{ Picture this (DAY 457)

10264868_856288884385266_1526415316_n 10255904_849410155073139_1767845500_nSometimes I feel like the only time my brain works is right before bed.  It is only once I am cozily tucked in that my brain decides it has some things I forgot to do.  Last week this happened and as I went to remedy the situation I remembered I had received some messages I forgot to look at.  You can be sure I was not expecting to be crying by the end of the letter I read, but that’s exactly what happened.  Let me take you back just a bit.  Sometime last year a sweet reader contacted me about wanting to paint a picture of one of the orphans in India.  I put her in touch with my dear friend, Paige, and didn’t hear to much after that.  Well lo and behold the message I received was from my reader Sammie.  Here is what she had to say…I know it’s a bit long but this story is totally worth it.

Hi Elaini! This is Samantha Whitehead. Remember when I emailed you pretty much exactly a year ago asking for help for a painting idea that I had for my competitions this year? Well I wanted to thank you for helping me and I wanted to send you a photo of the completed artwork!

(Please excuse me if it feels like I’m jumping all over the place in these next paragraphs )

So yesterday you put up a post on Meghamala’s story on your blog and believe it or not I painted Meghamala for my project and yesterday was the final day of competitions! Hahaha oh it was such a blessing being able to see how perfectly God times everything with the blog post and competitions. So I attend a Christian school and there is a national association of Christian schools called the AACS and they hold annual competitions for the school nationwide. I live in Virginia and there are so many schools that we have to subdivide the state into regional competitions. If you get first in your category you then move onto the state competition and if you get first in states you go onto Nationals. This is no easy feat since from my freshman to junior year I’ve never even gone past regionals.

Anyways, for my painting I needed to fill out an “artist statement” which explains the process and inspiration for your artwork. In this artist statement (which I’m also emailing you) I wrote about Meghamala, Hosanna, and these beautiful children in India.

Now the reason I told you all of this is to tell you this: Meghamala not only won first in the acrylic category for regionals, but she also won first in states, and was able to travel all the way to the national competition where more than a thousand people were able to meet her. She may not have placed in the top three in nationals, but that’s not important; her story and all of these kid’s stories are important. No words can describe how much their stories touched the lives of the people who read them. I exaggerate not; dozens of people were left in tears (even a few guys ) and it really affected every person who read it. So here I am writing an email and I can barely see the screen because my tears are fogging my vision and my large smile is making me squint, just to say: God is good. God is good because these precious children and their stories were introduced to hundreds of people, and maybe, just maybe their was a seed of love and compassion for these children planted in at least one person’s heart.

So thank you Elaini for introducing me and hundreds of others to the stories of these children because it is making a difference in my life as I’m sure it is yours.

And as you rush around doing what ever needs to be done just remember, God is always good. God bless.

I was blown away and crying…and then I read her artist statement below and was just floored.

This project has a lengthy backstory to it, but it really began taking form when I was introduced to a ten year old boy named Hosanna last year.  Hosanna lived in a home (part of Covenant Children’s Homes) for orphans, semi-orphans, and neglected/abandoned children in India.  In November 2012 he was diagnosed with leukemia.  After several months of intense treatments, Hosanna’s condition only worsened.  My prayer was that the Lord would either heal Hosanna or bring him home.  On February 20, 2013 the Lord answered my prayer and chose to bring Hosanna home.  When his mother found Hosanna on his bed after he had passed away, Hosanna had written on his arm in marker; “I love my Jesus!”

Even with all of the reform taking place in India in the past few decades, there is still a large group of people, specifically children, which are forgotten and ignored simply due to their birth.  If a child is born into a low caste then they must remain in that caste throughout their life without the hope for change.  The focus is then shifted to providing these children with an education with the hope they can change their own future.  But I believe that these children need more than an education, they need real hope.  They need to know of a Great and Loving God who sent His son to die on a cross so that we may become a part of His eternal family.  God’s promise is available to all, even to those the world labels as “Untouchables”.  Once the children are able to break through the bonds and restrictions their culture has placed on them through salvation, then education will provide them with the tools necessary to rise to a position that their parents could never hope to attain.  God’s love is the only reason a child such as Hosanna went from living in destitute conditions where others would say he had every reason to grow up with hate and bitterness to a ten year old writing, I love my Jesus, in his last moments of life.

