Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Been there, done that, going back!

In March of this year, I had an amazing opportunity to go and serve in hurricane damaged Puerto Rico with an incredible team of people. While we were there, we helped lay foundation and pour concrete for a sister church that was heavily damaged. Being over there, serving and leaning on my faith changed me in ways I never expected.

This experience blessed me so much that I’m feeling called to go back. There’s another team going in July to help rebuild with the same church. God has been telling me very clearly that I am not done there and that He is not done using me there.

So I’m coming to you once again to ask humbly for you to partner with me on this next trip. Our team goal is $15,000. Any amount donated would be a blessing and greatly appreciated. If you feel led to donate, here’s what you can do.

Donate Online:
https://rccc.ccbchurch.com/goto/forms/394/responses/new
Please include my name and select Puerto Rico Mission trip
Or
Mail checks to:
River City Community Church
16765 Lookout Rd
Selma, Texas 78154
(Include my name, Loriann Zello, in the memo)
Again, thank you so much for your prayers and support. God bless.
Thank you,
Loriann Zello

Monday, April 16, 2018

Faith and Timeless.

Faith and Timeless. 
I’m a woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a fan of Timeless, and most importantly, a Christian. My faith is so very important to me and tends to color the way I look at the world. When I look at my entertainment choices, my faith drives the bus. I’ve always been fascinated with history and time travel and Timeless fits those likes very nicely. Not only the historical time travel aspect, but the human aspect as well. 

The cast contains a historian, a soldier, a techie, a man bent on revenge and an array of supporting characters. Each week, the time team goes back to try and change or preserve history as needed to save the world as we know it. Each week, moral and ethical dilemmas are discussed and dealt with. Once in a while, fate, free will, destiny and faith in God will come up. 

Last season, our antagonist, played brilliantly by Goran Višnjić, sat in a church and pondered the whole God vs fate vs free will conundrum intelligently and respectfully. One episode later, he was at his rock bottom, saying that he prayed to God and he was led to that point. The historian, played by Abigail Spencer, countered with, “what if God led you to me?” It was a very powerful moment in the series, not preachy, not disrespectful, just raising questions about faith in general. 

Last night, Rufus, played by Malcom Barrett, stated that he doesn’t believe in God. He watched his mother pray every night for their circumstances to change and in the end, Rufus stated that he was the one who changed his circumstances. Again, not disrespectful, just painfully honest in the context of the show. 

So imagine my surprise when I see an article this morning, stating that Timeless  mocks Christianity. I sat and thought back to the series and what I’ve seen and I’m not seeing mocking. 

I’m seeing flawed humans, trying to understand life. I’m seeing diversity with belief systems. I’m seeing good and bad human choices being made. I’m seeing consequences of these choices. I’m seeing strength and I’m seeing a whole lot of grace and forgiveness. Not once have I seen any belief system, Christian or otherwise be mocked and disrespected. 

One of the things that this show prides itself on, and I see the writers really honor, Is the diversity in its characters and how they’re portrayed. Last nights episode was no different. 


 As a a television viewer, I love this show. As a Christian, I pray for this show to continue and I pray for its cast, crew and writers regularly. I pray that good stories will be able to continue to be told in an intelligent way that makes people think even after the final credits roll. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

15 years ago today!

It was 15 years ago today that my son Benji had surgery to remove a brain tumor. I spent the last precious preop moments memorizing Benji and telling him how precious he is and how much we love him. How happy he makes everybody who meets him. I sent him to surgery knowing that I said everything that needed to be said.

During the surgery, time slowed down and sped up. i remember some things vividly, and other things are a blur. I remember the Muslim couple with their prayer rug, and their worried faces. I remember the male nurse who came in, and called this couple out of the room. They never returned.

The OR nurse would call every hour or so and update me. Each call would keep me going for another hour or so, so I never panicked.

