Do you ever have those weeks that you finally sit down to catch your breath and wonder what just happened; where did the days go? It’s crazy sometimes how life totally slips from us, and we are left trying to process all that has occurred. That is currently where I find myself. Too many good things in such a short time can be overwhelming, even if they are some of the most incredible life changes. To fill you all in, Sean and I, (Marissa), got married a little over two weeks ago, came back from our honeymoon, moved houses with Vanessa, and are back at work while Vanessa starts school again. We have decided, for at least this semester, to keep Vanessa in school. As much as one on one homeschooling would benefit her needs, too much change can be hard on her, and our family as a whole needs some time to breathe and just get into a routine before we pursue that. We have decided to spend time in the afternoons and evenings doing her therapy program as well as some reading and sign language help. She has been doing well since the move. For the first time I heard her call our new house “her home,” not just “Marissa’s house.”

I want to share a story with you that so touched my heart. Our first night in our new apartment, Vanessa was sitting at the table with me. She looks around and blurts out, “I love my new house! It’s beautiful. I love it.” I smile and reply, “I’m glad.” Her head perks up as she hears Sean come in, and she giggles as he kisses her cheek, says hi, and asks how her day was. She watches him walk up the stairs and proceeds to jump out of her seat screaming, “Sean!! SEEEAAAANNNN! Sean!” while chasing him up the stairs, bounding with each step. I can hear her laugh as he says, “what’s up Ness?” She follows him like a puppy, talking his ear off, only coming back down when he walks out to his van. She walks over and goes, “I love my Dad.” Oh be still my heart. For the first time since I gained custody of Vanessa, I hear acceptance in her voice; I can see that she feels at home, that she feels part of a family, and that she is starting to see the love of her Father in a greater way. For His plans are greater than ours. He is more than we could ask, think, or imagine, and He is working in her life, even when I struggle to see it some days.

Sean also told me of an evening he was sitting with Ness soon after we got back from the honeymoon. She leaned over and said, “when are you going to take me to work with you Sean?” “What? Take you to work with me?” “Well yes,” she replied. “I am your daughter, and Dads take their kids to work.” Oh bless her soul! The way she sees the world and understands life sometimes is too cute to handle.

Thank you all for your support of not only this beautiful girl, but of our family. We are so blessed by each and every one of you. Seeing the way the Lord showed up at our wedding and in our move with Vanessa has blown me away. The love and support of our Village amazes me. We do have some exciting news we are asking you please mark on your calendars.

For the month of October The Green Fork and Local Roots Market in North Wales (https://thegreenforkandlocalrootsmarket.com/) will be hosting Vanessa’s Village art work on their local artists wall. This restaurant prides themselves in amazing food (which I can vouch for), organic, vegan, and gluten free options, as well as a market of local products. You may go any day in October to see Vanessa’s artwork, but the dates we ask you mark down are our meet and greet and our dine and donate.

The address for the Green Fork and Local Roots Market is 115 S Main St, North Wales, PA 19454.

Meet and greet- 6pm to 8pm Saturday October 7th. This will be a time to meet Vanessa and her village, hear what we are about, look at her artwork, possibly purchase a piece or two, and give towards our cause. There will be light snacks and drinks to enjoy. Food may also be purchased from the restaurant but none of their proceeds go towards us this evening.

Dine and donate- 11am to 8pm Thurday October 26th. This is the time that a percentage of the proceeds from any purchase at the restaurant will go towards Vanessa’s Village. You may come in anytime between 11am and 8pm, talk with Vanessa, meet us and hear our cause, as well as purchase her paintings and buy food which will benefit us.

We are so appreciative to The Green Fork and Local Roots Market for this opportunity! Check them out at their website or Facebook page.

Thank you again for all you do for us! We are very excited to share more of Vanessa’s art with you in the coming time. If you have a piece you would like to purchase before the fundraiser in October, shoot us an email under the Contact Us tab and we will get it to you. All proceeds go directly to support Vanessa’s therapy as well as her hopes and dreams of working with art and baking.

Thank you!

