Our Heart/ Who We Are

The bus bumped up and down over the roads from New York home to Philadelphia. The journey was long, but well worth it. She would get her visa and be able to travel with us to Guatemala. My mind was racing of all that still needs to be done in preparation for the trip when I felt a tap on my arm. I meet her mothers eye as she leans over and in very broken English stutters, “we need you teach us Jesus. So much. So important. Please teach us Jesus. We need it.” It was all I could do to hold back the flutter in my heart and the tears that sprung to my eyes. I smiled, nodded, and respond, “absolutely. Come over for dinner and we will talk about Jesus.”

That is what it is all about. The desperation in people is why we have chosen a life of serving the Almighty for the sake of the one. Lately, I have been asked more and more what exactly Vanessa’s Village is, what we do, and where donations go to help. I tried for a while to write this post, to explain in a meaningful way our heart, to share the passion and call He has placed on our lives, but I couldn’t quite explain it until Yan leaned over on that bus and asked me with such a desperation in her voice to teach them Jesus.

Our call and now mission statement is as follows. “It takes a village to raise a child, and we are a village that is raising up children of God to KNOW their Papa, KNOW their identity, and KNOW their call.” We seek to serve the Lord, imitate Jesus in all we do, and pursue the one. We strive to worship our Papa, follow His call, and teach the love of Jesus to all we come in contact with. He gave His life to love the one, and so will we.

Vanessa is the inspiration behind The Village. She is our adoptive daughter who came to us with many difficulties. It was so easy to think about other options for her, but the Lord has called us to pursue her above all else; to show her the love of Jesus, teach and disciple her, and ignite her to speak of His goodness. Through taking her in, we have realized a deeper level of how important the one is. Since I keep saying this, I had best explain what I mean by the one. We feel that God meets each and every person exactly where they are at; He pursues them and will never give up on them, and He calls us as believers to do the same. His heart is for the individual. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you! It’s mind blowing, and we are called to reveal that fact to all who have ears to hear. We are a village of people who seek to give ourselves to others through Bible studies, writing and teaching, discipleship, leading mission trips, organizing worship nights, praying for people we encounter while out and about, reaching the adoptive community as well as the special needs community, running a mothers support group, and connecting with people so that we may ultimately connect them to the heart of the Father. Those are some of the current ministries we have running. (If you would like to join the mothers support email group, please send us an email at vanessasvillage@gmail.com). God has placed a huge passion on my heart to start a prayer house. Keep attentive to updates on this. We will be opening our living room starting one night a week to anyone who needs a place to escape to with the Lord. We will have live worship each night. The heart of it is to have a place where we can pour ourselves out upon the feet of Jesus and be filled up with His joy, His life, His peace, and His abundant love. The more people I encounter and speak with the more I am convinced that the world is desperately hungry to know Love, desperately hungry to be taught about Jesus, and desperately needs healing and encounter with the God of the universe who is in an epic pursuit of their heart. This is what The Village is designed for. We are designed as a place and people that bring others into a knowledge of the pursuit of God over their lives.

That is where your donations go. They go towards impacting Vanessa so that she may impact nations. They go towards this blog and Lord willing a future book or two. 🙂 They go to help all the youth that come to Bible studies and paintball nights. (That is another thing I forgot. Sean and his brother run paintball days where they invite men out, play paintball for a while, then end with a Bible study. They continue to invest in these men throughout the following weeks and months). Your donations go to impact the coming prayer room. We are currently praying and looking for some cheap sound equipment to help with those worship times. Donations go to help the one, the individuals that walk through our doors, no matter what that looks like. Sometimes it’s buying a family groceries who cannot afford them; sometimes it is allowing us to spend a few hours a week one on one with individuals we disciple. Right now it is leading ten youth to Guatemala for a mission trip. Lord willing this is the first of many trips we are called to lead. We are so grateful for our Father who gives generously to those who love Him. We are so thankful for the ability to work and our jobs, especially the fact that we both work for Christian bosses. We are so grateful for all of you who give to partner with us in reaching the lives of those in this community.

We are also looking for people who would like to partner with The Village. We need people willing to disciple, worship leaders for the prayer house, people who want to help mentor Vanessa and other special needs children, someone to teach some children with special needs basic sign language, and friends who would like to help with some upcoming events we have in planning for local children with special needs. We are also looking for local Churches and youth groups to speak at and share the Love of God through our story. We thank you for all you do. We couldn’t do what we do without you, honestly. Sometimes it’s the simple sitting down with us and hearing our story, listening to us, praying for us, and keeping in contact that makes a world of a difference. It takes a village to raise a child, and we are a village that is raising up children of God to KNOW their Father, KNOW their identity, and KNOW their call.