That’s how my idea took form.  I wanted to paint a little girl sitting Indian style on a dirt floor with a bouquet of really bright flowers, popping out from the bleak surroundings.  The flowers would symbolize hope in a world with little to no color.

With the idea in mind, I contacted a friend of mine who then directed me to the head of Covenant Children’s Homes and asked for permission to use one of their pictures for my art project.  After receiving her permission I settled on a picture of a six year old girl named Meghamala, a semi-orphan living in S.N. Padu.

Doesn’t this all just give you chills?!  I love, love, love how God works.  Our lives are all so intertwined and God is on the move and working even when I/we can’t see it.  I hope this story and letter that Sammie shared with me and her beautiful painting of Meghamala will encourage your heart as it has mine.

(Photos/painting by: Sammie Whitehead)

Posted on April 24, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Sneak peek for a special date (DAY 456) }

sneakpeek3rdanniversaryNumbers and dates have always caught my curiosity.  I can’t explain why but they are marker points for me and when it comes to numbers they are just plain cute.  Notice that this post is numbered.  This is due to the fact that when I started this blog I crafted it with the intention of raising funds for orphans in India by wearing the same dress for 100 days and my post heading reflected what day I was on.  Of course I didn’t stop at the end of the project raising funds since I hadn’t reached my goal and neither did the numbers.  Now they just reflect what post I’m on since starting the project…today’s just happens to be a fun one…456.

Anyways since dates are important to me I have to tell you about a special one coming up.  May 1st will be the third anniversary of launching this blog and the start of raising funds for sweet children in India!  So what does that mean?  It means the little black dress got pulled out of the closet and I donned it for a photo shoot.  But you can’t see just yet!  Will you help me raise awareness for these sweet kiddos?  Basically I’d love for as many people as are willing to blog about donating to help orphans. If you don’t have a blog you can still share with your circle of friends about giving to these sweethearts.  Right now they are really needing uniforms in order to be able to attend school.  Each uniform costs $30…times 545 children.  That’s $16,350……that’s a decent amount of money but if each of us just gave a little bit or enough for one uniform it would make a difference to these children.  We take education for granted but there, in India, it is the means to lift them out of poverty and give them a brighter future.  So if you’re interested in helping me raise awareness then please leave a comment below! Thank you everyone!

P.S.  Also happy 41st anniversary to my INCREDIBLE parents.  You have a beautiful love for one another and I can only pray that someday I will have an awesome marriage like yours.  I love you both so much! <3

AMAZING flowers courtesy of Fieldwork Flowers. I can’t wait to share with you what they made for me! :D

Posted on April 22, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ I never want to forget this (DAY 455) }

fudge1-misselainious Last week I leaned forward over the kitchen table and listened with eager ears.  Over the past two years she’s pushed her schedule aside to make breakfast with me a priority.  Okay it’s more like brunch sometimes but that’s beside the point.  These mornings where mom and I make and eat our eggs and toast together are precious moments.  Some mornings are extra special though because we really get into a topic and this was one of those conversations.  I began to ask her about her childhood and I oooed and aaawed over her telling me how she only spoke Greek till she was five and how she had a duck named Squeaky.  I mean how cute is that?!  But the duck got too big (and may have turned into a beautiful swan!!!) and it had to be taken to the park.  She reminisced about that time the little boys laughed at her for having her blankie and tried to take it from her and she fought back only to end up with scratches on her face and blankie torn to pieces.  Somehow I get mad at this thought.  Then she tells me with eyes sparkling so so bright, that they look like she captured the stars in them, about her grandparents on both sides.  She looks just like my Yia yia, her mom, when she laughs.  I feel the generations there with us in that moment and history becomes real life.  Mom also teaches me that eating chocolate for breakfast with our tea is more than acceptable.  In fact it’s encouraged.  That’s just one of the many brilliant things she’s taught me.

