Friday, July 29, 2011

Photo Friday!

I am back home after a wonderful trip to Colorado!  I was so blessed to be able to meet many wonderful people from around the world who all have a heart for Compassion International and the children sponsored through the program!  I do have many pictures from my trip and am formulating a blogging game-plan in my head on how to share those.  In the meantime, I want to share a picture that we received the day before I left.

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This is Mkapa from Tanzania with some gifts he purchased.  He was able to buy a trunk and a lock, a flashlight, batteries, some notebooks, a school bag, a blanket and food items such as flour, rice and oil. 

I absolutely love getting pictures of our children.  Out of our ten, we’ve only gotten them from about half of our children.  Many projects do not have access to a camera, but I treasure photos when they come!

Have you heard from your Compassion International sponsor children lately?

As a side note, I am giving away a copy of Dr. Wess Stafford’s book called Too Small To Ignore.  To enter, check out Blogging from the Boonies Facebook page. 

-Michelle

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Colorado!

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I made it to Colorado Springs yesterday!  While I was a little nervous about flying, I spent most of my time with my forehead pressed against the window of the airplane! Wow, what a view.

As we made our descent into Colorado Springs, and the mountains came into view, I had tears in my eyes. Taken with the beauty, and feeling so blessed to have this opportunity, I got emotional.

I will be heading out to chapel at Compassion’s headquarters soon, but I have posted a lot of pictures on the Blogging From the Boonies Facebook Page.  Click here to check them out!

I’ll be posting in more detail in the coming days!

-Michelle

Monday, July 25, 2011

Come Fly with Me!

Bright and early tomorrow morning, my family will be dropping me off at the airport!  I am so excited for my short visit to Colorado Springs and my tour of Compassion’s headquarters.  I don’t know if I will have the time or energy to get a blog post together while I am gone, but I do hope to upload pictures and post to my blog’s Facebook page each evening. 

Check out Blogging From The Boonies on Facebook if you’d like to stay up-to-date and join me on my adventure!

-Michelle

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Snapshots

While I hate to sound like a broken record, things have been SO busy around here. Seems like I am a bit of a seasonal blogger. When the weather is cool, I tend to blog several times a week. But, come summer, my blogging dwindles down to once or twice a week!

I have a few pictures to share today. A few weeks ago, my friend travelled to Uganda and was able to meet up with our newest sponsored child, Kwagala Deborah. (KD is part of a group effort sponsorship where many of my blog readers have pitched in to support this lovely girl.)

KD was taken out to lunch and then, with some money we sent along, she was taken to buy new shoes and some other needed items. My friend sent me these pictures, which I treasure.

KDnecklace KD with the Bible, necklace and other goodies that were sent along for her.

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KD at the store with the Compassion staff worker that brought her to meet my friend.

IMG_0821 Trying in some new shoes. What a treat!!

I feel so blessed that God arranged this wonderful opportunity to shower Kwagala Deborah with love and support. The timing, location and so many other circumstances lined up in such a way that it was clearly a Divine arrangement!

Our dear KD had a very hard childhood and I don’t doubt that the abandonment has affected her to her core. If you would be so kind as to lift her, as well as her sisters Jennifer and Ruth up in prayer, I would appreciate it!

In other news, just 72 hours until I am on an airplane headed to Colorado! Not only will I see the Compassion headquarters, but I will also have the chance to meet Sherry, the woman who went to meet our lovely Kwagala Deborah. I am so very excited!!

-Michelle

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Third World Symphony

You may or may not know, I am a big fan of Shaun Groves. I actually first heard of him, not because of his music, but because of the amazing work he does for Compassion International.
Last summer, I was able to work a table for Compassion at the Kingdom Bound festival. I nearly squealed when I saw Shaun scoot by on the back of a golf cart while I was answering questions for potential sponsors. Later in the evening, I saw him speak live for the very first time. What a time to be without tissues. I was waiting for the cue to pass out packets to audience members and Shaun was sharing the story of a young lady named Kiran. Before I knew it, I was crying…. Not any sort of lovely, eye misting cry either. It was an all-out ugly cry as Shaun’s words ripped me wide open. He’s got a gift for weaving words together in a way that draws you in.
A short while later, I was able to stammer through a brief conversation with Shaun near the Compassion table. I even got up the nerve to ask for a photo with him.

