Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thursday Morning This & That Post

(Consider this fair warning, Becka in Ecuador, you may not want to read this post. ;) )

  • Outside of my window…. it is grey and foggy, with drizzling cold rain. Some of the trees are already bare while others flaunt gold and amber tinged leaves.
  • I am hearing… the streaming broadcast of New Life 91.9 in North Carolina as they have their second Day of Compassion. I was able to chat with one of their morning hosts yesterday and tell them our story of how the children have impacted our lives. Erica even published a blog post based on my testimony: She Named Her Broom
  • I am smelling… my morning cuppa Joe, with a dash of Pumpkin Spice creamer.
  • I am wearing… yoga pants, tee and a hoodie.  It’s early, still in my comfy clothes.
  • My plans for the day… my friend is bringing her daughter over for a couple of days while the family heads off for a wedding.  We’re looking forward to some fun and a slumber party.
  • I am thankful for… God’s tangible presence in my life. Though we are going through a difficult situation, He is giving us peace in surrender.
  • I am thinking about… my amazing husband who works so hard to provide for our family.  I hope he stays dry today!
  • I am creating… a list of books and audio-books I would like to put on hold before our library system revamps their online catalog.  Inter-library loan is kind of like water or air to our homeschooling family!
  • I am praying for… my step-daughter, miss her so much.
  • My projects for the week… We’re putting together a box of shoes for Isabel of Shoes For Kids. I am inspired by her desire to collect and distribute shoes for kids who don’t have any. We’re also collecting items for the Operation Christmas Child boxes we’ll put together at our church.
  • My Photo Thought for the Day:

fallgirlsThis picture was taken three years ago… Though time and distance may separate them, these girls will be sisters FOREVER! <3

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Time to Think Christmas!

Because of the many stops our packages make along the way, Compassion International asks us to allow 2-3 months for items to travel from our hands to those of our children. That means we need to get our Christmas packages out to our sponsored children soon, if we want them to arrive before December 25th.

While the average child in America receives several hundred dollars worth of presents every year, this is not so in other countries. We can bring some joy to our beloved Compassion children this year in the following ways:

~Give to Compassion’s Christmas Gift Fund, where all funds collected are pooled together and every child in the program will receive something this year. On top of this, you could also give a Family Gift. 100% of the Family Gift funds will go directly to your child’s family, with project staff helping the family choose the best gift.

~You may also send a package with a flat gift or two. Compassion’s mailing requirements state that shipments are mailed through customs as documents, so they need to be flat and flexible. While you can’t send teddy bears and soccer balls, you can get creative and still send fun gifts to your child. (Even though Compassion’s official statement says that you cannot send books, I have found that very thin and flexible books with few pages ARE still getting through.) We send out items in large manilla envelopes, so you don't have to be limited to small letter envelopes. (To see mailing size requirements and ideas of what to send, click the link in my right hand sidebar titled "Sending Goodies...")

~Check out Dover Publications, they have a ton of great little activity books that are just $1.50 each. While Compassion staff will not translate an entire book like this, there are many that don’t require translation. They have sticker books, paper dolls, stencil books, tattoos and many more! Here is a link to 60 different Christmas activity books, including advent calendars and nativity scenes.

(My own personal opinion is to keep Christmas items focused on a Christian view and to avoid things with Santa Claus. I worry about a child who learns of Santa and is sorely disappointed when he doesn’t come on Christmas Day. I also worry that some may come to believe in Santa only to find out he is a myth, and then possibly question the reality of our God in the same way. Ultimately it is your decision, but I felt it was worth mentioning.)

~I was contacted by a local sponsor on the Our Compassion site and we went in on an order from Oriental Trading. They have a variety of neat Christmas items such as color scratch ornaments and Christian crafts.

If you don’t want to order anything for your Compassion International children, you can just send a Christmas card, which will bring them joy. You could send along some paper snowflakes, strips of paper with adhesive dots and instructions on how to make paper chains and photos are ALWAYS a hit! Also, check out the Sending Goodies to our Compassion children link over on the right hand sidebar for more ideas!

As usual, Christmas items would be mailed to:

Attention: Child Correspondence Dept.

Compassion International

Colorado Springs, CO 80997

You can also check out this post on Our Compassion to read what other sponsors are sending to their kids for Christmas.

What are you sending your Compassion children for Christmas? Share your ideas in the comment section!

Monday, September 27, 2010

This is What Sponsorship is All About

Have you ever wondered if sponsoring a child through Compassion International really makes a difference?  Sometimes, seeing is believing

I know I said that my next post would be about sending Christmas items to our Compassion International children, but I really wanted to share this with you all. My friend Kathy Olson recently posted  this amazing series of photos on Our Compassion.  It illustrates the power that child sponsorship has in transforming a child and their family. Kathy says that she sponsored Nyakaho in Tanzania through Compassion International because she really believes in the organization. (So do I, Kathy!)

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“Nyakaho was a 7 year old orphan when we first started sponsoring her last year. Her profile photo showed deep worry lines in her forehead. We sent a family gift for her and her grandma right away.

Nyakaho's grandma pounds stones into gravel all day to provide for Nyakaho and her other relatives. They bought a mattress to sleep on and food to eat.  I wrote to Nyakaho twice a month all year long.  I got 4 more wonderful photos, which I tried to post but it wouldn't save. But still, no smiles. We sent another family gift this year when we got our tax return in April.

Nyakaho's grandma used the family gift to buy rice and corn and small fish which she sells in the market as a new business and has given up grinding stones into gravel. Nyakaho writes "Grandma is starting to become beautiful and smart because of your love".