I’m sitting on my bed and it’s a Monday night alright.  Discouragement is heavy in my heart and since I’m fighting stress over finances mom comes and joins me in my room and reaches out her hand over the comforter and I reach back.  Lying there curled up she encourages me to pray and then gently speaks soul life to me.

It’s a Tuesday afternoon now and I meet her at the door after a long day for both of us and she brings the sunshine inside in the form of daffodils which are tied for first place favorite flower in my heart.  “These are to cheer my girl up!”  My heart melts.  Later we curl up with the Real Simple magazine and I read facts and tips to her as we sip tea.  Pretty soon I see her eyes are closed.  “Mommy are you still awake?”  She replies sleepily that she’s still listening.  My mom works so hard.  My smile stretches just a bit wider as I acknowledge her head against my shoulder.

The day’s eyes have shut and I crawl in bed with my mom.  Her hand holds mine, the one that is wrapped around her, and my cheek rests in the hollow that her shoulder blades create.  A sleepy little voice asks if I’ll rub her head.  Of course I’ll rub your head mommy.  We talk and then I kiss her goodnight and I tuck her in and slip out of the room.  Daddy is sitting in his chair and we smile and comment on how tired she was.  These moments are precious gems.  They are gifts beyond compare.  Because yesterday I read about a girl who lost her mother not even three months ago.  So I go and hug my parents just a little bit tighter.  I soak up these days and this love praying it will go deep into my bones so that I’ll never forget.  I may be poor money wise but really I’m the richest girl alive.

(The lace in this picture is part of the underskirt from my Yia yia’s wedding slip…and because I love you all here is the recipe by my dear friend for THE best, and easiest, fudge ever. :) )

P.S.  Are any of you bloggers or readers interested in helping me spread awareness for orphans?  If so the 3rd anniversary of the orphan project is coming up and I’m doing a special post. I would LOVE it if you would blog about it/tell five friends?  Let me know if you’re interested in spreading the word by commenting below!

Posted on April 17, 2014 by | Comments { 4 }

{ They are watching you… (DAY 454) }

IMG_0780Dear Lala,

It simultaneously freaked me out and amazed me when I saw the look in your eyes.  The earnestness with which you watched me curl my hair let me know that the switch had happened.  In the past you could care less what I did but in that moment I knew you weren’t just seeing me, you were watching me.  Intently.  I should have realized it was coming.  With there being a 13 year age gap between me and your momma I was the little girl that looked up to my siblings with adoring eyes and studied their every move and longed for them to love on me.  I remember being your age and thinking 18 was old (ha!) and that people in their 20′s (for the most part) had it all together.

Sweet niece I don’t have it all together but when I see your eyes watching me I long to be a godly example for you.  I don’t want to lead you astray or neglect you when you’re around.  You’re an amazing little girl and the fact that you like spending time with me delights my heart.  When you and your brothers look at me I want you to think I’m a fun auntie but more importantly I want you to see someone who cares about your souls.  I want you to see someone who not only prays for you but seeks to lead by example.  I want you to know that Jesus is the most important person in my life.  Because I know your eyes aren’t the only eyes watching.  You just woke me up to the fact.

To all those who read this may you know that your life is an example. One way or another it is a model regardless of whether or not you want it to be.  You can be an influence for good or for destruction.  If you’re young and reading this and look up to older people then you know that sometimes we make mistakes but instead of repeating ours I pray you will learn from them instead.  Really though regardless of age we can all be people who encourage those around us by the way we choose to live.

P.S.  I love you Lala and your brothers so.very.much and I’m honored to be your auntie.  <3  xxx

Posted on April 15, 2014 by | Comments { 4 }

{ Little ladies (DAY 453) }

cch-paduHey everyone! So thought you might like to see one of the children you are helping by donating. :)  This little 7 year old is T. Maghamala.  Here is a bit of her story straight from India…(if it’s a bit hard to read that is due to translation).

T. Meghamala is a semi-orphan girl, her father Gangulu died of a heart attack, when she was a young child at the age of 3.  Meghamala has an elder sister and mother.  Her mother could not repay all the debts and so it became difficult to run the family as she went for small labor works.  She could not send her two daughters to school as she was poor and cannot afford for high school fees.

