be known.

Today Lord, I put on your full armor. I pray you posses my whole being so that my life will only be a radiance of yours. How beautiful are those words? And how desperately do I want to live them fully. Forgive me all for forgetting whose I am. Forgive me for stepping out these past few days without the Lord's armor on and forgetting that I have nothing to offer. I mean come on, I'm a farm girl from Arkansas. What do I have to offer inner-city kids from the ghetto? Nothing but Christ and his amazing glorious love. And, I pray my life, like Moses' face, will be a radiance so brightly seen that others will know I have been in the presence of Christ....and He shines through me.

God bless you all.

Monday, December 3, 2007

New Week

It's a New Week. Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. Today is Monday, bible study day. I am leading today and we are talking about, "Who is Watching You, Being a Role Model". I hope it goes well, definitely one thing these kids need to to be a LEADER not a follower. God Bless! Below: 2 of my girls in our bible study:

Saturday, December 1, 2007


It is officially December. And, starting today, we are in a "winter storm warning." I'm thinking their winter storms are a little different than our winter storms! ;) These last few days it has been in the teens in the mornings and going up to the 30s in the afternoons. I was told I need a new warmer jacket and warmer shoes (something about my converse are not going to cut it!); my thought is, this city is turning out to be more expensive than I thought.

An update on the housing situation. In 2 1/2 weeks, the day before I go home for Christmas, I am moving into a new condo. I will be living with 2 girls, one of which I've met and the other of which I don't even know her name. It's a nice place and I'll have my own bedroom (YAY), so i'm excited about it! I do wish, though, that I knew the girls better before I moved in...if only I could afford my own place!

My boss's husband (I guess hes my boss as well) was stopped the other night after dropping off a friend from work. He was in another neighborhood similar to ours (i.e. a impovrished area) and after dropping him off was almost immediately stopped by the police. The policeman proceded to pull him out of his car and put a gun to his head. He (the officer) was cussing him out and asking him if he was high and buying drugs. Mind you, my boss had nothing wrong, and was completely confused by it all. The officer held a gun to his head and just kept asking him where his drugs were and stuff. Finally, after a few minutes of my boss trying to explain to him he lived in the area and was dropping off a co-worker, the officer finally let him go.Interesting, isn't it? I feel as though the police in general think either we are in the neighborhood to buy/sale drugs or we must be really stupid. I and my boss's family are neither. Other co-workers and friends that live in this neighborhood are neither as well. People just do not understand why we would chose to live a life of simplicity and choose to live in this area if we don't have to. I read this amazing book a year or so ago called Sub-Merge: living deep in a shallow world. And, I feel as though that is what we at breakthrough are doing. There are a few passages in it that I found are remarkably poignant to what i'm talking about:

"Poverty we know about. Its poor people we do not know; but it’s knowing poor people that enable substantive chance and authentic empowerment to take place. " How many of us really do know the poor? Living in this community hasn't just allowed me to meet and communicate with them but has also allowed me to understand the trials they are going through and show them more than just sympathy but more importantly empathy. If I drove in from the 'burbs everyday, do you really think that I could have an effective ministry? Maybe, but not near as effective as living right down the street from them. You should see my kids' faces when I first told them where I lived, I got the "you live down the street from me jo" or "imma come to your house now cuz we livin so close"'s awesome to see them running around outside when I drive down the street, honking my horn at them and them wavin and smilin real big.

"In order to live the gospel among the poor, we must expect to go outside the gate and break away from the system. And we should expect to discover Christ there and follow his lead, especially when we are acting against injustice. Most people applaud and admire works of mercy. When it comes to speaking against systemic injustice in a way that might entail changing life-styles or sharing power and influence, however, there comes an awkward silence. Those who choose to live and work among the poor should expect to serve Christ as a remnant. You can hope for more to join in, certainly. Celebrate those who come. But do not wait for a critical mass from the mainstream to act. Be content to work far from the limelight. And don’t expect the mainstream to validate or embrace your efforts among the poor with your same intensity or passion." This is another passage in the book that seems so real to me. Sure, sure everyone loves it when you help the poor but when you go one step further and decide to live among them, its a different story. All of a sudden its not about the poor to them any more but about you and your safety and your provisions and stuff. And all of a sudden, if you aren't careful, you begin to second guess yourself and think about your needs and wants. Christ says, whoever wants to follow me must die to himself, take the cross and follow me. Dying to myself means not looking at how different I must live or how different the culture may be or how safety issues might be in question...but to put others before me and see that Christ has called me to work and minister among the poor. Yeah, maybe it is crazy to the police or to the mainstream that I choose to live here. But, "If I was still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." Gal 1:10

Above: Quite possibly the funniest kid I have ever met in my life

Another week has come and gone in the program. It's been a tough week. I definitely at one point really just wanted to go to the bathroom and either scream or cry! LOL I love my kids so very much and I guess thats why it really affects me when they act the way they do at times. It's frustrating because I look at them and I think, WOW, the potential that they have. Most of our kids are so creative, intelligent, and just imaginative, I can just imagine the possiblities if they just kept their heads on straight and realized their potential.

Anyways, I am dogsitting this week (got up at 5 am to take her out this morning) so i've got to go back and check on her. Have a great weekend! God bless!!!!

"I have found the paradox that if you love until it hurts there can be no more hurt, only more love." Mother Teresa