“Meant to Be” is a moving tribute to my biological mother who chose Life even though I had been conceived in rape. Because of her strength and courage, I was adopted and able to grow up in an amazing loving home (with 12 brothers and sisters). I just hope, that one day, my biological mother will be able to hear these words that speak to the unspeakable pain she endured yet to the possibilities that were made possible by giving me Life.
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Thank you to everyone who submitted such touching entries. It’s never easy to whittle things down to the winning submissions, but today is the day. Our panel of judges has selected the Grand Prize Winner and the Runner Up. Personally, we are moved by the stories of selflessness, the stories of sacrifice, and strength. Please read the actual entries below and discover why these individuals are the winners of our first “Win $500 On Purpose” Contest!
MEET ALYSIA CRAWFORD (GA)
GRANDPRIZE WINNER ($250 Visa® Gift Card for nominee and nominator)
As submitted by Jen Self (GA)
Most people I know live their lives with a purpose of some kind. Some of these intentions are superficial or self-serving, others quite noble and well-intentioned, but no one stands out more as living LIFE with a truly inspirational calling and passion than my friend, Alysia Crawford. It’s one thing to see needs, feel compassion, maybe donate a little money or time, but Alysia and her family have taken it to another level by getting into the trenches and rearranging their lives to meet those needs and bring hope to the helpless. While I could go on for pages about the ways she has shined light into people’s lives over the years, I want to focus on what she has dedicated her life to during the last several years.
Alysia excels at being a mother. After her daughter Ana was born, she was anxious to continue with God’s calling to motherhood and expand her family. Suffering many miscarriages after the birth of her daughter could have led her to feel hopeless. But Alysia and her husband went on to seek adoption of a child who needed a home and a family. Not just a particular child who would fit most aesthetically into their family, but they were open to any mother who was giving their child up for adoption and chose them to be the parents. They adopted boy of a different race, knowing little about his background, to be a part of their family and have loved them completely as their own.
Shortly after that adoption, the Crawfords continued to follow God’s leading and started to become more involved in their ministry to refugees by moving their family to Clarkston, Ga. Yes. They sold their comfortable home in the suburbs and purchased a small home near to a refugee community where they could be available to some of those who are most physically, financially and emotionally needy. Many of these families have been torn apart due to the violent, oppressive and unsettled situations they leave behind in their home countries. They are complete strangers to our country and culture, knowing no one, not able to communicate with anyone, and having very little resources to meet their basic needs.
So Alysia and her family began by forging friendships with these families and offering to help them meet their basic needs and become more independent. Taking them to paperwork or medical appointments, collecting clothing for them, and helping they find employment, are just the beginning. As they have built relationships with these families and individuals, Alysia has become a beacon of hope to the women in the community. Understanding that the greatest needs of these women included both communication and care for their children; she began English classes with the ladies. She even organized volunteers to provide childcare so the women with young children could learn. She also provides participation incentives such as diapers and other basic supplies to help meet their needs. These classes have breathed life into this community and serve at a gateway for these women from helplessness to hopefulness.
After learning this you may wonder what is her motivation? Why is she called so strongly to this purpose. It centers on the value of each and every LIFE and her desire to bring an end to the ills of poverty, disease, and poor race relations. To quote Alysia, her ultimate end is to “bring glory to the work of the Cross in people’s lives and the amazing restorative and redemptive power of God’s work and the Gospel.” And I believe she is doing that each day, one day at a time, one life at a time, one act of love at a time.
MEET MICHELE STRUSS (NJ)
RUNNER-UP ($150 Visa® Gift Card for nominee and nominator)
As submitted by Mary Carpenter (NJ)
Every so often you come across an individual whose life is so extraordinary you cannot help but want to share it with others. My first impression of her was through her artwork. A truly phenomenal watercolor painter, she has the ability to paint ordinary objects and people in a way that captures not only their form but their very spirit. A master at her craft, it is hard to imagine that someone with so much talent has lived a life with so many obstacles.
Michele Struss was born with a form of dwarfism. This condition has caused her to suffer through a lifetime of surgeries and extended hospital stays over the years. Despite the negative reports, Michele’s life has fully been rooted in her faith and trust in God. When the doctors said she would never walk, she believed that God had other plans for her. She now stands today as a miracle of his grace; and does so without the use of crutches! Her stature may be small, but there is nothing small about this young woman. Michele has chosen to live her life on purpose knowing that she serves a God who works all things together for the good of those who love them and are called according to His purpose. Her artwork is simply a reflection of God’s heart to ours, and she has committed her life to using her talent for the glory of her Creator.
In addition to her artwork, Michele uses her story to inspire others every day by sharing her story with others. She does not see herself with limitations because she walks with a God who sees no limits. Her faith in her Creator has allowed her to push past her disabilities to achieve and to be what man has said is impossible. The result is a life completely surrendered to God. Although he has allowed her to hold the paintbrush, she has allowed Him to be the artist; and the result is a beautiful masterpiece.
I nominate Michele Struss as one who lives life on purpose. I cannot think of someone else neither more humble nor more deserving than her.
Her amazing story website featuring her story and her watercolor portraits can be found at her website: www.hispaintbrush.com.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month and we are excited to share about the beauty of adoption. Over 120,000 children are available for adoption in the US, and there are many resources (financial, informational, and emotional) available for prospective adoptive parents and families. The “Thanks4Giving Me Life” campaign is a rather apolitical presentation for churches to stir people to think about adoption in a different light. Using my family’s experience (a family of 15 with 10 who were adopted), I focus on the potential that is released, not only in the children who are adopted, but in the families who embrace a child looking for a loving home. The presentation ends with the moving original song, “Meant to Be”, written to thank my biological mother for going through a traumatic pregnancy yet still choosing life.
Contact us today at 1.877.51.SHINE (74463) and encourage your church to schedule a brief 10-15 minute presentation.
Ryan is the Chief Creative Office of The Radiance Foundation, based in Atlanta, GA. He is an Emmy-award winning Creative Director who loves life with his wife Bethany (co-founder) and 3 amazing children. firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a contest that has a dual reward! It’s simple. You nominate someone you know who inspires others around you. Just write a 500-1000 word ‘essay’ or submit a video (up to 3 minutes on our YOUTUBE channel at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6MmyR0Ajr4) that explains why the nominee should win. And get this, the winning submission earns YOU a cool $250 Visa® Gift Card and the person you’re nominating wins $250 Visa® Gift Card, too! How sweet is that?
Contest begins 10/01/09 and ends 10/31/09.
Find out more at www.theradiancefoundation.org and enter to win!
Introducing my heart in ink form…Sweet Radiance. As an educator (for over 10 years) and one who loves children’s literature I wanted to write a book series that inspired young children to love themselves and love others. Sweet Radiance’s fun adventures will entertain and encourage you and your child. There’s nothing quite like it on the market especially because of the spiritual, cultural, biracial, and educational approach taken. Written in poetic rhyme and adorably illustrated by B. Robert Bell, the Sweet Radiance Series will encourage all children to embrace the truths that they are special, valued, and have the potential to impact the world.