My pastor, music minister and children's minister flew in, and played UNO with us. I won just about every game. I wonder if they let me win. Looking back, if I could've seen the shape I was in, I would've let me win too.
We ate munchies from a care package sent by the Joy school director, and talked about how special Benji was to us.

Then Dr. Shapiro came and spoke to us. Our pastor joined us in the hallway, much to the surgeon's annoyance. I remember looking at the surgeon's shoes, looking for Benji's blood, and feeling an odd mixture of relief and nausea that there was no blood. He told us that he believed he got all the tumor, but he would have to see another MRI.

I went into Recovery to see him, not knowing what to expect. A very sweet nurse met me at the door, and when I told her I was Benji's mom, she went on about how sweet and adorable Benji was. I went to his bedside, and indeed he was being sweet and adorable. Little innocent, sleepy smile on his face. He was feeling no pain. His tongue was swollen from the tube, and he wasn't thrilled about the tubes sticking out of him but he was fine. The scar was a surprise, but all this time later, it's still a suprise sometimes.

The next few hours were a blur, getting him all settled in ICU.
Benji's surgeon suggested to us that we go back to the house, have a meal, come back and say goodnight, then go back to the house, and sleep. Best suggestion that man could've had.

I slept like a rock that night!!

Here we are at 15 years. Benji is 22 years old now. We're so blessed to have him here with us. Way to go, Benji! We love you.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

15 years ago today.

March 24, 2003 started out like a normal Monday. We were stationed in San Angelo Texas and I remember the weather was gorgeous that spring. Lots of rain made for a spectacular display of our state flower, the bluebonnet. That morning was bright and gorgeous.

Josh and Benji, then 9 and 7 were excited that I finally was letting them walk to school with their friends for the first time. Little did they know that I was excited to not have to get their three year old sister, Grace out of bed quite so early.

I had just laid back down for a little snooze when the phone rang. It was a nurse from pediatrics. Benji had an MRI to see what was causing his siezures the Friday before and she was calling to let me know the results were in. She told me to NOT bring Benji, but to bring my husband. As she said that, my heart started thudding in my chest and I felt sick inside. It couldn’t be good news at this point. I remember calling my husband at work and begging his coworkers to have him call back. It was an emergency. Ten minutes later, Rick came home to find me on the stairs, sobbing, while Grace sat with me, confused. We spent the next little while getting Grace to a friend’s house and driving to the clinic. After we got to the clinic, the nurse, without meeting our eyes, directed us to Dr Sawyer’s office.

The next ten minutes spent waiting for him were pure torture. When he finally came in with Ben’s records, he didn’t seem to know what to say. I remember asking him something, to which he answered, "We’ll talk." At that point, I asked why he couldn’t just tell us what was going on. Then he said the words that would change our lives forever. "Benji has a brain tumor." I remember looking over at Rick and he had the calmest look on his face. Almost as if Dr. Sawyer just told him it was going to rain. His expression just stayed the same. Dr Sawyer, then started saying words like cancer, surgery, astrocytoma, Cooks medical center. Words that made no sense and didn’t fit into OUR family. All I could think was "My God, this is how we’re going to lose him." We’re going to LOSE him. I had never heard of anyone surviving a brain tumor. I felt so sad that he would not get to do all those normal things. I worried about how Josh would take possibly losing his best friend. I wondered if Grace would remember the brother who called her goose and loved her so much. This is what it’s like to be told your child has cancer.

I called Glenmore Elementary and a secretary answered the phone. I blurted out the news and she put the school counselor on the phone immediately. We then went to the school and talked with her about the situation and how we would tell Benji his life as he knew it was over. Again, it struck me how utterly gorgeous the weather was that day. I didn’t want to tell him. I wanted him to have that innocence.It was like if I didn’t tell him, then it wasn’t real.

The rest of that day was a flurry of phone calls and appointments to get Benji ready for surgery. Opthamology, Neurology, neurosurgery, oncology. The list of appointments grew. We made arrangements for my mother in law to come care for Josh and Grace while we dealt with Benji. That evening we took the kids to the park. I sat and stared and prayed. I prayed almost constantly during that time. Nothing eloquent, just please God, let me keep him. . That day was a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Everytime I woke up that night, it was just "Please God, Please God. over and over.

