Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Compassion Sponsors!

Thanks to the Compassion Bloggers trip to the Philippines, this week will bring many brand new sponsors to the Compassion International community.

For those who are new to sponsorship and may not know a lot about this organization, I’d like to help you get started with some basics.

My first piece of advice to you is to get plugged in. There are so many ways for you to connect with Compassion online.

Our Compassion – A wonderful online community for sponsors. You can join in the discussions by going to the Community tab and clicking on Journals. Each Child Center that serves children in the program has a separate Child Center Group where you can read a letter from the Pastor, see a map of the area surrounding the child development center (CDC), and you may even be able to see photos of the CDC as well.

The Compassion Blog – Follow this great blog and you will find all sorts of inspiring and informational posts about the work Compassion is doing around the world!

Compassion International Facebook Page – Another great place to keep up with CI and to ask questions!

Other Compassion Blogs – Follow my blog any number of ways, buttons can be found along the top right of this page. Along the right hand sidebar, you will also find buttons for some of my favorite Compassion related blogs.

My second piece of advice is to be an involved sponsor. Sponsorship is about much more than sending in a monthly check. With Compassion International, you have the opportunity to form a personal bond with the child that you’ve chosen. The BEST way to do this is to commit to writing to your child regularly. I would suggest writing at least once a month. Please look under Most Popular Posts on the right and check out Letter Writing 101, which answers some of the most common questions on this subject.

Another way to be involved in to pray for your child, their family, their community, the project staff, translators and all others who work for Compassion.

If you have been a sponsor for a while, what advice or testimony would you like to share with new Compassion International sponsors? Do you have favorite resources or links? Please leave a comment and share!

If you are a brand-new, first-time sponsor through Compassion, I would like to send a gift to you! I have five Family Sponsorship Packs which include a children’s book and ideas and activities to include your own children in this ministry. The first five new sponsors (in the U.S.) that leave me a comment telling me about how they came to sponsor a child will receive one of these Family Sponsorship Packs in the mail!

((Please note: I did come across a few more Family Sponsorship Packs. I have three more to give away as of Friday noon!))

Welcome to the Compassion family!

~Michelle

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Praise

In honor of the Compassion Bloggers trip in the Philippines, I decided to pick a song by Shaun Groves for today’s Sunday Praise. Since we started sponsoring in 2009, I have closely followed the two most recent blogger trips to Kenya and Guatemala.

This video was taken in the bathroom of a hotel in Guatemala last September.

Whether or not you sponsor a child through Compassion International, I really suggest checking out the Compassion Bloggers posts over the course of the next week.  The stories will move you, and maybe even break you.  Like the saying “Break my heart for what breaks Yours” these posts may inspire you to do more for this cause.

While I’m here, I’d like to share a few more photos taken this week.  (In case you couldn’t tell, I like to take pictures of flowers. lol! )

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I hope you have a lovely Sunday and a great long weekend!

~Michelle

Saturday, May 28, 2011

11 Years ~ Who Knew?

Eleven years ago, on Memorial Day weekend, a red-headed hippie chick took a deep breath and looked at the dreadlocked hottie in front of her and let the words tumble out.

I love you.

Who knew that those patchwork bohemians, who lived in a van down by the river (or where ever it was parked that day), would some day live in a lovely house in the boonies?

Who knew that the name Jesus, that made those two young people so uncomfortable, would someday come to be the one word that could bring comfort in times of trial?

Who knew that it would take a battle with alcohol to bring that young man to a place where he knew he needed to look for help outside of himself? And he made the choice to give his life to the Lord even though he was certain it would mean that the stubborn woman he loved would leave him for it.

Who knew that the stubborn red-headed woman would come to a place where she didn’t recognize herself, angry and bitter over a long and twisted custody trial?  A place where she had fallen so low that she had no other choice but to look up and ask for help. And that God would reach out as soon as her hand was raised.

Eleven years ago, who knew that these two would last? That they were a perfect match?

Through years of highs and lows, selfish arguments and nights of going to bed angry. Through months of living like strangers while alcohol and immaturity stood like a chain-link fence between the two.

Despite all odds, the Word of God and the Grace of Jesus would bring the two to understand true love and the divine plan for marriage.

Who knew?

He did.

 

~Michelle

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Precious Girls

This morning, my blog post called A Precious Perspective precfacewas published on Compassion’s blog.  I read it and it brought tears to my eyes again.  I really do feel so  blessed to be a part of Precious’ life and for the way God has used her, along with our other Compassion International children, to change my heart and my perspective.

Last night, as I was taking some pictures of our nine year old, Kaya, I was struck by how big she is getting.  Kaya has always been such a sweet and giving child.  She’s been easy going from birth, when she barely cried a peep for the first few weeks of her life. (As opposed to spunky Luna Blue, who came out screaming and kept it up for the first few months of her life!) Looking at my precious Kaya and realizing that she is growing up brings those bittersweet feelings that most Moms can relate to.

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Today, I am feeling grateful for my blessings and these beautiful children that God has put into my life.

~Michelle

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sponsor Gatherings

This post has been rolling around in my head for a few weeks now, but after reading Jessica's post, I’m inspired to tackle this topic today.