Later she asked the pastor and joined her two daughters Meghamala and Srilatha to c.c.h., S.N.Padu home.  Before coming to the home Meghamala was not studying and just playing with other little children in the streets.  Now her sister is studying 2nd class at telugu medium in Government School and after joining cch home she went to the best Private English Medium School where all the facilities were there for a child to learn and excel.

Now she is studying 1ST Standard and is happy to go to school with 9 other girls in an auto and study/learn new things. She secured 1st rank in studies and received a few small prizes at cultural activities. She is scoring good marks and loves to go to school and at cch home she is happier to have all the best facilities of good residence, provisions, nutritional food and spiritual atmosphere.

She loves to worship at home and the love and care showered on her by the pastor’s family she calls her mother and father and feels like she has a God given family and lives happily at home.  In worship she loves to play the tambourine and worship the Lord and most of all she wants to be with Paige sister at camp and at 2nd Saturday meets.

She is happy to be at cch S.N.Padu and study well and grow in spiritual environment in a homey styled home where she can succeed in her life and be helpful for her mother in future and for God to share the love she is experiencing at cch home to the neglected children in the villages.

Currently the children need uniforms (they cannot go to school without them).  Uniforms are only $30 and if you would like to donate today to help a child go to school please just click on the give now button on the right hand side of the blog.  Please make sure to put in the comments “For uniforms”.  Thank you everyone!

(Picture provided by Paige.  Megamala is in the red uniform in the front row to the far left.)

Posted on April 10, 2014 by | Comments { 6 }

{ The Letter (DAY 452) }

dear...-misselainious “Dear single ladies….”  That’s how the almost two page letter I was writing started out.  After I wrote it I asked my mom to read it, but before she finished I already knew what she was going to say.  Yes, it was truthful but it was also cliche.  So instead of writing you what we all need to hear I decided to ask some of the amazing single women that I know these following questions:

What do you wish people would say to you as a single person?  What do you wish they wouldn’t say?

“In general, I would like them to remember they were single once, and that at some point they encountered the same thoughts or struggles that I have now…also, being single isn’t what defines me.  There’s more to life than being married.  I have found my friends who are married will say things like, ‘I wish I were still single,’ or ‘life was so much easier when I didn’t have to ask my husband.’  It really hurts because here I am desiring that, but God has said, ‘not now.’  I know that their intention is not to hurt me, but it comes out in the moment and it’s like trying to defuse a bomb that already exploded….it’s just collateral damage everywhere.  Than I have those friends who have kids and they are like ‘when you have kids you’ll understand.’ It goes on and on ‘when you have a husband you’ll understand..’ Please, sin is sin and I don’t need to to be married or have kids (to know that).  And then they just disappear because they have to care for their husband…really? He survived this long without you and I’m sure he’ll be alright…it’s one HOUR!”  ~age 40

“Hmmm I hate: the right man will appear when you stop looking.  I love: look at this woman or that one who was either single till 40′s and lived a full and wonderful life or this woman who never married and similarly lived a wonderful life.  I also like: better to be single and wish you were married, than married and wish you were single.  I came across a quote the other day saying a soul mate is someone who changes you, makes you a better person.  I like that definition.  It’s not limited to men and I’ve had many beautiful soulmates…male and female.”  ~age 30

“Not to say: I just don’t know why no man has scooped you up! Or I know how hard this must be for you.  To say: I’m so sorry this hurts.  I don’t know why God hasn’t brought you someone, but will be praying that he provides and that the Holy Spirit brings comfort to you. “  ~age 28

“For me it just gets annoying when you get the look like, ‘What you are single?’ and you know they are thinking what is wrong with her.  I am okay being alone and I don’t have to have someone to make me happy.  Or ‘you are 27 and you want kids you better get moving.’ I could settle for someone okay just to be in a relationship but I want someone amazing so until then I am fine where I am at.” ~age 27

