Tuesday, February 16, 2016

City of Children Update #3: Fundraising Goal MET!

      Hello, all! This is just a very quick update on the City of Children fundraising; I do hope to post something longer later this week, but right now I'm swamped with a big Greek exam, graduation forms, tons of reading and writing, Lilli's softball tryouts and dance, and meetings galore! Jesus is keeping us pretty busy!
      As promised, a financial update: Since my last post we have received the final amount for Lilli's cost in full as well as a donation for our deposits, all from one family! Praise the Lord for using these generous people to help further the kingdom! What an impact they have made in our lives, but more importantly in the lives of those to whom we'll be ministering in just a few weeks! In addition, we received another generous donation that we just found out about yesterday from the Bible office here at Lipscomb. You people are incredible! God is SO good and our family is loving watching Him work in your lives! A "thank you" can never cover how grateful we are to everyone who has donated whether it be through monetary gifts, prayer, encouragement, or support. No price tag can fit any of these precious gifts from you.
       If you still have a burning itch to donate, we have a several girls who have not met their goals as of yet. Later today you will be seeing one of those girls as I feature her story on the blog. I can't wait for you to meet her! For now, check out the photo below for a glimpse of our team. This picture was taken (via selfie stick because I'm cool like that) at our first team meeting. Since then, we've added three new members and a couple have felt called to tend to other areas and will not be going with us. However, as God continues to shape this team we know that each person, those staying and those who've left us, have served an important part in the spiritual growth of our little team, corporately and individually.
      Thank you all again and stay tuned for more updates, photos, blog features, and blessings!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

