Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Year in Review

Today all of the Christmas decorations went back into the attic, and the tree is naked in the backyard. Evidence that this is the end of the year. You would think that the calendar would be enough evidence, but, for me, the end of the year is usually marked by putting away all the Christmas stuff. It made me think through the past year, and I realized that a lot has taken place in these 12 months. Here's a recap.

1. We moved. Not far, but the moving did happen. And our new house is fantastic, even if we did give up our beautiful lake view to get it.

2. Lily turned into a little person. It has been so much fun (and exhausting) to watch that toddler grow into a chatterbox of a little girl.

3. Compassion happened. I'm not really sure how else to put that. We added a little Guatemalan princess to our family in April, and things just steamrolled from there. I'm so glad we were obedient in that rather small thing that led to three more children in our family and a little advocacy with the organization, too. I wouldn't give up my four far away children for anything.

4. As preschool ended for Kayla, we opted to homeschool for Kindergarten. We haven't regretted it at all. It has been amazing to watch her eyes light up when she realizes that she's learned something new, and I can't imagine letting a stranger have those moments.

5. In July, we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. Date nights have happened more regularly and communication has flowed better than ever. This year of marriage may be the best yet. Not sure what that itch is all about.

6. We lost Sonny's grandfather this year, and that was the hardest thing of the year. It was hard all on its own, knowing that no one is going to see this amazing man on this side of Heaven, but it also led me to grieve again for the grandparents we have already lost.

7. There was an amazing and relaxing vacation in September where we went to St. Augustine and watched tortoises everyday and I even got to feed a dolphin with my Kayla Roo.

8. After all of these years, I also finally read through the Bible. As a word of warning, reading all of the Word will lead to things like point 3. There were a few months when I completely fell of the wagon, but I did manage to finish.


I'm generally opposed to New Years resolutions. They tend to be a setup for failure for me. I do have a few aspirations and things that I feel like God is working on with me. I feel like 2012 will be a year for me to love more. There's to be less complaining, judgement, and criticism and this needs to start right here in my house and work its way outward. There will be more and deeper Bible reading with more fasting times, too that I am convinced will help with the loving part. I think I want to take a day at the beginning of each month to evaluate how things are going instead of just letting myself get into "survival mode" where I just try to make it through. During these times, I plan to ask myself what I'm doing to love more.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Celebration Envy

I have a confession to make. I'm a little bit of a Christmas junkie. All of it. Well, most of it. I'm not into the whole "no presents if you're naughty" threat, and we've tried to make Santa seem a little less like a deity. But other than that, I eat, sleep, and breathe Christmas starting sometime in November and ending whenever Sonny decides that the tree must come down, usually around New Year's Day. I love buying presents, decorating the tree, setting up nativities, listening to nothing but Christmas music (as long as I get to pick the songs), stuffing stockings, baking Christmas goodies, finding Christmas lights, watching Christmas movies, and advent calendars. The whole nine yards. Therefore, it shouldn't surprise you that regular schooling, whatever that is, has been interrupted around our house. We've talked about different aspects of Christmas since the first week in December, and we will continue through next week.

This week we've been talking about Christmas around the world.We started with countries that would be significant to Kayla, Guatemala, the Philippines, and Ethiopia. Kayla's favorite thing about Christmas in Guatemala was that, while some children do receive presents under the tree, others find gifts under their pillow. I mean, she liked it to the point that we will be doing it this year! My favorite part was that in the more country regions, families take Mary and Joseph figures to different houses starting around December 16 and ending on Christmas Eve, when they usually have a big celebration and add baby Jesus to their creche. So cool. Here are some other things that we found.

- the Philippines - There's church at midnight on Christmas Eve and a big feast after where the grandparents, Lolo and Lola give gifts to the children, instead of Santa.

- Several countries we've talked about set off fireworks, including China.

- In the Congo, children make Christmas gifts for Jesus. Then during the offering time at their Christmas church service, they march around a table and lay their gifts there. That was my favorite thing this week.

- In Saudi Arabia, where Christianity is not celebrated in public, Christians celebrate with their families. On Christmas Eve, one child will read the Christmas story from the Bible while everyone else holds lighted candles.

- In Ethiopia, Christmas (or Ghenna)  is a huge play day. The women all gather and cook big breads where they also have time to laugh and talk while the young men play games. My favorite part is the high regard they give to the wise men, since it is believed that one of them was Balthasar from Ethiopia.

And we still have other countries to read about over the weekend. Kayla and I have loved it. However, it has given me a good bit of envy. Most of these countries celebrate Christmas in ways that seem much more . . . celebratory, for lack of a better word. It doesn't seem to be all rush and wishlists. Don't misunderstand me, I'm a fan of the wishlist. But it seems like some of these countries are celebrating the birth of Jesus in ways that make a lot more sense than the ways I celebrate the exact same thing. I really didn't bargain for learning this much during my second round of Kindergarten.

Monday, December 05, 2011

But even if He doesn't . . .

I've finally gotten to the book of Daniel in my Bible in a year plan. One that I'm quite far behind on, by the way. Months behind schedule. I'm always struck by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's statement to the king when he's threatening them with the fiery furnace.“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18) I thought about that and wondered how many times I've prayed that way. I don't think it's been often. I'm pretty sure any prayers that even resemble their statement could be easily counted on one hand.

Then there was a scheduled well child check at the doctor's office and a scheduling of the test that little kid nightmares are made of. Adult nightmares, too when you've been in that radiology room before and had a horrible experience. Well, today was the test. I felt prayed up and prayed over. And truly loved on, even when I didn't know that I needed or wanted it. And I really did believe that the medical issue that necessitated the test would have resolved itself in my delicate little five-year-old girl's abdomen. Still, I kept thinking, "But even if you don't, you're still God." The problem is still there, and God is still over all. He's over misshaped ureters and little girl fears. He's over Mama and Daddy anxieties and radiologists and wonderful nurses who remember Webkinz's names.

And even in undesirable results, he still showed off. Forgive the red-eye.
You see that panda? That's all she cares about tonight. Not catheters or strangers holding her down or giant x-ray machines that cover her from chin to shins. What you need to understand is that pandas are her favorite animal. Over every other animal ever. And that's what this sweet hospital social worker handed to my baby today. And God showed off for my girl. And he told a disappointed mama that even if the medical concern still exists, he's still God and he still loves me. And he sees my girl and she's important to Him, too. And I haven't even gotten started on how he's showing off with the sweet ladies that he's put into our lives that went with us today. There's not even time to even get started on that tonight

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Seeking

Last night, there was an urgent search for a missing, no more than 5-inch, stuffed orange cat. Nothing else would satisfy. We all search the usual hiding places for "cuddlies", pet hammock, toy box, under dresser and beds and without luck. Much loved toys were tossed aside to look for this little kitten that had obviously been neglected long enough to go completely missing. Finally, we insisted that it was bedtime and promised to resume the search this morning.

Well if you know this little five-year-old at all, you will not be surprised that she had me out looking in a rather cold car at 7:00 this morning. And on the porch. And through a bag of confiscated toys after a failed room cleaning. Again, we had no luck. Now she is ordering that the search party be expanded to Meme's house.