(Don’t mind my “glow”, it was crazy hot and humid that day!)
It wasn’t until after that meeting that I decided to check out Shaun’s musical giftings. I was thrilled to find lyrics that brought powerful images to mind and that praised the Lord without holding back.
Well, Shaun is releasing a new album entitled Third World Symphony.
You can take a listen here. And you can pre-order it here.
The Groves family is in the midst of an amazing God-written story with the arrival of a new family member and our support can really help them right now!
I hope that you will check out the free listen, you won’t be disappointed! If you’re so inclined, consider purchasing the album! It is a good one!
(On a mostly unrelated note, in just one week I will be heading to Colorado to visit the Compassion International headquarters. If you could pray for the details to come together, I would appreciate it!)
-Michelle

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts on a First Letter Received

Yesterday, I happened to check in on the OurCompassion website.  OurCompassion is a wonderful place for Compassion International sponsors to chat, share ideas and thoughts, post pictures and find support.

I came across a Journal by Casey Durrett that I just loved.  With her permission, I am sharing it here.

I sponsored my first child in June of this year - a little boy in Rwanda. A few days later my mother and I jointly sponsored a little girl in Ghana. Though I understood it would be quite a while before I received a first letter from either of the two children, I was unable to help myself by about week 4 and couldn't wait to get to the mailbox everyday just in case a letter came faster than expected. My anticipation grew and grew everyday - as I knew each day passing would take me closer to the day a first letter would finally arrive.

As I returned home from work on July 15, I walked down to the mailbox as has become my daily tradition minus Sundays, of course. It was a very hot day here in Tennessee, and I remember thinking as I walked down the driveway how much I'd appreciate it if my employer didn't require certain codes of dress as it would certainly be more comfortable if I didn't have to wear these dress pants made of rayon, polyester, and nylon on these humid July-in-Tennessee days. All thoughts of the sticky humidity and the loathing of the classic black dress pants went away as I opened the mailbox, thumbed through a rather large stack of mail and found an evelope from Compassion stating I had a letter from my sponsored child inside.

Now, here's where most people probably will assume I ripped open the letter right there, read excitedly as I stood at the mailbox, and then returned inside. But, no, I couldn't open this long-awaited letter at the mailbox. Instead, I raced back inside, got out of the sweat-city dress pants, changed into much more comfortable khaki shorts and a t-shirt, grabbed a glass of water, sat down at the kitchen table and then, with much care, opened the letter.

I think I'd like to stop for a moment and consider what my expectations have been regarding the letter system. As a first time sponsor awaiting my first letter, I haven't really known what to expect in a first letter. Both of my sponsored children are young, so I was certain they wouldn't be writing for themselves. And though I have learned through the Compassion website and OC that there is a tremendous process for letter writing, I guess somehow I imagined a detailed letter with all sorts of information about my child included.

Back to the letter... As I opened, I did not know yet which child the letter was from. I suspected I would get a letter from the Ghanian child before the Rwandan child as information I have received here at OC has helped me to understand a bit about the differences in letters coming from these two countries. Sure enough, the letter inside was from little Anasthasia in Ghana.

As I looked over the letter, I found some basic information about my precious little Anasthasia. Her favorite foods are rice and stew, her favorite color is red. She has two brothers, and a best friend named Sakina. Her favorite Bible story is that of Jacob and Esau (an excellent choice I must say). At first glance, I don't want to use the term disappointed, because I was hardly disappointed in receiving this letter... No, I was absolutely delighted! But, I was surprised, initially, by the lack of length. The actual letter written by the staff member on behalf of Anasthasia was quite short. I believe, as a first-time sponsor, my expectations were of a bit more detail and length... I've had such a desire to come to know these children that those few sentences left me thinking... But... I want to know this, and this, and this, and this!

Then, the few sentences in the letter really sunk in. Anasthasia wants to know my family. She would like me to pray that the Lord gives her wisdom and understanding in her studies. She prays that the Lord God Almighty protects me and keeps me. She colored a few pictures for me... A little girl, a flag, and a tree.

Though this short letter isn't full of the hundreds of details I would love to know, it's such a reminder to me of what is truly precious in life... God and family. That short little letter with the sweet drawings also reminds me that, in this process, the Lord has extended my family. As I looked at the drawings she'd colored in, I looked at a piece of paper her little hands had touched - far away in Ghana. I was holding the  beginning of a journey. I was holding the beginning of a future, and though I cannot know completely what that future will be or what all it will involve, I can know for certain that somehow my life will not ever be the same as it would've been if I hadn't joined Compassion. I can also know that a little girl, many, many miles away - will someday come to understand that the Lord, in His love for her, and in His love for me and my mom - placed her photo in front of us on that Monday afternoon in June.