City of Children: Update #2

      It has been an overwhelmingly, crazy, busy few weeks. I do apologize for not posting an update sooner, but I have hardly even had time to sleep let alone type a blog post. It kills my soul to not be able to write whenever this hyper, joyously-nerdy heart wills it, but any free time that I have is so precious, I must reserve it for my family and my Jesus. As a result, writing falls last on the list. Oh, but when graduation finally arrives in May, I will drive readers (a.k.a. you) and every publishing company insane (hopefully) with my words.
     Since my last post we have been riding on what seems like a never ending roller coaster at the Disney World for Missionaries. At times I've wondered if we were going to be knocked out of the coaster car in which we're strapped due to the many twists, swerves, and unexpected side-to-side, whiplashing jerks. However, the ride has never stopped. In fact, it seems to be getting faster and faster.
      The week after we agreed to follow God's call and lead the trip to Mexico, the bottom of the sky fell out, as Jordan likes to say, and the floods began to overtake us...both good and bad. We received an enormous $500 donation from family that still has us reeling. We are in complete awe of their faith in us, in God, and their faithfulness to God. It's been beautiful to watch Him work in their lives, and they have blessed us more than they can imagine with their gift, and most importantly their prayers. After this we received three more gifts of $100 a piece from friends, all beyond sacrificial, all so important in the furtherance of the kingdom. We are undone by their willingness to support and encourage us in this missional endeavor, and our cups overflow at their generosity. Again, we know they're consistently praying for us, showering our family, our team, and the City with intercessory prayer. What a blessing these people have been! As a result, we are to the halfway mark in our fundraising! PRAISE THE LORD! We only lack about $450 until we reach our goal. However, there is still the need for our $450 deposit that is solely our responsibility. Please pray we come up with this deposit quickly. This leads me to the latter of what we're referring to as "undercover blessings."
      The Holy Spirit had been conveying to mine many things to come over the weeks leading up to the trip discussions. I felt Him readying me one day and I looked at Jordan and said, "I feel like something big is about to happen...it's going to be good but it's also going to be tough. But i have no idea what!" He immediately knew what I was talking about as he'd been feeling it, too. Sometimes God communicates these things to us to prepare us. So we prayed. Shortly thereafter we were approached about leading the trip, and the coaster ride began.
      As I said earlier, we've had some downs to accompany our ups; that's par for the course with ministry, though, isn't it? We traveled home a few weeks ago to specifically visit with my extended family, when an opportunity for Jordan to make some extra farming cash while home in Georgia presented itself as well. Excited and blessed, we talked about using it for our deposit. Then, like a ticking time bomb had exploded in our faces, the trials came tumbling in, one right after the other. Stop for a second: did I really think we were gonna come out of this unscathed and not have to work for it all? 
      The following weekend I was supposed to go on the leadership trip to Mexico. Coincidentally this was the same weekend of the 2016 Blizzard in Nashville. But the week's beginning had already gotten off to a rocky start. A few days before, I had visited family to be with my Uncle Vic for what would inevitably my "goodbye visit" with him, though I didn't know it at the time. He was sick, so his death wasn't surprising, per se, but the loss of a loved one is never expected no matter what. I don't believe the heart can truly let go until the sick are no longer suffering, but walking eternally with the Savior. Grieving away from family rather than with them is one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do on my own. I hope to never have to alone grieve like that again. I had Jordan and Lilli, and they understood as best they could, but they weren't very close to Uncle Vic; I needed to be with my Nanna (his sister), my aunt and my cousins, and my parents and Chase.
      The funeral was scheduled for the following weekend, the weekend I was to travel to Mexico for training. I was so torn: did I go to the funeral, or did I fulfill my responsibility to my calling? On paper it looks like a no-brainer, but in the midst of the decision-making it was heavy burden to bear. I spoke to my aunt the day after Uncle Vic died; her words are still with me: "He's proud of you. He would rather you be doing what God wants you to do than be here at a funeral." Her encouragement offered more of a release than she'll ever know. So I made my decision to continue forward, and I was able to grieve properly. The day of the funeral I spoke with my cousin Chrissie, Uncle Vic's daughter, and she relayed the same heartfelt message. Oh, my heart...how I will be forever grateful to them all for their encouragement and support.
       That Thursday Jordan went to change a headlight in his car, a routine maintenance that takes all of ten minutes and a screwdriver. When he reentered his car to crank it, the starter no longer worked. A $78 tow-bill to LaVergne, Tennessee revealed that it wasn't the starter, rather it was his engine. Poor ole Henry Honda had bit the dust for good and we were out a good $6,000 and a car. Thankfully, the man holding the car was willing to buy it off from us, although not at full price. Nevertheless, Jordan's aunt was selling her car and we scored a pretty sweet deal on it. Needless to say, but a blessing just the same, the previous weekend's farm earnings went toward the down payment on the car. As a result, we are the proud new owners of a 2003 granny car, as Jo likes to call it. We were able to meet his parents in Manchester a few days later and get the car from them so we didn't have to drive all the way to Atlanta for it, praise God!
      The following Friday morning our yard was clear as was the 6am sky, and we were leaving for the Nashville airport. I was to board an 8am flight headed for San Diego, then a bus ride down to Mexico for the leadership weekend at the City. Within ten miles from leaving our house the sky opened and the greater Nashville area became a snow globe. We had no choice but to turn around and head to the house. It took us forty-five minutes to get back home after braving giant snowflakes, icy roads, and stranded cars jammed against telephone poles, each other, or just sitting in the road. It was a miracle from Jesus that we made it home at all. When we arrived, we slid into our garage, not to leave for two days. There was no leadership trip for me. And there was no movement at all for Nashville.
      Within all of this we had another family member and family-friend death one week exactly after my uncle's passing. I couldn't be home with my people for any of these. And in this chaotic whirlwind we've had some issues surrounding our house. I'll write about these at a later date because this post is long enough and I'm emotionally exhausted from writing it. To keep your hearts at ease, everything is okay with the house; but please, keep us in your prayers concerning it and God's will with it in our lives.
      All of the above occurrences have remained interwoven with each other. One day we'll get a donation, the next we'll be knocked down by the enemy. Lots of face-planting, but lots of face-praising, too. We're counting it all joy and we're remembering our faith is being strengthened in the process.
      Over the weekend we had our team retreat at our house. This was a time for fellowship with our team (ALL GIRLS!) and a time when we were to get some planning accomplished for the City's VBS. I only have one word for the weekend's outcome: WOW. The girls opened up spiritually and socially, we discussed trials and the blessings within, salvation experiences, callings, they ate and ate and ate some more...like a football team! They became more comfortable as a team and with our leadership; walls came down and the Spirit moved in our living room around a circle of almost 20 young women and our little family. It was a such a blessing to see the fruits of our waiting on God for the past year begin to ripen before our very eyes. I am in awe of Him and His hand.
      You will soon be meeting some of the girls from the team. We are going to feature their stories on the blog here! If you feel the need to donate or just to share their stories further, please do! As younger people, their boundaries only go so far and their connections are still limited. We thought we'd help them out in their fundraising and prayer circles by sharing our territories to increase theirs. It's going to be exciting so get ready!
      In all, the past few weeks have been a hurricane of opportunity, busyness, grief, pain, blessing, wonder, joy, loss, and excitement all rolled into one! We can't wait, again, to see what all God has in store for this trip to the City. We know it's huge or we wouldn't be dealing with so many distractions and so much opposition from the enemy. But we ready ourselves with the full armor of God knowing that He is with us, guiding us and directing our steps so that our feet don't stumble. Sometimes He's carrying us, and sometimes He walks alongside us. Bottom line, as hard as it has been He's never left us. He's met every single need. And we know He'll meet the rest of them.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