Benji’s school handled everything so graciously. His teacher and the school counselor told his first grade class and they all hugged a teddy bear to send with Benji.

One of Benji’s teachers said that the counselor called a meeting with every teacher that had worked with the boys. this teacher said that everyone was devastated. I was devastated to hear this because I just wanted my child to be one of the gang, not the child with the brain tumor.

The school raised three hundred dollars in two hours. This enabled us to pay for lodging while waiting to get into the Ronald McDonald house. Benji was actually able to go to school during this time between appointments.

One day was April Fools day. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to say April Fools. This is all a joke. We wore out a path between Angelo and Dallas. The Bluebonnets were spectactular that year, but I barely noticed.

His surgery was April Fourth and praise God, he’s been tumor free ever since. We live in San Antonio now. Benji is 22. Today he and I are spending the day together. The bluebonnets are out and they remind me of that sad time all those years ago when I thought I would lose my child.

Well, now this child is all grown up, is living his best life, working full time and has moved out on his own. I'm so thankful for Benji and the amazing young man he's become. I love you, Benji! #endchildhoodcancer

Friday, April 4, 2014

April 4th 2003.

It was eleven years ago today that my son Benji had surgery to remove a brain tumor. I spent the last precious preop moments memorizing Benji and telling him how precious he is and how much we love him. How happy he makes everybody who meets him. I sent him to surgery knowing that I said everything that needed to be said.

During the surgery, time slowed down and sped up. i remember some things vividly, and other things are a blur. I remember the Muslim couple with their prayer rug, and their worried faces. I remember the male nurse who came in, and called this couple out of the room. They never returned.

The OR nurse would call every hour or so and update me. Each call would keep me going for another hour or so, so I never panicked.

My pastor, music minister and children's minister flew in, and played UNO with us. I won just about every game. I wonder if they let me win. Looking back, if I could've seen the shape I was in, I would've let me win too.
We ate munchies from a care package sent by the Joy school director, and talked about how special Benji was to us.

Then Dr. Shapiro came and spoke to us. Our pastor joined us in the hallway, much to the surgeon's chagrin. I remember looking at the surgeon's shoes, looking for Benji's blood, and feeling an odd mixture of relief and nausea that there was no blood. He told us that he believed he got all the tumor, but he would have to see another MRI.

I went into Recovery to see him, not knowing what to expect. A very sweet nurse met me at the door, and when I told her I was Benji's mom, she went on about how sweet and adorable Benji was. I went to his bedside, and indeed he was being sweet and adorable. Little innocent, sleepy smile on his face. He was feeling no pain. His tongue was swollen from the tube, and he wasn't thrilled about the tubes and IVs, but he was fine. The scar was a surprise, but all this time later, it's still a suprise sometimes.

The next few hours were a blur, getting him all settled in ICU.
Benji's surgeon suggested to us that we go back to the house, have a meal, come back and say goodnight, then go back to the house, and sleep. Best suggestion that man could've had.

I slept like a rock that night!!

Here we are at eight years. Benji is eighteen years old now. We're so blessed to have him here with us. He's fixing to graduate high school and has an awesome future ahead of him.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 29, 2005

As an Air Force spouse, I've come to expect my share of adventure. But nothing could have prepared me for the adventure I'd be experiencing on a Monday in Late August 2005.

When hurricane Katrina hit, we were stationed at Keesler A.F.B, in Biloxi Mississippi. Our family had just starting getting back to normal after my son's brain tumor diagnosis. We had purchased a house on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and were planning on settling there after my husband's retirement from the U.S Air Force. At that time, life was good, Benji was healthy, the kids were happy to live so close to the beach and my husband had taken a deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. None of us had any idea of what was about to happen.