God bless,

Vanessa’s Village

For I Have Created You To Sing

She dashes back and forth, fluttering around, bringing food to the little ones, and instantly returns to scavenge again. The tan feathers on her back glisten in the heat of the sun as she flies through the trees, moving with ease to complete her daily routine. She’s a busy sparrow, relying on her strength to keep herself above ground, whipping in and out of the fragrant summer flowers, in a search for food for her children. She hardly sees the rabbits sitting in the yard enjoying an afternoon snack. She breezes right past the squirrels scampering up the big Oak, laughing as they chase one another without a care in the world. As she dashes around the corner, she does not see the window and collides with a resounding, “thud.” She lays dazed for a moment before picking herself up, brushing the dust off, and continues back to her business. He sits watching, waiting; anticipating with sadness in his eyes. “Does she not remember I created her to sing?” She does not spare him a glance these days. In days of old, the Sun was her best friend, her confidant; she would spend hours a day talking with him, listening as he whispered love to her. She was created a singer, a voice in the dry land crying out, but these days she forgets to acknowledge the one who is shinning above her, the one giving light so that she may complete her tasks. She sits exhausted on her nest; “Breathe,” he whispers. She exhales dramatically, completely drained from her weeks of running. “Breathe,” he whispers. She lays her head down trying to ease racing thoughts. “Breathe,” he whispers, “for I have not left you. I will be with you even until the end of this age. Breathe little one, breathe.” She hears him this time, and for one moment, listens and exhales slowly. “Breathe.” As her breath returns, she opens her mouth and sings.

This imagery speaks for itself. Over the past weeks, fear and anxiety have crept up so quickly, choking the faith and joy right from my mouth. Vanessa has been more on edge as my patience dwindled and came to a halting stop, resulting in harsh words and tones exchanged from me to her. While my exhaustion may be worldly “understood and acceptable,” the Lord is calling me higher, whispering, “breathe, for I have created you to sing.” Do the circumstances get easier, by no means. In all reality, every time a phone call comes with bad news or some new life stress, I think, “well, at least it cant get worse.” Then, a few days later, that next call comes, attacks hit, control flees, and I realize, it can always get worse. But, that is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Because until this morning, I tried to control every single detail, but as thing after thing fell out of my control, my ears were opened to the voice of the Father whispering, “do you not remember that I created you to sing?” That simple line this morning, spoken as I watched the sparrow flutter through the trees, sent me swirling back to the reality that is the true reality we need to live in. Our God is greater.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:25- 34).

Friends have preached this verse at me for weeks now, but until I heard it again from the voice of the Father, I could not let it soak into my being, absorbing all the lies and doubt, pushing me to trust Him again. As I talked with Him this morning, He brought up Job. As Job was stripped of all he knew and cherished, his control fled, and his praise only grew deeper. Had thing after thing not slipped from my control, my eyes would have stayed off Him far longer.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11).

I love this verse because it reminds me that we need to remind ourselves to trust God, to place our hope in Him, and continue to praise Him, for we were created to sing. Our souls fall downcast; our hearts get tossed in the waves of life, and our thoughts wander to nagging fear that quickly turns to anxiety and depression. Yet, we can remind ourselves to put our hope in God; we can speak truth until we believe it, and we can sing again.

I want to thank each and every one of you for continuing to help me lift my eyes even when my head feels so heavy. The Lord is raising up a Village to lead Vanessa to freedom, to grow her, stretch her, and enrich her with all wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Thank you for being part of this Village. We have some areas that we would specifically love prayer for. We are in need of finding somewhere we can call home for a time. Our landlords are in the process of moving themselves, so our house is going on the market. With that said, pray God would provide a home sufficient for our needs as a family, and that it would be within our budget so that I would not need to work full time and could home school Vanessa. We know God has called us to raise her up and spend as much time as we can teaching her and investing in her. His call to home school does not change even if we cannot see it financially working out. Praise God He is bigger than finances. Please continue to lift up Vanessa that she would grow into a greater understanding of God’s love for her. Pray Sean and I would have revelation into His heart for her and patience to parent her. Pray His love and sacrifice for us would be seen in the call he has placed on our lives to “Seek Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with Him.” He is far worth it beloved, far, far worth it. So, sing.

Can You See It?

