Cheryl Lewis » Cheryl Lewis

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  • I’m a mom of two teenagers and the wife of an amazing man and, at heart, a loner who doesn’t like to be alone. Some days, I want to jump on the bed and laugh joyously and, other times, I can barely suppress the temptation to crawl under the bed and hide from the world. Bi-polar? Nope… just a girl! Truly, if I wasn’t me… me, the one whose path veered, no CAREENED wildly from what I envisioned as a kid instead into disarray and dysfunction and, at times, even self-disgust… if I WASN’T me… I’d wish I was! I am exactly who and where I am meant to be … right here with you!

You Make Beautiful Things

You have done good things.

It reminds me of the song, “Beautiful Things.”


You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things

Out of the dust


You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things

Out of us


If you look at what large organizations have accomplished in the missions field, the teeny bit we’ve recently achieved seems miniscule.

If you ask Markenley and his family about their life today compared to just six months ago, they will tell you your contribution is everything.

I mean everything as in EVERYTHING.

Is it because they can now wake up and go to school, dressed in the pride of a uniform and confidence of a budding education?

Or can it be because they can sleep at night with the knowledge that tomorrow night they will also have a home in which to sleep? (For an entire year, their rent is paid and, with it, the rent of the school they also house.)

Is it because their stomachs don’t sink in, anymore?

Or that, for the first time in a long time – or maybe ever – they have medical attention and the possibility of employment?

Perhaps.

But my guess is that, far beyond even those stunning changes, something new and powerful has taken root in their hearts.

Hope.

You made that happen.

Maybe you gave a little; perhaps you contributed a lot.

To them, it is everything.

Without you and your heart of giving, there are 12 people in Haiti whose eyes would still be numb to the possibilities.

That number grows when you consider the dozens of families with students to whom you sent gifts and letters of encouragement.

Their lives would be less.

In Haiti, that’s tough to imagine.

Thank you.

From me and from them.

Thank you.

I see God in you and it is a beautiful thing, indeed.

(To listen to Gungor’s Beautiful Things and, trust me, you want to, click HERE.)

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Stepping Beyond Ourselves

This is the first time that I’ve posted on my blog about something other than Haiti, but this seemed oh so worthwhile.

My husband leads an incredible small group of 7th-grade boys at our church and their heart for serving those who are hurting continually amazes me.

Over the course of the year, they have trekked several times to the little community of Fort Payne, Alabama, to prepare and serve meals to hundreds at Bread of Life Ministries’ community center. They’ve also helped with painting and renovation projects there, so that families have a comfortable space. Plus, they worked alongside homeowners to clear debris after the recent tornado.

A few months ago, these boys saw a need.

So they collected and gave away over 400 pairs of shoes…

…and fed 300 people!

Can you imagine?? They raised the money, planned the menu, did the shopping, prepared the food and served it –

… AND got shoes on a community’s feet before school started!

They’ve already done more than most adults I know and yet they refuse to slow down.

Next month, on Saturday, Nov 19th, they want to give 300+ Thanksgiving meal bags and serve another meal – but they can’t do it alone. If you can help by gathering a few groceries, giving a few dollars or coming with us to serve, you will get a sense of what motivates these precious young men. This is an awesome way to serve together as a family, class, small group or with friends! Here’s their letter:

Thanksgiving Blessings in a Bag

“Oh give thanks unto the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.”

1 Chronicles 16:34

Thank you for your support of our Transit group at North Point Community Church and Bread of Life Ministries. Be assured that you will be blessing a family as you fill this bag with the traditional Thanksgiving items listed below. Please use a large Ziploc Brand Big Bag or a decorated box.

We need to have the completed bags back no later than November 14th!

1- large can green beans (50oz) or equivalent

1-can french fried onions topping

1-can cream of mushroom soup mix

2- large cans corn (29oz) or 4 small cans (15oz)

2- cans peas

1- bag/box instant mashed potatoes

1- box/bag instant stuffing mix

1- can cranberry sauce

1- large can yams (40oz)

1-bag marshmallows

1- jar/can gravy

1-box Jiffy cornbread mix

1- box ready pie crust or pie pan

1-can pumpkin pie filling

1-can evap. milk

1-$10 gift card towards purchase of turkey from WalMart (optional but recommended if possible)

It costs approximately $25 to fill a bag, plus the gift card. If you cannot add the gift card, please fill the bag, anyway, as it will be a blessing, regardless. However, if you can include the gift card, this will provide the family receiving the bag with the funds to help purchase the turkey, since we are including only non-perishable items in the bag.