Rick emailed me, then called from Cuba the Friday before. Katrina was coming and we were in the direct path. I was sick as a dog with bronchitis and remember telling Rick, "this dang storm is going to have to go around me. I can't get up off the couch."

My kids came home from a normal day at school that day only to find out that things weren't going to be normal for long. The next morning, while the boys were clearing the back yard of projectiles, My daughter, Grace and I joined the throngs of people lined up at the Wal-Mart. Everybody in line had an opinion or a theory on how things were going to play out. The general consensus was, that it was going to be bad, but not as bad as Camille. That turned out to be a fatal mistake. Biloxi's mayor A.J. Halloway was quoted as saying that Camille killed more people on Aug 29, 05 than she did the day she hit 30 years ago.

That Saturday was a flurry of packing and phone calls. By that evening, we had the van loaded and were taking stuff over to the base hospital, which was to be our shelter. As we were taking stuff up, the security guard at the desk was telling us that there were no plans to shelter as of yet. I told him that was fine. If we had to take our stuff back home, we'd do just that, but we were going to be ready.

The next morning, we found out that Katrina had grown into a monster. I had people calling me all worried, wanting me to just take the kids and bail. Every person I talked to said that they would pray for us. The pastor of our church came and boarded up our windows and we did all those last minute preps. By dinner time that night we were in the shelter watching Jim Cantore on the weather channel.

The next morning woke us up with a bang. We could hear the wind and rain at that point. It reminded me of Ivan, so I wasn't too scared. We still had power, so I spent most of the morning emailing folks, and checking out all the weather websites. The news wasn't good, but I trusted that God would keep a hedge of protection over our family.

The power went out later that morning and the rest of the day was spent hunkering down as Katrina passed through the area. It was hot, dark, and smelly. The De-humidifier wasn't working, so the floors were actually sweating. A dear woman named Betsy was with us and was reading aloud from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy. Let me just tell you all, this is not a good book to read when all you have to eat is cold soup and Pringles!!

That night, we were able listen to the radio and what we heard was horrifying!! Talk of people drowning in their attics, whole towns being leveled, thousands of homes destroyed. The next day or two was a bit of a blur. Hours spent listening to the radio, deciphering fact from fiction. Walks around the hospital to gather news from anyone we could. "have you heard anything new?" became the standard greeting that week.

Either Tuesday or Wednesday, I was able to contact my in-laws, and my best friend, who was in Texas.

Tuesday night was the night that Benji had his meltdown. We had just eaten grilled chicken rescued from the commissary, and I practically force fed my kids a gallon of milk, not knowing when we'd see something precious like milk again. I took him to a far away hallway and just let him cry. He asked if things were going to be normal ever again, and what if we lost our home? All I could tell him was that we would have to find a new normal and that it would be alright. God was watching over us, and no matter what happened, we were going to be fine.

Wednesday, I was able to sneak on a military line and contact Rick. I had no news on the house yet, so he was kind of on standby. However, his commander, who was from Pensacola, said that all the Gulf coast troops were going home. So, when I called back Thursday, one of the Colonels. that he worked for told me he was coming home, I burst into tears.

Later that day, they let folks out of the shelter in groups to check on our homes. When I saw my that my home was intact, I fell to my knees and just started sobbing, "Thank you, Jesus!! Thank you, God!!" I had thought that surely our home would either be destroyed or at least uninhabitable. But aside from our privacy fence being down, we had no damage. We had someone's roof in our backyard, and that was weird, but hey, what can you do?

After going back to the shelter, we could see first hand how bad so many people had it. And what people were made of. Betsy lost everything. Her husband was in Iraq and she had to deal with her home being demolished. Yet, she was the most positive person I met in the shelter and my kids and I will never forget her. She had such a calm about her. Every morning in the shelter, she'd disappear and do a bible study and pray.

That night we all waited three hours in line for a makeshift meal that the chow hall provided. We had cold hotdogs, warm strawberries, and all the orange juice we could drink. It was a gourmet meal.