Most of us who visit blogs are plugged in to an online community of Compassion International sponsors. We glean ideas and inspiration from other bloggers, Compassion’s Facebook and Twitter pages, Our Compassion and other sources. We read the stories of how Compassion helps children and how important our letters are. We can easily find answers to our questions about sponsorships. But, there are many, many Compassion sponsors who do not have this support system.

That is where we can step in and reach out to sponsors.

This is the harsh reality. Out of the sponsors who go a year without writing to their sponsored child, 65% of them end up cancelling their sponsorships. If you have ever dealt with abandonment as a child, you know how deeply these vulnerable children can be hurt by learning that their sponsor no longer wants to be a part of their life.

Engagement is key. If we can keep sponsors engaged in the ministry, we can help to solidify the bonds between them and their children.

Sponsor gatherings are one fantastic way to inspire and encourage those who partner with Compassion International. Whether you are an official Compassion Advocate or not, you can plan and host an event like this and I would LOVE to help you!

First, sit down and make a list of any people you know of in your area that are involved with this ministry. Maybe you only know two or three sponsors. You can still plan a get together!

You could hold a gathering at your home or your church. Some local libraries have meeting rooms that are available as well. Plan a date and time and then call or contact those who are on your invite list. You could plan a one time event or something that happens on a monthly or quarterly basis!

You will want to plan a few activities for your gathering. Here are some ideas for you!

  • Show a promotional video or two! If you are a Compassion Advocate, you were probably given a compilation DVD with several great clips. If not, you can go to Compassion's Youtube page where they have 162 clips to choose from! One that is particularly moving is when Jimmy Wambua meets his sponsor at the Catalyst conference. (Have tissues on hand!)
  • Encourage letter writing by printing off some Compassion stationary and bringing pre-addresses envelopes. Print off the story called The Delivery, written by my friend Caitlin S., which can be found to the right. (You are free to share ANY content found on my blog! 101 Letter Writing Ideas may be good to share!) The information about sending small gifts is also good to print out and share. Make sure to stress the importance of these letters to all of the sponsors in attendance!
  • If you have any card-making or stamping supplies on hand, you can all make a personalized craft to send to your children. A handmade card or bookmark would surely be treasured!
  • You could have a question and answer session. If you don’t feel like you know enough about Compassion, contact me and I would be happy to call in and be on speaker phone for that portion of your gathering. I don’t know everything there is to know about Compassion, but I can answer most of the commonly asked questions!
  • If you will have children at your gathering, you could share a fantastic book called A Country Far Away by Nigel Gray. Jill from Compassion Family also shares many great children’s books that depict life around the world.
  • If you have access to a digital camera, offer to to take photos of the sponsors to send to their children. Have them printed for your attendees. Photos are often cherished by the sponsored children.
  • Have a prayer circle. Prayer is such an important aspect of this ministry! Remember to pray for the families, project staff, translators and Compassion employees around the world!
  • If you plan to have monthly gatherings, you could feature a different Compassion assisted country each time. With a bit of preparation, you could bring a food from that country, play music from the region, share books about the culture and even ask Compassion to send you a child packet or two from the country!

Hopefully, those ideas will get you started! I do plan to come back to this topic in the future and share more possibilities!

Have you ever had a sponsor gathering? What did you do? Please share in the comments! If you have a blog post on the subject, please share the link! I would love to add it to this blog!

Are you considering hosting an event like this? If you need help, please leave a comment and we will brainstorm with you!

Remember, keeping sponsors engaged will lead to the retention of those sponsorships and a stronger bond between both parties! Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts! (My new comment feature allows *anyone* to leave a comment, so give it a try! If the comment link isn't showing up for you on this post, click the post title and you should be able to comment without issue!)

~Michelle

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

FYI ~ Regarding Comments

During my giveaway, I heard from a few people who said they weren’t able to leave comments for various reasons. I decided to try another comment method and see if that would help. IntenseDebate (though I dislike the name and would much prefer that it be called LivelyDiscussion or something) allows you to leave a comment by simply inputting your name and email address. You do not need a Google account in order to leave a comment. It also allows me to reply to each comment, which will help.

I would love to try this out, so if you have a few seconds, leave me a comment and let me know that it worked for you! (Unless, of course, if it doesn’t work for you for some reason, you won’t be able to leave a comment. You could let me know by clicking the Email button on my sidebar!)

~Michelle

Compassion Tee Winner!

Writing, writing, writing lots of names on little slips of paper.

Mixing, mixing, mixing up the entries in a big bowl.

And the lucky winner is……….

 

TEENA!

Congratulations, Teena! Please contact me with your mailing address and I will get your shirt out to you very soon!

A big thank you to everyone who participated!

While we’re all here, I might as well share a few more photos I took yesterday while trying to learn how to use my new camera!

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IMG_6808  We live in such a beautiful area!!

I hope you have time today to soak in the beauty of God’s creation!

~Michelle

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Took the Plunge

I have been pining for a decent camera for years.  There have been times when the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head when I have witnessed someone with a Canon or a Nikon around their neck. 

Generally, I am a penny-pincher and I live a life without frills.  I rarely buy new clothes and most years I spend less than $50 in any given year on clothing for myself.  I don’t buy cosmetics aside from lip balm, I don’t get manicures or pedicures and I don’t have my hair cut at a salon.  Across the board, I don’t really spend very much money on myself.

