Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review

As 2010 draws to a close, I thought it might be neat to do a little “Compassion in 2010” review.

This year, I officially became a Compassion Advocate. (Will 2011 be the year YOU become one?)  I went to my first Advocates conference and learned SO much about all of the work this organization does.

I worked my first tables at Compassion sponsored events. I even got to work a table with my husband at a Selah show, which was such a GREAT experience!

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I also got the chance to meet Shaun Groves at Kingdom Bound.  I am embarrassed to say that I was a teensy bit star-struck and in awe.  I can’t remember what I actually said to him, but I know that it wasn’t much and I probably sounded like a fool. lol 

shaungroves (I am such a dork!)

In 2010, we welcomed three into our family.

Bertille

Kazihizina

alice1 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we said farewell to one.

yolanda3

By my counts, I was able to help over 20 children find sponsors! Woohoo! To God goes all of the glory!

I wrote over 200 letters to our sweet Compassion International kids, some  via snail mail and some via email.

I did the Happy Dance at the mailbox 66 times after receiving the much sought-after beige envelopes.

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Not to mention, I made many great friends who share my love for  all things Compassion International. Much love going out to my sister-bloggers; Jessica, Amy, Megan, JD and Jill F.

All in all, it was a great year as far as Compassion goes.  On a personal level, we’ve had our fair share of struggles, but those work to pull us closer with God and remember Who we really need to rely on.

Here’s to an even better 2011!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

{Answered Prayer}

I just wanted to update on our sweet Compassion International correspondent child, Yolanda in Guatemala.

She has a sponsor!!!

I am so thankful to my friend, Anji, and her family.  They stepped up to sponsor “our” girl.   We are passing her on, SO thankful to have the ability to still hear updates about her and occasionally send a greeting through her new family.

youngyolanda

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YolandaBday2010 

YolandaFace Beautiful Yolanda… You are loved, you are special. You will remain in our daily prayers. 

Thank you, Martinez family. 

This & That ~plus~ Winners!!

Outside of my window… the snow is sparkling in the sunshine and the birdfeeder is hopping like Grand Central Station. I just love our little feathered friends! It brings me a lot of joy to go out on the back deck in the mornings and listen to the cheerful chirping morning songs.  My all-time favorite are the Chickadees.  They are so sweet and curious. They’re trusting enough to take sunflower seeds right from my hand, though I’ve not been able to snap a picture of that.

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Around the house… we have some little friends over for a play-date, so there is much laughing and squealing going on upstairs. I’m having a late breakfast ~ salad and coffee. I’ve been craving salad lately and I need to eat all of the raw veggies I can in order to combat the sugar overload from the last few weeks.

On the homeschooling front…  The last 2 weeks have been light, and I am thankful for the flexibility we have.  We can cut back when things are busy and we generally buckle down January through March.  This last week has consisted of board games, organizing, bird watching, baking, writing Thank You notes and watching Bill Nye the Science Guy on DVD.

I am praying for… Nico.  Every single day, sometimes every hour. It doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing her again soon. Things are VERY strained between us and her Mother and communication attempts have failed many times in the last couple of weeks. If you can, please join me in praying for her and her Mother.

I am thinking of…  how I need to get back on track with my eating and exercise.  I am not one to make resolutions, but I do plan to get back to the 30 Day Shred and better eating choices come January.

Our Compassion News:  Yesterday, I took a deep breath and sat down to write a Final Letter to our Yolanda in Guatemala.  It is the first letter of that kind that I ever had to write and I cried.  Yet, I told her how thankful I was to have the opportunity to write to her while we could.  I assured her that she would remain in our prayers, thoughts and hearts. I told her that she is loved by God and that He has a plan for her and her life.

Giveaway Winners!

I called my beautiful assistant, Kaya, away from her playdate to help draw three names.  Each of the winners will receive a lovely beaded bracelet from Bead For Life!

:drumroll:

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Congratulations to Peppermint, Kelly and Anji!

Please email your addresses to 3girlsmama at gmail dot com and I will mail them out on Tuesday!  Thanks for participating!  I hope you remember this amazing company in the future and support the work they’re doing in Uganda!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday’s Writing Ideas

I realized this morning, that it has been a while since I’ve shared a Devotion to send to your Compassion International sponsor children. All of my Devotions (like the ones that can be found here and here and here) are being offered up for you to copy and send to your child. If you’re pressed for time but you know you haven’t sent anything to your child in a while, just copy one and then log into your Compassion account and paste it into an email to your child, along with a couple of personalized sentences. You can also send them like we do, which is printed onto colorful printer paper with lines at the bottom for translation. We usually send them along with a handwritten letter and a couple of goodies.

Being an Example

“You are the light that gives light to the world. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14,16

What kind of example are you? Are you the kind of person who shows other people what it means to be well-behaved and kind? You have the opportunity to shine the light of Jesus when you do what is right. Others will see your actions and take note. Today, and every day, be mindful of your actions and strive to be a good example to those around you.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the ways that you are changing my life. Let me be an example to others, a testimony to the changes that can come from having You in my life. Help me to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, so that others can see Him in me. I ask this is Jesus’ Holy name.

With travel time for our letters being 2 to 3 months, we have about a month to plan and prepare for our Easter mailings for our children. If you wanted to send a Valentine’s card to your child, it would need to be sent ASAP and might still arrive late depending on travel time to your child’s project. Our family is going to make some Valentines for our children this week and mail them out with our next package. We’re going with the classic handmade, construction paper hearts and messages of love. If you haven’t already, you could also send A Father's Love Letter in your child’s language.

As we approach a new year, I’d like to ask you to consider committing to writing to your sponsored child at least once a month this year. As I have said time and time again, your letters are so important! Your love and encouragement helps the child to see themselves and worthy and important.