The next day we went home. That night was a really strange night. No lights anywhere, but you could hear planes and copters flying overhead continuously. It was so loud and so strange. We had the windows open to let in some air, but ended up closing them because it felt like we were in a strange and dangerous place.

The power came back on Friday. The first thing I did was put one of those homestyle bake things in the oven. It was Chicken and biscuits, and to this day, we call it Katrina casserole!! Again, a gourmet feast!

That Sunday my husband came home from Cuba. He was able to rent a car in Mobile and get some groceries. I was so happy to see him, but I was appalled later to realize I pushed him out of the way to get to the groceries. I can't tell you what he was wearing that day, but i can tell you he brought home milk, produce, meat, all kinds of good stuff. I was able to make spaghetti and meat sauce that night with salad and it was heaven. Again, our whole family drank nearly a gallon of milk in one sitting. God bless Rick for bringing us milk!!!

The Sunday after Rick came home, we went to church for the first time since the storm. Sitting there was like being at a funeral at first. There were hugs and tears and seemingly endless updates of bad news. Then our pastor said something about praise and Worship. Blessed Be Your name was the first song that was played.  "Blessed Be Your Name Blessed be Your name When the sun's shining down on me When the world's 'all as it should be' Blessed be Your name Blessed be Your name On the road marked with suffering Though there's pain in the offering Blessed be Your name. The lyrics  hold a special meaning to me. Just standing in that church praising God while we were suffering the same as we would when the sun was shining, it was amazing and humbling. I'll never forget that moment. There was and is so much that God has blessed us all with.

Because of Benji's cancer, it was pretty much decided on the spot that we'd be leaving. I'm a military spouse, who's had to say goodbye to many places, but leaving the gulf coast, was the most heart breaking thing our family has had to do.

We love the coast, but after what happened, we don't see ever living there again. It's been eight years now. I'm sitting here in Texas, fat and happy so to speak, while my kids are enjoying all the comforts of home. God has blessed us mightily. Our family still marvels at having air conditioning, power, and plenty of food and water. We're safe and we're together. My Goodness, what a miracle that is.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Good News Shoes!

This past Saturday, we went shopping for shoes. Grace wanted a pair of pretty canvas shoes like Vans or Converse and had a particular style in mind. So, we're looking for the perfect shoes when I saw them. MY perfect shoes. They were sparkly and fun and would be perfect for me to wear to work at my job at Kids Club. When they caught the light, these shoes were positively stunning. 

I brought these shoes home, with thoughts of my wee bitties  showing me their light up shoes, while I showed off my sparkly Vans. I was just waiting for the perfect time to wear them.  That time was this past Monday night. 

Now, many of you know that Community Bible Church is having their annual Vacation Bible School this week. I'm volunteering and am on my feet all week. Monday morning, I threw on my sandals and away I went. As the day went on, tiredness set in, and I really wasn't feeling the whole working that night at Kids Club  experience. I wanted nothing more than to get rid of any shoes and just relax. Read a book or finally beat that candy crush level once and for all. 
The shoes twinkled at me as I was getting ready for work, almost as if they were saying, "hey, what about us?" So I put on the shoes, gathered up my enthusiasm and headed to work. 

Now, over the past couple of weeks,  we at Kids Club have been learning about the armor of God. I had no idea which part of the armor we'd be learning about. I went into my room, looked at my curriculum and just had to laugh. The  lesson was about "good news shoes". The Bible lesson was about Philip and the Ethiopian gentleman with the scrolls, heading to Gaza. As I taught the kids, using my sparkly kicks as an object illustration, I felt God working in my heart. I was Philip, wearing my "good news shoes" spreading the the gospel to my wee bitties. 

Suddenly, I didn't feel so tired anymore. I was right where I was supposed to be. And every time I wear my sparkly "good news shoes" to Kids Club, I'll have a tangible reminder of that. I love how God used this lesson to teach ME a thing or two! 

Ephesians 6:13-17  (NIV)
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.