There’s this whisper in the wind, a voice calling in the breeze, in the shallow laps of the creek as it kisses the rock bed. It’s the twinkle of the stars, the dance of the moon and sun as they take shifts mirroring the Light of the world. It’s the unexpected cry of the eagle as it swoops overhead, calling to the deer below, “come and fly with me.” The whisper comes through the crackle of the fire, the sound of giggles as marshmallows invade the cute faces of children and mothers smile at the sight of their beloved delighting in life’s little pleasures. He’s everywhere if you would just see, if you would just stop.

Stop. Breathe Beloved, breathe.

He repeats this to me daily as my faith comes in waves. Oh how I wish to fully trust, to completely see, with eyes wide open and a heart overflowing. How I wish to believe, to breathe; to just be again. How I want to soar, to say yes to that Eagle as its Majesty cries out, ” Come and soar with Me. Come to the mountains and valleys. Arise My Beloved, and come away with Me (Song of Solomon 2:10). And yet, He is still faithful, constantly calling me higher into the depths of His unfailing love. He has promised,

“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.  Why do you complain, Jacob; Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know, have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:25-31).

He is the God of the unfaithful, the God of redemption, restoration, and continued reminders of identity. I absolutely adore the section He begins to talk to like He is speaking to Jacob. Let’s start with a little background on Jacob (Israel). His father is Issac; his grandfather is Abraham whom God called the father of nations, that his descendants would outnumber the stars. This is Jacob’s family line, called by God, set apart, and followers of the Way. And yet, Jacob is a cheat, a liar, and manipulates his father, with the help of this mother, to steal the birthright that is to go to his elder brother Essau. Jacob then flees the land to avoid being killed by Essau and ends up working seven years for his uncle, Laban, just so that he may have right to marry this relatives daughter. Laban cheats him and  gives Leah,the sister of the girl he wanted to marry, as his bride because the younger sister may not marry unless her elder is already married, so Jacob works another seven years to gain right to now marry Rachel, the one whom he loves. So, fourteen years later, he is married to two sisters, wealthy, and with eleven sons. He returns and reconciles with his brother, but not after repenting to the Lord, and begging Him to save his life. Genesis 32 tells this story in full detail, but a recap is that Jacob is preparing to meet Essau. He is terrified, quivering and calling out to the Lord to spare his life. That night while all alone, Jacob wrestles with a man causing his hip to come out, be injured, and leave him walking with a limp, a constant reminder that God is faithful to him. The man tells Jacob to let him go, but Jacob says he will not until the man blesses him. This man replies, “what is your name?” As Jacob responds with his name, the man says, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob, now named Israel, goes on to be the father of the twelve tribes of Israel throughout the Old Testament. Return to Isaiah 40. “Why do you complain, Jacob; Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?” Notice how one line He calls us Jacob, and one line He calls us Israel. The Lord sees our identity as a valiant son or daughter who has overcome even when all we see of ourselves is Jacob, full of fear and lacking in faith. The Lord is constantly calling us higher, calling forth our name that He has given us. We have overcome by the blood of Jesus Christ, therefore we may be called sons and daughters and coheirs with Christ Himself.

I just love that when I see struggle, when I feel tossed in the waves of life, lacking in faith, weary and tired, God sees Israel; He sees the possibilities not the problem. Recently, Sean asked me, “do you see it? Do you see it? Tell me you see it.” He was referring to what we see in Vanessa, what I struggle to see some days, what I get so mad at myself for not being able to always walk towards with full assurance and faith, but what God is calling her Israel to be. We see her sharing her story, reading, writing, teaching, preaching, writing books, having her dream bakery, being self-sufficient, understanding life and God to a greater level than she ever has, rejoicing in the little things, and dreaming of the impossible. Do you see it?

We recently had our three day parent seminar training with Family Hope Center based in Norristown, PA. I cannot even begin to describe how incredible this was. They gave hope through stories of other families, but above that, they gave professional information with details upon details all about the brain, how it works, how to help in and heal it, and what our plan can be. It renewed so much hope and gave me a greater understanding of Vanessa’s brain, that she’s not crazy, she is hurt, and we can help her. We cannot “fix” her. God fixes, but we can do everything in our power to set up and environment for her where she can thrive. The team at FHC gave us ways to “brain map” Ness, to figure out her neurological age. This opened my eyes to why she is how she is. She is a young child stuck inside an eighteen year old body, needing to be seen, longing for love and needing identity spoken out over her. Many of her functions and overall age is equivalent to that of a three year old, and we are trying to explain concepts to her that are far above that level. With this new knowledge, Sean and I just looked at each other and said, “she needs to be home schooled.” Neither one of us had a single doubt about that. She needs one on one, on her level, with no distractions. With that said, this coming fall, I will begin to full-time home school her. We are asking for an increase in prayers that God would meet me, because in my weakness He is strong. I cannot home school her to the level she needs. I cannot keep patience with her all day every day. I find myself tossed in the waves of life asking myself, “why cant you see it?!” But, in my weakness He is strong.

