Friday, February 29, 2008

God's Blessed

Well, this past month has been a very rough month for me. This past week, I got the flu. And, it's still lingering with me. Right now, my throat is about twice the size it should be because of swollen glands...not fun, not fun at all. But, despite everything, I still keep pluggin along...barely, but i'm hanging on.

Work. Thats pretty much all I do. And, I can't complain because I love it. It keeps me sane...and makes me insane, all at the same time. As I reflect on this past week, I am amazed at the little things that God brings to my life that reminds me of the simplicity, love, and unselfishness of people in poverty. A few weeks ago, we were asked, are the poor really God's blessed? Are they his favored? In Matthew and Luke...Jesus says, blessed are the poor in spirit and blessed are the poor. He also says, "whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me. Are the poor really more blessed than the rich? For it is said that it is extremely hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. In Revelation, it says a rich man thinks he has need of nothing...therefore he doesn't need God. So, again, are the poor God's blessed? What can I, as a woman of God...and someone who as little as I make, is still not considered, POOR, by most's standards, what can I take or learn from the poor? I have asked myself this over the past two weeks....I have watched my kids and see things that astound me...surprise me...and totally humble me.

Let me start with an obvious one. My kids live very simplistically. They are satisfied with whatever they are given. Honestly...they are. Here is an example of something that just really warmed my heart a few days ago. I was sitting in my usual spot at the beginning of the a chair in the Computer Lab. Kevon, a 3rd grade boy, came in grinning as always and said hi to me. We talked for a minute or so then he said, DO YOU WANT TO SEE WHAT I BROUGHT FOR SHOW AND TELL TODAY???? He seemed so genuinely excited...I said yes, and acted like I really wanted to see what it was. He came back in a few minutes later....with 4 beat up matchbox cars. He was like, aren't they so cool? I, of course, acted like it was the coolest thing ever, and well, it was a great moment. As I sat there, I thought, he really really thinks I want to know and want to see this stuff. And, I did. Because it mattered to him, so it mattered to me. And the matchbox cars weren't really that cool...they looked pretty old, but they were special to him...and he was going to show them awesome.

Another thing that amazes me about these kids is how unselfish they are. They really are. I see it everyday. See, the kids go to the corner store before coming to the center everyday. And, they buy 2 or 3 bags of chips (the little bags most of the time), usually a pop, and sometimes some candy. And they come in...and they share. And they also get candy once a week for city of the week and they get candy for bringing stuff back a lot and stuff. Yesterday, Zyliek had brought a paper back signed, so he got himself some M&Ms. First thing he does? He asks me if I want some. I said, no thanks. And I sat there and watched him. A few minutes later Devin walks in. He says...I want some! Without even BLINKING, Zyliek pours some into his cupped hands. I smiled...and I thought about a few weeks ago. When Naima was given Reces peanut butter cups for making honor roll. She grabbed them, walked over to her brother...without being asked...and handed him one of the two cups and then went and sat down. Seth walked over to her and said, Naima, you don't have to give your brother any of earned it fair and square. She looked up at Seth with this look of amazement and said, "but their his favorites." Then looked back down and started eating hers. Unselfishness....what a thing we can all learn from. I know I can.

Finally, another thing I'm learning from these kids is love. Yes, one thing they are really bad at is they like to make fun of each other...and we try so hard to teach them about being nice to each other and saying kind words. But, at the same time they are so loving to each other and us. Again, I have been sick and I missed work on Monday. I came in on Tuesday, not feeling too well but I knew I didn't want to miss another day. I promise you, almost every single kid in the center asked me how I was feeling. The ones i'm closest to came in, SHASTA!!! Ran over and tried to give me a hug (which I shyed away from since I was still pretty sick)...and immediately asked me how I was. And it was an honest question. How are you? Are you still sick? Why don't you go home? These kids, they cared. They, in their own ways, were loving me. I felt liked they cared more than my co-workers! Lol And everyday, they have asked me how I was feeling. Not only do they love that way, but I see it in the way they treat their brothers and sisters. Yeah, sometimes they argue with them...but they genuinely care for them and take care of them. Most are pretty much raising their younger siblings, so you just see this motherly instinct with them. And the boys...I see Devin wait everyday for his younger sister before he comes to the center...I see Boozie walk in and immediately go give his younger bro a hug cuz he hasn't seen him all day. I see the love they have for their family members. And, it humbles me. It shows me the love we are supposed to have for each "agape" love. Something that isn't conditional...but something that no matter love them.