So, this desire for a higher quality camera has been kind of out of character.  I happened to be scanning through Craigslist last week and stumbled upon a listing for a Canon Rebel plus extras for a decent price. I was immediately very excited and hopeful and then, just as quickly, a battle raged in my head and heart.

In the last few years, my passion has been reaching out to those in poverty.  As much as I wanted the camera, it has become almost automatic for me to look at every purchase through the lens of Compassion International. The price of the camera was enough to sponsor a child for half of a year.  The cost could provide one of our sponsored children with an amazing Family Gift.  The money could provide 25 life saving bed nets and protect families from malaria. 

But, oh how I wanted that camera.

So, I turned to my partner, my confidant, my husband. Knowing just about everything there is to know about me, he understands my heart to give. He also knew how long I had wanted for a higher end camera. We talked and prayed. And, in the end, he made me feel better about the purchase by telling me we could call it my Mother’s Day, Anniversary, birthday present.

After all that, I have to say, I love my new camera!  Jay brought it home after church yesterday and I got to snap a few photos and I look forward to learning how to really use it.  Yes, I still have moments of feeling like I could have better spent the money on a important cause, but I am working on seeing this as a blessing to be completely and totally thankful for!

I didn’t have a lot of time to take pictures yesterday, but here are a few that I took on my maiden voyage!

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One girl with bed-head and another with wind-tousled hair from riding the back of the car with the windows open!

IMG_6772 Jasper, the eleven year old King of Beast of the house!

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On a completely unrelated note, don’t forget to enter the drawing for the Compassion shirt! I’ll be picking a name tomorrow morning!

~Michelle

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Praise

I am staying home from church today because our little Luna got sick again this morning.  She has been throwing up randomly since Wednesday night. She didn’t get sick at all yesterday, so we thought we were in the clear, but it hit again this morning.

Praying that this passes soon!

I have heard that at least one person had trouble posting comments for the giveaway for the Compassion International tee.  If this happens to you, you can hop over to Blogging From The Boonies Facebook page and leave your comments there! I had issues leaving a comment on another blog this morning, too.  I don’t want anyone to miss out on this giveaway, so hopefully the FB option will help!

Have a great Sunday!

~Michelle

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Time for a Giveaway!

Last month at the Compassion Advocate retreat, I picked up this awesome Compassion shirt.

(You can find this shirt, along with other great Compassion merchandise at the Compassion Store!)

The shirt is 100% cotton and a size Medium. When I got it home, I washed and dried it and *then* realized that, if I wear a tee, I prefer a fitted style. So, the shirt is unworn, but has been through the wash cycle.

I’d love to pass it along to someone (living in the U.S.) who supports Compassion and would want it!

So, a giveaway is in order! There will be a few different ways to enter and you can take advantage of them all! (For each entry that you complete, please come back and leave a separate comment. If you are having issues leaving comments here, you can also leave a comment on the thread on the BFTB Facebook page.)

Ways To Enter:

  • Follow Blogging From the Boonies on Facebook, Twitter, through email or RSS feed! You can click the buttons located in the upper right hand side of the page to do so! (Worth one entry!)
  • Share one of Blogging From the Boonies most popular posts (featured on the right) on Facebook, Twitter or your blog. (Worth one entry!)
  • If it has been a few weeks since you have written to your Compassion International child(ren), send a letter or an email before the end of the giveaway! (Worth three entries!)
  • Encourage your sponsoring friends and/or family to write to their children and get at least one of them to commit to writing a letter or email to their child. (Worth three entries!)
  • Lastly, start planning a Compassion International sponsor get together. It could be a letter writing party, a prayer circle, a question and answer session, card-making party, etc. (I would be happy to help you with this in any way! Just drop me a message or email!) Set a date, invite a few people and come back to let me know! (Worth FIVE entries!)

Each entry will go in a jar and I will choose one name on Tuesday, May 24th around 10am. I will mail the shirt, plus a Family Sponsorship pack to the lucky winner!

Good Luck!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!

~Michelle

Friday, May 20, 2011

I’m Not Gonna Lie…

I’m excited!

My first post for the official Compassion blog has been published today!

Remember this?

Last month, I shared a little bit of information that I discovered about Compassion’s blue square. Since then, I have had the opportunity to learn even more about it and I shared what I learned over on Compassion’s blog!

Beyond being excited, I am honored and humbled. To think that our mighty God sees fit to use me in this way is pretty amazing. All honor and glory are His. I am thankful for the passion He has placed in my heart for Compassion International.

So, hop over the the Compassion blog and check it out! I’d love to hear what you think!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Tanzanian Smile

I am pretty compulsive diligent about checking our online account at Compassion International. Any changes that happen, whether it be a new updated photo or a child leaving the program, can generally be found on your account before you are contacted by a representative from Compassion.

I was thrilled a few days ago to see a new picture of our fine young Mkapa!

This is the first photo we were given.

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And this is the new photo. I just love his smile!

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Mkapa is still a fairly recent addition to our family, so we don’t know a whole lot about him yet. We did a unit study about his country, Trekking Through Tanzania, shortly after he was assigned to us. My girls were excited to read in his first letter that he can see Mount Kilimanjaro from his home.