"Leviticus is my favorite book of the Bible," said no one. Ever.

      A few months ago (okay, let's be honest. . . in 2012) I made a commitment to read the Bible all the way through, from covereth to covereth, as I like to say. Well, here we are. It's 2016. . . and five months ago I was still working on Genesis 35. Winner, winner, chicken dinner right here, folks.
      Like a good girl, my Bible was almost color-coded it was so stuffed with notes, highlights, doodles, pictures, and dates, all from studies, revivals, services, blessings, and anything else you can imagine spanning over a 15 year period. Some of the pages in my Good Book were so worn that, feeling their importance, they detached themselves from their original home altogether. When visiting a nearby church body in January a year ago, my New Testament, as if prodded by revelation, sprouted forth and left  his brothers behind, shed the old leather binding, and chose to lay prostrate on the floor, I'm assuming to worship Jesus.

      It was time for a new Bible.

      Oh, how I didn't want to purchase a new Bible. I writhed in pain over this decision, friends. It wasn't because I'm cheap. I am. But that wasn't my reasoning. I had developed a relationship with my Love Letter.
      I believe with all of my heart that the Word of God is alive, not just inside of us, but on the very pages we read. For example, I can read John 3:16 a hundred times and get a different message, with the same unchanging root purpose, every single time. It's how God works. He's rich with creativity, kind of like food. Take the pizza for instance: by no means is pizza as yummy as the Bible, but for metaphorical purposes we're using it. I like to think I can pack the food pyramid onto a supreme pizza, allowing for my daily dose of nutritional goodness, but let's not get too crazy here. My point is, pizza is so delicious that we continue to eat it, crave it, and it never really gets old. The best is leftover pizza that has been nuked in the microwave. It's the same pizza we had the night before at dinner when mom wasn't feeling up to cooking, but there's something different, almost better about it when we reheat it and devour the leftovers. The Word isn't much different. Only it's fresh out of the oven, never tasting like one has had it before. We can chew on it, swallow it, and be filled, but when we go back for more, it's even better the second time.
      This relationship with my Letter is like that. I had several verses highlighted so many times that the original color was indecipherable and the thin paper it stained was beginning to bald. For me, those verses kept getting better and better with every spiritual bite, and my need to highlight and mark only grew. When asked about the significance of any color or mark, I could always recall every single situation. It was like that with my Teen Study Bible from middle and high school as well. . . the one that Kirk Cameron signed circa Winterfest, Audio Adrenaline, and way before Fireproof . . . but we won't go there. And the same for my Precious Moments Bible I'd asked for repeatedly every year for Christmas, and finally I found it in my Mom's used white Volvo trunk hidden with the rest of my Christmas presents including the Boyz II Men album. . . but we won't go to that place either.
      My Bible meant the world to me. I didn't leave home without it. For years I had waited for this particular Bible. I grew up in Holly Creek Baptist Church in Chatsworth, where those holy baptismal waters were constantly stirring, be they from baptisms or youth kids hiding there during services. Our youth group was large, loud, and proud, and we were a tight-knit circle of 12 to 18 year-olds who knew too much about each other, but loved unconditionally in spite of it all. We were there for one another through thick and thin, up and down, and every rite of passage.
      At graduation time every year, each passing senior was awarded a new Bible from the pastor/church family on the Sunday before graduation, and their future plans were announced to the church body. Following the service was a fellowship meal because, well, Baptists eat. Why else? Boy, was I excited about that new Bible from the time we joined the church at 11 years old. I was excited to be presented with such a gift, to hear the fluttering of the new, crisp, golden-edged pages as I flipped through them. I was excited to highlight everything I had memorized and then to make more notes and marks. This Bible represented one of those rites of passage for me, although I don't really know which one or even why. Maybe it marked the beginning of me taking charge of my walk with God without an adult leading me.