I am irritated by this, but I'm also envious of her persistence. I don't know that I am this determined to make ANYTHING happen. At all. I give up far too easily. If something seems difficult, I often decide to just let it go. Actually, I don't actively decide at all. I just decide to wait until it seems a little easier, and, because life never gets any easier, I just never follow through. This is sometimes harmless enough. I can't get my ipod to sync right, so I just don't try for a while until I idly mention it to my handy IT guy/loving husband, and it's working in less than five minutes. Good nutrition is difficult when it is only a priority to you, so I decide to just eat what everyone else eats for a while. And weeks stretch into months and weight comes back. I don't feel like people respond to things that are on my heart, so I just slowly start backing off, just until I find a better way. I wonder if the better way will come. I send an email to a local organization asking for volunteer opportunities and get no reply. And I never take another step to follow through. I find praying difficult and God a little more distant, so I take another step back. Just to wait. To stop seeking. I call it a break, but if I'm honest, it more closely resembles giving up.

This week, I plan on taking a few of these things and borrowing a page from my little girl's handbook. I'm going let go of some of the passiveness that is such an ingrained part of my personality that I may have to fight against it for the rest of my life. I will seek and search for the answers I need.

And no, we still haven't found that dumb cat. But the day is just beginning, and there are plenty of places to search still.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gratitude . . . and ending and a beginning

This is my last weekly gratitude post. I have really enjoyed the accountability of thinking through even the hard days and finding something in them to be grateful for. Last week, I read these words by Ann Voskamp - "That which I refuse to thank Christ for, I refuse to believe Christ can redeem." I hope and I pray that I remember those words in the hard days. If He really is in the business of making "all things new", I have to remember and believe this. All of this sounds like this week was terrible. Really, it wasn't. There were hard days and really good days. Here is the reader's digest version.

20th - Sunday was a really good and really busy day. There was an amazing message about the dangers of refusing to be grateful (only a few days after reading Ann's brilliant blog post mentioned above). The 1st-5th graders have already raised enough money for one Water of Life filter. We had a good fellowship time with our small group and a good turnout for the college ministry. And I got to watch my kids and their excitement over Anma time when my mom came over to keep them for me to go to campus church.

21st - I enjoy Christmas shopping far too much. What I enjoy even more than the shopping is the deciding what to buy. What is even more fun than that is an email telling you that the perfect gift for your husband just landed you $10 to spend whatever way you want when you've been eyeing a toy for the youngest that you just couldn't justify this pay period. I also love being asked to do things. I think it's because I generally lack initiative and insight, but I really do want to help. I got to do a little of that on Monday, too.

22nd - This website brought me far too much joy for one afternoon. Fair trade shopping and some profits go to a few different hunger-fighting charities. There's some fantastic stuff on there, too. There was also shopping in our brand new huge Kroger and cousins playing until after bedtime. I remember the day being harder than this, but now I can't even remember what was difficult about it.

23rd - This was my Yeimi's birthday. My little Guatemalan princess turned 6.

We celebrated with brownies, candles, and the birthday song and documented the whole thing with pictures to send to her. In the words of Lily, "That's Yeimi. I want to hug her." I also made four loves of pumpkin bread deliciousness that made the house smell wonderful.

24th - Thanksgiving. Don't underestimate a simple recipe. I made cinnamon pie again, and it was still wonderful. Cinnamon is, without a doubt, my favorite scent and flavor so this was a big satisfying moment for me. The day alternated between awkward and fun, sometimes in the same moment. But the day was good. Long, but good. The girls couldn't have behaved better, the food was good, and there was some great company.

25th - We decked these halls yesterday. Stockings were hung by the chimney with care. This is the first year we've had a mantle and it had top priority. The kids were so excited, and I am already hearing the batteries wearing down in all the snowglobes and singing Christmas critters.When I was checking my email, I also found a free download from Shaun Groves from the Compassion Advocate Network. I am so thankful for his clear focus. You should watch this and then buy his latest album, Third World Symphony.

26th - The day is still early, but I am so thankful for eight, count them, eight full and straight hours of sleep. The girls have been waking up at, literally, all hours of the night, and it has been hard. Last night, neither one of them called my name from 8:30 to 8:20. It was WONDERFUL. And I've already enjoyed a rare Starbucks Peppermint Mocha, thanks to some leftover gift card money. The girls are enjoying Christmas suckers at the table beside me and all is well. For the moment.

This does mark the end of my weekly gratitude posts, but I hope that it is only the beginning of a life-long habit. Counting your blessings sounds trite, but it honestly works. I hope to keep it up, and even write them down in a notebook. I've tried it before, but I'm hoping that I will stick with it this time.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Choosing To Be Thankful

I have to admit that I completely let people and circumstances rob me of my gratitude for the first part of this week. A good bit of it is a blur. And what I can remember, I don't like. School was hard. Parenting was hard. And dealing with people outside of my household seemed even harder. I will say that this little experiment in remembering at least one thing from each day that I am grateful for and being accountable to it here helped me snap out of that by Wednesday. So I will just start there.

16th - We stuffed our Operation Christmas Child shoebox and talked about what we like and what we're thankful that we have. It was a neat little conversation and helped reinforce the idea that being "good or bad" isn't the only thing that can affect what you get for Christmas. We filled out the little sheet that was provided by the children's church program, and this is what my girl wrote. If you can't read it, where it says "I Love Jesus because" she said "he never leaves me alone". I love when I get little glimpses that she's really getting what it's all about.
I also got to spend an hour will a beautiful baby boy, and since we only had two, I could just dote on him. And I did. I'm also really really really thankful for how much my family cares about me on all sides. Some of that really came out this week in very hard ways.

17th - I got four hours off from being a mama. Well, not really, but they weren't with me. I did use a little of the time to Christmas shop for them and buy their food, but I also got to have a lunch date with a rather hot IT man BY MYSELF. And I sat for over an hour and read. In absolute silence. Saying silence is golden is really devaluing the silence, people. It's platinum or titanium and is inlaid with diamonds of the best clarity. Whatever that means. It was glorious. And my girls had the best day, too. In fact, Kayla is certain that her day was better than mine. I say that's some day.

18th - Four words. Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake. Add friends and stir. We had a fun morning. Before leaving for Chic-fil-a, I also got an email confirming that I can have a package taken to my LJ in the Philippines for her birthday in January. I am so thankful for that, and I'm still getting my small, easily shipped package together. Then there was an impromptu family night with the McKenzie crew where there was taco soup. So many things to be thankful for in that sentence.

19th - Today I went to Atlanta to serve at a Compassion table during the National Youth Workers Convention. I was disappointed that there were no sponsorships during my shift. However, I did get to talk to a couple of gentlemen who work with Compassion, and it was a good to just hang out with people who share a passion. I did have several conversations with potential sponsors. I hope those let to sponsorships during their presentation tonight. This was also my first midtown Atlanta experience totally on my own. I am very thankful that I didn't get lost and everything flowed smoothly. I'm also thankful for some unexpected savings on Christmas gifts that I found on my way home.

The last half of the week definitely made up for the first half, at least in part. I can't control everything, but I can control my reactions to life, and I have to work on finding joy in all circumstances. That is not negotiable.

Friday, November 18, 2011

New Compassion Packets

I've got some new packets for children available for sponsorship through Compassion International. Please let me know if you feel led to bring hope to one of these beautiful ones. We have the ability to actually rescue a family from poverty and form a relationship based on the love of Christ with a child who might otherwise never hear of that love. Without further ado, here they are.

 Jose Carlos Blanco Munguia
Jose is from Nicaragua. His birthday is April 23, 1998. Jose lives with his uncle and his mother. His household duties include caring for animals, washing clothes, and making beds. Jose is an above average high school student. He enjoys soccer, singing, and playing with marbles.

 Muskan Yadav
Muskan is from India, and her birthday is October 5, 2005. This beautiful girl lives with her father and mother. Her household duties include making beds. She is an average student in primary school, and she enjoys playing house, playing with dolls, and walking.