Have you received any letters or photos recently? It has been a few weeks since we’ve heard from any of our Compassion kids, so I am hoping for a Happy Dance at the mailbox, soon!

(If you missed it yesterday, check out this cute writing paper which is perfect for pre-school or elementary aged kids who are writing to their sponsored child!)

~Michelle

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Gift of Time

Recently, I have been putting a lot of thought into the two main reason that I hear when it comes to sponsors not writing to their Compassion International children. One is that people do not know what to write about and the other is a lack of time.  Yesterday, I compiled a list of many, many topics for letters for your sponsored child.  Today, I am going to focus on the aspect of time.

Last Sunday evening, I picked up a little booklet that I was given called Live To Make a Difference – An Inspiring Call To Action by Max Lucado.  While the booklet is jammed packed with inspiration, one passage in particular jumped out at me.

There are many reasons to help people in need.  But, for the Christian, none is higher than this: when we love those in need, we are loving Jesus.  It is a mystery beyond science, a truth beyond statistics. But it is a message made crystal clear: when we love them, we love him.

Jesus will recount, one by one, all the acts of kindness.  Every deed done to improve the lot of another person,  Even the small ones. In fact, they all seem small.  Giving water. Offering food. Sharing clothing.  The works of mercy are simple deeds. And yet, in those simple deeds, we serve Jesus.  Astounding, this truth: we serve Christ by serving needy people.”

No, this isn’t a new concept for me and it likely isn’t for you either.  How many of us have memorized the scripture that goes, “The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' “ ?(Matthew 25:40)

But, let’s apply this to writing letters to our sponsored children, shall we?

I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling Mom of very rambunctious girls.  I know busy. Some days I realize that, an hour after the idea first occurred to me, I still haven’t eaten something. Three in the afternoon can sneak up on me and I still have yoga pants on instead of my day clothes.  Yet, throughout those busy days, in most cases I found at least 20 minutes to hop online and check emails, read blogs, update my status, etc.

Twenty minutes is certainly enough time for me to print off a sheet of Compassion stationary (found here or here or here) and write a few paragraphs.  If I log on to my account on the Compassion website and click the Contact Your Child link on the left, I can easily whip off an email to my child in five minutes or less.  So, while we are all busy, I really believe that all of us can spare the time that it takes to send a letter to our sponsored children.

So, my challenge to all of you is this:  Please, commit to setting aside a little bit of time at least once a month to write to your sponsored child.

Your letters are so very important to those children. I have heard, time and time again, what a difference a few words of love and encouragement can make to children who grow up in the hopelessness of poverty.  I plan to share a few of these stories soon!

If you struggle with remembering to write monthly, choose a day each month and write it on your calendar.  Join the Compassion Facebook Page and look for their reminders about the monthly Virtual Letter Writing Party that takes place in the second Friday of each month. Follow Blogging from the Boonies on Facebook or Twitter (look for buttons along my sidebar) and I will remind you!

Your letters are important and you DO have time to write. As the book excerpt above said, Jesus will recount, one by one, all of the acts of kindness.  I don’t think any of us want to stand before Him and tell him we didn’t send love and encouragement to our sponsored children because we needed to watch American Idol or Glee, that we needed to catch up on Tweets or blogs.

Just twenty minutes a month….  Surely you can spare that!

How do you make time to write to your sponsored children?  Do you have any specific ways to remember to write?  Please share!

~Michelle

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

101 Letter Writing Topics

Ok, I may not actually hit 101, but I hope that this compilation of letter writing topics from various sources will help you navigate any writer’s block you may have.

When I hear from or read about Compassion International sponsors who do not write to their children often or ever, there are two reasons that seem to come up most of the time. First, many say that they do not know what to write about. Second, many say that they don’t have the time to write. I plan to post about the latter of the two reasons tomorrow, but today let’s talk topics.

The number one topic that we revisit time and time again is to tell our sponsored children about what we are learning in church and during our personal Bible studies. Our letters are a wonderful way to minister our children and share how the Word of God affects us and can be applied to our every day life. If you go to church regularly or read devotions or the Bible at home, you have a subject that could fill a letter every week! (Can I count that as 52 topics then?)

In previous posts, I have shared these ideas for your letters to your Compassion children: (A few of these may be redundant because I am pulling from a few different posts!)

Faith:

  • Share details about your church: How many people attend? Do you help with any ministries such as Sunday School? What touched you about the most recent sermon? What praise songs do you love and why? Does your church have a Worship team and what instruments do they play? What have your own children learned in Sunday School recently? Do you go to Bible Study or church activities during the week? Does anyone else in your church sponsor through Compassion? Have you shared the mission of Compassion with anyone in your church?
  • Share details about your personal walk in the Faith: When were you saved? How did you come to the Lord? Were you baptized and what was it like? Do you follow daily devotionals and what things recently touched you? What do you pray about regarding your sponsored child? What prayer requests would you like to share with your child? What problems have you had recently and how has God touched you during them? Where are you in your personal Bible reading and what verses have meant a lot to you recently? Has God answered a prayer for you recently?

Family:

  • Share details about your family: Do you have any siblings? Who are the members if your family? What are some favorite family memories? Do you live near any relatives? Have you gone to any family gatherings recently? How does your family celebrate upcoming holidays?