And check out Nyakaho’s smile…first smile! Praise God!!!
"Nyakaho says that your love is like a ring on her finger, and she sees nothing to hinder your love from advancing because it is of God and it has no end".

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

This series of photos goes to show you that your sponsorship, letters and gifts really do transform lives.  The photos don’t lie. 

Do you want to transform a life?  Can you spare less than $10 a week in order to do that?  Please visit Compassion International to learn more.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Family Sponsorship Ideas

I found this list of ideas on the Compassion International website, under the area for Advocate Resources.  I am not sure if they are something you can find if you’re not a part of the Advocates Network, but I can see that they are great ideas that should be shared:

Family Sponsorship Ideas
• Pray for your sponsored child at mealtime. Encourage your own child(ren) to color the Compassion place mat. Attach a photo of your sponsored child to it. Laminate the place mat or cover it with clear contact paper. Use it at mealtime as a reminder to pray for your child.
• Post your sponsored child’s photo on your refrigerator door. This acts as a visual reminder that most children living in our world today do not have the easy access to delicious and plentiful food as we do. Talk to your children about this and encourage them to pray for your sponsored child’s health and that God will provide for his or her daily needs. Discuss concepts of God’s goodness and provision and why we should never take His blessings for granted.
• Encourage your children to contribute financially to sponsorship. Assemble the Compassion bank according to its directions. Set the bank in a prominent place in your house. Encourage all family members to deposit change into the bank for
the monthly sponsorship payment or for a special gift for your sponsored child.
• Write meaningful letters to your sponsored child. Encourage each family member to write a paragraph in each letter. Be sure to write at least three times a year. Compassion is happy to send your letters, cards and photos to your sponsored child — and he or she will be happy to receive them! Write your child as often as you like. Answer all questions that your sponsored child asks. Talk about faith lessons that you are learning; encourage your sponsored child by writing about how God is working in your life and how you see Him working in his or her life. Share prayer concerns with your child and be diligent to ask about his or her prayer needs.
• Help your child understand what sponsorship provides. Using the activity and coloring sheets available through the Family Sponsorship Kit, teach your children about the benefits provided to your sponsored child. As you discuss these benefits, teach your children about the needs of children in developing countries to help them gain an understanding of the hardship and challenges children live with around the world. Teach them to pray for the needs of children everywhere.
• Teach your child through your letters. Your sponsored child and your own children can learn vital lessons together if you use your letters to teach your sponsored child about a variety of subjects. Short lessons on geography, animals, health, nutrition, history or places can open up a whole new world that your child may not be exposed to otherwise. Include coloring pages when possible to help reinforce the lessons you are sharing.
• Provide fun and educational inserts in letters. Brainstorm with your own children about ideas to make each letter special. For example, include stickers of insects with a short description of the insects’ names and where they can be found. Include postcards of famous landmarks in the United States and briefly describe their history. Provide a paper doll and include a different outfit in each letter —
this is especially fun if you can find a paper doll that comes with costumes from various cultures. You can then provide facts about that culture in the letter.
• Encourage your children to learn about the country where your sponsored child lives and compare and contrast it to life in this country. Let your children research your sponsored child’s country or culture on the Internet, on Compassion’s Web site, or in an encyclopedia. Then, each time you write a letter to your sponsored child, allow your children to share something they learned in the letter. For example, if your children learn that in Ethiopia the most commonly eaten food is a large pancake-like bread called injera, your children might ask in the letter about how it is prepared or what is typically eaten with it. He or she can then tell your sponsored child about pancakes — a similar food in our country. The book, A Country Far Away by Nigel Gray and Philippe Dupasquier, is a great tool to teach your children to recognize the similarities and to respect the differences seen in children of other cultures.
• Count your blessings at bedtime. Before or after bedtime prayers, lead your children in counting their blessings. Take time to help them see all of the ways God’s blessings are experienced throughout the day.
When this is done in a family where the children learn to think about those less fortunate, the children will soon begin to realize that your sponsored child doesn’t experience the same blessings as they do. Use this as a lead-in to pray for your sponsored child’s needs. Help your children see the blessings that your sponsored child may experience so they realize that God is caring for and loving your sponsored child, too!
• Use sponsorship as an ongoing tool to teach your children about poverty.
Talk to your children about all of the special things they experience on a regular basis that your sponsored child does not. For example, eating out in restaurants, having refrigerated food, heating food in a microwave, getting clean water from the tap, taking a warm bath, having more than one pair of shoes (or having a pair of shoes at all!), having a variety of store-bought toys, etc. Help them to learn not to be wasteful and to appreciate the conveniences we so often take for granted.

I also found links to the placemat and other sheets mentioned above.  I will try to add them here, but I am unsure if they will work for those who aren’t Advocates, since they were found in the Advocates section.  Please let me know if they worked for you!

Place Mat

Money Bank with Instructions

Child Activity Sheets

Coloring Sheets

I really hope that these links work for you and help your family become more involved with Compassion. I would also like to take a minute to tell you about the Advocates Network.  If you have a passion for Compassion and want to do more more this organization, you can volunteer to become an Advocate.  Compassion will provide you with free computer based training that you can complete at times that work for you. Last December, God placed in on my heart to take this step and I have honestly LOVED every minute of it. The training is fabulous and I love being able to work Compassion events and give my time and energy to finding sponsors and planting seeds about Compassion’s mission.

My next post will be about sending Christmas items to our children, so check back!  Compassion asks that we allow 2-3 months travel time for our letters to reach our children, so Christmas items need to be mailed within the next couple of weeks!