Also, remember to scroll down two posts and enter the giveaway drawing for a Beads of Life bracelet! Drawing will be tomorrow morning!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Putting Out an S.O.S.

Today, we received a call from Compassion International.  One of the calls that a correspondent dreads…  The financial sponsor for Yolanda in Guatemala has dropped the sponsorship.  In this case, Compassion would allow us to pick up her sponsorship or have her transferred to a friend or family member.  At this point in time, I don’t feel that we can financially take on another sponsorship, so I am reaching out to my readers.

Look at this beautiful girl….

YolandaFace ….and then look into your heart and see if you could take over her sponsorship. I would be happy to send copies of the letters she’s sent us, so you have some connection with her as you take on this relationship with her.  (Or, we would be happy to continue writing to her twice a month if you could financially back the sponsorship but don’t desire to write.) Please leave a comment or email me at 3girlsmama at gmail dot com if you could take on the sponsorship of this lovely girl.

Beautiful Beads of Hope

A few months ago, I heard about the company Bead For Life. With my heart for Africa and desire to help those living in poverty, I wanted to learn more.

On this page of their website, I learned about the women in Uganda who now have an opportunity to earn income, thanks to this company.

“Our beaders, tailors, and shea nut gatherers are primarily impoverished women who are hardworking, intelligent, and strong in their desire to improve their lives. They make gorgeous handcrafted paper beads from recycled paper and turn them into necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Because the beaders use recycled, colorful paper, the beads help prevent environmental degradation. What was trash becomes beauty, money, food, and hope. The women who gather the shea nuts search the landscape early in the morning looking for the finest nuts. They dry and husk the nuts and sell them to BeadforLife creating opportunities for themselves and their families.

Our goal is for our members to be independent of BeadforLife within 18 months by being able to support themselves within the Ugandan economy. To assist members in launching their own small businesses or in creating new revenue streams, we provide entrepreneurial training, facilitate savings accounts, and make business funds available. In the rural areas our program focuses on agricultural development.

BeadforLife sponsors Community Development projects in health, vocational training for impoverished youth, affordable housing, and business development. These projects are financed with the net profits from the sale of the beads and shea butter products and support not only our members, but other impoverished people living in Uganda.”

On Friday, I received a package with a gift of a beautiful green beaded necklace from Bead For Life. I also received some of their yummy shea butter lip balm and three colorful bracelets. All of the products are lovely! The prices on their website are very reasonable. In fact, I received some money from family for Christmas and I plan to buy another necklace and a couple of bracelets!

I would like to host a giveaway for the three bracelets I received! (I have single strands of green, blue and katogo and will randomly choose who gets what!)

How To Enter: Go to the Bead For Life Store and browse through their beautiful products. Come back here and leave a comment telling what your favorite item(s) were! I will draw three names Thursday morning (12/30) and mail each of you a bracelet!

Contest Rules: Due to shipping costs, this giveaway is open to US residents only! You will need to check back on Thursday to see if you won! I will put up a new blog post with the name of the three winners. Winners will need to email me with their mailing address within one week, or I will draw another name.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday’s This & That Post

Outside of my window…  we have a fresh dusting of snow on everything, just barely 1/4 of an inch.  I wish we had more!  We love sledding and playing outdoors in it, but it isn’t much fun when there’s just a dusting on top of the grass.  I’d much prefer a foot or two!

Around the house… my girls are watching an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy while our dogs play and wrestle around in front of the woodstove.  Last night I wrapped up the board games I bought at Family Gifts along with the Dollar Store goodies for the girls.  I am so thankful to have kids that can understand and appreciate our intention to give to others this Christmas and stick with just a couple of small gifts beneath the tree.

Our plan for the day… is to run to town later for a trip to the library and to hit the store for a couple of necessities to get us through the weekend. We plan to make some gingerbread cookies this afternoon and do some watercolor painting.

I am praying for… Nico and her Mother.  I really hope that we are able to see Nico for Christmas. I pray that God will iron out the communication between us and Nico’s Mom.

I am thankful for…  a helpful and faithful husband.  Last night, he helped a young lady out when her car was stuck in a snowy ditch.  She thanked him and he told her that he hoped someone would do the same for his wife. She said, “Well, I’m nobody’s wife.  Do you want to come back to my apartment?”  I am praying that the young lady learns to respect people’s marriages and also that she doesn’t need to give herself away so easily.

Some Compassion tidbits:  Did you know that your Compassion International account will tell you which months are considered Hunger Months for the area where your child lives?  Log in to your account, click Child Information and scroll down until you see it.  I would urge you to keep track of those Hunger Months for your child and consider sending a financial Family Gift 2-3 months before. Yes, Compassion does provide a meal to your sponsored child when they come to the project, but your Family Gift can purchase supplimentary food for the family to help them get through those especially lean days.

We were very excited to receive our first letter from Alice in Kenya recently!

alice1The form letter format had spaces for her to tell us the names and ages of her family members, the name of her best friend and that she lives in a village.  We learned that her best game is dodge ball, her best food is rice/kamande, her best color is green, her best school subject is math, her best Bible story is Adam and Eve and her best song is Jesus Loves Me. Awwww!  We also learned that she wants to grow up to be a teacher.  I just love letters from our kids!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Importance of Letter Writing

My friend, Kees Boer, posted this interview video on Facebook this morning.  Time and time again, I am reminded of the importance of those letters we send to our children. They make such a difference!  Please commit to writing to your Compassion International children on a regular basis.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tears of Sadness ~ Tears of Joy

Yesterday, we had our monthly visit to to a nearby Senior Center with some of our homeschooling friends. I was so thrilled that we had more families join us than we’ve had in months past. Over the course of the last year, attendance had been slowly dropping and we even had to cancel a few times because we didn’t have enough children. I know that visiting with seniors can sometimes be difficult. It can be hard to look at the ways that old age affects a person. When we see minds and bodies withering, we sometimes start to think about our own future. However, the Bible tells us that we are to look after orphans and widows in their distress. I have seen wrinkled faces light up joy when we bring our gaggle of children into the room. It is a wonderful thing!