“That is a hard one.  Probably of support and understanding what it means to be single later in life.  To be supportive and encouraging of opportunities God provides due to singleness, to live a full single life with all the richness God can provide.  To not forget that Jesus can return any time and I need to be found by Him busy at the work He has given me.” ~age 37

“Hmm…good question.  I think the best advice I ever got was from my friend.  I was complaining about how I’ll never get married since I don’t know anyone who would be interested in pursuing me, etc, and he just said, ‘You don’t need to know a million guys.  It only takes one.’  And that just made so much sense! Like it helped me realize that I don’t necessarily need options, I just need to have my eyes open to recognize the right guy at the right time.” ~age 18

So in reality maybe my letter should have started out “Dear married and single people…”  Okay everyone now it’s your turn!  Single people (not just the ladies!) here is your chance to give your opinion on this topic.  And married people feel free to give your thoughts on this too.  I think that so often the married people and single people get divided into two camps but wouldn’t it be healthier if we all just had an honest conversation?  I’m very thankful that I have some amazing married friends (haha almost ALL of my friends are married).  The fact that they have not alienated me is such a gift, but I do think that when we understand one another better we are also able to love better.

Posted on April 7, 2014 by | Comments { 8 }

{ Fancy coat (451) }

IMG_7974 IMG_7996 fancycoat1 IMG_8015 fancycoatdetailsIn case this is your first time here this is why I do outfit posts…

The weather in Portland has been quite hormonal of late.  One minute it’s sunny and warm and then five minutes later it’s pouring rain and you’re looking to take cover.  Basically it’s best to wear layers since you never know what you might meet when you walk out your front door!  I’ve had these pictures for a over a month now but finally decided to post them because my brain is too tired to write much.  How’s that for being real?!  Truth be told my week is less than glamorous as all I’m doing is sticking my nose in a text book.  I have a HUGE test on Monday and I’m just praying that I pass. Also ya’ll were sweet and said you liked these posts.  Hopefully they inspire you with your own wardrobe!

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only.  Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”  Coco Chanel

(Photos taken for me by: Emma Orth)

Posted on April 2, 2014 by | Comments { 6 }

{ Stop Saying God is Good… (DAY 450) }

IMG_8695Yes! You read that right.  Stop saying God is good…just when things are going your way. It seems like lately I keep seeing or hearing people say “God is so good!” because something wonderful has happened to them.  Now before you write me off as being all picky I do agree that God is good.  Here’s the catch though.  God is good all the time.  Not just when you have a good hair day.  Not just when you meet that special someone.  Not just when you get that job you’ve been wanting.  Not just when everything is going your way.  God is good when your hair looks like a mess.  God is good when you’re all by yourself.  God is good when nothing has gone according to your dreams or plans.  God is good when you’re sick.  God is good.  He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.  He can’t change.

I’m SO thankful that people are saying God is good.  Because His is.  But let’s proclaim it joyfully even when everything seems to be going horribly.  In fact that’s when we need to say it even louder.  “Soul, all God’s promises and words are true!”  Thankfully our feelings don’t determine what is factual.  Our feelings are real and legitimate but they aren’t always truthful.

Right now my life isn’t “perfect” but it is a beautiful life.  I texted someone the other day and when she asked me how I was doing I said it had been a challenging year.  She replied, “It’s only been three months!”  My point exactly.  Here’s the incredible thing though, God has been good every second of every difficult day and moment.  While I don’t want a repeat of these months I’m thankful that God has been not just good but amazing.  He’s been faithful, he’s been patient, he’s been loving, he’s cared about the details, he hasn’t forgotten me.  If you’re in a hard season please please know God hasn’t forgotten you.

Also if we only say God is good in the happy/going well times what does that say about how we view him in the other times?  I’m not saying that you have to be all happy in the hard times (yes, you can still have joy but happy is something else entirely I believe) but I do still hope you can see through the dark that God is still good.  My friend said it so well, “Grace doesn’t make it easy, it makes it possible.”  I’m writing this because I need this reminder.  I’m writing this because God is carrying me even in a challenging season and has carried me through past difficulties.  So soul, God is good… all the time.  How thankful I am for the joy he gives and the goodness he showers on me constantly in every season.