Thank you for being a part of the Village.

So Will I

Life with a special needs child can be a roller coaster at times. One day it seems as though things couldn’t get worse; behaviors have increased for the worse, and nothing has changed with medication or nutrition so you are at a loss for what is going on. Then all of a sudden she’s back to normal: happy, go lucky, joyful, and calm. You begin to question what you are doing. You’re in far too deep, but your heart is aligned with the Fathers, and you know He wouldn’t stop pursuing healing. He wouldn’t stop fighting because He gave His life for the one, for the one sitting in front of Him, so if He gave His life to love them so will you, regardless of what you see, regardless of how hopeless you feel, regardless of what the roller coaster seems.

I thank Jesus that He made a way we could walk on water. When we are so prone to sink, so familiar with failing, He made it possible to walk above it all. The disciples saw Him walking towards their boat. They turned to one another freaking out because they thought they were seeing a ghost. As He got closer He said, “Take courage. Do not be afraid, for it is I.” Peter questioned Him asking, “Lord if it is you, tell me to come to you.” Jesus whispered, “come.” And Peter walked on water.

He whispers come to me daily. When that roller coaster takes a drastic turn which evolves into a heart wrenching drop that I’m not sure I will come back up from, He whispers, “come.” Come to Me all who are weary and I will give you rest. Come to Me for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Peter walked out to Jesus on the water, keeping His eyes on the Lord. For a split second he saw the waves below him; he heard the roar of the wind, and fear swept over him. He began to sink and cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus caught him. “Why did you fear son?”

Why do you fear? What have we to fear when our God has already conquered this world. Oh how I fear some days. Oh how I doubt and struggle to keep my head above those waves; sometimes they look so tall; the depths of those waters full of demise and despair. I flail as water begins to cover my head. Up and down I bob as I struggle to catch a breath. Jesus! Save me! Immediately He reaches out. Immediately.

That is the best word in that entire passage of Matthew. Immediately after Peter called to Jesus for help he was saved. Immediately as I call His name, He shows up. He invades the situation and brings abundant life. Trials produce abundance in our relationship with Him as long as we cry to Him for help instead of crying to Him blaming Him for what we are walking through. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” (James 1:2-8).

Oh how I long to never be like that wave tossed in the sea. I long to always keep my eyes on Jesus, walking on the waters side by side with Him, my first love. Yet, the times I stumble and fall into the waves are the times I tend to see who He is again. “Lord,” Peter cried out, “save me!” Lord He cried. Lord. In those waves Peter saw Him for who He is. He is our Lord, our savior. These waves produce a good in me and a glory to His name, so I will praise Him in the storm, for He is my Lord.

If the stars praise Him, so will I.
If the waves submit to Him, so will I.
If He gave His life for the children of this world, so will I.
If He gave His life for the child that sends my life in a roller coaster some days, so will I.

So will I.

***Update on Guatemala- Sean and I have the privilege to lead 10 youth to Guatemala this coming January!! 🙂 We are so excited to see what God does in and through us as a team. Please pray for us in this endeavor and pray for the youth that they may come to KNOW Him. We were planning to bring Vanessa along, to let her experience a new culture and land, however, due to some complicated issues with her birth certificate, we were not able to get a passport for her, and it will take too long to reapply for all the papers she needs before we go. Pray with us she can come on the next trip we take. Thank you!!

The Village

Upcoming Fundraiser

⭐️ Come out and eat an awesome meal at The Green Fork & Local Roots Market. (115 South Main Street North Wales PA 19454) Vanessa’s Village will receive 20% of the proceeds from 12-8pm that day only. ⭐️

⭐️These funds will help make our Guatemala Mission Trip possible as well as helping us reach other families! ⭐️

⭐️Mark it on your calendars! ⭐️

Joy Unexplained

I had a conversation the other day with Vanessa that has stuck with me. She was talking about the other kids at her school, saying she was different than some of them. When asked what made her different she replies, “well I’m special.” “What makes you special? Do you know what it means to be special needs?” She smiles and joyfully responds, “well I can do things they cant do.”