IMPORTANT: ONLY Non-Perishable Items can go in the bag!!!

Decorate the outside of your bag to make it special for the family receiving it. You may add notes, cards, crafts, Bibles or any encouragement that would be appropriate for a family. Most importantly, please pray for the family who will be receiving your bag(s).

You can also donate online (tax deductible) at www.breadoflifefp.com in increments of $35. We will use online donations to buy the food in Ft. Payne and create a care package from you. If you do this, we would also like to insert a personal card from you so that the meal is still a family-to-family blessing. (You can add a note on Paypal or send a longer one to me, so it can be included.)

THANK YOU!

***

Update: Wanna see how the day went? Click HERE to see the video! In fact, I’m writing this in 2012 and the boys have gone back for a second year – and did it, again! The hearts of those who care never fail to awe me.

Cindy Adams - Hi Cheryl,
Is this North Point in Alpharetta, GA?
That was so awesome! I just found your website and will start to follow you on Twitter:)
Cindy

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What Can This Dollar Do?

Hmm… so the Talkmaster, Neal Boortz hisownself, is publicly teasing me for being excited that I found a dollar under my pillow. Yep, just one. It was crumpled, probably a stowaway in my laundry that always ends up piled on my bed. But there’s just never a bad time to find money, is there? It’s always fun.

So Neal, who is one of my dearest friends, thinks it’s not much, huh? Kinda got me to wondering just what this little buck could do.

It’s not enough for a DQ treat. Won’t get me my favorite mango gelati at Rita’s. George is a little guy and, quite frankly, looking a little worse for wear. No telling how many times he has gone through the wash cycle or exchanged hands. And 100 pennies just don’t stretch very far these days. Heck, we fling ‘em around like they don’t matter at all. We would need way too many to make a difference.

So, I guess it’s pretty unlikely that this little dollar can solve world hunger. And yet…

… I DO know of a family that is hungry right now. Just yesterday, I received word that they’re struggling for groceries.

It’s not a new story, is it? Someone is down on their luck and can’t feed their kids. There’s no work to be found and the cupboard is bare.

At times, we’re not particularly sympathetic. That might be because we’ve never really been hungry or felt fear for our kids. It could also stem from our certainty that, for those willing to work, jobs – at least the menial ones – can be found. After all, we work for OUR food.

If someone is hungry enough, they’ll figure it out.

There’s plenty of truth to that. But there are complexities to the problem, aren’t there? For this family, their reality in Haiti means work really CAN’T be found. The hospital where Markenley’s aunt worked collapsed in last year’s earthquake and hasn’t been rebuilt. His uncle is a pastor who tries, despite his own fears that he might have to shut down, to keep a school of 47 students aloft.

His compassion for those kids doesn’t feed his belly – or those of the 12 family members trying to survive under his broken roof. He hasn’t been able to find other work.

I’ve been to where they live and walked away heartsick. You would, too.

So here’s what I’m wondering. If I toss this lowly dollar into a pot – and do my best to stir up some compassion from others who care – can we fill a larder of groceries today for Markenley and his family?

It’s a temporary fix, I concede. But it’s not bad for a dollar.

Will you match mine?

(The Paypal link is above on the left corner of this page)

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Double Dog Dare

This morning, I woke up at home – not Haiti – and the differences are dramatic:

I wasn’t awakened by a rooster and the sound of a broom already energetic in the leaves outside my window. My alarm waits until I’m ready.

I didn’t wake up on the floor this morning. My mattresses atop my 4-poster mahogany bed are covered with another feather pillowtop mattress.

My pillow wasn’t an airport neck beanie sack. I have four feather pillows.

I wasn’t covered with a Shamwow towel as a blanket. I have a king-sized, uber-soft blanket that covers my bed.

There was no need for a battery-operated fan. Now I have A/C.

I wasn’t wearing my sports bra, necessary when surrounded by 10 other people. I can close the door of my own room for privacy.

I didn’t have to fumble for my flashlight. When I flick a switch now, light appears.

I didn’t have to don my flip flops before walking on floors that might have untold bacteria. I’m barefoot until I walk out the door – and sometimes carry my shoes to the car. My car. My own car.

I didn’t need to check the toilet lid for splatters in the darkness or wonder whether the flush pump is working. I’ve trained my husband and son – and we have light & reliable plumbing.

I didn’t have to take a cold shower or keep the water from entering my mouth. I have hot water, serious water pressure and water I can trust.

I didn’t have to brush my teeth in a cup of purified water from a large jug. Sometimes I let the water in the sink run way too long.