Fun:

  • Share details about fun activities in your life: Do you have any hobbies? What activities do you do that you enjoy? What things did you like to do for fun when you were the age of your sponsored child? What do your own children like to play?

Here’s an excerpt from another blog post:

  • If you have a favorite praise song, you could share some of the lyrics and tell your child why you like it.
  • If you or your family does a daily/weekly devotional, you could share your thoughts on it.
  • Look outside your window and describe some of the beauty that you see.
  • Share the testimony of how you came to the Lord or what your Faith means to you.
  • If you visit a zoo, farm, park, etc., share a photo or two and describe what you saw.
  • Take a picture of your church and share some thoughts about it.
  • Tell your child about what you did when you were their age. Let them know what you liked to play and any hobbies you.
  • Describe local wildlife.
  • Tell your child about your vegetable or flower garden.
  • Talk about your favorite sports or hobbies.
  • Describe the changes of the seasons in your area.
  • Mention your favorite games and how you play.
  • Talk about your observations and experiences if you have traveled.

Here are some ideas that can be found on the Compassion International website:

  • 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.
  • 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.

One thing worth remembering is that your letters do not have to be very long to make an impact on your child. As I shared last month, even letters that are Short and Sweet can be very special to your sponsored child!

If you feel the urge to send something to your sponsored child but you aren’t able to compose something, I have created a few different devotions that you are free to copy and paste into an email to your child.

The Power of Words

Obeying Your Parents

Forgiveness

Sharing ~ Helping Others in Need

So, there, all in one post, you have enough topics for a few year’s worth of letters if you aim to write once a month! From time to time, I plan to add to this post, so if you’re stumped, please check back!

Do you have any topics to share? Please leave a comment below!

~Michelle

Monday, May 16, 2011

Blog Hoppin’

Today I have a guest post over at Compassion Family!

I shared a few of the ways that my own children are involved in our sponsorships with Compassion International.  Hop on over and check out my post along with all of the other great information that Jill shares with her readers!

~Michelle

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Praise

If you have been a long-time reader of my blog, I am sure you know I’ve posted both of these videos a million times a few times before.  I think they’re worth repeating though.

This video is of my three girls at their homeschool co-op talent show last May.  It still brings tears to my eyes every single time I watch it.  Not only because I happen to think that my girls are beyond cute, but because it reminds me of a time when our Nico (my step daughter) was still with us half of the time or more. Because of the discord between us and her bio-mom, we’ve only seen her a handful of times in the last nine months.  I miss her.  A lot.  We all do.

While our hearts ache when we think of how we miss Nico, we also know that it is up to God.  He has the power to reach out to the lost and we need to keep our minds set on His providence, power and timing.

~Michelle

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Heads-Up for Bloggers

The panic and annoyance was palpable on social networking sites when Blogger went down yesterday.  Many said they were in the middle of creating posts and lost their work. 

I wanted to share a program that has made blog publishing SO much easier. 

Windows Live Writer

This free program works in conjunction with any of the blog service providers and is so simple to use.  Adding photos, videos and links is a breeze and you can see what your post will look like as you go. 

There may have been some changes made since the last time I tried publishing directly from Blogger, but I can tell you that once I switched to using WLW, I was instantly hooked. 

Just wanted to share this tip with my readers who also blog!

~Michelle

What’s in a Name?

In preparation for the upcoming Compassion Bloggers trip the the Philippines, I decided to hop over to the Compassion International website and look through the sweet children now available from that country.  In the recent weeks, over 1,000 children from the Philippines have been added to the site.  As I scrolled through page after page, I was struck by, not only the beautiful faces, but the cute names that I saw.

I saw a handsome little Prince and an adorable little Princess. I even saw Ken and Barbie

If you look on the Compassion International site, amongst the children in the Philippines you will find Faith, HopeMercy and  Grace.

You’ll see the sweeties named Cherry and Honey.

Precious, Lovely, Darlin  and Pretty live up to their names. You’ll find little treasures named Shine and Jewel

There is a whole chorus of Angels along with Divine Hymns .

Don’t forget Trixie and Trexie, Dixie  and DexieJinky and Fritzie JoyPjayJaypee, Cejay, Jaybee and even Elton John!

Please join me in praying over all of these children as well as the rest of them waiting on the Compassion website.  Let us also pray for Shaun Groves and the Compassion Bloggers as they prepare for the upcoming trip. 

Compassion Bloggers Philippines Facebook Profile Pic

~Michelle

Friday, May 13, 2011

Compassion Bloggers in the Philippines!

In just a few short weeks, the Compassion Bloggers will be heading to the Philippines!  As someone who closely followed the last two Compassion Blogger trips to Guatemala and Kenya, I can assure you that you will not want to miss a single post.  You also will not want to be without a case of tissues.  The stories that come out of these trips are eye-opening and heart-wrenching.  Yet, there is always an underlying message of hope.  The hope that comes through the work done by Compassion International.

If you don’t already, you may want to start following the blogs of the women who have been chosen to accompany Shaun Groves on this trip.

Tsh of Simple Mom

Kat of Inspired to Action

Stephanie of Keeper of the Home

Emily of Chatting at the Sky

Lindsay of Passionate Homemaking

Please spread the word about this trip! You can also go to this post by Shaun Groves to grab buttons for your blog, Twitter and Facebook!