As we arrived at the center, we were told by the Recreation Coordinator that one woman had been yearning to read How the Grinch Stole Christmas to a group of kids, so that was our first mission.

HPIM3450 Even though this woman read very s-l-o-w-l-y and the ten minute book dragged on to 25 minutes, I was amazed to see all of the children sitting quietly and listening intently. If you knew my Luna, you would have thought it was a miracle to see her sit still for so long, even as the aids were bringing out cookies to the tables behind them. It was as if the children, in their hearts, understood how very important this was to the woman.

At one point during the story, I walked around the room to quietly talk with some of the residents that were being brought in for cookie decorating. As I knelt down next the wheelchair of one woman, I noticed that her eyes were damp. “I’m so glad the children are here,” she told me. “I miss children.” At that point, the tears really started coming as she told me that she couldn’t go to the bathroom by herself anymore. She couldn’t just make a cup of coffee for herself when she wants it anymore. I didn’t know what to tell her, so I just held her hand as she told me of her sorrows. Yes, it was hard, it broke my heart. It is the part of visiting the elderly that takes strength. They are lonely. They miss the things of their younger years. They have failing minds and bodies. But, we can hold hands and listen. We can bring company, we can chat, and we can bring smiles, too.

After the story was finished, it was time to decorate cookies! There was laughing and frosting-smiles, visiting and sprinkles. The woman who was crying to me, was happily pouring a thick coating of sprinkles on her cookie. Then, the aids brought out chocolate, in honor of Dip Things in Chocolate day. (Who knew?)

HPIM3455 Everything is better with chocolate, right?

HPIM3453 After everyone was sufficiently hyped up on sugar, the kids started handing out their hand-made Christmas cards. Cue the tears of joy. It was lovely to see the elderly women as they were given a card, their faces radiated with thankful joy.

Before we left, Kaya had a couple of extra cards to hand out, so we walked the halls of the center looking for recipients. Our very last card was given to Miss Gina, a woman we had met on a previous visit. She is a sweet little Italian woman who has forgotten the English she once knew. Kaya and Luna walked up to her and handed her a card with a, “Merry Christmas!” said in unison. I will never forget Miss Gina’s reaction. In fact, I am tearing up just thinking about it. She burst into tears and started babbling on in Italian. I didn’t understand her words beyond, “Awwww!”, but I knew just what she was saying. She had the look that a Mother gets the first time their child says, “I love you.” Or when you are graced with a bouquet of hand-picked dandelions. Tears of joy, tears of gratitude…. Love.

Love.

If you have a nursing home nearby, call and ask about visiting sometime. You can bring some love and joy with just an hour of your time.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday’s This & That Post

Outside of the window… sun is reflecting off of the snow. The chickadees and juncos are busy at the bird feeder and the temps are finally out of the teens.

Around the house… Kaya and Luna are making Christmas cards for the seniors we are going to visit this afternoon. They are a-buzz with excitement because Kaya just won a contest on the radio and they just played her voice on air. She won a VeggieTales DVD and is just thrilled.

I am thinking of… Nico and wondering if we will be seeing her this weekend. Last weekend, she was going to visit but her Mom texted Jay a couple of hours before the visit was supposed to happen with, “Sorry, Nico will not be coming this weekend.” I spent about 20 minutes, hot with anger. Then a sense of peace washed over me. I am so thankful for that peace and the ability go on with a weekend with our family. It ended up being a wonderful one.

I am praying for… Nico, along with her Mom and Mom’s boyfriend. Marriages of our friends and church family. The homeless in our area, especially with this bitter cold. The elderly in their assisted living homes, especially those who do not have visits from family.

I am looking forward to…an opportunity to “pay it forward”. We were blessed with some help in October when we really needed it. I am looking for a chance to bless someone else.

Recent Compassion letters… An excerpt from a letter from Precious in Ghana:

She wants you to tell her the preparation that you have for this Christmas. She also wants you to tell her about the plans you have for your children. She says that she prays for peace to you and your family. She says that she wants you to pray for her parents to obey God and any person. Memory verse: First of all, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. Romans 1:8”

Excerpt from Johan in East India:

Warm greetings to you in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. By God’s grace your your prayers I am doing well. I also wish to hear the same with you.

I received your letters so I felt very happy. My study is going on well. Do you like playing football? We play mostly football here. We have a match with other groups. In our family there is no peace so kindly pray for peace among us. Your son, Johan”

The part about “no peace” goes right to my heart. Precious has also alluded to some stress in her family, so our prayers are absolutely with the households.

Some photos from the last week:

HPIM3433 We had our Tree Hugger cards revoked a couple of years ago when we started the annual slaughter of a Christmas tree.

HPIM3436 An unintentional light show from taking the photo without a flash.

HPIM3439 Luna put on the home-made tree topper.

HPIM3440 Our little Luna Blue Who looks like she could be straight out of Who-Ville.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

{Gratitude}

Today, I would just like to take a minute to say Thank You.  Your comments and emails mean SO much to me!

My internet usage tends to be five minutes here and five minutes there, with things like checking math problems, laundry, bringing in fire wood and prepping food in between.  Sometimes I forget to come back and reply to a comment or answer a message.