      I don't much remember that anticipatory day. I just remember the Bible itself. The cool of the leather binding in my eager little hands. My name written beautifully in the front flap in Baptist church secretary cursive. The number 19  slashed like so because it was only spring in the new millennium and the 2000 models had not yet been published. I couldn't wait to get my highlighters in on this thing.

      That was in May of 2000. For 15 years my Bible has gone everywhere with me. I took it to Mississippi College and on tour with the Continentals to 13 states and 26 cities; it went every single day with me to Dalton State College, always tucked safely in my bookbag as I referred to it daily. It was with me the day I found out I was pregnant with Lilli, the day I married my sweet Jordan, and I took it on my honeymoon. It was with me in the hospital the day our precious Lilli made her glorious entrance into the world; I clung to it when my Granny Stella, Lilli's namesake, gracefully exited and passed into eternity. I read it when Jordan was grieving so helplessly as his PawPaw passed. It was my shield through every difficult storm, and its promises were what helped me continue to walk by faith when MS arrived on the scene in attempt to steal my joy. My Bible was there when I thought a spiritual trial was the end of this world as I knew it, as my husband spiritually spoon fed its words to me so that I wouldn't starve. Finally, my Word moved with me to Nashville and carried me through an entire semester of a new major at a new school, showing me new things I'd never seen before, no matter how many times I'd marked them.
      When I finally got the nerve to move forward with a new Bible, I prayed about it. I had no idea what to get and I compared everything to my Old Faithful. I wanted something I could take notes in and something small. God showed me the ESV journaling Bible. I'd always had NKJV or NIV, and I loved the latter. But as a theology student I needed to move toward the ESV due to Greek translation purposes.
      As I stood in Lifeway I trekked back and forth between three different Bibles. I bought one, then when I got home I realized it didn't have a concordance, so I took it back. I had finally narrowed it down to two and ended up going with the ESV Journaling Bible. But you don't understand how hard this choice was for me! I felt like Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. I just knew I was gonna end up like Walter Donovan and that my hair would look like Ramen Noodles as my skin melted off of my face, right there in the Lifeway! I had to choose wisely. Finally, I made my decision. And oh, how wonderful and perfect that decision was.
      As soon as I bought my Bible I ran to the WalMart for a brand new, shiny box of Crayola colored pencils. I got home and pulled out my best highlighters, pens, and pencils, and I began reading.
      I picked up right where I left off in Genesis, determined to read this Letter through all the way to the end. I drew pictures and made a few notes, but I didn't highlight anything just yet. In the past I had gone back and copied what was highlighted in my previous Bible. But this time was different. I want to experience it all over again, new and fresh. If there's anything in this life that one wants to "do-over," reading the Bible is it. It's not like leftovers; it's fresh.
      I kept going and made my way through Exodus. Did you know there were giants and fallen angels that slept with human women? Oh! I just sparked your interest didn't I? That's right. Go read it. You'll love it. Good stuff. I drew pictures as God gave them to me. I made notes in my computer about things I'd never really considered before. And the questions. . . They were overwhelming. But God, in His mighty ways and this incredible relationship we have, answered every single question.
      I stopped to pray while reading and I'd ask God to show me, speak to me, reveal things to me. Within a chapter or two He'd do just that.
      Finally I arrived at Leviticus.