Will you be following the upcoming Compassion Blogger trip?  Have you followed any of the past trips?

I, for one, am really looking forward to learning more about Compassion’s ministry in the Philippines and will be praying for the details of the trip and that many hearts are touched by this journey.

~Michelle

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Finally….. Spring!

While some of the first Spring flowers made a debut in early April, we then had an extra heaping dose of April showers. It seemed like it rained every day for weeks straight.  Day after day, we stayed indoors just hoping that Spring would arrive.

This week, we have finally had a run of beautiful days filled with sun and warm breezes. It has been so nice! I have been able to start my mornings in peace on our front porch, immersing myself in the chorus of nearby birds.  It really has been so good for my soul.  (It has not been so good for my blogging, though. Mornings are usually my best time to write!)

With these warm days, my girls have been busy as bees!  Their bikes and scooters have racked up many miles, mud-pies have been made and served, balls games have been played, flowers have been planted and picnics are a daily occurrence.

Spring may just be my very favorite time of year! What about you?

As you may know, tomorrow is the second Friday of the month, making it Compassion International’s Virtual Letter Writing Party day! (Read more about it here!)  Compassion would love to encourage sponsors to take just a little time and write to their sponsored child every month.  As I have said many times before, those letters to your child are more important that you may ever know.  They bring joy, pride, encouragement and love to your child.  Conversely, children who rarely or never receive letters tend to take it very personally and it can chip away at their confidence and sense of worth.

As a sponsor, will you join us in reaching out and writing to your sponsored child tomorrow? If you have questions about how to do this, you might like my post entitled Letter Writing 101.

One common thing that I hear from sponsors is that they struggle with coming up with things to write about.  While I already have quite a few posts with ideas, as you can see on my sidebar, I will list a few more!  Remember, that photos to accompany your letters are always enjoyed! As our Rodrigo in Bolivia told us, it is like seeing us in person!

  • Tell your sponsored child about your vegetable or flower gardens.  Explain how you grow and care for your plants.  Describe your favorite flower or vegetable. Ask your child if they grow anything in their area.
  • If you have children, share the activities that they like to do during nice weather. Describe a playground or park that you frequent. Talk about any sports that they play. Ask your child what they like to do outdoors for fun.
  • Talk about the Spring changes that happen outside of your house.  Explain what the trees and plants are doing now.  Discuss any birds that live in your area and what they are doing during this courting and nesting season. Ask your child to share their favorite animal.
  • If your church had a Spring Clean-Up, tell your child how it went.  Ask your child if they work together to keep their project clean.
  • If all else fails, a good thing to write about is what you are learning in church and through your own personal Bible studies. If I am struggling with a topic for letters to our children, I go back through my notes taken at church and share verses and personal application to go with them. While your sponsored child loves to learn about your day to day life, it is important to take advantage of the opportunity to help their spiritual growth.

Will you be writing to your sponsored child(ren) this Friday?  If so, what will you be writing about?

Lastly, I have a couple of things to share. I took the advice of Jessica from Bohemian Bowmans and purchased the domain http://www.bloggingfromtheboonies.com ~ I think that you will still be able to get to my blog through the old URL and links, but you may want to take note of the change.

Also, my first post for the official Compassion blog has been accepted and is scheduled to be published on May 20th! How exciting!

Another day of sunshine and warmth is in store today, so it is time to get moving!  I hope you all have a fabulous day!

~Michelle

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Morning in the Boonies

After a stretch of rainy, dismal days we have been blessed with some nice weather.  What a difference it makes to be able to spend just ten minutes of my morning outside.  I love to grab my coffee and sit on my porch, filling my lungs with deep breaths of fresh air. Our home is tucked in the trees and the surround-sound song of the birds is music to my soul.  Near and far, I can pick out the trill of robins and the twitter of the finches.  I watch a pair of blue jays carefully pick the perfect twigs for their love-nest. Their flight pattern becomes predictable as they fly back and forth in their duties.

HPIM4035

The morning’s sun filters through the trees in front of me and dries the dew off of the grass.  I breathe deep and try to quiet the mental to-do list that formulates in my mind.  Instead, I thank God for another day and ask that He guide my actions and give me the patience to treat my girls with grace. 

Ten minutes of peace, nature, quiet thoughts….  I love to start the day like this.

Good morning from the boonies.  I hope that your day is a good one!

~Michelle

Friday, May 6, 2011

From India, With Love

First impressions can be very, very wrong.  When we were first assigned to be correspondents for Johan in East India, I took one look at the teenaged boy with a bit of a scowl on his face and found myself intimidated.

JohanFace

I wrote to Johan faithfully twice a month and wondered what his replies would be like. A few months later, we started hearing from him and by his second letter, he was referring to himself as our son.  And not just our son…

Greetings from your loving son, Johan,”

While I will admit to not feeling as deep of a connection with Johan when he was first put into our lives, my heart completely softened when I started reading his letters.  It became clear that he is a very smart, sweet and loving young man.

Yesterday, we received a letter from Johan that was written in English.  From time to time, he makes the extra effort to write to us in our native language, which I know must not be easy.  He does such a good job and we are very proud of him!

Greetings to you in the name of Lord our savior Jesus Christ. I am doing well here, I wish to hear the same with you.