I want to let you know how very much I appreciate every comment that is left here on my blog.  I absolutely LOVE reading what you have to say.  It brings me such joy to receive a comment or email that shares info about your Compassion experience or that tells me how I have inspired you in your letter writing ministry. I do read EVERY comment and email that lands in my Inbox.  Many times, I will run to tell my husband about them, only to get called to something else before I come back to reply.

I am so thankful for my readers… Thankful for the awesome group of ladies I have befriended in the blog-world... Thankful for the encouraging comments and emails… They all mean so very much to me! I am filled with gratitude. :)

Thank you!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Winners!!

Sorry for the delay, but I had a lot of random things to do this morning and errands to run afterwards.  We just picked the winners for the giveaway!

Drumroll please……

I put names on slips of paper and had my girls each pick one slip.  Luna picked Mama G!!!  Kaya picked Robin! Because we didn’t have anyone enter with a new sponsorship, I decided to pick another name. I picked Jessie!

Please contact me via email (3girlsmama at gmail dot com) and send me your address! I will mail these books out on Thursday!

I really enjoyed reading all of the responses!  Being involved in Compassion has taught us all SO many important lessons!

Speaking of winners, my pal Jessica of Bohmian Bowmans posted a winner of an idea today.  Click the link to check out her recent post!

”I Love Christmas! Praise the Lord!”

So, yesterday Luna came up to me with a piece of paper.  She had written several lines of scribbly letters and she said, “I wrote a story, Mama. Want to hear it?”  The first version she read went on and on about choosing a Christmas tree, wanting to get a tiny one for Scruffy, Daddy picking the perfect tree. Then she read a couple of other versions.  By the time I thought to grab the camera to record her story, she had condensed it quite a bit.  Still, a cute little tale from my not-such-a-baby girl.

I will have to add subtitles because ever since I dropped my camera and it tumbled down into a gully, the sound recording hasn’t been great.

“Since we hadn't got a tree, we got a tree. Then I put on the star. 'Halleluia," I said. So, I went to go put on the star and then I said, 'I love Christmas! Praise the Lord!' "

Monday, December 13, 2010

Will You Join my Team?

Compassion has rolled out a new way to promote the organization and it is called The Street Team.  With this new site, we will all have ways to spread the word about Compassion and promote the efforts of CI.

Please, take a minute and follow this link to join my team!  I would really appreciate it!  Let’s work together and spread the word! :)

 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Another Giveaway!

As a Christmas gift to my wonderful readers, I am going to give away five, yes FIVE copies of the children’s book, A Country Far Away!!

This is a simple book with a great concept that illustrates the differences between day to day life in a small village in Africa vs. life in an American suburb.

There will be two different ways to win!

How to enter:

If you sponsor through Compassion International, leave a comment telling me about a lesson you’ve learned through sponsoring a child through Compassion International. This coming Tuesday morning, I will put the names of every entrant on a slip of paper and Kaya and Luna will each draw one winner.

If you do not sponsor through Compassion International, click one of the orangeish red links in this post (that say “Compassion International”), sponsor a child and come back to tell that you’ve done so and share a little about the child. The first THREE people who sponsor a child through my link and comment to tell me will win a copy of this book! (As a side note, the orangeish red links that say Compassion International in my posts are my own personal referral links. I don’t get anything for referring people to Compassion except a little bit of recognition that I am doing my job as an Advocate, I’d love it, if you decide to sponsor a child, if you would do so by going to the website through my link!)

Contest Details: Due to shipping costs, winners must live in the United States. The drawing for current sponsors will be around 9:00am Tuesday, December 14th! I will announce winners shortly after!

Please feel free to share this post on your blog or through Facebook, Twitter or email!

Friday, December 10, 2010

‘Tis the Season

Ten days into December and I have yet to buy a single Christmas present. I’ve spent the last month wrestling with ideas about “wants” vs. “needs”. I’ve gone from thinking we’d have a “light Christmas” as far as gifts are concerned, to considering not buying a thing. We have so much, while many in this world have so little…. Our needs are met. The grandparents provide plenty of presents for my girls. I thought I had come to a place of peace about it all.

That is, until yesterday. You see, I had to go to the Evil Empire (aka WalMart) to buy a baby gift for a friend’s shower. I’ve only stepped in WalMart about 5 times in the last 8 years. I managed to get in, grab a gift and dash out in the span of 15 minutes. I didn’t realize until later in the evening that “the bug” had gotten me. My husband seemed to notice that I was a bit off. I was distant, lost in thought and a bit snippy. He kept asking me what was wrong and after some digging I realized what was troubling me. In the 15 minutes that I walked amongst the frenzied shoppers and carts full of gifts, my peaceful feelings about not buying presents were shaken up. Inside, I was feeling as if I was actually kind of Scroogey. I was feeling conflicted.

It took a lot of prayer and silence to get back to a feeling of peace. What came to me is this: It isn’t about the gifts we give or receive, but about The Gift we were all given when Christ was born. The focus should be Jesus.

After talking it over, we have decided to spend very little on our three girls. We're considering buying just a few board games that we can enjoy on Family Game Night.

Then, as a family, we will reflect on the teachings of Jesus. He spoke time and time again about giving to the poor.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)

As a family, I would like to give a gift to Jesus by buying a Gift of Compassion. My favorite organization, Compassion International, has this amazing gift catalog that allows us to provide a gift that will truly make a difference in the life of those in poverty.

The Gifts of Compassion catalog has all sorts of great options, from mosquito nets to farm equipment and water purification. Please check out the link to learn more and consider purchasing a gift that can make a REAL difference.