Roger Kokou Akpamou
Roger is from Togo. His birthday is June 1, 2007. Roger lives with his father and mother. Roger helps at home by running errands, cleaning, and helping out in the kitchen. He is not in school yet, but she does attend church activities and Bible class. Roger enjoys playing group games.

Please let me know if either of these "least of these" is tugging on your heart. Believe me, you won't regret it for a minute. Please ask if you have any questions or just want additional information

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thankfulness in Pictures

I'm a visual person. Seeing and reading helps me remember. This week, I decided to document my gratitude in pictures.

6th - Getting to share and demonstrate Compassion's Water of Life water filter for kids' church.

7th - An unexpected and fun gift from my husband. Love it.

 8th - Reading with my Kayla girl. She's learning so much so fast.

9th - A fun trip to McDonald's after a really, really trying morning.

10th - An even more fun trip to Atlanta with my friend, Kristen to serve at a Compassion table where around 55 children were sponsored. My second favorite part of the trip is in this picture. The trees in Centennial Olympic Park were absolutely gorgeous.

 11th - There is progress being made in our garage. Finally, we are starting to see the floor again. It doesn't seem like a huge deal, but this whole thing has had me feeling very overwhelmed for a few weeks now. Also, the stuff that was in this spot went to an old friend. I enjoyed my morning visit with her and her baby girl.



12th - I really do love this quote, but that's not what I'm most thankful for about this picture. I love that I have had this truth revealed to me. I also love that I was able to read it this morning BY MYSELF at Starbucks while taking a Mama break.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Gratitude

Thanksgiving. Turkey. Native Americans. Pilgrims. Sweet Potatoes with little marshmallows on top. Dressing. Thanks giving. Not my favorite holiday, I'll admit it. However, I started earlier in the year jotting down things I was thankful for, then tapered off. As is my way. I plan on using November to start forming the habit again. Maybe if I do it for the whole month, I'll keep it up. There are so many things to be thankful for, but I will stick to one a day probably.

1st - Tuesday I got a letter from my Rugwiro in Rwanda. He's being baptized. I am grateful that Rugwiro knows Jesus.

2nd - Wednesday I was very thankful for sweet beautiful babies that I got to hold and squeeze for an hour . . . and then return them to their parents.

3rd - Thursday was great all the way around, with a lot of Compassion goings-on. But my favorite part of Thursday was the freedom to just call of school for the rest of the week because we just needed a break. We're calling it Fall Break.

4th - Friday, I did not get fully dressed ALL DAY. I didn't go farther than the mailbox, don't worry. It was a fun pajama day with Aristocats, popcorn, and sorting through out-grown clothes.

5th - Today I'm going with two good friends to a concert. I'm happy about the concert, but I'm really excited about friend time. Grown up girl conversations!

This week has been trying. There's been defiance, rejection, and tears. And that's just me. The girls went through all of that and more. Daily. Some days hourly. But there have been plenty of blessings to count, too.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Different Grownup Christmas List

This week we started talking about what to Christmas lists. We start early around here, because I don't like to be caught in the mad rush of last minute shopping. I love Christmas. No, I mean I really LOVE Christmas. This year from July until now, I have tried to do something Christmasy and fun on the 25th day of the month. It has really helped with my craving the holiday season. I don't know if it's the music, the decorations, the hope, or the present shopping, but I become a giddy little girl for a month, and then I wish for it to hurry up and roll back around to November again.

This year, my girls have already started thinking about Lalaloopsy's and video games. I have started making little requests for Sonny and have kept a few things in mind for myself for the past several months when I saw something that I "needed" but couldn't justify on our current budget. So when I got a little catalog from Compassion with this cute little chick on the cover, it challenged me to think a little farther beyond myself. I don't know about you, but I've never thought about giving someone pigs for Christmas. Or chickens. Or vaccinations. Or, the ultimate things we take for granted here in America, Water. But you can do just that. Do you have some people who are really hard to buy for because they have everything they need? Maybe you could look through this catalog and find something that would be meaningful to them. Compassion will send the gift to a family in need, and they will send a gift card to you to write a note for your gift recipient. I know that I would like to get my kids involved in this giving opportunity, but I'm not sure how I will approach it yet. I have a friend who asks their kids to eliminate one thing from their Christmas lists. They pool all of that money together and pick out what they would like to donate as family.

There are plenty of ways you can help that go beyond this year's Top 10 Toys. And they aren't as pricy as you might think.

Five dollars can provide a child or caregiver a Bible in their own language.

Twenty dollars can provide infant formula for one month. Not all infants have the options of breast milk. "Due to their own health conditions and diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, many new mothers are unable or are advised not to breastfeed their newborns. Sadly, other mothers trapped in poverty do not survive in childbirth and leave behind an orphaned infant."

 Ten dollars can provide garden seeds. " A vegetable garden provides food for the family, and abundance can be sold for income. Your gift will help give a family all they need to start their own kitchen garden: vegetable seeds and fertilizer, along with training and any necessary equipment."

 Forty-five dollars can purchase a goat. "Goats can be bred to provide a source of milk, meat and household income. Your gift will help families generate income by providing training and other resources to help them successfully raise and care for their animals."


Sixteen dollars can purchase a chicken. "A chicken is much more than a meal for a family living in poverty — one chicken can provide a source of income, manure for the vegetable garden, and a steady supply of eggs."

 Fifty-five dollars can provide safe water for a family for life.

Thirty dollars can provide regular and routine medical care. "Your gift will help provide medical checkups, surgeries, and other special treatments as needed so that children can grow into mature, healthy, young adults."


These are just a few of the gift giving opportunities you will find in the Gifts of Compassion Catalog. Please click on http://www.compassion.com/catalog.htm and see how a little of our Christmas money can make a huge difference all the way to "the ends of the earth".

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mighty Is the Power of the Cross

I had my iTunes running from the computer, just playing though songs. I was thinking through dinner plans, rolling a Compassion blog around in my head, and thinking about how to remedy the fact that I'm just not dealing well with my children today. And all of a sudden this broke through those thoughts and I actually heard what I was "listening" to.

What can take a dying man and raise him up to life again?
What can heal a wounded soul?
What can make us white as snow?
What can fill the emptiness?
What can mend our brokenness?
Brokenness

Mighty, awesome, wonderful
Is the holy cross
Where the Lamb laid down His life
To lift us from the fall
Mighty is the power of the cross

What restores our faith in God?
What reveals the Father's love?
What can lead the wayward home?
What can melt a heart of stone?
What can free the guilty ones
What can save and overcome?
Overcome

Mighty, awesome, wonderful
Is the holy cross
Where the Lamb laid down His life
To lift us from the fall
Mighty is the power of the cross

What if, for just one day or one week, I just really believed that? Just the cross, not the other stuff we feel like we have to add in. That it really is THE only answer. And a real answer, not a band-aid. The restoring, overcoming, awesome, wonderful, mighty, holy cross.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Monday Mail Call


It's been a few weeks since we've gotten any letters from our Compassion children, but today we received a letter from Lordylien, who likes to be called LJ.
LJ writes that she performed in her school and in a local shopping mall. I'm assuming she was dancing, because I know she is on the school dance team. She says that she is happy at the student center because she has two new friends. At the center they are learning "to become helpful, respectful, and many more." She writes that her family is happy and that they never fight. She also says that the rain is heavy there. This letter was written in August when a typhoon came through the Philippines. The last thing that she writes is, "My prayer request, I hope that I will get you more that's all." I have no idea what this means, and none of the online translation tools make any more sense than this translation. I know that there are several other Filipino languages and dialects that are slightly different than the official language, so I am wondering if that is why I can't make any sense out of it online. The translator there probably had a better idea of what she intended to say, but I still don't know what it means. My favorite part was the little picture she drew at the top. She's never used that space in her other letters.