Our final exam finished on March 1st week.  I will get my marksheet on Wednesday and surely I will pass in my exam.  I am verey happy to go new class March 4th – 6th near our place where big spiritual convention was held.  Many believers were gathered this time.  We also went as a project group. This year theme was Acts 16:5 Be strong in faith.

I like games and sport meet programme. I also participated in games- volyboll. We got 2nd position as a group. Now my health is fine.  Season is going to change.  It is spring season here. This season people will celebrate coloul fitsival (Holi). We are not celebrating this fistival only non-Christian people.  Last time I prayed for good road.  Praise God now government of road department started making road!

Which is the main fistival people are celebrating in your place? My family members always praying for you. Pray for good school for me.  May I get good education. I closing with thanks for my letters.

Your Loving Child,

Mr. Johan H________”

At the bottom of this letter, Johan drew this beautiful bird with an added message.

HPIM3973

This letter brought tears to my eyes.  I was so proud at Johan’s ability to write in English and was thrilled to hear his praise report of the roads being made in his area.  then, to see the drawing and realize that Johan may not have had the chance to come to know and love God if it were not for Compassion International.  Furthermore, we would not have had the opportunity to have a relationship with this fine young man if not for this wonderful organization.  I am just so thankful!

~Michelle

Thursday, May 5, 2011

~Bigger and Better~

First, let’s take a look at the “bigger”.  Yesterday, I checked my Compassion International online account and discovered a new picture of our Rodrigo in Bolivia. Having kids of my own, I know how they can sometimes seem to grow an inch over night.  Seeing this new picture of Rodrigo, I was blown away by how big and tall he is!

youngrodrigo This is the photo that was sent to us when we were first assigned to Rodrigo as correspondents.

rodrigo2 Just a few months later, we received this updated photo of our handsome guy in Bolivia.

rodrigo2011

Just look at this dapper young man now!  Wow!  In the last year and a half that we have been writing to him, his personality has really started shining through in his letters.  I am happy to see him growing physically and looking so healthy!

Now, I’ve shared about the “bigger” and now it is time to let you know about the “better”.

Yesterday, Our Compassion rolled out an amazing new feature to their website. They now have Child Center pages that share a lot of great information about the CDC that the children attend. You can easily connect and communicate with others who sponsor children in the same project.  You can also read a Pastor’s letter and in some cases, see photos of the projects.  The feature that I love the most is a Google map that points out the exact location of the Child Development Center. You can click the satellite view and zoom right in to get a good look!

tzmap

This feature really helps me to feel connected to our Compassion children.  I found out that some of our children attend projects in the middle of busy city-like areas while others have projects in very rural areas.  Some of our children live in very green, forested areas and some live where the ground looks brown and dry.  Overall, I think this is a very interesting feature!

You should go and check out Our Compassion!

(When you log in, go to the bottom of your main page and click the links next to the names and numbers of the Child Development Centers.  From what I have heard, the tech staff have about 75% of the centers loaded and ready to explore. They will continue to add centers until they’re all loaded!)

In other news, Walgreens is offering free 8X10 photo collages again for just a few days.  Use the promo code “FREECOLLAGE” at checkout!  We’ve sent a lot of these photo collages to our children and they love them!

Lastly, I added some new buttons and features to my blog!  Along the top right, I added buttons that make it easy for you to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and by email or RSS feed.  Also, at the bottom of each post, you can now click to share On FB, Twitter, etc.  I would love to reach more Compassion sponsors, so if you like what you read, please feel free to “share” with your friends!

Now, the sky is blue and sun is shining for the first time in well over a week!  Time for me to get out there and enjoy it!  Have a wonderful day, friends!

~Michelle

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

30,000 Words

Throughout the last two years, we have been blessed with some extra photos of a few of our Compassion International children. It is always a treat to receive another glimpse of our children, sometimes with their families. (The photos come after sending financial gifts to our children and it seems as if only a few projects have access to a camera for this purpose.) I have been known to stare at these extra photos for quite a while, at times even using a magnifying glass to get a better look at the little details.

Yishakfamily I love this photo of Yishak from Ethiopia, posing proudly with the goat he was able to buy with a $25 birthday gift sent to him. What a good looking family, right?

YishakBday2010 A few things stand out to me in these photos that we received. First, I am impressed by the incredible structure behind Yishak and family. It appears to be made of earth and grasses and it is much larger than the typical huts I have seen in other pictures. Second, I love the really neat trees behind the hut. They are not like anything we have here in NY, that is for sure!

Now, as much as we love photos of our children, our children get just as excited to get glimpses into our lives. As I shared last week, a recent letter from Rodrigo in Bolivia confirmed this.

I received the letters and photos that you sent me and I love them very much! It was like seeing you in person!”

Quite often, I hear sponsors say that they rarely send photos to their sponsored child because they no longer get their pictures developed, but instead keep them in digital form. So, I want to share a great website that I learned about recently on Our Compassion. (If you are not a regular member of Our Compassion, I urge you to go and check it out! I can’t tell you how many great ideas I have gleaned from that site!)

HotPrints offers FREE soft-cover photo books and shipping for each is just $2.99! When I first heard about them, I was skeptical. Would something so inexpensive end up being good quality? But, I created a photo book for Precious in Ghana and waited to see how it would turn out when it was delivered.