In my weakness He is strong.

In my weakness He is strong.

In my weakness He is strong.

How amazing is that?! He doesn’t leave me hanging, but instead He calls out the Israel in my Jacob moments. He reminds me who He is and invites me to join Him. He is the God of making impossible possible.

Can you see it?

You are More

Have you ever stopped to think about how important the family unit is? Not just in the Church but in general. Many of our issues in adult life come from poor family situations in the past, feeling hurt by a mother or father who left, abandonment, abuse whether physical, emotional, sexual, or verbal, and tension in current marriages. The more I (Marissa) speak with other local families, the more brokenness I see. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. And think about it; if he wants to take you out, he’s gonna go big or go home, so he attacks the marriage, he goes for the children, he stresses the family unit, and once destroyed, our outside ministries hurt because we carry the stress of the day, we constantly feel tension at home and cannot rejuvenate. God created man and brought all the animals before him to find a suitable partner for He saw it was not good for man to be alone. When none was found, He made woman from the rib of man to be his helper. This word in Hebrew is Ezer. This word is always and only used in the Old Testament in the context of vitally important and powerful acts of rescue and support. This word is also used 16 times in the Old Testament to speak of God as a helper. We serve a God who loves to serve and is all about community and relationship. He Himself is three in one, and when He created us, He saw it not good for us to be alone and live outside of community. So, let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute here. If you were the enemy, what is the first area you would attack? The cornerstone of human existence, then the support, and finally the sanity. He attacks the core of our relationship with the Creator, turning us on Him, making us angry at Him, feeling like He is lying and not showing up, and making us feel like God Himself is distance even though none of that is true. Then he attacks the community of the individual. If we are mad at God, we tend to isolate; we hide our issues and say, “well you just don’t understand.” When in reality, we are keeping issues hidden because the enemy is lying to us telling us we will burden others when in truth, what is in darkness will always stay in darkness. If we just opened up to our community, our issues would come to light and where light is, darkness cannot be. The greatest level of community is between a man and his wife because it mirrors our relationship with Christ Himself. So this is the area we naturally abuse when we are off with God. We take it out on those closest to us and tension enters a relationship. Again, like I said, what is in darkness will stay in darkness until we drag it out of the closet, kicking and screaming, and let light invade. From attacking the community of a person, our sanity is attacked. We feel as though we are falling into depression. We struggle to feel good about ourselves, and we push people away from us. In reality, the issue is not depression, it is an identity struggle not knowing who we are in Christ. When that relationship falters, everything will fall apart. So go kiss your spouse. Tell them you love them. Lay the bitterness aside and let the issues come to light. In honesty, darkness stands no chance. There is redemption in Christ. God is waiting with arms wide open for you to run back. He is not here to condemn. All He says is, “welcome home Child. I never left you.”