Of course, I'm still excited to learn more details about Anasthasia and her family, but I also realize all that will come in time. For now, I'm spending time reading up on Ghana and Ghanian culture. I find myself possessing "new eyes" when it comes to shopping. I'm always on the lookout for something that would be useful or fun for the children and that is suitable for sending according to the Compassion guidelines. I'm learning all about letter writing - not being too long, leaving room for translation, and I find myself mentally-editing just to be sure I never accidentally write something that might be offensive. For instance, when Anasthasia mentions she likes stew, I think "I like stew too!" Then I think of my version of stew, and I note that beef is in my stew, so I then set out to determine if cattle might possibly be sacred and eating beef shouldn't be mentioned! So, I set out in search of "more information". My mother and I look at paper dolls and wonder... Do we send dolls of any/all races? Should we center on darker dolls? I also find myself searching for information on gifting, timing involved in the gifting process, and preparing a calendar for times when monetary funds should be sent in order to arrive by some certain date - like her birthday. I dig around Oriental Trading Company looking for stickers, small coloring books, and paper crosses that can be colored in... I get excited that many of the items come in multiples, so (through information received here at OC) I get thrilled that I could use the extras to send along for their friends.

And with all of the above, what I find most amazing, is the fact that before ever receiving the first letter - before knowing anything much at all about little Anasthasia... We have loved her. From the moment we saw her picture and toggled back and forth making a decision - we loved her. We care about her life, her health, her family, her future.

I think what I have ultimately realized in this last few weeks, and especially after receiving that first letter that was quite different than what I'd initially expected... We may be called "sponsors" but without realizing it, these children are really sponsoring something in us. Their need is giving us an opportunity to respond. And the process we go through actually develops something in us - it grows us, it stretches us - it causes us to love beyond our front door. Our good and merciful Lord who's ways are too great for us to completely understand is working not only in the lives of these children - but also in our lives as He expands us, works on our hearts, and teaches us about what really is most important in this thing we called life: Our Lord - and the commandment His Son gave us - Love One Another.

I'm tremendously thankful for the lesson I learned with that very first letter, and I'll continue to race to that mailbox Monday - Saturday.

Thank you, Casey, for allowing me to share your post here! Readers, what do you think?

If you haven’t taken the time to check out OurCompassion, why don’t you hop over now and take a peek?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fabulous Photo Friday

Chances are, most of my readers have drifted away while my posts have become few and far between.  If you are still sticking around, I’d love to show you a photo that brought tears to my eyes.

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Yes, this is our beautiful Kwagala Deborah!  Sponsored by a generous group effort of over a dozen blog readers.  In this photo, she is wearing the “love” necklace we sent.  And that smile….  Captivating. Contagious. Love.

What amazing things our God can do!!

-Michelle

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Praise

Whenever this song comes on the radio, I crank up the volume!  Love it!

Praise Him under open skies
Everything breathing praising God
In the company
Of all who love the King
I will dance, I will sing
It could be heavenly
Turn the music loud
Lift my voice and shout
From where I am
From where I've been
He's been there with me
He's built a monument
His very people
So let his people
Sing, sing, sing
And it's so wonderful
Just to be here now
Let us dance, let us sing
It could be heavenly
Turn the music loud and sing
Lift your voice to heaven
Lift up your head and sing
To the one who gave His love
This is our offering
Lift your voice to heaven
Lift up your head and sing
To the one who gave His son
Here our lives we bring
From wherever you are
Wherever you've been
He's been there
So let His people sing

Today I am praising God for answered prayers.  In a stunning turn of events, we’ve been given an extended visit with Nico and she will be with us until the beginning of August. (Nico is my 13 year old step-daughter, for any new readers who may not know.) Ten long months with barely any contact, we prayed and prayed to be able to have contact with her and see her. I feel like pinching myself just to be sure this is really happening and I am, again, so thankful.

-Michelle

 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Blessings of Social Networking

On any given day, I like to spend, at the very least, a half an hour checking in on my emails and social networking sites.

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The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. A few days have afforded me just enough time to sit down and skim through emails, having to dash before I could even shoot off replies.

Social networking is a funny thing. There have been times when I was certain that I was giving too much time and attention to the laptop screen. Too much time reading blogs and and replying to status updates. And there have been times, like the recent weeks, where I glance at the computer and feel an overwhelming feeling not being caught up. Google Reader tells me I have well over 100 blog posts read, my conscience reminds me that I haven’t visited or posted to blogs by my friends, my inbox is so backed up it may need a roto-rooter.