Last Week's Happies

I decided that instead of just focusing on the school week for the past week that I would just jot down what well overall.

1. LEAVES ARE EVERYWHERE AND EVERY COLOR. This excites me so much.
2. No air conditioning used and heat only used once.
3. One (possibly 2) Compassion kids sponsored this last week.
4. Little girl puppet shows.
5. Homemade halloween costumes. Hey, it's what you do when your child only wants to be Marie from Aristocats.
6. We talked about pumpkins all week last week and had so much fun.
7. Partly because of the pumpkin stuff and partly because it is delicious, there will be pumpkin bread for dinner tonight.
8. The kids had a Meme sleepover with awesome friends last Friday. They had a fantastic time, and we did, too. It was a much needed break that ended in sleeping until 8:00!
9. Halloween is almost over. Just not my favorite day of the year.
10. I just got a letter (her fourth) from my Lordylien. I might even share more about that later.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Safe Water = Life

Did you know that the water that is used to water your lawn is, more than likely, drinkable? How many faucets are in your house? My house has seven. Four are in the same room! And I do enjoy that master bath, probably more than I should. But while I'm enjoying it, 4,000 children are daily dying of water-related illnesses. And that isn't just something I say to cause a twinge of guilt, in me or you. Guilt is useless. I say it to tell you that you can change this. There are fixes for this problem. The issue is that the fixes require money, the affected have none, and we are comfortable. And the thing is, this particular "fix" doesn't even require you to be uncomfortable. It only takes $55 for Compassion International to place a water filtration system, like the one in this picture, in the home of a sponsored child. This big bucket can filter 1,000,000 gallons of water, which is plenty for the family and their neighbors for LIFE. A lifetime of safe drinking water for $55. Fifty-five dollars can insure that at least one family will no long be exposed to Cholera, Typhoid, E. Coli, Amoebic Dysentery, and many other bacterial contaminants that are potentially deadly, especially to young children.

I'm committing to get as many of these donated as possible in the next year. My goal is 58 donations, and I have no idea how that will even happen. I know that our budget is ever-tight, and yours probably is, too. I also know that children are important and there is money to be found if I'm committed to finding it. You can click here to help.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I love Fall

I don't know if it's the dropping temperatures after scorching Georgia summer days (and nights, who am I kidding?) or if it is the food, from pumpkin spiced everything to Thanksgiving feasts, or the colors of the ever-changing leaves that I adore most, but I just love it. ALL of it. And this year has been one of the best yet, especially watching it through blue little girl eyes. Here is Kayla looking for her perfect pumpkin. She found it by the way, and it was HUGE. Lily found hers, too. It wasn't quite as big.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Be a Blessing . . .

Before you read anything else, and if you don't have time to read anything else, go here

One of the neat things I get to do with this whole Compassion advocacy thing is request pictures and packets of unsponsored children. I get to look at their cute faces and know a little bit of their history. At the bottom of some of their pictures are the words "Be a blessing in my life." That's what I'm asking you to consider today. Look at these faces, and really pray about what you could do to be a blessing in the life of a child living in poverty. And before you wonder how close you are to living in poverty, understand that this is not what most Americans consider as poverty. We call poverty living below the poverty line, and I won't belittle that amount. All poverty is hard. But this poverty is not the same. This poverty is living on less than the equivalent of one dollar a day. So don't dismiss these faces automatically. Please, really seek and pray about whether God wants you to be a blessing in one of these lives.


Armin is from Indonesia. He is 8 years old and lives with his uncle and aunt. His household duties include carrying water and running errands. Armin's uncle is sometimes employed as a teacher and his aunt maintains the home. Arminto enjoys soccer and playing with marbles. He is an average student and attends primary school.


Claire is from Togo. She will be 8 years old on New Year's Eve. She lives with her stepfather and stepmother. Gathering firewood, helping in the kitchen, and cleaning are her household duties. Her stepfather is sometimes employed as a farmer. Claire enjoys singing and playing group games. Her primary school performance is average. There are eight children in Claire's family.


Rony is from Honduras. He is 13 years old and lives with his father and mother. Rony is responsible for carrying water, gather firewood, and cleaning. His father is employed as a farmer. There are four children in the family. Rony enjoys playing a musical instrument, playing ball games, and bicycling. His primary school performance in average.


Matthew 25 says, "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" If you can find a better embodiment of "the least of these", do for them. If not, please consider these little ones.

Monday, October 10, 2011

School Is More Fun with Typing Cows

Well, I think that our unit on Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type was the funniest yet. Both of the girls really got into it. We got to paint with water colors and write our own note to Farmer Brown. It was very memorable. We also used the idea of notewriting and made a birthday card for our sponsored child, Yeimi. That was another good way we could involve Lily. The whole thing went really well and was well received. It was a lot more laid back, and some of the activities were very basic. I'm not sure Kayla learned a ton from it, other than that grown ups can write really silly stories about cows and that electric blankets are warm and cozy.

We finished up our Math unit on fractions and measurement this week. There were no difficulties there at all, other than the motor skill task of lining up items at the end of a ruler. The only thing we have left in this book is addition and subtraction, so we are taking this next week to review. The one complaint I have about the Modern Curriculum Press workbook is that material is not often revisited after a chapter is done. My plan for next week is to determine where we need to focus more attention. We will review time, money, patterns, number words, ordinals, and place value. Then I will add these activities in during our addition and subtraction work.

Reading lessons are also going well. The biggest change I see is that Kayla has started picking up more books and reading them on her own. She will come and ask for help if there's a word that she cannot sound out, but she wants to read to herself. She also still wants to be read to, especially if there is much more than one sentence per page. She has also started reading some books to Lily, and that is really cute.

Friday, October 07, 2011

"Spend yourselves", "satisfy the needs" "and I'll say, 'Here I am'"

A few weeks ago, I got a little card in the mail from Compassion. I've gotten a few things from them since we began sponsoring Yeimi in April, and I've received a few additional items since becoming an advocate a few months ago. But this was just a little foldout card that said "Isaiah Challenge" and encouraged advocates to choose one of three Compassion ministries to strongly focus on over the next year. I knew that there was an upcoming Compassion-involved film coming out called 58:, and it is based on Isaiah 58. I figured (correctly) that the two were related and didn't really even think much before checking the Water of Life box and dropping it back in the mailbox. Water of Life had been on my heart all summer, and I had requested a demo filter system the week before.

Today, I received more information about Water of Life focus of The Isaiah Challenge. They weren't kidding about praying for God to give you a big goal. Their suggested goals seem huge to me. I'm talking HUGE, as in more people than I speak to in an average month. Okay, if you know me well, that's probably not a very impressive number, but for me it's pretty much beyond belief. But I do still need to pray about my goal. I would like to have something concrete that I am striving for, even if I hope to exceed it. Well, after all that, I decided that I should definitely start reading Isaiah 58. I probably should have done this first, but I didn't. Here is some of what I found, first in the NIV and then in The Message.

Isaiah 58:9b-11 NIV “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail."

Isaiah 58:6-12 The Message
6-9"This is the kind of fast day I'm after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'
A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places
9-12"If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past."

Those are some pretty strong "if, then" statements. I do not "spend myself" and I still seek my own satisfaction most of the time. I guess it only follows that I am seeing empty places and dry springs in my life. I don't know about you, but I think I'm going to try to take God up on a few of those, and I have a long way to go. Over the next few days, I will post more about Water of Life, what I want to do, and what you can do. But for now, if you are willing, please pray about what God wants you to do with this challenge and His promises if we obey.