There are a million other things that make me realize that in some ways...we can learn so much from the poor. So much for youth...and so much from poor youth. Lol I realize that I learn more from them than I could ever teach them.

Finally, I am so grateful for the opprotunity to be a part of this ministry. Even if it will only be a year. Everyday, I am greeted by the sounds of laughter, the faces of smiling children, and the best hugs you can ever imagine. And, all the tears, all the tiredness, all the pain, and all the sickness I go through's all worth it the moment Elvalenna walks in...walks over to me, gives me a hug and hands me a picture that says "i love you" written in glitter and says..."here I made this for you." It's all worth it...It's all worth it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ZipSkinny-Info about our Zip Codes

72802 (Russellville, AR)
median income is 38,738
the unemployment rate is 2.4%
66.1% are married
82.5% have a high school diploma
24.4% have a bachelors or higher
the white population is 94.3%
the black population is 1.7%

60624 (Chicago-East Garfield Park,my neighborhood)
median income is 22,426
the unemployment rate is 11.6%
25.1% are married
59.2% have a high school diploma
6% have a bachelors or higher
the white population is 0.7%
the black population is 97.6%

21014 (Bel Air)
median income is 82,528
the unemployment rate is 1.7%
55.4% are married
97.4% have a high school diploma
63.4% have a bachelors or higher
the white population is 90.6%
the black population is 0.5%

38105 (one of the worst areas in Memphis)
median income is 10,974
the unemployment rate is 9.2%
20.1% are married
56.1% have a high school diploma
12.1% have a bachelors or higher
11.9% white
83.4% black

60644 (Chicago-Austin, where my friend Laura lives/works)
median income is 26,930
the unemployment rate is 10.4%
25.3% are married
60.7% have a high school diploma
7% have a bachelors or higher
2% white
94.8% black

68111 (Omaha, where my friend Misty works)
median income is 23,470
the unemployment rate is 7.5%
30.1% are married
71.6% have a high school diploma
7.4% have a bachelors or higher
21.2% are white
70.6% are black

75210 (Dallas, TX)
median income is 15,038
the unemployment rate is 10.1%
35.4% are married
42% have a high school diploma
3.1% have a bachelors or higher
.9% are white
80.9% are black

75230 (Dallas, TX)
median income is 51,702
the unemployment rate is 2.1%
52.2% are married
93.1% have a high school diploma
55.7% have a bachelors or higher
78.6% white
5.9% black

As you can see, unfortuantely, East Garfield has the highest unemployment rate. Also, when looking at how our neighborhood compares with our neighboring zipcodes, we have the highest poverty rate and lowest median income than any other surrounding neighborhood in Chicago. There is also this cool thing where you can pick up to 20 different zipcodes around the US and compare them to your zipcode. So, I picked anywhere from Bradenton FL to Atlanta to Omaha to Bartelsville, OK and everywhere in between. Alas, our neighborhood still had the highest poverty rate.

It may also be interesting to note that East Garfield Park has the highest concentration of African Americans than any other zipcode I compared.

Okay...I think thats enough. Now, as you look through these...what do you see as a common thread between the higher income/lower unemployment rate vs. lower income/higher unemployment rate? Seriously...what similarity do u see?

(these demographics were found at

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Basketball part 2

If you haven't read the previous post, READ IT before reading this one...just right click and scroll down to the last post.

Now, lets get on with it. Saturday we had our big game 2. After the long and hard practice on Friday, I really thought we'd be okay. Of the 12 on the team, we have 4 good players. I was secretly praying that all 4 would show up on Saturday for the game. No such luck, only 2 of them showed up. The other two, wanted to come but couldn't and the other has a bad attitude and just didn't want to come. Which is okay with me because i'd rather have a team of players with good attitudes that aren't very skilled rather than a team of skilled players with bad attitudes.