Aint that the truth. She can pick up any beat from any song and dance around the front yard care free, singing at the top of her lungs. She can ask people questions most of us would find rude; she says things like they are. She can play on monkey bars and go down the kids slides at 8pm on the local playground, not giving a care that shes an 18 year old. She can make friends better than most people I know, unafraid to talk to people around her. She’s amazing with children and such a help when it comes to babysitting. And yet, by some she is looked down upon; her bad behaviors stick out and what she cant do outweighs what she can. She is seen as disabled, when in reality she is more able than most of us in ways that matter. I find myself easily slipping back into this mentality when we have a bad day, but God reminds me of the Truth.

What if she was treated the same as every other child by each person she encounters? What if she wasn’t spoken to as if she is three years old but rather treated with the dignity and respect she deserves? You see, we at Vanessa’s Village have this vision, a picture of what children like Vanessa can do when they are not held within the restraints the world puts on them. We see Vanessa being able to open the bakery she desire. We see her traveling, telling her story, helping at orphanages, teaching those around her to be free and to not conform to the patterns of this world.

With that said, it is our great delight to announce that Sean and I have been given the opportunity to lead a team of youth to Guatemala this coming January to work with a mission down there that brings hope to children as well as medical care to those who need it. We feel very led to take Vanessa along, broaden her view of the world, and reveal to her that God is greater than Philadelphia Pennsylvania. We just applied for a passport for Vanessa. Please pray with us that all clears and she is able to join the team. We are so excited to lead a team of youth, inviting them to join us in seeing God in a greater sense.

My times traveling overseas have opened my eyes to the glory of our Great God. Children like Vanessa sometimes have a greater ability to see God in things that I may miss. Vanessa’s joy is explainable some days, a joy only God can give. I am excited to see her joy increase as He is revealed in greater ways to her.

His joy is for you as well. He came to give life and life abundantly. His joy is for today. His joy is for you today. His grace is sufficient and His joy is abundant. Oh weary one, come to the alter and be filled. Be filled to overflowing.

Rest Assured

“The choice is yours my dear.”

“But you’re Papa, you are, not me. Lead me. That’s your job! Speak.”

“You know my heart. You know who I am, for I do not change. My Word is the revelation of who I am. You know my heart, and I lead you well. Let my heart lead you. Jump darling, jump.”

The choice is yours today. Papa is always asking us to do the unthinkable: to trust Him with our whole hearts, with every fiber of our beings; to walk in a surrender so deep that some days we feel like we are sinking in an ocean of grace; to walk in a love so overwhelming that all we can do is sit smiling at the One who gave us life because we know apart from Him we are nothing. I feel today to simply encourage you that He is for you. He is for you, and your life is a testimony of that.

In your weakness the God of the universe is strong. In case you forgot little one, He holds the whole world in His hands. He numbered the stars, and you know how He did that? He did that as He created them, as He set them to shine for all of eternity. Don’t you ever go forgetting that He knows you: the number of hairs on your head, the way your eyes sparkle, every tear, every smile, all of who you are, He knows it, for He created you to sing; and He is faithful to the end of time. His ways are good, His plans, full of love and honor. All He does is for His glory and your good, but do not forget that in your weakness, He is strong. He is exactly who He says He is, for He cannot deny Himself. He is love, and that will He be for all time.

I am hyper aware of His overwhelming grace today. I am not sure if it is the beautiful fall temperatures, the joy of friendship and Jesus conversations over coffee in the morning, waking up in a beautiful home next to my wonderful husband with our beautiful daughter down the hall, or simply tasting more of His goodness to me today, but I stand in awe of who He is; and I cant help but remind you who you are. Did you know that you’re crazy loved? Like it’s unbelievable, almost silly sounding. He just adores you. You completely ravish and undo Him. Smile and rest in that. He is doing a great work in your life.

“Oh little seed little seed I see you. I see new life stemming through the crack inside of you.”

God has continued to repeat this phrase to me for months now. Picture a great oak tree. It didn’t just appear one day, rather a small seed was planted. It had to first crack, that new life could stem out of it, growing into a tree that would withstand all the wind that came at it. That crack in you is being used for greatness. Undeniable strength is found there, and through it will stem life and life abundant. He sees that. He sees the cracks, the broken pieces, the bumps, the bruises, and all the hurt you hold so close, but He also sees the new life stemming through. Give it all to Him and stand amazed as an Oak of Righteousness returns in it’s place. He is faithful and will use it for your good and His glory. You are so loved.

Rest assured. He sees you and is producing a spectacular work in your weakness.

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.