I have come back to a place of peace about this Christmas season. I am going to be mindful of the “reason for the season” and remember that we’ve already been given the most Perfect Gift.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Virtual Letter Writing Party

In an effort to promote the letter-writing aspect of sponsoring through Compassion International, the second Friday of every month has been named a Virtual Letter Writing Party. If you click that link in red, you’ll go to a post on Compassion’s blog with the details. 

As I have mentioned so many times before, your letters to your sponsored children are SO important.  Poverty is not just a lack of money, but is a lack of hope and opportunity.  A lack of worth.  Your letters go a long way to let your child know that they ARE important and worthy. I would love to urge you to write to your children at least once a month.  If you don’t know what to write about, check out the links in my right hand sidebar.  If you don’t have any goodies or extras to send, don’t let that stop you from at least sending out a letter.  When Mail Day comes and your child’s name is called, there will be joy in their hearts.

I plan to have letters for all 8 of our children ready to send on Friday. I have written about the recent snowfall and the newest addition to our family ~ Scruffy the pup!  I am also personalizing the little boxes that I found on Oriental Trading a couple of weeks ago.  I think that the children will like them!

HPIM3419Will you join in the Virtual Letter Writing Party this week?  What will you be writing about?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

…Peace…

There is no peace like having your entire family home.  We were able to have Nico here over the last weekend and I just can’t describe the incredible feeling of peace that washed over me, having her here.  After many long months of not having contact with her, worrying about where she was and who she was with, I could finally exhale. We could all just let go of the worry and anxiety for the time being.  Nico came home just a couple of minutes before dinner on Friday night.  As we sat and held hands at the table to say grace, I saw her almost melt into her seat with a shudder of relief.  I felt the same way.

After dinner, Nico dashed upstairs with her sisters to turn up the Britt Nicole CD, dance and let loose.

HPIM3401 I snuck up to their room and snapped this picture in the middle of the dance-a-thon.  I just love how happy they are!

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.  Nico was so happy to get back to church and she was given such a warm welcome-back! There was so much joy in being able to go as a family.

HPIM3408 Over the course of the weekend, Nico told us that she definitely wants to come back on the weekends, like she used to.  We continue to pray that her Mother can cooperate and communicate with us and that she will allow us to have more time with our girl.

HPIM3417 I am so blessed to have these beautiful girlies in my life. I am thanking God for a beautiful weekend of having our entire family home, enjoying time together.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday’s This & That Post

  • Outside of my window…. snow clings to the bare branches of trees. It is just beautiful.
  • Around the house… there is a buzz of excitement as we just received the news that our Nico will be here for the weekend!  The last time she was here for the weekend was in September and it really seems like forever ago. Kaya and Luna are running around with huge smiles on their faces and are making preparations for this long-awaited visit with their beautiful big sister.
  • I am praying… for an amazing visit that will remind Nico how much she is loved and how very much she was missed.  I pray that she feels a sense of safety, comfort and security in our home. I also pray for peaceful communications with her Mother.  That has been very difficult in the past and it sounded like an argument almost flared up when my husband talked to her mother to make arrangements.
  • I am thankful for… answered prayers.  Definitely.

A photo to share:

HPIM3389 Scruffy the Wonder Dog enjoys an early morning romp in the snow with Kaya and Luna.  He runs so fast that his hear flap like wings.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Revamping our Letter Writing Schedule

As we enter the month of December, I have decided to revamp our process of writing letters to all 8 of  the Compassion International kids in our family.  In the past, I would sit down twice a month and write to all of our children on the same day.  Now that our family has grown to eight children, I worried that the monumental task of writing eight letters in one day would keep me from sending out packages twice a month.   This month, I am going to try to do it a little differently.

This morning, I pulled out a pack of colorful printer paper with balloons and cheerful stripes.  I copied the Compassion stationary onto it. (For the 6 children we’ve already heard from, I just copy the paper that Compassion sends with their letters. For our two newest girls, I use the printable stationary that can be found here. ) My plan is to write to four of our children every week and mail the big manilla envelope with 8 letters and goodies out every other week. With the stationary for each child already printed and stored in my Household Binder that always sits on my counter next to the laptop, I will be able to easily sit and write a letter as time allows.

If you are curious about our letter writing process, feel free to check out the links listed under Most Popular Posts in the right-hand sidebar.

If you are looking for something neat to send with your next letter, check out Father's Love Letter. 

From the website:

What is Father's Love Letter?
Father's Love Letter is a compilation of Bible verses from both the Old & New Testaments that are presented in the form of a love letter from God to you.
Each line in the Father's Love Letter message is paraphrased, which means we have taken each Scripture's overall message and summarized it as a single phrase to best express it's meaning.

The link above has this Love Letter available in printable for in 93 different languages. It would be a GREAT addition to your next letter to your child!

Monday, November 29, 2010

And they call it….

…Puppy Love!

For years, our Kaya has been obsessed with puppies and small dogs. I do not use the word “obsessed” lightly, either.  The sight of a puppy would cause her to squeal in a barely perceivable pitch.The mention of a Yorkie or other small dog would make her heart flutter. My husband has never been a big fan of small dogs and, except for a half of a day before Christmas last year, he wouldn’t even entertain the thought of letting Kaya get a pup.

But, after Sadie was found, Jay and I both talked about taking her in if Nico’s Mom wasn’t able to. (They are in the process of looking for another apartment and, while Sadie was gone, they took in a pup. Plus, her Mom’s boyfriend has a dog as well. We didn’t know if they would have room for Sadie anymore.) When we found out that Nico’s Mom did want to take Sadie, it crossed both of our minds that we really did have the room and means to make Kaya’s dreams come true.

I started looking online for a small dog with no or a low rehoming fee.  Within a few days we found this little guy.

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His name is Scruffy and he is a 3 month old Shih Tzu – Toy Poodle mix.  Kaya hasn’t stopped smiling since we picked him up yesterday afternoon!!