Back to the story. We played first. 9 of our players were there, so it was a pretty good turn-out. We played the "purple" team, who I had seen play and knew they were okay. I still had high hopes that we'd be able to play with least stay close score wise. I started Yakira, Tyree, Emmitt, Eric, and Davevontay. Donquilis, TT, Jesse, and Devin sat out first. The first play of the game, the other team scores first. We drove down the court, Tyree passes to Yakira...Yakira (who has never shot nor scored in a game) turned and heaved it towards the basket...IT WENT IN. I have to say it again, IT WENT IN. She went nuts screaming, celebrating...and meanwhile the other team drove the length of the court and scored. Guess who's man scored? If you guessed Yakira's, you are right. I yelled at TT...GO GET YAKIRA. She came out and was like...what? I scored! I couldn't help but smile...but I was so aggraveted...YOU CAN'T CELEBRATE ON THE COURT! YOUR MAN SCORED WHILE YOU WERE DANCING AROUND. She frowned...but then I told her I was proud of her but she has to wait till after the game to celebrate...she seemed satisfied with that. The next 6 minutes went okay. Our team played great defense. They stayed on their men for the most part and on offense, well nothing much going but they were shooting it. Then the second quater came. And it went down hill from there. We started losing our man...forgetting who we were guarding...and just getting tired. By the end of the game...the score was 38-14. Yes...38 to 14. Now, I know what you are thinking, thats HORRIBLE. And it is, but we improved! And, after the game I told them that. I said, we did better and I promise, if we keep getting better every game, we will eventually win. Or at least get close! So yeah, we have ton of stuff to still work on. It is still a lot of fun and the kids seem to enjoy it, even when we lose. Me on the other I do enjoy it, it's just sad cuz I want them to get close at least. Oh well, humility...a lesson in humility.

Here's Yakira...she is still beaming after making her 2 points!


Wellllll, when I was asked by Noel to coach one of the 2-4th grade teams, I was overly excited! Coaching really is one of my favorite things to do. So, after 2 weeks of "tryouts" we picked teams. My team is Eric, Davevontay, Emitt, Lativia, Octavious, Yakira, Jaspen, Donquilis, Jesse, Tyree, Javion, and Devin. 3 girls, 9 boys. We had 5 practices as a team before we had our first big game. Before the game, the kids were so pumped and like, we gonna kill 'em. Lots of talk, which is normal for a 8 year old boy. They were also nervous though, and I didn't want to tell them, but I was a little nervous as well. Then the game started. I put my two best players out to start the game (our other 2 best players didnt show up...unfortunately) and prayed that we'd at least have a chance. The other team didnt look like much, I thought, we can maybe take them. And then they scored. And they scored again, and again...and again. And our team, well, they ran around like they didnt know what to do and how to do it. I grabbed the other kids and threw them in, hoping they would have better luck. Not so much, actually I think it was worse, if it could get any worse! By half time, the score was 20-2. We sat down and I'm not proud to admit it but I kinda yelled at them. I was so frustrated cuz they didn't look like they had a clue out there. I told them if I saw any of them walking, they were gonna get pulled out. The other team had scored about 15 in transition, so I made sure they knew...GET BACK GET BACK GET BACK ON DEFENSE.
The second half begun. Yakira and Donquilis stood as the other team drove the length of the court and shot a layup. Devin...Jesse...go get Yakira and Donquilis. YOU WILL NOT PLAY IF YOU DONT TRY. But, Shasta...SIT DOWN. (They eventually went back in...don't get too worried). By the end of the game, my voice was hoarse, my head hurt from me shaking it so much, and all I could do was laugh. The final score was 27-4. So, yes...our team held them to only 7 points the second half. Yay. They improved...a little.
Here comes next Friday-practice night. I literally had about 15 different things to cover, drills to run, a play to set up....about anything I could think of that we were horrible in, I wanted to work on in one practice. Considering our practices are an hour long, we obviously didn't cover everything. We did get there about 20 minutes early, though, so I literally practiced the kids for the entire almost hour and half. Needless to say, they were pretty tired! We worked on transition defense, making good crisp passes, moving to get open, set up (or tried to) a real simple offensive play, knowing where your man is...and by the end of practice Yakira looks at me and says...that was a hard practice. Oh no! Did I do to much? Did I try to put too much in one practice? I don't know....we'll have to see...its 9:32 am on Saturday morning....we play at 12. Until then my friends...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Philippians 3:7-11

"But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through the faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
Philippians 3:7-11

Thank God for the laughter and smiles of little children!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tevin-Kia's Brother

Here is a recent news report on Kia's brother, Tevin, who died on Friday from cardiac arrest:

The identity of a 7-year-old boy who died after suffering injuries at a North Austin charter school was released Tuesday.
Family members of Tevin Park-Flowers released a picture of him along with a statement of thanks to everyone who helped them during this difficult time:
"Tevin's family would like to express their thanks and appreciation to the Seton Family of Hospitals, in particular the staff at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas, as well as family members, friends and the Austin community for all of the support and concern shown during this difficult time.
While the family continues to ask that their privacy be respected at this time, they would like to share some information about Tevin and his life as well as provide details regarding funeral arrangements.
Please note that this will be the only statement the family will release. Thus, no interviews will be granted":