Holy moly, Lord Jesus, help me.

      I was getting bored. Fast. There were laws and rules and steps and I kept getting lost and asking questions like, "Why, God, is it a sin to be around a woman after she's given birth? You made this process, did You not?" Confused, I kept praying and studying fervently, grabbing scholarly articles and journals. And God revealed His answers.
      In the midst of reading these laws and learning the purpose behind them, I began to feel so separated from the One I was clinging to; it was as if I couldn't reach my Father. That doesn't make sense, does it. One should feel closer than ever to her Creator when reading His words. Remember when I said that the Word is alive and active? Because of this, the Bible has a sort of transforming power. No, not the kind we think of when we say that it changes us, although that power still applies. This power is different. God's word is so deeply planted into our souls that we become part of the story. Our present story is a continuation of the Jewish nation, of the New Testament church, of Jesus; we are the new Israel, the new covenant. The reason I felt so separated from God is because I could somehow identify with the chasm that existed between Israel and God, between humanity and God. It's why all of those laws were put into place to begin with, but that's a whole other blog post. Yet here we are, living proof of that continuation and we now have concrete access to the Father of lights in the form of the written word whenever we want! All we have to do is open it up and read it, listen to it, and feel it as that cool, living water courses through our thirsty spirits.
      I finally made it out of the Levitical wilderness and on to Numbers. If you're a logophile like me, you'll appreciate the book of Numbers because it has absolutely nothing to do with algebra like I feared. (I just knew God didn't mean for that horrible subject to be taught in school! Sorry. I'm done.) Now it's January and I'm in Deuteronomy. . . Okay, I've been in Deuteronomy for about three months but in my defense I'm a senior, guys, and I have no life. I have to pack it in when I can, not to say that I'm not getting my daily dose of Bread.
      All in all, I did it. I took the plunge and I bought a new Love Letter. It has fanned the flames of my faith, friends, and I'm seeing its words again as if with new eyes. So I encourage you: pick up your Good Book. Read it. Love it. Devour it. Rediscover again and again all that Father has to share with you. Trust me, He's like a kid on Christmas morning waiting to show you all of His new toys and the tons of cool things they can do, only you won't get tired after a few hours. Instead, you'll be refreshed, renewed, and you'll fall in love with the Master of creation, the Writer of the words on your heart, all over again.


City of Children Update

      God is good, all the time! We went to bed with many praises last night thanks to God's faithful hand opening doors. First, I was able to get my passport expedited on Tuesday so it will be here before the January leadership trip. I am overjoyed to announce that Jordan's portion of the trip has been paid in full by a very generous friend. It's amazing how God has used this young man in our lives over the years, just by being our friend. His gift goes above and beyond the call of duty and reminds us that we have friends who stick closer than a brother (Pr. 18:24) Thank you, sweet friend. You'll never know how much we treasure the precious heart behind your gift.
      Again, we covet your prayers. Please intercede on our behalf!
     1. Jordan needs to go on the leadership trip in January. However, his workplace is conducting a              migration for one of their clients that very week. We're so hoping God opens the doors for a                miracle; unless dates change for the migration, there is no way Jordan can get off of work.
         However, we also want God's will first and foremost.
     2. Flying this day in age is a little intimidating. Crossing the Mexican boarder is also a bit scary.
         Pray for the constant reminder than we are not
         born of a spirit of fear but one of power and of sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7)
     3. Our team! As soon as we meet with them and get their permission, we will list their names on
         here so you can call them out to the Father.
     4. We still have money to raise for Lilli and for me. We also have a $150 per person deposit that
         does not come from fundraising. But we've seen God drop thousands of dollars from the sky
         before and I've no doubt He'll do it again.
     5. City of Children: Oh, that we may be God's hands and feet, that we may move out of His way
         so that He may accomplish great and mighty things through us all;  may He be glorified and
         honored in all of this, and that His sweet Spirit would already be connecting our team and
         uniting us as one body in Him.
      Guys, we are so excited again to be partnering in the gospel with you. Thank you for all of the messages we've received though text, email, phone calls. . .we are overwhelmed. Love to you all!