HPIM3373 So far, he is settling in and getting used to our home and other pets.  This morning has been full of scurrying and giggling and smiles.

In other news, last week I received my sample of Piggy Paint, a non-toxic, kid-friendly nail polish.  I have always been the “mean mom” who doesn’t let my kids use the regular polish you find in the stores.  I think the chemicals are WAY too harsh and my girls tend to have their fingers in their mouths a lot.  When I googled and found Piggy Paint online, I emailed the owner of the company and asked if they’d be willing to send me a sample of their product in exchange for me writing a review here on my blog. They sent us a bottle of the Forever Fancy pink polish and my girls were so excited to try it out.  The polish goes on nails nicely, like traditional polish, except it doesn’t have the strong, noxious smell. The color is vibrant with a hint of shimmer.

From the promotional materials that came with the polish:

Piggy Paint is a non-toxic, eco-friendly nail polish that is specially formulated of natural ingredients and proudly made in the USA. It is free from formaldehyde, toluene, pthalates, BPA, ethyl acetate and acetone.  Piggy Paint’s hyperallergenic, odorless formula makes it gentle enough for sensitive hands and noses, yet it dries to a hard, durable finish that can easily be removed with Piggy Paint nail polish remover.  This unique remover contains none of the solvents that could offend your nose or harm our atmosphere.

Piggy Paint comes in a rainbow of colors.  While the cost is a bit higher than other nail polishes, that sometimes comes with the territory of buying natural products.  If you follow them on Facebook, you will be notified of any sales and specials that would lower the price of your purchase.

Friday, November 26, 2010

On this Black Friday…

…I am thinking of all of the people dashing about, spending hundreds of dollars on “stuff”. I know it is called “Black Friday” because it is the day that stores make a lot of profit, but in my mind I see it as a dark day that celebrates materialism, indulgence and the idea that we need more, more, more.

Since we have come to know more about poverty in this world, from sponsoring through Compassion International, my perspective on “needs vs. wants” have changed so much. Ann Voskamp from A Holy Experience, shared some profound thoughts in this blog post, which have stuck with me since I read them.

“God gives the world enough of what it needs.

He just doesn’t distribute it.

We will have to share.”

So, on this Black Friday, will you share some light with a child that needs it?

Can you spare less than $10 a week to sponsor a child through Compassion International?

 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for Answered Prayers

My beautiful 12 year old step-daughter, Nico, had a dog named Sadie. As Nico travelled from her Mother’s house to ours, Sadie came with her. Like a shadow, the dog rarely left her side.

HPIM2649 On Sunday, July 11th, we went to church like any other Sunday. When we returned home, we immediately noticed that one of our window screens was shredded. When we got inside, we discovered that Sadie was gone. With her Husky blood, the dog had been known to run off sometimes, but she always came back within an hour or so. That evening, as we got ready for bed and she still hadn’t returned, the worry started to set in. We spent the next several days making signs and driving down the country roads near our home calling for her. A couple of days later we started putting ads in the paper and calling the animal shelters that were near us. Nico’s Mom lives an hour and a half away and we worried that she, for some reason, took off for Nico’s other home.

We persued all of the avenues that we could, but after a month had passed, we started to think that she had been taken in by another family or maybe poisoned from an animal that she ate. Sadie was an excellent hunter and could easily take down squirrels and rabbits, so we knew she’d be able to eat. She is smart about roads, so I didn’t think she was hit by a car.

During the months that passed, we had a falling out with Nico’s Mom. The dynamic of co-parenting is a difficult one, especially when the parents have very different ideas about faith, discipline, education and safety. We had no idea that, on September 13th, when Nico walked out the door to go with her Mom, that we wouldn’t see her again for a very long time.

As weeks passed by without seeing Nico, we went through a range of different emotions. I have been in Nico’s life since she was 2, and have been with her through just about every milestone a child passes. From potty training, to losing a first tooth, to learning to ride a bike, I was the one who was by her side and I love her like my own daughter.

As weeks without Nico turned into months without Nico, I never stopped praying for her on a daily basis. I prayed for her to know the truth, to stay safe and to remember the Lord who loves her. I prayed for Sadie, too, along with Nico’s Mom and her Mom’s boyfriend. At least once a week, I would have a dream about finding Sadie. As my emotions tossed me around like a ship in a stormy sea, I had no choice but to rest on the solid foundation of our God. Somehow, God had a plan that I couldn’t see or fathom.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband was able to talk to Nico on his birthday and we got our hopes up that we’d be able to see her. Their first conversation that day went really well, with Nico saying she really wanted to see us that weekend. When my husband later talked to Nico’s Mom to try to arrange plans, everything went down hill. The conversation ended with Nico saying she was fine if she never came here again. Again, we felt like our hopes were completely dashed.

This Monday, it finally came to me that I should probably clean out Nico’s closet and homeschooling drawers. Seventy days had passed since we had seen our girl and I was starting to finally give in to the fact that we might not see her for a very long time. As I sat, drinking coffee and mulling over the sad task of cleaning out Nico’s belongings, an email came to my inbox from a friend with the title “Possibility”. Inside was a link to a Humane Society about 20 minutes from our home. I clicked on the link and saw this.

sadiepound At first, my heart started pounding and my hopes soared. Then I noticed that this dog didn’t have any pink on her nose. Doubt crept in. Yet, as I brought up the picture alongside the one of Sadie and Nico, I could see that so many other characteristics were right on. I called the shelter to hear that they weren’t open until Wednesday. Two long days away. I bombarded the shelter with messages and sent an email to every email address I could find that was associated with them. Thankfully, by that evening, I received an email from the shelter manager telling me that I could meet them the following morning.