Friday, September 24, 2010

One Amazing Heart = Many Happy Feet

Please take a minute to check out this blog post featuring an amazing 11 year old girl named Isabel Jones. Isabel’s mission is to collect shoes for kids in need all over the world. Why does she do it? Her website says this:

Every year Americans spend around $60 million on shoes. And over 300 million kids walk around without shoes. We want this to change, we want all kids to have a chance to have a pair of shoes to prevent diseases.

Our local Dollar General stores currently have summer shoes on clearance. Flip flops are just 25 cents a pair, so I picked up 17 pairs last week for our Operation Christmas Child boxes. I emailed Isabel for her address and I plan to go back to see if they have any shoes left so we can send some to Isabel for her cause. (The website says that closed toe shoes are best, so I am waiting to hear back to see if they'd rather not have flip flops at all.)

If you can help Shoes For Kids, please check out the website and contact Isabel for her address.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Our Autumn Themed Letters

Here in the hills of the Finger Lakes region of New York, we’re really starting to see the brilliant Autumn foliage. Yesterday, I sat down to start a round of letters for our Compassion International children.  With 6 kids to write to, I tend to spread the actual letter writing over two days. The theme of this most current batch of letters is the beauty of the changing leaves.  I gave a simple explanation of why the leaves change from green to yellow, orange, red and brown. I shared my thoughts on how the stunning beauty helps us to see the glory of God all around us.  I also shared Romans 1:20. Each letter is also personalized to each child, answering any recent questions, sharing our prayers for each child and asking any questions we may have.

I took my girls out for a hike and picked several different types of leaves for some leaf rubbings.  I printed Romans 1:20 out on paper and then Luna helped me decorate each one with some colorful designs. (Kaya came down with a stomach bug this morning and didn’t want to help with this project.Poor little sweetie!)

HPIM3264 You can tell that Luna is really concentrating on a project when her mouth is wide open and/or her tongue is hanging out! :P

I also Googled and found an Autumn coloring sheet and Autumn themed maze to print out for each of the kids.

HPIM3267 Each of our 6 children will receive a bundle with a letter, activity sheet, leaf rubbing and I also hope to get to town this weekend and pick up some postcards I saw at the Pharmacy with photos of our fall foliage. Before mailing everything out, I will be sure that each piece of paper is clearly labeled with our sponsor number as well as each child’s name and number. I’ll use a paperclip to keep each child’s bundle separate and will slip everything into a large manilla envelope and ship it off to Colorado Springs!

(It is worth noting, that because many of these children live where voodoo and witchcraft are prevalent, they ask that we refrain from sending Halloween themed items.)

I want to stress something, though.  I realize that many of you do not have the time or desire to put this much into letters to your Compassion nternational children, and that is ok!  Please do not let that stop you from writing! Even if all you can spare is 5-10 minutes a month to send an email, your sponsored child will be SO thrilled to receive that from you!  We just so happen to have the time and truly enjoy putting these packages together, so it is something that we like to do.

Another thing I wanted to mention today is that Compassion asks that we allow 2-3 months for our letters to travel to our children.  That means, if you want to send a Christmas card or package to your child, you might want to put some thought into it very soon!

I plan to purchase these cute Nativity Sticker books from Dover Publications. They are just $1.50 each and the Dover books are always thoroughly enjoyed by our kids!

They also carry neat stained glass ornament coloring books like this:

 

My plan is to get our Christmas packages out in the next two weeks and I’ll be sure to post with details!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Autumn Means….

Pumpkin muffins! My friend Sandi B. shared this great Pumpkin Muffin recipe with me years ago and it is a “Must Bake” item as soon as the weather becomes cooler and the leaves start to change.

Sandi's Pumpkin Muffins
This is the double batch:
3 C sugar
1 C oil (I often use applesauce or chunky applesauce)
4 eggs (also have used egg beaters with good results)
2 tsp vanilla
Mix together until combined
3 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
sift dry ingredients, then add wet to dry
2/3 cup milk (soy works great, skim works great)
1 3/4 cups pumpkin (canned - just a regular size can)
add half the milk, mix, half the pumpkin, mix again,
the rest of the milk, mix, the rest of the pumpkin, mix
optional:
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chocolate chips (we used vegan tropical source last time)
(just fold these in)
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean

I have always cut the amount of sugar in half for this recipe and the muffins are sweet enough for us! I just popped a pan of these babies into the oven, can’t wait until they’re done!

In other news, I recently stumbled across Blog Frog and decided to try it out. I started a community for bloggers that are Compassion Sponsors and I would love it if you could join me. You’ll see a button to do so on my sidebar. I also added a button where you can email me if you'd like!

Also, I would really love to hear from my faithful readers! I am getting more and more hits to my blog recently and would love the chance to get some feedback and hear from you! Please leave a comment so I can get to know you and what kinds of things you like reading about!

Mondays seem to be good Compassion mail days and today didn’t disappoint! We received a letter from Rodrigo in Bolivia (BO281) and I am pretty sure his project has switched to writing reciprocally. We’ve gotten 3 letters from him in the last couple of weeks and I really love getting to know more about him! Here’s an excerpt from his letter:

“My beloved friends, I greet all of you in our Lord Jesus Christ’s holy name hoping you are all well of health by God’s grace. I thank you for the letters you have sent to me, my family and I read it this weekend. Here we celebrated Bolivia’s anniversary on the 6th of August and all of the schools paraded in homage…My cousin played the drum with the school’s band when we paraded and I had a great time and then played with my friends and family. I got very tired parading but I am very happy because our country celebrated its 185th anniversary….In the Compassion project I am very well and my tutor is nice and he teaches me more about Jesus’ life and we also get to go out and play ball and I like soccer a lot. I am praying for you and your family and I go to church every Sunday. With Lots of Love, Rodrigo”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Delivery

I have been blessed to get to know many great friends at the Our Compassion website. Our Compassion is a social networking site for those who sponsor children through Compassion International. I have found it to be a wonderful place full of support and great ideas as well as amazing people. Recently, my friend Caitlin shared an incredible short story she wrote that truly touched me. She has graciously allowed me to post her piece here and I hope that it touches you as well.