I want to speak to all the mothers out there for a minute. I have had custody of Vanessa for almost a year now, and even though I am a “new mother,” I feel there are some lessons I learned rather quick due to hard circumstances, and I want to get super real with y’all for a minute. Life as a parent is not easy, not in the least. And we as mothers need to be very careful that our identities do not get stuck in the mothering side of life alone. You, my dear, are a daughter of God first and foremost. You are a co-heir with Christ, a warrior princess, His baby girl. You, beloved, are chosen, pure, holy, redeemed, beautiful, stunning, spectacular, worthy of life abundant, and a joy. You are more than just a wife and a mother. It’s far too often I see women suffering with overwhelming identity crisis and sadness. They feel lost, lonely, and stuck in not knowing their true identities, feeling as though their children can hold them back from other dreams they have. Trust me. I know this first hand. There are days all I do is lay in bed and cry because raising Vanessa can be hard, it takes all I have, I struggle trusting God with our finances, and it is a process of learning to die to myself but to not kill my dreams and hopes. God has been speaking to me about the renewal of my mind. “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” I am more than just a mother. Am I a mother? Yes. Do I love it? Yes, and I would never change it for the world. And yet, it can be extremely hard. The Lord has been speaking about changing my mindset. When moments are hard and I feel like i am in identity crisis and that my current call is holding me back from other things I want to do in life, God says to renew my mind. I need to literally take that thought captive. This is work, a process, and difficult. We lay hold of that thought, throw it away, and speak the Truth. Vanessa is not holding me back, she is propelling me to a greater revelation of my identity in Him. You, beloved, are not being held back by your husband, fiance, boyfriend, and children. You are being propelled to see with clear eyes the call that He is raising you into. Your children and husband need you to care for yourself. When I was sharing some of these struggles, a wise friend pointed out that my inner child needs attention. Each of us has a little girl in us that wants to feel loved, delights in dancing with her Papa, is full of child-like joy and faith, and is spontaneous in her love for her Creator. We push this little girl to the side as the responsible adult side of us steps up when life calls, and as motherhood hits, responsible adult must take over. Yet, we cannot completely reject the child in us. This is why our quiet time with Papa is crucial, why dancing in the rain, singing at the top of our lungs to music in the car, spontaneous date nights with our prince charming, following our dreams, and showing our children that life is more than just responsibilities and bills is crucial to not just our mental and spiritual health, but our physical health as well. We do have things we need to do, responsibilities and obligations, but we need to prioritize that little girl inside. With that said, if you are a mother who needs to be prayed for, is ready to bring light to her darkness, and just needs to have fun and stand up and dance like no one is watching, I want you to shoot me an email. Send this to all the mothers you know. My goal is to start a support group for all the mothers that need Life restored. My email is soudermarissa@gmail.com You, child, are not alone. It is time to dance again.

We are one week away from the parent training conference for Vanessa’s therapy program! Thank you so much for your support. We were able to raise all the finances for this training. For this program we will be learning all about the human brain, it’s processing, how it grows and functions, how to better understand our child, designing a specific program to best meet her emotional, social, and developmental needs, and many other things related to her brain map. We are continuing to try to raise extended funds to help for this coming October. We are praying about doing a full two day physiological evaluation after we spend the summer applying the knowledge we will learn at the conference. Please pray about partnering with us for that. We will keep you updated on our plans and any new upcoming fundraisers. Thank you so much for all your support! You are a blessing.

Take heart. For He has overcome the world.
Blessings Dear Ones ❤

Jesus Breaks Through

Jesus breaks through.

For months, I have struggled feeling like God is not showing up. Some days, life seems so dull, the outcomes seem dismal, and it feels as though we are circling the same issues over and over again. And yet, Jesus breaks though. I love the fact that despite what we see, He is working each and every situation for our good and for His glory. He is in the business of making all things new, all things great, and redeeming every situation. Sean likes reminding me of a phrase that I feel holds an eternity of weight and power. “The promise still stands.”

The promise still stands.

No matter what I feel on a daily basis, God’s promise of life abundant for myself and my family still stands; His promise of life and a future that will prosper us stands. His love of us is constant, never ending, never swaying. “Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude; it does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 4-7). “God is love” (1 John 4:8). If He Himself is love, and love is all the above listed things, that means that God is constantly those things. He cannot deny His character, and will always be all He says He is.

It’s amazing to see how God opens my eyes in simply preparing for marriage. Sean and I are currently engaged, and in taking time to read God’s thoughts on love, marriage, and life with another, my eyes are being opened to how Christ loves me, a part of His Bride. He loved us enough to give His life and to cry out in desperation, “Father, I desire that they would be with me, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17: 24-26). Jesus’ desperation for us is felt in every word He uttered in the garden. He desires us to be with Him, to know the Father through Him, to see His glory made manifest in the Son. We have the privilege as the Bride of Christ to make His glory known, to radiate Him, and allow Him to manifest the love of the Father through our hands, through our speech, and though our love. The unity of the Bride and her Bridegroom is a magnificent thing. We as the Church are currently in that engagement period, the time of waiting for the return of Christ, but Beloved, let us not grow weary in feeling as if He is not showing up. He is all around, constantly revealing Love to us in the greatest of ways.