This connection to our computers can vacillate between being a blessing and a curse, no doubt.

A few things have happened recently, though, that have me marveling at just how amazing this whole social networking thing can be.

Yesterday, a sweet girl that I met on OurCompassion was able to meet her Compassion sponsored child in Ghana. I happened to read her account of this visit yesterday while at the library in town, during a small break between swim lessons and free swim at the school. Tears flooded my eyes as I read Mary Catherine’s experience.

When I first read that Mary Catherine was going to Ghana, I contacted her and asked if she would be willing to take a small package for our Precious in Ghana and drop it off while she was there. She told me that she would be happy to, so we jam-packed a gallon zip-lock bag with Crayola crayons, markers, some small stuffed animals for Precious and her siblings, a cross necklace for Precious and angel necklaces for her sisters, Matchbox cars for her brother, a handmade purse for Precious and a few other small gifts. Yesterday, that package was dropped off in Accra and will soon be in the hands of a little Ghanaian girl that makes my heart swell.

Without social networking, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to send these gifts across the ocean.

Social networking has also been crucial to one of the most amazing sponsorship experiences I have ever been a part of. The group sponsorship of Kwagala Deborah has been divinely spectacular from the very beginning. While our family and a group of faithful readers of this blog have been supporting Deborah for less than a month, there have been so many awe-inspiring moments in this journey. This coming week, a friend from OurCompassion will land in Uganda for a Pastor's Discipleship Conference (led by their founder Richmond Wandera, who was once a sponsored child). My friend will be delivering a Bible, backpack, photo book and funds for some much needed clothing and shoes for our beloved Deborah.

So, this week, I am thrilled to reflect on these amazing opportunities that have come because of the ability to reach out to people through the internet. I cannot help but daydream about the day that our package for Precious arrives at her project and is placed into her hands. My mind is wandering to the moment that our group sponsorship is explained to Deborah and she realizes just how much she is loved. I think about her wearing the necklace we purchased with our pooled funds, with the word love written all over it.

And I am thankful.

Thankful for opportunities. Thankful for the amazing people I have come to know. Thankful for the ways to reach out and help. Thankful.

-Michelle

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Sweet Invitation

Yesterday, we received a letter from our Bertille in Burkina Faso.

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The very first line if the letter captured my heart.

Will you come to Burkina Faso and visit our city of Ziniaire?”

This is not the first time we’ve been asked a question like this by our Compassion International children, but it gets me every time.  Oh, how I would LOVE to go and visit!  However, our family finances aren’t in a position to spare the thousands needed to travel overseas. So, I will be writing a letter to Bertille today telling her just how much we would love the opportunity to fly to Africa and meet her. Gently, I will try to choose the words to tell her that we don’t have the money for a trip like that right now.

The truth is, I have had the chance to meet a few of my Compassion children….  in the realm of dreams anyway. It may sound odd, but I have really cherished those dreams and I was always heartbroken to wake up and have our time cut short.  In one dream, I was even able to visit some children with a mom of Wild Things and a super-manly Mom blogger.

(Speaking of that mom-blogger, Shaun Groves has a awesome new album out and you can take a listen for FREE!  Click here to check out Third World Symphony! )

The Compassion website shows that there will be a group trip to Ghana in June of 2012 and as soon as I read it, my heart has been pulled.  I truly love all ten of our Compassion kids, but would have to say that my strongest bond is with the first child we sponsored. Not only do we have the chance to hear from Precious in Ghana a few times a month, I have also become attached to a dozen or so of her project-mates that were sponsored by faithful readers of my blog. I am praying that God will open the doors to allow me to travel to meet our precious girl and her friends next year, but I also realize that is quite a tall order.  Sure, God could make it happen, but it is hard to even set my hopes that high. 

Have you heard from any of your Compassion children lately? I would love to hear about your recent letters!  Have you ever had a child ask if you could visit?  What was your response?

I need to get ready for another busy Summer day, but I am praying that you all are well and enjoying your week!

-Michelle

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wonderful Weekend

Things are quiet around here, without even so much as a Sunday Praise post. I apologize, but I do have good reason.  We’ve been blessed with some time with our oldest girlie and we’re trying to make the most of it!  I’m behind on posting, reading blogs and emails.  But, we’re certainly catching up on fun, laughter and family time!

I’ll be back, but in the meantime, here are a few quick pictures from the weekend!

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All smiles,

-Michelle