Lipscomb Missions: Griffins in the City of Children

     Fall Semester 2015 is done and in the books, folks. FINALLY. It was great, I'll say that much, and that isn't even the tip of the iceberg. My classes dug deeper into the roots of our Trinitarian Maker than I could begin to imagine. I know I'll never recover. I don't want to recover. I want to be wrecked by His spirit every single day in such a way that my own is blown completely off of the pedestal she sometimes thinks she's entitled to stand upon. This semester was the launching point for what was to come, though I didn't fully understand this at the time. Christmas Break offered a much needed and appreciated break for my weary brain and my excited soul. Only one semester to go and I'll be a bonafide theologian. If that doesn't scare us all, I don't know what will.
      The past 18 months have offered healing for our souls and a better understanding of why God brought us to Nashville in the first place. As a result, the Griffin family has big and exciting news! No, I'm not pregnant, but you all will be the first to know when I send a video to World New with David Muir and Good Morning America.
       Jordan, Lilli, and I have been asked to lead a missions team through Lipscomb Missions! After much prayer we have humbly and joyously accepted the call. We will be leading our team to Ensenada, Mexico just over the California boarder in the Baja region of the country. While there, we will be working with the City of Children orphanage. We'll do any needed manual labor, construct and present at VBS program for the children there, and visit with families in the area for prayer and anything else they may need. the trip will be over our Spring Break, March 12-18. January 22-25 will be a preliminary leadership trip for Jordan and me. We couldn't ask for more from God to be including us in this journey.
       We're asking our friends and family to donate to the trip as all expenses are paid through fundraising and donations, all tax deductible. If you're interested, please visit the Lipscomb Missions link below to donate. Type in one of our names (Jordan, Brandi, or Lilli Griffin) and click on "City of Children" from the drop-down list of trips, then you can fill out the remainder of the form accordingly.
    Because Jordan and I are leaders, 50% of our trip is covered by Lipscomb Missions. Our total need stands at $275 each. Lilli's cost is $950. Altogether we will need to raise $1500. The cost covers our meals for the week, three passports, Lilli's plane ticket, and 2 tickets a piece for Jordan and me. We have an initial leadership trip in January that we are taking which is also covered in this cost.
    To donate toward the trip, go to the Lipscomb Missions link above, click on the pink piggy bank that says, "Donate," and fill in the required info. Also, feel free to read up on the City of Children trip as well as other trips Lipscomb takes year round! To learn more about City of Children, follow their link and check out some of the little faces we'll be working with over Spring Break.
      More than anything, friends, we need your prayers!! Please feel free to share this information on your social media, through email, with your churches, however you feel led. We covet and appreciate all the prayer you can supply! 
     If you'd like to keep up with the Griffin Family and God's ministry through us, email me (Brandi) at bpgmakeup@gmail.com and we'll get you on our ministry email list. Here we'll keep in touch with you about our ministry, the mission trip, and lots of other cool stuff! Many people have asked if we're still on Facebook or Twitter. Sorry to disappoint, but we are not. But never fear! You can follow us on Instagram at either @brandigriffin81 OR @prodigalskeeper. And remember, the blog (right here) is STILL going and we continue to update it with everything we're doing as well. You can follow us on here to the right and/or sign up for the blog email list where you'll be updated every time we post.
      Thanks so much for all of your support for us over the years. We are blessed beyond measure to have been touched by each of you, and those we don't know, we're blessed to be in your prayers!
      Stay tuned!