I didn’t have to perch outside with a mirror to have enough light to see my reflection. I have a bank of mirrors – and a lighted makeup mirror.

I didn’t have to slather DEET onto my arms and legs before beginning the day outdoors at an orphanage. If a mosquito bites me here, it’s unlikely I’ll get malaria. And, if I did, medical treatment is easily accessible.

I didn’t have to eat a protein bar so I wouldn’t throw up while taking my malaria-prevention pill. I have 10 days left of my meds – and can eat a full breakfast to keep it down.

I didn’t have to fill my canteen with purified water before leaving for the day. There is safe water everywhere I go.

I didn’t have to pack enough protein bars for me, my translator and a Haitian child for the day. Food is everywhere. And my conversations are in my native language.

I didn’t have to put on clothes that have been worn several times without cleaning. I have a washing machine with plenty of water, electricity and detergent.

I didn’t have to leave my hair a mess. Now I have a hair dryer and electric straightener.

I didn’t have to step over 10 other people in a three-room house. I’m home alone this week – in my 10-room house. With my dog. Who lives indoors. And is fed better than many children and adults in Haiti.

I didn’t have to wait until evening to type this – IF the electricity came on for three hours that night. All I have to do is flop down on my leather sofa and begin to type on one of my computers – at any time of the day or night.

I didn’t need a driver (likely armed) to get where I’m going. I have my own car and fuel and merely need to be cautious about my safety.

There was no need for clearance to enter the grocery store parking lot and there was no armed guard at the entry and no sentries posted on every aisle. I shop freely and without concern for personal protection or theft.

I don’t pass throngs of hungry men, women and children when I drive down the road. While they certainly exist in some quarters, they are rarely visible en masse.

I didn’t drive two hours to go 30 miles. Our highway system is efficient, cars are roadworthy and streets are in great shape.

I didn’t drive on any side of the road necessary to navigate the seething, creeping, honking traffic. Travel is orderly here.

I didn’t worry about the day’s blazing heat forecast. I’ll be inside and be so chilly from air conditioning that I’ll need a sweater.

I didn’t have to slip through the gravel and dust down the side of a hill to reach a dilapidated tent that contains 8 people or drip inside it with sweat from the heat, just to visit my friends and family. Just about everyone I know has a house with a groomed yard and air conditioning.

I didn’t have to go without. I have a job and money in my pocket to spend on more than survival. Whenever I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. When I’m bored, I forget that is a luxury we cannot afford.

I didn’t wake up to the smiling face of a young boy whose eyes are bright with the new knowledge that someone cares.

I didn’t wake up where I want to be.

I want to go back.

Why?

If you have to ask, you’ve never been where you’re needed most. I challenge you to try it – just once.

Double dog dare ya.


elizabeth - I am thinking about it. if you are there, I think I can do it. xx beautiful post. xx

Carol Mears - Love your blog. This is beautifully written. I’ll be back :)
PS Have I met you? ha ha If I have, please forgive me for asking!

Stacy Furlow - Love this, loved our week, loved spending time with you. Wishing I was back. Just posted photos, and you are quite photogenic my friend. I never felt you hair was a mess. :)

Brenda - Oh WOW, this is strong writing. I can understand the desire, as well as see it in your eyes. (I found you via, Kim, a mutual blogger pal.)

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Head Over Heels

Well, there’s just no getting around it:

I’m in love.

Ya know those early, giddy days of “can’t get him outta my head” – when little else in the day makes sense and all you want to do is be together, again?

Yep. I’m there.

A little boy in Haiti has stolen my heart.

Well, he’s closer, I suppose, to a young man, since I discovered last week that Markenley will be 16 in December. (He’s nearer the size of a 12 year old.) Like my son, his passion is also football – soccer, actually, but he can’t imagine calling it anything else. For most of the world, soccer IS football.

He dreams of becoming a doctor. It’s tough to tell what kind of student he’ll be, since his schooling thus far has been in a Haitian slum. But, beginning next week, he is enrolled in an academy for English. Because he can’t trek downtown alone, I’m also signing up his uncle, who is eager to learn.

Some of you helped to make that happen and, before Markenley even lifts his pencil, I want to say thank you! We’re not just bystanders in his fascinating story – we are officially mentors, investors, friends…

Family.

That’s how it feels to me. I love Markenley as if he was my second son. I care what happens to him and want to be part of the reason he succeeds.

Though it’s still unclear whether our role in his life will ever extend toward actual adoption, it is incredibly satisfying to have unearthed concrete ways to contribute. Learning English will benefit him and enable us to freely communicate. In the fall, he will also attend a legitimate high school.