These past few weeks, I saw the hand of the Father in some incredible ways through the love of others over Vanessa’s life. Many times I feel as though I am the only one fighting for her, advocating constantly and never being heard. I have definitely struggled feeling as though the world is against her, and while people may not be, systems can most definitely be. Children with special needs tend to fall through the cracks if they do not have people fighting the battles they cannot fight. We as the Church are called to fight this; to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). Yet, with so many children, so many battles, systems do their best, but individuals can be left unseen. My biggest fight for Vanessa is that she is simply seen as a person with full potential. While she may be “disabled” in some ways, her “disabilities” in this realm make her far more able in other realms. Spiritually, her faith is far greater than many I have seen because of her childlike faith, nature, and joy. She excels in areas many do not, yet the world labels her and tells her she cannot do many things she truly can if given room to grow. I have a few customers I do gardening for, and I love the example of what happens when you do not pull the weeds right near a new plant. The new growth has no room to spring up, so it will be choked out by the weeds; pull the weeds and life will burst through. That is my job in Vanessa’s life currently; pull the weeds and put a cage around her so she can grow. Just as tomato plants do far better if given a cage around them to protect them, shelter them, and support the stem, that is the role Sean and I carry in Vanessa’s life. Give her a cage that protects her but gives her room to spring up. Pull the weeds, shelter her, and point her to the Father. Trust Him to provide the rain, the sun, and the growth.

Recently my biggest battle has been finding a good fit for a summer program for Vanessa. If asked by anyone what she wants to do with her life, her response is, “work in the bakery at Landis’ Supermarket in Telford.” She loves (beyond loves) baking, and excels at it. Sit her down with a book, and she cannot read it; sit her down with a recipe, ask her to make it, and she will battle through every word just to make sure she can bake it correctly. Tell her to be ready in ten minutes, she has no idea what you are saying. Tell her to be ready in the time it takes to bake a tray of cookies, and she understands it better. Baking is her passion, and when given room to pursue her desires and dreams, she excels. Through some research and phone calls I was able to find a camp for those with special needs that has a vocational training program for the summer. The program is called, “Vocational Baking Training.” How perfect! The camp has a bakery, and all week the four students in the baking program work together to learn recipes and bake for the on-site store they can sell their baked goods in. Sadly, after many meetings, the school district determined that the at school program they offer for the summer was a better fit for Vanessa and that is what they would pay for. I left the final meeting on the verge of tears, disappointed and struggling to see the logic. Vanessa would excel at the baking program and learn far more than anywhere else I could imagine her being. It is working towards her life goals all while teaching her, and it is full days where the other program is half days just four days a week. Discouraged, I emailed the director of the camp thanking them for their help and letting them know we personally could not afford it, but would try again next year. I received an email back saying someone has given Vanessa a full scholarship to attend the vocational training. Like what?! Just the night before I had been in tears telling Sean I feel like God isn’t showing up. I text him what the camp director said, and he texts back, “tell me again, does God show up?” I feel like this was God simply teaching a lesson. “I love her far more than you ever could, and I will always show up. ALWAYS.”

Jesus breaks through.

Jericho Will Tumble

I am continually blown away by the love of Christ; that God, in all His splendor and glory would choose to come to earth, to not been seen for who He is, to be mocked and ridiculed, beaten and torn, enduring the weight of sin to the point of death all because He loved us. Hold that thought. Not just because He loved us, but because He adored us, rejoiced over us, desired us to KNOW our identity, and saw our value as sons and daughters. He died to call us back to the reality of who we are. Here at Vanessa’s Village, we are choosing to believe in redemption and freedom even when we do not see it daily.