It was hard not to speed as we drove there the next morning. I was just praying that it really was her and I kept getting teary eyed thinking about the possibility that Sadie could be found, four and a half months after she ran away. When we got to the shelter, the manager went back to get the dog. The moment that Sadie had us in her sights, she flipped out. There was jumping and yipping and running….and crying. I crouched down and Sadie circled me and jumped over my lap and licked my face. The manager said to me, “So….I take it this is her?” with a laugh. Praise the Lord!!

As I was signing the release form, the shelter manager told me that Sadie had been picked up about 25 miles from our house on the VERY road she travelled everytime she went from Nico’s Mom’s house to ours. I keep reflecting on it and can see how God’s hand was in this whole situation.

Last night, 72 days since the last time we saw Nico, she came to our home and went running into her Father’s arms in tears. She apologized for the way she had talked to him on his birthday and said again and again how she wants to come to our house again like she used to. Things with her Mom are still a bit awkward, but we have hope that we may be able to work things out and have more time with our girlie. Before they left to go back home with Sadie, we decided to pray. As we stood in a circle and joined hands, my husband asked Nico’s Mom if she wanted to join us. I was so surprised when she said, “Sure.” I held hands with a woman I had been very angry with, and prayed for peace between us. I believe in the power of prayer and have seen so many answered recently.

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Lord, thank you for keeping Sadie safe for the four and a half months that she was lost. Thank you for bringing Nico to our home and letting us see her and hug her. I just ask that you can bring peace to the relationship between the people who love Nico and that we would be able to rebuild relationships and help us to move forward. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Free Shipping at Oriental Trading!

A friend called me this morning to tell me she is placing an order at Oriental Trading and offered to buy a dozen of the boxes I posted below.  I went to the site to take a second look at the size of the boxes and plan how to personalize them when I noticed a Free Shipping banner on the top of the page.  Use the code FREENOV at checkout to get free shipping!

They have a lot of great items that you could send to your Compassion International children. If you look in the Fun & Faith section, you will find a huge assortment of craft items like:

Make-A-Story Bible Stickers

Cross Bookmarks

Coloring Books

Color Scratch Crosses

Temporary Tattoos

There are MANY more items to choose from.

Some things to consider when deciding what items to send to your child: The things you send have to be paper, cardstock, cardboard, etc.  You cannot send wood, crayons, metal, foam (from what I hear), or anything that isn’t flat. If you send something that Compassion cannot send through, they will contact you to see if they can donate it to their local Operation Christmas Child collection.

Many of the items for sale at Oriental Trading come in multiples. You could send several of the same item to your child and ask that they share with siblings or those in their projects who do not get mail.

If you purchase some items to send your Compassion International child, please leave a comment to let us know what you picked!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Mail!

Yesterday we received the kind of mail that makes just about every Compassion International sponsor do a Happy Dance at the mailbox.

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I am always giddy when I find one of these envelopes tucked amongst our mail. Both of these letters were from Rodrigo in Bolivia. He answered a question we asked a few months ago and told us the names of all of his family members. Now we can pray for them all by name. He also told us about a recent to the Mallasa Zoo. He admits that the tigers scared him a bit but he loved the monkeys. My favorite quote from the letters is, “I am very happy to have you. I thank God for all of this.” Awwww….

Speaking of Thankfulness, I have another Devotion to share with you. It was written and shared by my friend, Danielle, on the Our Compassion website. You’re welcome to copy it and send it to your sponsored child! (You can also find a link to more Devotions if you look at the links listed to the right.)

Thankfulness

“I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” –Psalm 9:1

Thankfulness reminds us who God is. He created each and every one of us with a special purpose. He loves us and even sent His son, Jesus, to die for us. Even on our worst days there is something to be thankful for. What are you thankful for? Make a list and let other people know what you are thankful for. One of the things I am thankful for is you!

Prayer

Dear Lord, there is so much to be thankful for. Thank you for all of the ways you have taken care of me. Help me to focus on all the blessings you have given me. When I complain, remind me of what I have to be thankful for. May I show my thankfulness to those around me, even if it is just saying “thank-you”. In Jesus name, Amen.

An idea came to me a couple of weeks ago for something neat to send to our Compassion children. Oriental Trading has these neat colored boxes that come flat and you can easily pop them into a regular box shape.

I hope to be able to find some locally, at a Party Store, so that I won’t have to pay shipping. My plan is to use Sharpies and stickers to personalize them for each child. I don’t know if it is universal, but my own girls love to have boxes to store their treasures and special items. I think our sponsored children would like them as well! When I get some, I’ll be sure to post the project here!

In other news, I have been filled with joy to witness several prayers being answered. I don’t know why it always amazes me, knowing how awesome our God is, but I really and truly am amazed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Green Eyed Monster ~or~ Thou Shall Not Covet

I’ve been reflecting on something that I experienced a couple of days ago.  Something that reaffirmed I am a work in progress and that I need God’s grace in my life.

Let me preface this by saying, I think we live pretty simply.  I don’t mind driving a car with rusty holes while many of our friends have shiny new cars.  I am ok with painted plywood floors in my house instead of nice hardwood. I am content without buying myself new clothes and with our yearly family budget of $200 for clothing and shoes.  Generally, I don’t desire more “stuff” or get jealous.

But, a couple of days ago, I was caught off guard.  A friend excitedly wanted to show me her new birthday present.  When she grabbed a black case and pulled out fancy new camera, feelings flared up in me that I hardly recognized. I managed to mumble out a half-hearted, “Oh, cool!” but inside I was throwing a 4 year old temper tantrum. ”Why does SHE get an awesome camera?!  I want one!”