Monday, October 03, 2011

My Mailbox Dance Today



Today we received two Compassion letters, both from correspondence children. One was from Lordylien in the Philippines, and the other was from Nigusse in Ethiopia.


Lordylien (age 11) writes in her 3rd letter:
How are you? I hope your in good condition. I am now in Grade VI. I have a  new friend  named Erika and Uruna. My favorite subject is Math. I learned new things in the CCFC Lifestream Student Center to be a good child and to read the Bible. Thank you so much for the uniform and the school supplies you gave me. Me and family are always happy. We are together & no fighting or whatever. We eat together, and pray as a family. I have a question. How old are you?My prayer request is that we could see each other soon. Thank you so much. God bless you!

Love, 
Lordylien

I'm assuming that her financial sponsor sent a gift that purchased the school supplies and uniforms. However, I don't know for sure because I was told that she had not received a birthday gift "in years". Either way, I'm glad she has the things she needs and that she seems to be the happy girl she appears to be in her photograph. As for the prayer request, I didn't expect that one so soon, but maybe I should be praying for that opportunity. Her student center was one of the ones visited during the recent Compassion bloggers visit, so I'm sure she's now well acquainted with the idea of a sponsor visit.


Nigusse (age 13) writes in his second letter:
How are you doing? I am very fine, praise be to God. God bless you. I lost my father and mother. I feel bad about this case. We celebrated our new year holiday nicely. We called our new year holiday "Enkutatash". Pray about my education to be active student. I pray about you. God bless you.

Also enclosed was his report card, which indicates that his will be repeating a grade. From the information that is available on the website, and Compassion is looking into this further, it sounds like the loss of his father is new. I'm wondering if this is what has caused his difficulties in his schooling or if he always struggles. All of my children are fairly new, but he is the newest. Please pray with me about Nigusse's education. I really do consider it to be of vital importance in breaking the cycle of poverty.  I never wrote about Nigusse's first letter. It really is one of my favorites that we've received. There was a section where he listed his favorite things. Under best pet, he wrote, "Ox".

So here they are, two children close to the same age who are receiving services from the same organization, but oh so different.

Weekly School Update - a few days overdue

Lily is going through a crying/whiny spell when she can't have your undivided attention, and that is trying to suck the joy out of our school days. However, it's not totally successful. It's still fun to watch things click in a Kindergarten brain, even if you're having to raise your voice over a toddler who is crying all the way to her room. This week, we started talking about measurement in Math, and that has been a lot of fun. We didn't actually touch a ruler until today, but it was still fun to watch her measure crayons in different units like paperclips and dinosaurs. Teaching Math is so much more fun than I learning it, at least from as early as I can remember. I'm pretty sure it's her favorite, too.

We also made a little more headway in our reading book, and Kayla is reading a lot more on her own. Some of it is context clues from the pictures, but a lot of it is all her. I can't say that she loves the reading lessons, but she does love being able to pick up a short book later in the day and read it to herself without my help. And I think she knows that the lessons are what allows her to do that. We also read Harold and the Purple Crayon and did some activities that went along with it. Both girls really enjoyed reading it, and they never got tired of it during the week.

There are a few things that I hope will go differently this week. First, I do hope that Lily relearns the rhythm of our school mornings and entertains herself more. I would also like to do more Math activities this week that are not in her workbook. I think we're coming to a good time to go back and review some of the earlier things that the book covers in more real-world ways. I'm also looking forward to finding more books that Kayla can read by herself. I think she is really finding that to be empowering, and I don't want it to fade quickly. I also want to start some copywork for a little change in pace for handwriting. I'm looking forward to a new week.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Special

I was reading a story to Lily a few days ago, and one of the pages said, "And since you are so special, God wanted to put you in just the right home. Where you would be warm when it's cold, where you'd be safe when you're afraid, where you'd have fun and learn about heaven." (Max Lucado) Now I love Max Lucado, don't misunderstand that, but this has bothered me for a few days. I'm just thinking that if I was from a home where I wasn't kept safe or warm or well fed, then the natural logic from this text would be that I'm not special.

Now, I am warm or cool, whichever I prefer. I have a sizable house, hot and cold water from multiple faucets, plenty of furniture, enough food that I can be choosy and let even let some ruin, health/dental/life insurance, and friends and family who love me. I have a car (two even!) and enough money to put gas in it whenever needed. There may not be money for extravagant purchases, but I have everything I need and a great deal of what I want. However, I am no less special than someone who lacks every one of these things. I did nothing to deserve to be born into a working class family any more than the orphan in Rwanda did to merit being born into genocide and poverty. And neither of us is more or less special to God. 

This isn't the first time I've struggled with this. For the first few months after we chose to sponsor Yeimi through Compassion, I would wonder, especially when I looked at my kids, why God would put her there and me here if He loves us all. It wasn't a passing question, I really puzzled over it for a long while. Finally, I got a clear answer. The answer was that I have all of my needs met with money left over so that God can take care of Yeimi through us. She is just as special to God as Lily is. Now I have to make sure that she stays as special to me. The grace is free for the taking, but we just can't choose to keep it for ourselves.

Weekly School Update

I've decided to start documenting our school happenings on Fridays, just to document then fun, what has worked well, and things that I would like to change. This week was a little different, because it was the week after vacation. Kayla had requested that we do school during vacation, but when we got there, she changed her mind. This meant that I had a week's worth of school already completely planned when we got back. What I didn't foresee about skipping a week was how good it would be for just letting things settle in Kayla's brain and how bad it would be for Lily just by getting that far off of routine.

This week, we started talking about fractions and equal parts. It came much easier for Kayla than I had imagined. She actually hasn't struggled a bit with the whole concept. We also hit the halfway point in our reading book, and we were pretty proud about that. If nothing slows us down, we should finish the book by Christmas, so it's time for me to start thinking about what to do for the new year. We finish our Kindergarten math curriculum sometime in December, too. I don't expect every year to go this smoothly, but it is obvious that she was just really ready for this jump into Kindergarten level work.

Since we were at the beach last week, I had planned an Ocean themed lapbook . It has been a lot of fun talking about the different things we find at the ocean I have learned a few things, too.We aren't quite finished since we took a day off yesterday for that whole socialization bit that various people keep harping on. Maybe I will post a picture of it after we're done. Now if I could just decide what to do next week.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Listening to God

I need to be a better listener. And I need to make time to listen. This week of vacation showed me a little bit of what life could be like if I did more of that. I got a few very clear messages from God this week, and none of them came during a scheduled quiet time or prayer time. So I think what I have is a receptivity problem more than a seeking problem. And if God is continually drawing us to Himself, this makes sense to me. Not meaning that I'm off the hook for seeking God with all my heart. I just think that part of the seeking is more about listening than I realized before.

I need to find ways to help me do this, to stay tuned in and receptive to God's voice. I'm not quite sure what that is going to look like. But it has to be more than 30 minutes in the mornings before the house comes alive. My first thought is to find another book to read and study. Maybe not a bad choice for everybody, but it can certainly be a cop-out for me.  I don't have any answers on this yet, but I do know that it involves both one-on-one time with my God and time caring for other people. It also involves less wasted time and energy and maybe some new habits. It's all still being flushed out, but I'm writing it down so that I don't let the week come and overwhelm me until I convince myself to forget the spiritual productivity of this past week.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pray for Rain

I walked through my yard this morning to put something in the mailbox. First, I was excited about the cooler temperature and being able to breathe the air, rather than chewing it. Then I noticed the crunching grass under my feet and remembered our lack of rain. Since August started I think we have had two light and short showers. My grass is brown and brittle . . . and ugly. It made me think back a couple of years, when Georgia and the surrounding states were in a severe drought. Most of what I noticed was increased water restrictions and a rise in food prices. But I didn't really feel the weight of a drought, other than a tighter budget. Living in the South, it seems like I've heard the word drought thrown around nearly every summer of my life.