He knows he’ll need to be an outstanding student. I hope that, if he truly has a fierce desire to become a physician, he’ll fight to excel. No matter what he wants to achieve, I’m ready to move heaven and earth to help him.

Actually, it seems heaven set the wheels in motion – the rest of us are merely doing our part by saying, “Here I am, Lord. Use me.”

All holiness aside, I gotta tell ya… helping others is like a drug! It feels GREAT!

The only side effect, it seems, is missing the heck outta the one you love…

Markenley

kim sisto robinson - —Amen, Sister.
I am overflowing with love and happiness for you & your family… and the next great doctor, Markenley!!! xxx

elizabeth - Cheryl- that picture is so beautiful and the happiness pouring out of it is contagious! Thank you for being such a good person and giving us the space to do good and feel that we are part of making a difference in the world. Can’t wait to see Markenley start his practice and change the world. xxx

Charlene Ross - Beautiful Cheryl – just beautiful. All of it – the story, your words to tell it, and that gorgeous picture. You fill my heart with love! (Have I told you lately I think you’re really great?!)

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Finally, An Update From Haiti

I tried to write a blog on Monday, but was too full of our day in Haiti to write about it. Even now, with nearly the entire week Lived and done, I’m still at a loss for words. Sometimes, they just have to incubate.Everything in Haiti is infused – with joy, struggle, purpose, obstacles… it leaves you wishing the people stuck here could leave and recognizing you hate to.I’m seeing it through different eyes this time. Yes, there is still chaos and hardship and destruction, but something has changed. I’m not sure whether it’s in me or the environment.

All I see now is the remarkable resourcefulness of the people. I had heard no progress has been made in Port au Prince clearing the earthquake debris, but I see lots. Sure, it’s unlike any city we’ll find in America. There is plenty of rubble, filth, chaos and barely navigable roads – in nearly equal proportions.

Yet the level of destruction that was everywhere over a year ago has morphed into something else – heavy construction equipment, bustling roadside vendors and fewer topsy-turvy roofs.

True, it’s not enough and there are deteriorated tent cities everywhere, but it is something. The people I’ve met here keep moving – giving up is not an option they recognize.

But enough of that.

All I really wanna write about is Markenley!

He is sitting beside me, quietly playing a game I brought him. Every time that reality nudges up against me, I smile.

He has stepped from my dreams and into my Life.

It took a bit of struggle that no longer seems worth mentioning. What are cancelled flights and swiftly changed plans when finally watching a boy you cherish smile?

On Monday morning, I could barely focus. I knew that what had become a full-fledged quest would soon be satisfied – I’d get to hang out with the family of the kid who has monopolized my thoughts since the day we met!

I was beyond bummed that, thanks to the postponed flight, it would be impossible to meet the students of Markenley’s school. Many of my friends sent gifts and letters to specific children and my goal was to return home with photos.

I have to trust God on that one and accept that His plan is better than mine – even when I’m not alone in my disappointment.

Markenley’s uncle, who runs the school, distributed them Tuesday morning and I can only imagine the students’ surprise and delight. Pierre Jacques says they were thrilled. It happened without fanfare or my camera hovering – and perhaps that’s best. They are uncomfortable with spectacle.

I feel such appreciation and respect for those of you who gave so thoughtfully!

When it was finally time on Monday to head to meet Markenley’s family and deliver the gifts, I had butterflies that surely could have lifted our van above the streets! (That would’ve been quite the improvement, since the potholes and traffic make travel tortuously slow.)

It’s all a bit of a blur now.

When Grant, Sam and I got out of our van, Pierre Jacques was waiting for us. He extended his hand in greeting – and I was so excited that I threw my arms around his neck! Never mind that he’s a dignified man, a pastor in Haiti. He beamed right along with me!

The rest is precious history… forgive me if I wait a bit longer to write it. I’ve only got a few hours left in Haiti with Markenley and I don’t want to lose an instant of it!

P.S. We heard there was a 5.4-magnitude earthquake here yesterday, but don’t know if that’s true & we never felt a thing.:)

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Posted via email from cheryllewis’s posterous

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Joseph D. Fritz - Cheryl, I just wish to say that I appreciate the huge heart you have for many, many things, especially about a young man in Haiti. Of the few folks I follow on Twitter, I find your comments and related stories filled not with whimsical fluff, rather heart filled emotional information. Sure you have your lighthearted tweets, but they even add to my enjoyment of following you.

I need NO response to this. It simply is a voice from the Internet saying that you have God in your heart and soul.

May as many of your hopes and wishes gain momentum and are soon realized.

Joe

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