Take the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho in the book of Joshua chapter 6. “Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor” (Joshua 6:1-2). Joshua saw closed walls, high towers full of mighty men. With his eyes he was not seeing a city crumbled, men falling to their knees, and the sounds of victory heard all around; he was seeing a fortified fortress with visibly no way to get in, and yet the Lord said, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand.” I have given. Did you catch that? Past tense. We serve a God who lives outside of time, so He can look at a situation in our lives that seems like a fortified city, great and tall, and He can say that He HAS given it to us. All Joshua had to do was trust in faith and obedience and follow every step the Lord spoke. Now the story continues and they begin to march once around daily. If I were part of that army, I would want to see a couple of bricks fall the first day, a hundred tumble day two, five hundred day three, a thousand day four, one tower day five. Day six I would want to see one wall fall, and day seven the remains crumble. But this is not how God chose to give the promise land into the hands of His chosen. They marched for six days and went home every night to “no victory” in their minds. God was stirring something in the atmosphere they could not see, but to human eyes, it looked like a hopeless battle. Can you imagine being a wife of a soldier at home. He walks in the door evening one. “How was your day Honey? What did you do?” “We marched. Around the city…” She replies, “Cool. I guess. How much of the city did you overtake?” “None yet. Joshua said to trust God and do as He says so tomorrow we will go back.” Day two. “How was your day Honey? What did you do?” “Marched again. Nothing happened. Don’t ask. I don’t know. I think Joshua is losing it.” This continues for six days. Each day I am sure it was harder and harder to trust. But then day SEVEN came. They marched with the worshipers in front of the army. As they marched, the trumpets sounded, the people yelled, and…. the walls came crashing down! This is the God we serve. He asks us to trust Him and keep following His voice even if bricks are not falling, because trust me, day seven is coming, and those walls will come crashing down. Whatever that fortress is in your life, God’s promises are yes and amen. He says yes, and we say amen, “so be it.” He has plans to prosper us with life and a future no matter what we see, no matter what the city may look like.

This, I am learning, is what it means to renew your mind. “Care for the orphans and widows in their distress and do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (James 1:27). It is seeing the Lord and His promise that He HAS given Jericho into our hands, and not seeing the mighty walls, strong towers, and seemingly invincible city. Renewal of the mind is choosing to listen to the voice of God above the noise of the world. Daily I need to remind myself of this. There are days in Vanessa’s life that I feel like we are getting nowhere. There are days where she is thriving but the very next moment we are back at square one. It is easy to get discouraged, to see the ups and downs and to want to give up. Trust me, I have been there way more than I like to admit. Fighting to bring a voice to the voiceless can look daunting, but we are choosing daily to hear the voice of the Father over these children, and when we doubt, we are agreeing as Vanessa’s parents, to lift each others eyes back to the Lord and His plans. As Sean always says, “the promise still stands.” Whatever God has promised, it still stands regardless of what we see. He speaks life and life abundant, and that sound will ring for all of eternity. Please consider partnering with us as we partner with Vanessa and Lord willing, other families and children who need Hope from their creator and a voice in a world that silences them. It is our heart to share our story and encourage those of special needs children, adoptive children, father and motherless, those struggling with the weight of this world, and to bring the Hope and Love of Christ into dark situations.

I would also like to give a huge thank you again to everyone who has been praying and giving financially. We were able to raise coverage for the first six months of Vanessa’s therapy. We are continuing to put any funds that are given aside for her future and her hopes and dreams. We believe Vanessa’s potential is far greater than even we can see on a daily basis, and we believe she will go on to share her story with others to inspire them as to what God can do with childlike faith. Thank you for your financial partnership in our family’s life and in Vanessa’s care and support. You are a blessing! (To donate, press the donate tab at the top of the menu bar).

God has great things for not only Vanessa, but you and your family as well. Believe that the Jericho in front of you will tumble. I believe it will if He spoke it. Join us in partnering with His words of life that defy time, go against culture, and amaze the world of His goodness.

Blessings to you!
-Vanessa’s Village

Upcoming Fundraiser

Thank you to all the support we are already receiving! We are so blessed by the way God is raising up a Village for Vanessa through prayer and financial support. We are excited to announce a local upcoming fundraiser. This will be an evening of worship, prayer, and hope as we continue to tell our story and invite people to partner with us. Please see attached flyer for details.

We are excited to go through the parent training Family Hope Center offers. This is an answer to prayer because it will bring necessary training to myself, Marissa, and Sean as we learn to care for Vanessa. That has been one of my biggest prayer requests since day one. I struggle feeling ill-equipped as a young mom of a teenager with autism, and Family Hope Center has training that will help fill some of the voids in my knowledge of psychology and the brain.

We are so thankful for all the support! Please consider coming to the fundraiser to get to know Vanessa and who she is. Her life impacts many!

God bless,

Vanessa’s Village

Fundraiser Flyer PDF