I also started to remember the drought that is going on right now in East Africa. Other continents seem really far away until you put faces on them. Nigusse from Ethiopia and Rugwiro from Rwanda are my two small examples of a huge problem. These are faces on my refrigerator. They are also living, breathing children of God who are already living in extreme poverty. When you add a drought to extreme poverty, the results are catastrophic. It's hard to buy groceries in a drought when you're middle class, so think about how much harder it would be if your income was less than $1 a day. And if you're a farmer, you can't grow crops on parched earth.

The good news for Rugwiro and Nigusse is that they are "not located in the hardest-hit areas of drought, but are increasingly being impacted by food shortages, higher food prices and the influx of refugees into their areas due to the drought in neighboring nations." But this drought could eventually reach them. I'm asking you to pray. Pray for good rains to heal the land. Pray for the families, and especially the children, who are forced to live in these conditions. Pray for people to step up and give so that they can afford food. "Right now, in East Africa, an estimated 12 million people are suffering from malnutrition and a lack of food, affecting 35 to 40 percent of children under age 5." I also hope you'll visit this site and ask yourself what you can do to help. But even if you can't afford to help in a tangible way, please pray.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Abba, I belong to you."

When I started the Daniel Fast this time it was in part motivated to get at the more spiritual side that I felt like I was lacking the first time around. I wanted to get more out of this than just a good diet plan and a reason to pine for sugar. I will confess that some days that's still all I have. However, I do have a plan and some days I'm even following it. I'm trying to stick to it a little better this this week, and be moI re mindful of Jesus than I am of my food choices. Which is hard, because I can look at the food in my hand, but I have to make the conscious choice to see God.

But this is the focus of my fast. I'm trying to keep up with my daily Bible reading, but I knew there was more to this than routine, as much as I love my routine. I did read most of the Daniel Fast book that I bought, and the author confirmed that. I had several books on my Kindle that I've been wanting to get around to, but I'm still in the middle of three others. I decided to read The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning. I knew it was about God's love for me and I thought that sounded like what I needed. After I started reading it, I decided to add in Song of Songs, so I'm reading a little out of each. Manning talks about a nun he encountered with a difficult and painful past. He encourages her to simply say, with her hands up, "Abba, I belong to You." for the next 30 days. Well, I added that, too. At first, it felt strange, but yesterday it came to my mind in very unexpected places and finally started to sink in. My plan is really just to take up residence in that reality for the next few weeks.

"The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice"
Abba, I belong to YOU!



Monday, August 08, 2011

Daniel Fast, Part 2

I started the Daniel Fast again today. I was thinking about starting anyway, and then there was an insert in our church bulletin about an organized fast this week, so I took it as the gentle push to go ahead. I'm thinking about doing 30 days instead of 21, for no real reason, except that I didn't really feel ready to be finished last time. I'm pretty excited about it, and Sonny was VERY willing to do it again. Also, I don't feel like 21 days would be a big sacrifice since I still eat Daniel Fast acceptable meals several days a week. I don't think I will have the sugar crash that I had the first time. I'm still sugar free or low sugar most days, but the sugar is slowly creeping back into my life.

Because I don't anticipate the horrible sugar withdrawals and because meal planning won't take as much effort since this is a second go-around, I do plan on focusing a lot more on the spiritual aspect of the fast. I'm not looking for this to be a diet, although I would be lying if I said one of my initial motivators was the bathing suit I will wear daily for a week in September. I don't know yet what this focus will look like, but I know that it needs to be more than just a short daily Bible reading and "standard" prayer time. I'm reading The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory in hopes of gaining some ideas about what I need to be doing. Thanks to the church bulletin I mentioned, I do have some extra prayer ideas. I have issues mantaining focus. I'm always sure that "prone to wander" line was meant for me. Right now, I've let Kindergarten, a messy house, family illness, and busyness steal that focus. Seeking definitely requires focus, and this is the month that I get that back.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Today is the Day

Today is the day I will pick up some old habits. It's been a rocky week for Bible reading, and there's really no excuse for that. Today I will dive back into Psalms, and I will enjoy it. I always do when I make it a priority to find relative quiet and read the Word.

Today I will also restore some sort of order in this house. Even with the dishes done and laundry cycling, I just feel very out of rhythm. We were gone for only three days due to the air conditioner that called it quits, but those are typically my busiest three days. I can keep whining about it, or I can just be where I am and tackle one thing at a time. I made some headway yesterday, but not enough to make me feel like I finished anything. I will also unpack two boxes today. That's right, I'm still unpacking and I'm still moving boxes over here. Hopefully, I will finish that today, too.

Today I will also regain some patience with the girls. Yesterday was not good. I am not proud of my parenting, and it was more me than them. I lacked patience in teaching, and that can't go beyond yesterday. Today I will live out what I tell the girls. Today is a new day.  His mercies are new every morning. I should be thankful for that every day, but some days that blessing is a lot more obvious.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Heart Geography

Kayla asked me a few days ago where Rwanda is. For her, this is not a land of mass murder and political chaos. For her, Rwanda just means the home of her brother. I did not decide that this 13-year-old African man-child was her brother, that was all her. When Nigusse was added to our family a few weeks ago, she asked me, "Mama, how are you going to take care of all six of us?" Even for her, she was half-joking. Still, it's a lot of pieces for a heart to be split into, even though I do little to provide daily for our children who don't live in our house.

Time has changed for me. If I look at the clock at see that it's 2:00 p.m., that means it's nap time for my girls. I also have become aware that it is around lunch time for Yeimi in Guatemala. It's 2 a.m. for Lordylien in the Philippines, and I hope she is sleeping peacefully, resting up for a new day.  It is 8 p.m. in Rwanda and I hope that Rugwiro has had dinner and that he is safe and at home with his aunt and uncle. It's one hour later in Ethiopia and I pray that Nigusse is with his father and getting ready to go to whatever he sleeps on for a bed.

I'm not saying that I have these thoughts every hour. My heart and head don't stay in five countries for the bulk of the day. Mostly they come when there is temporary quiet and the littles aren't pulling on me. I know that part of what is going on is my overprotective nature. I have no control over what is going on in four pieces of my heart. I can try to imagine and research what to pray for them and let them know that I think the world of them. I can love on them the best way I can with oceans and continents between us, with stickers, coloring books, and sports cards. But I can't lay my hands on them the way I do with the two who live with me and I can't see that they are safe with my own eyes.

For some reason, I'm supposed to think that this divided heart of mine will actually help someone else want to feel this way, to sponsor their own child, and spend their thoughts and affection in other time zones. But I do ask that you pray and consider giving a piece of your heart to someone new, someone who needs your prayers, your encouragement, and a little of your money. At only $38 dollars a month, it's barely a meal for my household at Chili's. The link on the right will take you straight to Compassion's website where you can find the child you never knew you had. Or just ask me. I have pictures of two children who are waiting for someone to sponsor them. One precious little boy who has been waiting over six months. If you have questions, ask them. Don't let your questions paralyze you.

Friday, July 22, 2011

This Is the Day

A friend who is also new to homeschooling borrowed an idea from one of her boys' teachers to have a "morning meeting", where you lay out your plans and expectations for the day. I thought it was a great idea so I borrowed it from her. On the first day we started Kindergarten, I explained the idea of a morning meeting to Kayla and started telling her what we would be doing during school and after. Even though I didn't plan to, I found myself telling her that the best thing about morning is that it's a new day, made new and clean by God, without any mistakes or disappointments. "This Is the Day" had been rolling around in my head for a few days, and I still don't know why. I didn't plan to, but I taught it to them. Well, it stuck.