P.S.  I know the picture has nothing really to do with this post but it was one of the prettiest snacks I have eaten and I was blanking on what would actually go along with this this topic…

Posted on March 31, 2014 by | Comments { 6 }

{ Hands & Tales (DAY 449) }

IMG_8268 hands&talesdanIf you missed why I’ll be having Hands and Tales as a part of this blog at times you can read why here.

How did  you get those scars?
Well bypassing the fabricated stories of the shark attack or me defending some helpless victim, the real cause was a sawdust vacuum that my Dad had in his woodworking shop. It had a propellor to create the suction but the hose was off and a small nut had fallen in. Me, being a small six year old that couldn’t see over the edge of it, saw the logical solution as reaching in and grabbing it. It’s really a miracle that I have anything past my elbow, let alone being able to use it to build stuff or create music with it! I’m more than a little grateful to have my right hand let me tell you.

Who’s touched your life and why?
Recently someone who’s had a big impact is my friend Gabe. He and I got to be good friends when I was in a really unhealthy place in my walk. His humble openness with where he’d been and where he wanted to be really exposed a lot of the false fronts and contradictions that I had. I would say his friendship and the Lord working are largely what caused me to want to become open and vulnerable about my faith and to experience the benefits of having a real community of believers around which has been invaluable in the whole transition to a place like Oregon State.

What’s your greatest struggle in life right now?
Electrical Fundamentals hands down. Haha it’s pretty sad beings as that is basically my major but the class is just a complete fog. Even after finals I’m still trying to figure out what the heck the prof was talking about as soon as he finished talking about the syllabus. Praise God there’s only one term left of it!

What’s one of the happiest days of your life?
It’s hard to pinpoint one day specifically but I love those days where I’m like stressing over details of something and then just that thunderbolt moment when I realize ultimately that it doesn’t even matter cause I’m already perfectly accepted by a God that has it all planned out and I can just go play guitar and leave it up to Him. Haha

UPDATE!!! $87,841.19 Wanna lend a helping hand today and push us towards the $88K mark?  Please consider donated just $5 today to orphans in need by clicking on the Give Now button to the right. :)

Posted on March 27, 2014 by | Comments { 0 }

{ Why you don’t need clarity (DAY 448) }

forget clarityThis past week I read this article about why one woman stopped asking God for clarity and I felt like she had listened into my conversations with God for the past two years.  You see for the past three years I have been intensely asking God for direction for my life.  It isn’t that I didn’t ask for direction before but the path I was treading seemed a bit more smooth and clear.  Two years ago when I wrote this post about swinging the Lord used it to show me I didn’t trust Him.  I said I did but I was always holding back.  Since then every time I ask Him what I should be doing with my life He just gently says,  “Trust me.”  Why is it that something so simple can be so hard?

It’s because I want to control what happens in my life.  I want to see what comes next.  Any real relationship though is built on trust.  When I read Mandy’s article it just confirmed everything I have been learning.  Yes, of course He wants to teach me trust because He wants me to love Him fully.  Besides He is the only one who can be truly trusted anyways! Jesus has been whispering to my heart to be faithful in the season that He has me.  He hasn’t asked me to do anything crazy or amazing and yet I find myself challenged.  It’s not easy for me.

I’m challenged in being faithful with what is right in front of me.  My flesh craves more, more excitement and more adventure.  Yet there is so much beauty right in front of me and I’m beginning to think that maybe the greatest adventure of all is the one where I can’t see anything except what is right in front of me.  Maybe the greatest excitement comes from having to trust the one you love and let Him guide you.  Maybe by resting in where He has me I will be more free than I can imagine.  I’m feeling a yes to all those maybes.

So Elaini trust, be faithful and rest.  Jesus wants to give you more of Himself.  That is the best gift I can dream of so I surrender again to being right here doing the mundane tasks of life because the story is happening right now.  I trust that it is good.  And when I see who I am doing all these “mundane” tasks for the really aren’t so mundane.  They are the water turned to wine because they are done for Jesus.

(Photo by: Rachel Coker)

Posted on March 25, 2014 by | Comments { 2 }