The Delivery

By

Caitlin Sanders

On the day the delivery truck comes, the children watch closely, following it, prancing around with glee. Some of the children’s eyes light up, knowing that something good is happening today. They press in close to the truck, even reaching out to touch it as it ambles forward. Other children cling to the edges of the fray. Their eyes are not quite lit up, not with the same blazing fire at least. Their eyes light with embers of their daring to hope, but a little afraid to do so, in fear of being disappointed. All of the children, those with blazing hope, as well as those with glimmering hope, are quick to follow the truck to its destination. They know exactly what the truck is delivering, and the very thought of it makes all of their hearts sing.

The children circle around the truck as it reaches its destination and slows to a stop. Their excited tittering magnifies as they hear the truck’s emergency brake being set. The delivery man hops out of the truck and walks around to throw the back door open. Though the children have been told to give the truck room, the sight of the five large barrels in the back of the truck causes them to automatically creep closer. It is as though they are drawn to the contents of the barrels. The workers come out of the nearby building, reminding the children to “Give room, give room!” The children shuffle back a few steps, but not quite as much as they had crept forward moments earlier. The workers and the delivery man work together to lug the barrels to the porch of the building, setting them up in a neat line. With the work done, the delivery man tips his hat and wades through the throng of children. Many of the children touch his arm appreciatively as he passes, murmuring different things to him that all add up to, “Thank you! Come back soon!”

With the delivery man gone, the children fall silent and expectantly turn to the workers. The workers make a headcount. It seems that all are here. One of the workers pulls out a crowbar and pries off the lid of the first barrel. As the lid tumbles off, the essence of the contents radiates out. It seems as though the children draw in the same breath. The scent is beautiful: a mixture of sweet, warm, rich, and genuine. It is an engulfing smell of the best kind. Those with the blazing hope crowd expectantly forward. Those with the glimmering hope, shyly cling to the edges, holding their breaths.

The worker next to the one with the crowbar pulls out a list and looks it over. The other sets the crowbar aside and picks up a ladle. The one with the list then slowly starts calling off children’s names: Jenessah, Subash, Geerthika…

Jenessah lets out a squeak of delight and climbs through the crowd of children to the front. Cupping her hands together, she can barely hold still long enough for the worker to ladle the sweet substance into her palms. Jenessah holds it carefully, making sure not to lose any. She peers into her palms, to see what is in the mix this time: stories, prayers, confidence, Bible verses, and belonging. The fire in her eyes blazes even stronger, and she lifts her palms to her lips and sips the mixture down, treasuring it as she feels the substance warm her, strengthen her.

Subash, a quiet boy, eagerly works his way through the crowd. He is trying to look mature about his excitement. He places his hands steadily forward, as he stands tall and still. When his allotment drizzles into his hands, however, he cannot keep the smile from sneaking onto his face. His portion is seasoned heavily with wisdom, encouragement and self esteem, and though he tries to pace himself, it seems he cannot help but consume it quickly.

Geerthika has waited patiently for the two children ahead of her to receive their portion, but now that it is her turn, she quickly thrusts her hands forward. She is unable to keep herself from bouncing on her toes. The worker looks at his list and then at Geerthika’s hands and then his head shakes. The smile falls from her face for a moment. Has there been a mistake? The worker sends one of the other workers into the kitchen. Geerthika watches nervously, not yet willing to lower her hands. The other worker returns with a large bowl and places it in Geerthika’s hands. She looks at it with confusion for a moment until the worker with the ladle begins to fill the bowl for her. Exhortations, stories, encouragement, value…the substance was just more than would fit in her palms. Happy tears are finding their way down Geerthika’s face. When the bowl is full, she gently dips her finger into it and brings it to her lips, closing her eyes as she savors it.

The names continue to be called, and the children called quickly line up. Yohanna, Johnwey, Puja, Ramon, Adrian, Million, Henry, Christine, Elnora… Most of the children called are coming from the group of children whose eyes already blaze with hope. Nerlange, Mesay, Dalfry, Oscar, Abishek, Beauty… As their names are called, they rejoice, each in their own manner. Kevin, Given, Prince, Usmith, Earl, Yznalie… Some have their palms filled to the brim, others have just enough to fill the hollow of their palms, and still others need bowls and buckets. All of these children celebrate their allotment. They are unconcerned about how their proportions compare to their neighbors. They are just happy to have their own. Some sit down immediately to enjoy their portion, while others race home to share with their families, being very careful not to spill on their way. Kathure, Arya, Josue, Jiji, Sankalon, Mogani, Jerlyn, Mercy…