Now we do it every day, along with some variation on that same conversation we had the first day. She is talking about a new day even on days we don't have school, and I think she's starting to understand what I'm talking about. The more remarkable thing is that I'm beginning to see this idea seep into my own thick skull. Five-year-olds aren't the only ones who need a clean slate every morning. They also aren't the only ones who learn by repetition. Teaching is a tricky business.


"This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First Letters

I have always loved letters. For me, there is something so personal about seeing someone's hand-written words. It takes time and concentrated effort. Someone has to think about you while they are writing to you. They have to decide what information to share with you, and what words they will choose to share their thoughts. Maybe I'm the only person who feels this way, but I really doubt it.

Today, I received two letters. They were a complete surprise. Which is really strange because I've been waiting for at least one of them for over a month. But today when I walked to the mailbox, there was no anticipation. I had done a little guesswork math a few days ago and decided that a letter probably wouldn't come until August. However, I had done a little praying yesterday when I was disturbed by the first signs of waning passion. I had been waiting for one letter. The other one I was sure would take a few more months. I got them both, one from a fairly remote village in Guatemala and one from the largest city in the Philippines. I didn't even go into the house to read them. I sat in the back of the car and ripped them open, read them, gushed over them, and then I took them inside to read them to the girls and Sonny.

The first letter was from Lordylien, our 11-year-old from the Philippines. I got to learn the names and ages of her family members, her favorite things, and her future dreams (she wants to be a chef!). I also learned that she loves to dance and is in a dance group at school. My second letter is from the little girl chosen by Kayla, Yeimi. She is five-years-old and from a Mayan village in Guatemala. There was a small picture of her that I didn't expect. She's unbelievably precious. Since she is young, someone else wrote her letter. I learned that she has a younger brother. She said that she is very happy, that she loves us, and wants us to love her, too. As if I ever had any choice about that. My favorite part, though, was a small drawing of a house, the sun, and a flower, because that was all her and required no translator.

Passion crisis averted.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Meet Nigusse

Nigusse is the newest member of our family. He is 13-years old and from Ethiopia. The biggest thing I know about Nigusse so far is that he lives with his father; his mother is dead. Other than that, he sounds like a typical boy, into soccer, running, and playing other games with friends. He's an average student, but he's only in the 5th grade. Well, he's a typical boy who carries water to his home for his family and lives in an AIDS-ridden, impoverished country. But still a boy.

We are not financially supporting Nigusse (someone else is doing that), but we have been given the privilege of writing to him and praying for him. This is my second child who has lost parents in two months, both in African countries. They are both in their early teens, which seems to me to be an even harder time to be without parents. Letters and prayers don't seem to be enough, but they are what God and Compassion have given us to work with. So we will write, pray, and send all the goodies we can find. Now I'm really glad I bought all of those soccer cards.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Babble On

There's a lot rolling around in my head right now, and very little of it even goes together. Still, I feel like I'm losing momentum here, and I feel like putting anything in this little box will clear my head of this one need. Apparently my head is prime real estate right now, and there are a lot of competing thoughts.

We finished Day 4 of Kindergarten today. Kayla is loving it, but she says I'm making the Math too easy. I really hope she keeps finding it easy, but I doubt it. I'm also finding (well, remembering because I already knew) that she doesn't like correction at all. Apple = Kayla, Tree = Me I'm trying to come up with new ways to give feedback. "No" is definitely a four-letter word to her. However, she is still having a lot of fun and asks to start school in the morning. I also am trying to figure out other things for Lily to do while we're having school. She was purposefully disrupting today just to get my attention. We read and played later, but the coloring books that held her interest last week failed me during school today.

I had my first phone training as a Compassion Advocate last night. It was a lot of fun, but it let me know how much I still need to learn. I'm going to try to find an event to volunteer at over the next couple of months, since that was recommended by the trainer. There are also podcasted training sessions that I can listen to and other calls to sign up for. I now know more about malaria than I ever thought I needed to know.

And I'm really wondering if one-day fasts really are a little too easy. Today really hasn't been bad at all. I am hungry, that I don't deny, but not that hungry. I do find hunger pangs to be the best reminder to pray. I think it's something about having a perceived physical need. I will definitely be excited about my watermelon and waffles tonight, but it isn't as hard as it once was. I think next time I may need a full technology fast as well. I am far too easily distracted by the technology in my house. This is another reason I need to keep a dumb phone. I really can't afford to add another distraction.

And then there's bills, lowering bills, saving more, giving more, planning things to do with the kids, finding new things to send to my faraway kids, finding time to spend with Sonny, kids' songs that won't leave my head, the lack of time management skills I seem to possess, and, oh yeah, did I mention waffles? Oatmeal waffles to be exact. Topped with baked apples with a little date honey on the side. My brain is like a cartoon whirpool.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Wallflower

I have always struggled with the need for people to like me. I didn't necessarily want them to all call me friend, but I wanted them to like who I am. I don't remember a time when I didn't have that desire. What also comes with this is a desire to be understood, for my passions to matter to other people. When all of this is put together, it is easy to see why social media can be so toxic to someone like me. You think about your list of friends before you share links, concerned for who might be offended. You wonder if the same people who "like" cute pictures of your kids care if children are dying hourly from unclean water. You overthink everything you type, wondering if it will be misunderstood or if anybody outside a very small circle even cares.

The phrase "sphere of influence" has been rolling around in my brain a lot over the past month or so. Just the idea that there was supposed to be a group of individuals who are influenced by me. The idea has made me stumble a few times even in areas where I strongly feel called. I don't blame the small size of this group on anyone but myself. Wallflowers cannot try to blend in one moment and then cry about the injustice of not being noticed the next. Well, I guess they can, but the idea is ridiculous. And uncomfortable, because it means that if I am obedient, I stop trying to blend. If I am obedient, I stop trying to make everyone like me, and do what God tells me to do. If I am obedient, I stop questioning if anyone else even cares, and I present God's heart, despite my discomfort. If I am obedient, I serve God, and not people.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Personal History

For a long time, I have been working diligently to not be defined by my past. I have told myself certain things don't matter, stuff happens and can never be unchanged. I have ignored others parts of my history that I know do matter. I have given them to God and just asked him to help me forget a lot of who I've been and where I've come from. And then I usually take it back and wallow in it for a while, then go back to ignoring it before giving it to him again. Who doesn't have this baggage? I've never met anyone who made it out of childhood unscathed. But this attempt to strip away what was has robbed me of seeing a lot of what drives me.

I let myself take a step back and walked back through a lot of my life over this past month. And I did remember major events, both good and bad, but I also started remembering small things that built my personality and character. These were things like arguing the need to give money to panhandlers in downtown Macon, saving up pocket change for months for the MDA telethon, being moved to tears by racial injustice from the 1st grade on, asking for our youth group to do World Vision's 30 hour famine and loving raising money for it even as shy as I was, and wanting to work with foster children.

I'm sure several things contributed to my more jaded outlook after becoming an adult, but one of them was probably working within social services and feeling absolutely helpless. The biggest contributor had to be my failure to seek God during the time when I started ignoring this passion to help others. Forget the "with all your heart" part, I wasn't seeking Him at all. But without me even realizing it, He has been softening my heart this past year. There's less of a naivety than there once was, but still an idealist that sees that things don't always have to be as they are today. There are those who would still call me naive, but I'm liking this outlook a lot better. And I now see how interconnected my memories are, that even people I would rather forget helped shape who I am. I'm grateful that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him".