"Tevin was as active as any seven-year-old child. When not playing video games or watching his favorite wrestlers on television, you would find him playing football. He played safety for the Austin Dellwood Red Raiders, a midget division that just recently won the state championship. Tevin was a scholar with dreams of one day becoming a police officer. He was only in second grade, but already working at a third grade advance level. In addition to his love of sports and school, family was also very important to him. He shared a close bond with his parents and older sister and brother. Tevin will be greatly missed by all those who knew and loved him."
(Tevin and Tyler-his twin brother)
I'm still trying to make sense of all this. These past few days have been very difficult cuz I look at my own kids at the center and it just breaks my heart. This child will never be back. Will never smile again, will never laugh again. And, its not fair. Its totally and completely and utterly not fair. And I talk to Kia and she tells me she's got a hundred questions to ask Jesus and I tell her, girl, I do too. I have no words to comfort her right now. The only thing I can say is I'm prayin for her and i'm here for her. Please remember to tell your loved ones you love 'em. Cuz, guys, ya never know when somethin like this is gonna happen. Cherish the moments. Live everyday to the fullest. And trust in our creator. Cuz, without him, this makes even less sense. And without him, I couldn't even function.

Please pray for Kia and her family.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

My Cell Phone

Well, I really wanted to write this blog, but now i'm just sitting here...staring at a blank screen. I am one of those people that really has be either inspired or have a really good topic to start writing. I am not a person who can just sat down and write whatever, whenever. But, I do have a cell phone. Or my non-existent, deactivated cell phone.

See what happened was I was yesterday, outside, shoveling snow (one of the many reasons I HATE SNOW), trying to get my car out to go to work. I shoveled, shoveled, got in tried to get out, got back out and shoveled some more. Little did I know, my cell phone fell out of my pocket and into the snow. I finally got out and I jumped in my car and drove off. About half way to Yakira's house, I needed to call Jaspin and tell her i'd be a few minutes late. I couldn't find my phone...anywhere. So I picked up the kids and then dropped them off and ran back to get my phone, which I thought i'd left upstairs in my room. I hadn't. So, I ran back out and looked in the such luck there either. So, I had to get back to work.

About 4 hours later, I finally made it back to my house. I searched high and low for it in my house and all through the snow. I finally had about given up when my mom emailed me. She had called my cell phone and a young girl had answered. I was LIVID. Especially since I kinda think I know who took it, at least the house they live in. Anyways, I was upset...I shed a couple of tears...mainly because I really don't have the money to buy a new one. Also because I felt violated cuz someone had taken it without at least trying to give it up and finally because, well, I am attached to my phone.

And after yesterday, I've realized that I am way too attached. This break from my phone is a good thing. I think that sometimes we do get too attached to objects. And, God wants to sometimes show us how attached we are to He sees if we can function without it...and it's been a tough thing, there has been in the past 18 hours about 6 times when I was about to pick up my phone when I realized I didn't have one.

Anyways, now the perspective and the humbled part. I can honestly say, God humbles me on a daily basis. I get mad about something and God shows me the injustices of another person. I get upset about something and God shows me how lucky I really have it. And well, He did it again this morning. See, I woke up in a bad mood. I didn't get home from babysitting till 1:15 (thank goodness for opprotunites for extra cash!) so I was really tired when I woke up. I was also still a little upset from yesterday so I woke up not wanting to do anything. It's Sunday, though, and I know that I should go to church, so i'm getting ready but I decided to sign on to the internet and check my emails. Lo and Behold, there is Kia. And she says, my lil brother died. Thats explanation, nothing else...just my lil brother died. She has twin brothers, I think they are between 6-8 years old. And apparently in the past 24-48 hours, one of them had died. She hadn't been living with her mom for very long (she liked living with her grandmother a lot more) and I remember about a month ago asking her if she was okay living with her mom, she said "well, yeah but only because I get to see my brothers everyday. " See, I went to pick up my phone to call her, and it wasn't there. And I didnt think, dang it...i wish I had my phone, I thought, I am so selfish and stupid. See, here I am crying about a phone...and someone very close to me has lost a loved one...not just any loved one, her brother.

And, I am humbled. And, I am upset. I am heartbroken for her. And, I realize that things could be a lot worse. And, I thank God that I lost my cell phone so I could realize my attachement to it and realize that there are a lot more important things in life than objects. I thank God that I still have my family. I thank God that I am still able to talk to them through the internet.

Please pray for Kia. Here is a picture of her. She is absolutely beautiful and her heart matches her smile. She, like many of my kids, has been through so much in her short 13 years of life...pray for her to cling to God in this time and pray for her family.