When Mogani’s name is called, there is a shout. All turn to see that the shout came from Mogani himself, which is surprising, because he is usually one of the most reserved children among them. He is known to be tough, and unemotional. “Mogani… Mogani…? Mogani!” He shouts in disbelief. The other children are shocked to see tears streaming down his face, “Mogani? Me?!” He cries out again. The worker smiles, looks Mogani in the eye, and nods. Up until this day, Mogani has never had his name called. He has shown up to the delivery every month for five years. He was among those with only the glimmering hope, until today. Now his eyes blaze with the fire of hope as he whispers, “Mogani…that’s me… I’m on the list today!” He makes a pointless dash with his sleeve across his tear soaked face and breaks his feet away from the shock that had glued them down. Mogani rushes forward, his hands held out the whole way. He does not have to climb through the crowd as the others had to, because this time, the children part a way for the one who has waited so long. His palms tremble as they are filled, then he shuffles off to the side, just gazing at his portion. It is a simple mix: prayers, verses, and introduction. To Mogani, it is more than enough. It is precious. His smile is broad as he tries to quell the tears of happiness, but it doesn’t work. He takes just a small sip, determined to make his portion last forever. As that sip works through him, there is a visible change in Mogani. Bitterness has slipped away from him, and is replaced with courage. Those standing near him can hear him mumble softly through his tears, “I… am not worthless…”

Others from the group of glimmering hope look up with a little more hope as the worker calls off the names. Laurie, Abigail, Aloknath, Santiago, View, Sukriporn, Robin, Joshua, Akos, Sanjin… If Mogani can have his name called, maybe today is their day as well. Children come as their name is called, and the waiting crowd dwindles in numbers. The children who have already received their allotments are scampering home to show their families. Zawadi, Velma, Daniela, Yishak, Rodrigo, Samuel, Janna…The first barrel is emptied, and the second opened. Paulus, Marc, Sherin, John, Christian, Ruth… The third barrel is opened. Mayerly, Govindammal, Enggar, Tahaschnie… The crowd of waiting children still dwindles as the fourth barrel is opened. Evelyn, Rohit, Zaithanpui, Isaac, Deysis, Dinah, Jeejee… As the fifth barrel is opened, the waiting crowd seems to be only populated by the children with the glimmering hope. All the children with blazing the hope have gone home now, because they have all received their portions today. Sitthipon, Hakky, Ismaline, Keidy, Shanti, Iliana…

The worker with the list calls, “Bryan!” with a sense of finality. The waiting group of children can all feel their hearts drop as they hear the confirmation of the ladle scraping the bottom of the fifth barrel. They wait, staring at the worker who sets down his list. They are hoping he is mistaken. Maybe there is a sixth barrel hidden in the back somewhere. Maybe there is another page of names. Please, God, let there be another page of names, let there be another barrel stashed somewhere. The worker struggles to meet the stares of the remaining children. Many have begun to cry, and not the earlier tears of joy. He can see the embers of hope flicker, and can almost hear a hiss from the embers as the children’s tears threaten to put them out. He sighs, raises his eyes to the children and shakes his head. Maybe next time. The crowd of waiting embers begins to disperse, each child slowly walking to his own home, thinking about telling his parents again that his name was not called. Three children wait longer, standing in the silence. The children are Lesly, Christopal, and Tulasi. The worker again shakes his head sorrowfully. Lesly and Tulasi sigh, and turn to leave. They know better than to expect their names to be called yet.

Christopal stays. He has a reason for his name to be called, and yet it never is. He looks the worker directly in the eyes, and dares to finally ask, “Why?” The worker can only shrug. He has no way of knowing. Christopal speaks again, “Is it because of me?” The worker pauses in disbelief, but Christopal continues, “Do I not behave well enough? Am I not good enough? Do my grades need to be better? Am I shameful? How can I change to make myself worth it? Do they not love me?”

The worker places his hands on Christopal’s shoulders, “I don’t know why. Christopal, it is not your fault. You are worth it. I am sure they do love you, they just didn’t send any for you.” The boy listens, but shakes his head, fighting tears. He wants to believe the worker, but struggles to do so. After all, if they love him, wouldn’t they send some for him? The worker gives Christopal’s shoulders a squeeze before turning, picking up the crowbar, the ladle and the list, and leaving to deal with other responsibilities of his day, leaving Christopal to stand with the five large, empty barrels.

Christopal’s voice cracks as he quietly turns his question to the empty barrels, “Why?” He looks inside every barrel, thoroughly, making sure that his portion wasn’t just accidently overlooked, and waiting for him. He leans over the opening of each barrel, drawing a deep breath, imagining once again what it would feel like to hold his own portion in his hands, wondering what it would taste like. He stands up straight, looks now at the outside of the barrel. Christopal traces the capital letters burned into the wood of the barrel, burned in so many languages. His fingers find the label in his own language. Very slowly, he traces each letter, “SPONSOR’S LOVE.” Christopal turns his eyes to the sky and inwardly asks, “Where’s mine?”

Drawing one last breath of the lingering sweetness of what once filled the barrels, he puts his hands in his pockets and walks home, already beginning to think of the next delivery, and dreaming that next time his name will be called, too. The ember of hope in his eyes had nearly gone out while he searched the barrels, but at the thought of his name being called at the next delivery, the waning glimmer flickers and flares. Christopal’s ember will glow on, because maybe the next delivery will be his delivery.

…Your letters are much more than paper and ink…

Saturday Afternoon This & That Post

Outside my window. . .  bright sun illuminates the golden leaves on the trees and chickadees are snacking from a birdfeeder. Sheets and blankets on the clothesline sway in the gentle breeze.

I am thinking. . .  that I should try to wash all of the bedding today.  I love the smell of line-dried blankets!

I am thankful for. . . the amazing husband that God has blessed me with. We had a great date night last night and truly enjoyed the Selah concert.  I also loved working the Compassion table with Jay and seeing his joy as over 19 children were sponsored! Praise God!