Friday, June 24, 2011

What Can I Do?

This morning I read the Compassion blog like I do most mornings. But this time, I recognized the city: Coban, Guatemala. What I know is that Coban is the nearest major city to my Yeimi. I didn't make it past drug trafficking before the helplessness set it. Why can't I stop her from being exposed to such things? I found myself wishing I could just take her, take all of them, out of their countries and bring them. Where? Here? Somewhere, I don't know. Just the idea of a sweet 5-year-old little girl getting caught in the middle of all of that led me into a dangerous game of "What If".

After a few minutes, my rational self kicked in. I heard, in my mind, "You are doing something to stop these things from happening." For all of my big talk about the importance of sponsorship and building relationships, when it really came down to the dangers my child faces, I didn't think it was enough. I'm not sure if I thought God was enough. In the few minutes that followed, I was able to see the flaws in my thinking and be grateful for the new knowledge about Yeimi's potential challenges. Knowing about this (and other details after I was able to go back and actually finish reading the post), gives me specific things to pray for and against. It shows me the importance of giving child gifts and family gifts to help meet their needs and encourage parents to keep their children in the program.

This weekend I plan on putting together a list of specific needs for all three of my Compassion kids based on their ages, interests, and geography. I will research the areas where they live through Compassion and other websites and present these needs to God often. I will also pray that He shows me what else I can do for each of them. He is enough. My helplessness does nothing but keep the focus on me and my feelings. When I do that there is no change, only sadness and guilt.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This morning I Had Cake

Yesterday was supposed to be my last fasting day. Due to unforeseen events (such as Cracker Barrel!), it was actually my first day off the fast. My plan was to have a very sensible dinner after that, but Sonny thought I was done and wanted to go to Mellow Mushroom and split a pizza. My body was not very happy. After the party on Saturday, I put a piece of cake in the refrigerator for today and decided to eat it this morning. It was very good, but I couldn't eat the buttercream icing. It was entirely too sweet. Even though I seriously fell off the wagon and onto my rear, I really haven't been incredibly tempted to eat the junk in my house. Less than I have this few weeks, actually. I think the fact that I can have it has made me want it less. Which seems odd and backwards for me. I just hope I can keep it up. Today there will be more foods containing sugar, and I will enjoy them. It's a big day for us, but I can also balance it out with some healthier foods.

My internet restriction and quieter days are not really happening. Yesterday we were gone all day, and today and tomorrow are promising busyness as well. I am still waiting on an email from the Advocate Network, so I am constantly checking my email. I do want to do this, but it seems like this is not the week for it. Maybe I can start on Thursday and go through next week. I don't just want to do this, I need to do this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fasting Update

We have now completed two weeks of the Daniel Fast. I feel like we're in the home stretch. Food choices don't seem that difficult most of the time. There was a doughnut incident that nearly did me in, but I made it through. What bothers me is that I have missed a lot of the spiritual component of the fast. There are days when I do better than I have in the recent past but on most days I'm just concentrating on the food. I almost feel like I should extend my fast, but I really don't want to do that to Sonny. What I have decided to do instead is to let next week be a very restrictive, but not complete, technology fast. I will use a lot of the time I waste on the computer and tv to refocus and regroup. I think I'll be spending a lot of nap times on my porch with my Bible.

This being said, I do not consider the Daniel Fast to be a waste or a bust for me. I think that in allowing my body to rid itself of all the junk I put into it, my brain is now ready to concentrate more. I hope this helps to keep me from being constantly distracted by all the shiny stuff around me. I can say with my mouth that Jesus is the only thing that matters, but the ways I spend my time show differently.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Eyes That Haunt My Heart


Earlier this week, a new face appeared on my Compassion International account. I have been logging in to my account daily because I had put in a request for my second correspondence child. The face I saw was Rugwiro from Rwanda. He will be 14 years old in August. For a week or two, I've been looking at the pictures of the kids who need sponsorship. I kept thinking that I wanted to find a boy, a little older (10-12) who lived with someone other than his parents, and maybe in Ghana. I couldn't sponsor right now, but I could look and pray. Hey, to date I've had three that I've prayed for who have been sponsored. I'm not going to stop asking Him now.

Then comes Rugwiro. He lives with his aunt and uncle (CI lists parents as separated by death). He is in the 4th grade (probably 5th now since his information was updated in 2010) and likes ball games, especially soccer. I chatted with a CI rep yesterday because I wanted to know if his financial sponsor sent a birthday gift. She said that a gift was sent and has been sent in the past, but he hasn't received a letter "in years". She didn't put a number on it, but in years definitely sounds like more than a few. He has had the same sponsor since 2004. His eyes do haunt me. They look tired and sad for a 13-year-old boy. He has seen far too much already in his young life - after-effects of genocide, being orphaned, poverty, and other things beyond my imagination. And for reasons I will never know, his sponsor, who has been financially dedicated for many years but has chosen to remain silent, has given permission for me to write to him. I am feeling the weight of this today. It doesn't feel like a burden, but a privilege. Still, it is a privilege that comes with great responsibility. I am nervous that I don't know what to do with a teenage boy. But I will love him, and he will hear (often) that I love him and that God loves him, too.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

This Feels Good. . . Really Good

At least, I feel really good. Sonny made the same comment last night and added that he would have to remember this when our fast is over. I'm not sure if it's the lack of sugar or chemical additives, but I have so much more energy than I remember having in a long time. A really long time. Next week I am going to start thinking and praying on what dietary changes I would like to keep. This feels way too nice to let it all go back to "normal". And I'm thinking that this is probably the way "normal" is supposed to feel.

I have not stopped craving sweets, and I will possibly race to Ryal's Bakery for a petifour when this is over. However, and I never saw myself saying this, it is quite possible than one will be enough. A few other observations:
  • I have not yet missed meat of any kind
  • Sonny really will eat whole wheat
  • Perfect brown rice is elusive
  • The moments where I miss cheese are fleeting.
  • I am drawn to junk food out of convenience
I am going to get back to my to-do list, because even though it is mid-afternoon, I still have energy! Next up, a call to Compassion about my advocate application.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Ending Week 1 of the Daniel Fast

Finally, I am one week down on this three week partial fast. The weekend has been harder than the week with parents on both sides taking us out to eat and the suggestion for IHOP, of all places. I love IHOP. I love pancakes and all things carb-centered. Breads are definitely among my comfort foods. I did turn it down and let her just take the girls with her. I have very good mental taste buds. I can taste what I can see, smell, or even imagine. Those were the best pancakes ever made.

This week I will work on my focus. That's what this whole thing was supposed to be about in the first place. I am starting to feel better than I did when I started, and that is encouraging. So now comes the seeking part. This week I will seek to feel/know who I am as a child of God, who He is as my Father/King/Savior/Lord, and what He has put me here for. This will include some not-so-light reading. I will do my daily Bible reading, which I have been neglecting for several weeks. I've been reading the Bible, but just my weekly Disciple assignments. It will also include reading Colossians in depth since Mike is preaching on it this month. I will also the next several chapters in Chazown.

I also plan to get started on the final challenges from David Platt's Radical, especially the call to pray for every country in a year. Because of my Compassion connections, I will start with Guatemala and the Philippines. I'm not sure how I will proceed from there, but I am aiming to take one country a day, read about their needs, and pray for them. I will also be praying for our church, the leadership, and where God wants me to serve.

Somewhere in there I also plan to defeat laundry mountain and see the tops of my kitchen counters, but we'll see how that goes.