I was filled with envy. For a period of time, my thoughts kept turning to why I deserved a nice camera more than my very dear friend. I hate to even admit that.

That evening, I talked with my husband about the experience.  While he was shocked to hear how I reacted, knowing that I am usually not like that, he was able to talk me through it and pray with me. I realized that, even though I have a giving heart, I am not immune to the desires for having more. I can make judgements about people who spend big money on the newest iPad or smart phone, but I was able to get a up close and personal look at what it is like to think, “I. WANT. That!” Perhaps it was just the perspective I needed.

1 Corinthians 3:4 tells us that Love does not Envy. I have been praying on that a lot the last few days. Isn’t it amazing how the Bible holds verses that will minister to any situation in our lives. This week, I will work on that Plank in my own eye and pray that I may become mindful of these things in my life that I need to work on.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Must-Watch

When my friend Jessica shared this on Facebook, I nearly did a Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. “Yes!  Yes!” What a great message!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Favorites

Today, I am going to share a couple of my favorite links. 

Favorite Causes:

Compassion International ~ Releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Shoes For Kids ~ Eleven year old Isabel Jones collects shoes for children who have none.

The Mercy House ~ Exists to provide alternative options for pregnant girls living in the streets of Kenya.

Operation Christmas Child ~ Pack shoeboxes of gifts for children living in poverty.

Favorite Places to Online Window Shop:

(I don’t buy much for myself, but I love the wares offered at these two websites.)

Come Together Trading ~ Beautiful fair trade gifts.

Bead For Life ~ Handmade beaded jewelry crafted by women in Uganda.

Favorite Blogs:

(I have a LOT of great blogs on my Google Reader feed, but here is a sampling of my favorites.)

Art Projects for Kids

Bohemian Bowmans

Compassion Can

Hobbies of a Domestic Goddess

A Holy Experience

Queen of the D Family

Servants in Ecuador

Shaun Groves

She Becomes

Thankful

The Journey

And lastly, my guilty pleasure….

Catalog Living

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday’s This & That

  • Outside of the window… it is a grey and blustery morning. We’ve been out of birdseed for weeks, but the feathered cuties still show up every morning in hopes of finding breakfast. I’ll go and put out some cereal crumbs and peanuts after posting.
  • Around the house… Kaya is having breakfast while my Little Pep Rally, Luna, is stomping and jumping around the living room. Tenth Avenue North is playing on the stereo.
  • Our plans for the day…We will run some errands in town this morning and then visit the continuing care center later on. Hopefully we can get an hour or so of learning squeezed in during the middle of the day.
  • Big News this week… Kaya lost a tooth on Monday, then another on Tuesday, and just to keep things exciting, she lost another one last night. Will she lose one today? Inquiring minds want to know.
  • I am thankful for… the amazing group of sisters I have come to know through our church. I am truly blessed.
  • I’ve been thinking of… the direction that this Christmas season has taken. I have a really hard time with the materialistic, present-focused aspect of the holiday. I have a hard time reconciling the fact that the average American child receives hundreds of dollars worth of “stuff” every year, while the average family in Rwanda manages to barely survive on less than $100 a year. It truly weighs on my heart. What comes to mind in something that Ann Voskamp said recently, God gives the world enough of what it needs. He just doesn't distribute it. We will have to share. We're the ones who will have to do the distributing."

Finally, a few photos from the week:

HPIM3330 Kaya and the birthday party attendees are captivated by Leilani’s Amazing Flea Circus!

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 HPIM3346 Kaya and Savanna are perfect pals!

Hope you all have a great day!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

My artistic little Kaya saw a Christmas card with a similar design and sat down to try her hand at drawing it freehand.  I think it is SO cute!scan0002

Speaking of cards, I just want to remind you that you can still send out Christmas cards for unsponsored Compassion International children, but you need to get them out ASAP!  Find details on sending them here. You can do this, even if you are not yet a Compassion sponsor!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It Doesn’t Take Much….

…to make somebody’s day.

I am realizing this more and more, how we have the opportunity to bring joy to others with just a little bit of time and effort. I recently read this little gem by Loretta Scott which has stuck with me:

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”

Today during our homeschool co-op, we had a guest speaker that came to talk to the kids. He is the father of one of the little girls in the co-op and served in the Middle East years ago. The children sat, spellbound, as he opened an MRE and showed the steps he would take to prepare his dinner every day. We all wrinkled our noses at the sight of the “ meatloaf and gravy” which looked remarkably like canned dog food. He told us about missing the comforts of home and how letters and cards from people he never met were so very important to him. He showed us a stack of handmade construction paper cards, covered in stickers and crayon scribbled words of encouragement, and told us how much they meant to him.

So, during our Art class, we took the time to make some Christmas cards for some veterans in a nearby VA hospital. Then, we got out the construction paper and glue sticks, and created cards to send to our troops overseas.

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In less than a half hour’s time, we had made a stack of love and encouragement to send to the men and women serving our country.

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Later on this week, we will spend an hour or so at the nearby senior center, visiting with the residents there. We like to go once a month with some of our homeschool friends and that one hour of time that we give goes a long way to bring joy. The seniors just light up when they see us walk in and they really soak up the time with the children and enjoy the chit-chat.

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Writing letters to your Compassion International children is another way you can use a small amount of your time to make a difference in the life of someone else. Your efforts make the statement that your child is special, thought of, loved… Even if you can only spare five minutes to send a quick email through the Compassion website, take the time to do it. Your child would rather have a short note than nothing at all. When Mail Day comes at the project, your child will rejoice when their name is called.

“Our lives, we are told, are but fleeting at best,

Like roses, they fade and decay;

Then let us do good while the present is ours.

Be useful as long as we stay.”

Fanny Crosby