About a week later, the HotPrints book was delivered and I was thrilled with it!

HPIM3956 I included lots of pictures of my girls with their friends because Precious always asks about them. I was able to add many photos to the book and also add captions. If they say that a photo is worth 1,000 words, this one little book is like sending 30,000 words to our little sweetie in Ghana!

Now, as I said, there is room on each page to leave captions, however I do not believe that Compassion translators would want to write in the book to translate. What I suggest, if your child lives in an area where English isn’t spoken, is to send along a letter with the photo book. You could write something like, “Page one shows Sally and Jimmy in front of our church. Page two shows Jimmy with his friends, Billy and Bob.”

I just know that yours sponsored child would be so happy to receive one of these photo books! Go check out the HotPrints website and take advantage of this great deal!

~Michelle

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Battling Self-Doubt

I have never been an overly confident person.  In fact, I have always been somewhat shy and intimidated by new situations.  But recently, I have been having moments of anxiety before taking leaps of faith.

A few weeks ago, when I contemplated offering my HeART for Compassion watercolor paintings in exchange for monetary gifts for our Compassion International children, the nagging voice of self-doubt nearly talked me out of it. 

Your art really isn’t very good.  No one will want your paintings. This will certainly fail.”

Lo and behold, the voice was wrong and every painting was claimed!

As I prepared for my Compassion Sunday presentation at my church, I would have moments of panic.  I would envision myself stumbling as I walked up to the podium.  I could imagine myself totally freezing up and not being able to get a word out as I faced my audience. I doubted my ability to get up and speak for this organization that I love so dearly.

Thankfully, I made it through my presentation without a hitch.

Yesterday, I was contacted by a representative of Compassion and asked if I had any interest in writing posts for the official Compassion blog. First, my jaw hit the table.  Then, I proceeded to do a Happy Dance in the middle of my kitchen. And, then, that nagging voice came again to break up my party.

Do you really think you’re good enough? I don’t know, this is a pretty big deal. Your writing ability is pretty weak. You are really going to embarrass yourself.”

It came to me that these moments of self-doubt were strongest when it came do doing things that I specifically feel have been Spirit-led.  I considered that it may be some sort of warfare that is an attempt to keep me from doing what God is leading me to do.

So, I turn to the Bible and the encouraging words that Paul has written in Philippians.

“Being confident in this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6

Ultimately, I think the lesson for me is to take the “self” right out of self-doubt. If I do not doubt the power and ability of God then I cannot doubt the things He wants to do through me. It isn’t about me at all, I am merely the clay for The Potter. If I focus on being willing and obedient, He will mold me and use me as He sees fit.

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Have you every struggled with self-doubt?  How do you battle that kind of thinking?

~Michelle

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Blessed Weekend

To say that this weekend was great would be an understatement!  Truly.

On Saturday, I hosted a baby shower for a friend and loved spending time with the amazing friends I have been blessed with.  It was so nice to have some time to chat and laugh and pray together.  The weather was perfect and the company was divine!

Yesterday, I had my Compassion Sunday presentation at our church.  I woke up around five in the morning with a case of the jitters. While Compassion provides video clips for those who don’t want to speak in front of groups, I felt that it would be better for me to speak and share my personal testimony with our congregation.  Like most people, the thought of public speaking is intimidating to me.  Even when I know the audience and the message I want to share, my heart starts to race when I think about standing in front of a room full of people with all of their eyes and ears focusing on me.

So, yesterday morning, I prayed over the 12 child packets I had and asked for enough strength to make it through the presentation and not fall off of the stage.  When we got to church, I set up a table in the lobby and did some deep-breathing to keep the anxiety at bay. I read and re-read the outline I had typed up and just hoped that the Holy Spirit would guide me through. I knew that I had many others praying for me and that did give me some strength, Before I knew it, I was being called up to the stage.

Now, this may sound strange, but in some ways it seemed like an out-of-body experience as I was speaking to our church.  I didn’t fall off of the stage and I didn’t freeze up or have my mind go totally blank, so I am happy about that! At one point, I was trying to explain how we started sponsoring and through we’d be doing something to bless and change the life for Precious in Ghana. I did choke up and get teary eyed when I shared just how much WE have been changed and blessed by having these children in our lives.  I told of the change of perspective I was given when, after a day of grumbling over the tedious sweeping I was doing, I received a letter from Precious. 
In that letter, Precious told us that one thing that brought her joy was to sweep the floor of her one room mud house. I realized that I am *blessed* to have wood floors to sweep.

As I looked from face to face, I noticed many misty, tear-filled eyes looking back at me. I glanced at my husband and he had tears streaming down his face.  I really had to will myself to keep going and not get too emotional. I managed to finish and as I took my seat next to Jay, I took a deep breath and thanked God for getting me through and guiding my words.

After the church service, I was just blown away by the excitement and activity around the small table I had set up. One by one, and sometimes by two, the child packets were leaving the table. We have a fairly small church and attendance was actually sort of low yesterday, so I was thinking that maybe two or three children would be sponsored.  Imagine my surprise when the table was cleared and every single child packet had been chosen.

I am just so happy to know that these children will soon receive the word that they have been chosen and have been connected with a sponsor!

God is so good!  Can I get an Amen?

Amen!

~Michelle