From the kitchen. . .  it is actually a bit of a mess right now, so I have some coffee brewing and will tackle it in just a few minutes.

I am wearing. . .  a khaki skirt, eggplant colored tee and brown boots.

I am creating. . .  a blog post.  lol

I am going. . .  to get out and enjoy some sunshine with my girls once they are up from their rests.

I am reading. . . an amazing short story written by a friend that I met through Our Compassion.  I am so excited that Caitlyn has graciously allowed me to share it here, so today will be a rare double post blog day!

I am hoping. . .  that my husband doesn’t have to work too late today so we can enjoy some Family Time this evening!

I am hearing. . . my youngest as she quietly pretends to read some books during her rest time, my washing machine going through the motions and Family Life Network on the radio.

A few plans for the rest of the week. . .  homeschool co-op and history class and maybe some apple picking with friends.

Here is a photo to share:  Jay and I at the Compassion display.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Hope Rises from Adversity

It was a repeated theme found in the blog posts published by the Compassion Bloggers last week as they traveled in Guatemala.  I had no idea, as I read those posts, that within days that theme would touch my life so personally.  Our family is going through some heart-wrenching situations right now.  While I can’t get into all of the details, I can say that there is nothing quite like the feeling that a child you love may be in jeopardy and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. It is enough to make you feel out of your mind.

Through it all, though, it is possible to take a step back and see that hope really does rise from adversity.  Yes, my heart does feel as if it is being pulled right out of my chest, but I can see positives.  A renewed reliance on our Mighty God…  A strengthened bond between husband and wife…  A calling to spend more time in the Word and in prayer….  The surrender that comes with the knowledge that we really are just a vapor in the wind… The reminder that this world is not our home and that we’ll have no more tears when we are truly Home.

I humbly appreciate the prayers said on our behalf.

These last few days have been tough, but I am looking forward to tonight.  One of my wonderful friends is going to watch my two youngest girls and my husband and I are going to work a Compassion International table at the Selah concert at Family Life Network. My husband isn’t an official advocate (though he has inspired others to start sponsorships) and he hasn’t yet had the experience of actually working an event.  It is my hope that we can plant seeds in the hearts of some people and also see children get matched up with sponsors.  It is a joy to be a part of this organization and to know that we can help bring Hope to these children who sorely need it.

If you would like to take the life-changing step to bring Hope, Love and Encouragement to a child, please click this link to find out more.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Like Sunshine Through the Clouds

Yesterday was a tough day for me. I am the step-mom to a beautiful 12 year old girl, and have been for the last ten years. While this role has brought plenty of joy, co-parenting with someone who has a very different set of ideals has been one of the most difficult things I’ve faced so far in my life. In the last ten years, we have had our ups and downs with the co-parenting relationship. We’re currently going through a “down” time. Yesterday brought a few situations that left me revisiting the anger and frustration I’ve been through many times before. Perhaps even the word “wrath” would be a better description. My heart was pounding, my palms were sweating, my thoughts were speeding around into dark territory.

We live a ways down a private drive, and I decided I needed to take some time out of the house, away from my children. I started walking, then running down the road, all the time trying to figure out how in the world I was supposed to “give it to God”. The intense anger and frustration was kind of like how it is when you lose a tooth as a kid. You can forget about that squishy place where your tooth used to be for a minute, but before you know it, your tongue goes back to the place. I was pushing away the bitter feelings for a minute, but they’d come back in a flood, trying to pull me under.

These feelings aren’t new to me. In fact, they are part of my testimony of how I came to Lord. Several years ago, we were going through a custody fight that was both emotionally and financially draining. The worst of it all, though, was that I was morphing from a fairly happy and positive person to a person whose mind traveled to dark and threatening places. As days passed and I spent more and more time filled with hate, animosity and thoughts of revenge, I went deeper into a pit of darkness. At the very bottom of it, I realized that I hardly recognized myself. I realized that I needed help and I couldn’t get out of the hole alone. My husband had been going to church for a little while and I decided to reach out to this God he suddenly believed in. I prayed, a desperate prayer sent out as a last resort. “God, if you are real and you are there, I need you. I need your help. Please reveal yourself to me.” He did, in many personal and unmistakable ways. Thankfully, praise God!

Yesterday, I felt the cold chill of those dark feelings in my soul. I ran, maybe trying to outrun them. I found myself at the end of our road, at the mailbox.

Inside, God had sent messages that were like sunshine through the clouds. We received four letters from our Compassion International children as well as the added bonus of a photo from our Precious girl in Ghana. The anger left my heart and I was joyful to hear from our children.

scan0003 This picture of Precious’ family shows what part of a Family Gift we sent a couple of months ago was able to buy. The huge bags of rice and sugar will be divided up and sold and traded in order to build up the family’s business. The soda and biscuits were a treat for the whole family to enjoy. The rest of the money left over was used to start a bank account to provide for the children’s needs in the future.

Some excerpts from Precious’ two letters:

“She says that she can only say a word of thank you and leave the rest for God to bless you abundantly in your daily living. A big thank you for all of what you have done for her in her life….She wants to pray for you to be wise, bold and strong all the time so that you can achieve your heart’s desires.”

We also received two letters from Rodrigo in Bolivia (BO281) which were written 4 days apart. Some excerpts:

“I thank you for the birthday gift you sent me. I bought with it a coat to keep warm in the cold weather that is in my city now. In school we aren’t doing classes now because of the cold and most of the children have a cold but I am well of health. I thank God for everything that he does for me and because you help me a lot and you are very kind to me… I thank you for the many letters and stickers you sent to me. My family and I read it last weekend and they were very happy. For vacation, I went to the country to visit my grandparents….Our school was suspended because of cold but I am studying in my house. I read books from my school. I finished my homework but I don’t understand all of my math but my tutor teaches me and I learn. I go to the project on Thursday and Saturday.”

These sweet letters brought joy to my soul on a day when I really needed it. I am so blessed to be able to be a part of the lives of these children. They are a reminder of the resiliency of the human spirit and the blessings to be found in trials.

Last night, my husband came home after a tough day on the jobsite and he ministered to me. How thankful I am to have his support and spiritual leadership. We prayed through tears and read the Bible together. God opened the page to 2 Timothy and the passage found in 2:23-26:

23Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

It is so clear that God is ever present in my life. His reminders are timely.

I am still struggling, though. The anger and pain is just below the surface and flares up throughout my day. I would humbly ask for your prayers. Not only for me, but for my step-daughter, her Mother and my entire family.

Thank you so much.

Closing with a video of a man I love, respect and admire ~ Shaun Groves. A song that rose up from the slums of Guatemala and soothed my weary heart when I needed it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Even More Letter Writing Ideas

Yesterday, Lisa-Jo from the Gypsy Mama blog published a great post called Lame Sponsors of the World - Unite! which really brings home the importance of writing letters to your sponsored child. Between the comments left on that post and those on the Compassion Facebook page, it is clear that many sponsors really struggle coming up with topics to write about. I hope that my blog can provide ideas. I have links on my sidebar that may help as well!

The Compassion website also has this page full of ideas.

Here is an excerpt:

“What should I write about? Is there anything I shouldn't write about?

Compassion children regularly pray for their sponsors. You are investing in their lives, and they consider you family. Write as if you are.

Be encouraging! And please be sensitive to the child's economic situation. Avoid discussing the material aspects of your life.

  • Describe your family (e.g., where they live, what they look like, their interests, type of work they do, pets, etc.).
  • Include a small paper gift — photos, postcards, bookmarks, greeting cards, etc. Learn more about what items can and can't be sent.
  • Explain special holiday and family customs.
  • Talk about important events — weddings, graduation, trips, new jobs, holidays, etc.
  • Mark your calendar and send a card to celebrate a holiday or festival that is important to your child.
  • Share your dreams and the daily activities of your life.
  • Write about the terrain/climate/people where you live.
  • Reminisce about your childhood.
  • Discuss a person who influenced you.
  • Talk about an important life lesson you learned, something you learned in school, or something you're learning now.
  • Describe how you overcame a challenge or met a goal.
  • Share your favorite Bible stories and verses.
  • Elaborate on your church and the various ways you serve Christ. See also, Is it all right to ask if my child is a Christian?
  • Remind your child that you pray for him or her regularly. Mention specific items your child has mentioned in his or her letters.
  • Explain how your family includes your sponsored child in daily life (e.g., praying for him or her or displaying his or her photo in your home).
  • Share your prayer requests and praise reports.
  • Express what a privilege it is to be your child's sponsor.
  • Affirm that God loves him or her and has a great plan for his or her life.
  • Include a verse:
    • about God's provision for the future (Jeremiah 29:11)
    • about God's love for us (John 3:16), the value of each child (Psalm 139:13-14), or loving one another (1 John 4:7)
    • about the power of prayer (Matthew 21:22)
    • about the importance of learning (Proverbs 4:13)
  • Encourage your child to write back and/or draw pictures for you.

And ASK QUESTIONS.

View a list of questions to ask.

What topics should I avoid?

Can I ask if my child believes in Christ or is a Christian?

Yes. Compassion is a Christ-centered, church-based ministry. However, a child does not have to be Christian to benefit from Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program.

In our Child Sponsorship Program, each child has the opportunity to hear the gospel in an age-appropriate and culturally relevant way. But neither the children nor their families are obligated to become Christians.

Your letters and questions offer another opportunity for your child to hear the gospel and demonstrate faith in action.

How do I convey personal issues like death and divorce to my sponsored child?

Honesty and openness invite a child to a deeper, more personal relationship with you. Euphemisms, such as "passed away" in reference to a death, don't always convey the message you intend.

When discussing personal issues such as death and divorce, the best approach is to state the fact — "My mother died" or "Susan and I are getting divorced" — rather than explaining the details or using indirect expressions.

Because your child's perspective is different from yours, based on his or her culture, age and personal experiences, the child might not ask additional questions.

How do I ask personal or sensitive questions, like those related to health, without offending the child or his or her family?

Discussing personal issues requires great sensitivity, particularly when communicating through letters and across cultures, particularly when the questions deal with health matters, which can often carry strong cultural stigmas.

Whether or not you should ask a particular question depends on your relationship with the child and the nature of the question. If you are uncertain, please consider delaying the question until you have built a stronger relationship with the child or have a better understanding of the culture.

Invite your child into a deeply personal relationship by modeling trust and honesty. Share with your child first. Allow him or her to see your courage and to take the first step.

Remember you are a mentor. Show your child you care by being patient, open, inviting and, most important, involved.”

The Compassion International website is full of great information. Take a few minutes to look around and I am sure you’ll find out more about this amazing organization!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How They Grow…

This week we received an updated photo of our lovely Precious in Ghana.  When we started out sponsoring through Compassion International, I looked through page after page of children and wondered how I could possibly choose one child.  When my eyes came across the shy and timid face of Precious, something within my heart just knew she was the one.

preciousI still cannot put into words exactly what it was about her, but I looked no further.

I didn’t know, when I finalized the sponsorship, how many ways this little girl would change our lives. I imagined we would help her and her family in some way, but it really didn’t cross my mind that she would put an indelible mark on my heart like she has. That she would pave the way to change my perspective of life, on possessions, on “needs vs. wants”.

I remember getting a letter from Precious, just a few months into sponsorship.  She told us that one thing that brings her joy is to sweep the dirt floor of her one room house. Earlier that day, I had grumbled at my children for the unending crumbs and bits of crafts left on the floor. I swept with a huff and a puff of frustration. Precious’ words hit me like a brick. They changed my heart.  I wrote her name along the top of the broom and am reminded of her every single time I retrieve it from the closet.  I sweep and smile and pray for our sweet girl, thinking of the joy the same job brings her.

A few months ago, Precious told us in a letter that she is growing “tall and cute” and this most recent picture proves it to be true.  A letter from her project director told us that Precious has lost much of her shyness and is gaining confidence in herself. Through this most recent picture, I can sense a change in her.  A head held a bit higher, eyes that are not so downcast…

scan0001 Through Compassion International Precious is receiving help with her education and medical check-ups. She is participating in social events and Bible study.  She receives a nutritious meal when she is at the project. Our family gifts have helped her family have supplimental food and supplies. Our letters give her encouragement and confidence that she is special and loved.

But, she has given us so much more…  She has helped us to see how many blessings we have, and to be thankful for things as simple as running water and wood floors to sweep. Our perspective on life has changed.

We are so thankful that we’ve connected with this sweet girl in Ghana.  As she grows, our love for her grows.  Our thankfulness grows. Our faith in God grows.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thursday’s This & That Post

Outside my window. . .  it is a grey and dreary day. A rainy mist is falling and random breezes are carrying golden leaves through the air.

I am thinking. . .  that it would be a lovely day for a nap, but I just can’t seem to nap when there are things on my to-do list!

I am thankful for. . . our warm, cozy home.

From the kitchen. . .  time has come for pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin muffins, apple crisp and the scent of apple cinnamon candles.

I am wearing. . .  a broomstick skirt, tee and hoodie sweater and cozy socks.  I had such an urge to stay in pajamas all day, but an elastic waist skirt is comfy enough.

I am creating. . .  a game plan to get the summer clothes switched out and go through all of the bins of clothes in our storage room.

I am going. . .  to get to that clothes swap within the week, hopefully!

I am reading. . . the blog posts from the Compassion Bloggers in Guatemala. So far today I have gone through half a box of tissues.  I triple dog dare you to read this blog post by Ann Voskamp without crying.  Leave a comment and let me know how you did.  Talk about a way with words!

I am hoping. . .  that this blog trip touches hearts, it has certainly touched mine.

I am hearing. . . some giggling and chatter from upstairs as my two youngest play.

 A few plans for the rest of the week. . .  a “Not Back To School” picnic tomorrow with many of the homeschooling families from our area and a roller skating party on Saturday!  Woohoo!

Here are two pictures from the week that I’d like to share:

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Compassion Bloggers in Guatemala

This week, the Compassion Bloggers are in Guatemala. Their group will be visiting child development centers and the homes of families being assisted by Compassion.  I urge you to visit this link to read the recent blog posts put up.

I read every post put up during the last trip to Kenya and I can say, without a doubt, those posts changed my life.  To see the pictures and read the stories of people who live their daily lives in poverty changes your perspective.  To realize that we can give just a little of the money that God has blessed us with, and know that money will provide real help and real HOPE, it is hard to find valid arguments within yourself as to why we shouldn’t reach out and help.

Please, take a minute today to read the recent blog posts and stop by again tomorrow to read the updates.

If you have been feeling like you’re blessed in this life and are able to reach out to another and provide real help, please consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International. Less than $10 a week can make a real difference!  (If you already sponsor a child, perhaps you can sponsor another.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thursday’s This & That Post

Outside my window. . .  the sun is shining through a hot and humid haze.  I see some leaves starting to change from green to golden yellow.

I am thinking. . .  about all of the blog traffic I have recently been getting from Ghana and hoping that those readers from afar would leave a comment and introduce themselves.  (:waving: Hello there!)

I am thankful for. . . so, so much. Thankful for the realization of how very blessed we truly are.  We may not be rolling in money, but we have just about everything we need.

From the kitchen. . .  I bought a lot of Autumn food the last time I went grocery shopping.  It was cooler last week and I was thinking of Shepherd’s Pie and soups, etc.  The hot weather doesn’t inspire me to cook much of anything though.

I am wearing. . .  capris, fitted tee and sandals.  Pretty much par for the course.

I am creating. . .  lessons plans for our homeschool co-op, a list of books I’d like my girls to read or listen to in the future and  a list of Science experiments I hope to do soon.

I am going. . .  to take a walk with the girls later to look for mushrooms and toadstools so we can do spore prints tonight.

I am reading. . . A Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George.

I am hoping. . .  we get a Compassion letter soon.  It has been almost two weeks since we’ve gotten any letters from our children and it seems like a LONG time.

I am hearing. . . my older girls hum and chat while they make collages from old magazines.

Around the house. . . Nico and Kaya are busy with collages and Luna is still napping. We took the day off from our homeschooling and spent the morning down at the gully in town.

A few plans for the rest of the week. . .  Enjoy the last of the warm weather on Friday.  Temps are supposed to drop from high 80’s Friday to 60’s on Saturday.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing. . . my girls this morning.

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