Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review – Compassion Edition

I’m joining the masses and thinking back over 2011.  While this year has had its fair share of ups and downs, that could be said for every year I can remember.
As far as Compassion is concerned, it has been an amazing year.
  • We welcomed three new children into our family in 2011. 
In January, I asked for another Correspondent Child and we were assigned this handsome young man in Tanzania.  Mkapa has a smile that reaches right into your heart.

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We were surprised when our request for one Correspondent Child actually ended up in the assignment of TWO children.  Sweet little Madina from Rwanda is our blessed bonus child.

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Because they are close in age, Madina has become Luna’s special “ ‘Passion Child” friend.
In June, as I was looking through the Compassion site, praying over the children, a young lady caught my eye and my heart.  While the actual feeling is hard to put into words, I felt so drawn to beautiful Kwagala Deborah and couldn’t get her out of my mind.

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I felt prompted to ask if any of my blog readers would be interested in sharing the sponsorship with our family and the response was wonderful.  There is a Group Effort of many caring people that support KD’s sponsorship. Families around the world love her and are praying for her. (You too can join in the group sponsorship by clicking the “Group Effort” link above.)
  • Early in 2011, I was asked to write a few blog posts for the official Compassion Blog.

On May 20th, my first post was published: The Mystery of the Blue Corner. I had often wondered about the blue square that appears on the corner of many Compassion mailings and sites.  It was neat to learn more about its meaning!

A week later, my second post was published: A Precious Perspective.  This post means so much to me.  It shows how one simple sentence from a child an ocean away managed to forever change my heart.

In September, I was so thrilled to be asked to write about Compassion new letter writing tool: An Improved Way To Write Your Sponsored Child.  It was exciting to be able to test out the tool before it was rolled out for the sponsor population!

In October, I shared my thoughts about Compassion’s great sponsor site: Our Compassion - Our Community.  Being a member of OurCompassion greatly impacted my journey as a sponsor and I think it is a fantastic website for inspiring sponsors.
  • In early June, I received an email that was SO exciting that I almost fainted.
I was asked to come to Compassion’s Global Ministry Center in Colorado to take part in a Social Media Summit. I had always wanted to travel to Colorado Springs and check out Compassion’s headquarters and my prayers were answered!
I blogged about my trip, of course!
The trip to Colorado was such an amazing blessing and opportunity!  So many times, I felt like pinching myself to see if it could possibly be real. (It WAS!)
  • I tallied up the letters we’ve received from our sponsored children this year and was blessed to look through and count 71 of them! (That’s a LOT of Happy Dances!) My husband and I found the break-down interesting.
Kwagala Deborah from Uganda – 2 letters
Bertille from Burkina Faso – 3 letters
Alice from Kenya – 3 letters
Kazihizina from Rwanda – 3 letters
Yishak from Ethiopia – 3 letters
Madina from Uganda – 4 letters
Mkapa from Tanzania – 4 letters
Johan from East India – 12 letters
Rodrigo from Bolivia – 16 letters
Precious from Ghana – 21 letters!

We also received an assortment of bonus photos from several of our children this year.
By my count, we have written close to 250 letters this year and we have also had the opportunity to send actual gifts to a few of our beloved children, too, thanks to friends who have travelled to various countries.
  • I was blessed to have dear friends actually meet and love on our first sponsored child, Precious in Ghana.  What an incredible opportunity!
I still cannot read through this blog post by my friend JD without crying: Precious - Day Four.
  • My friend Sherry also was able to meet and love on our co-sponsored Kwagala Deborah in Uganda.
  • In 2011, so many sweet children have been connected with their sponsors through Blogging From the Boonies.  This is possibly one of the most rewarding parts of advocating through the internet!
I cry each and every time I am notified that someone has felt compelled to step up and sponsor a child that I’ve featured.  What an amazing and humbling thing it is to know that I have had some small part in helping these connection come about!

There are so many children from Precious’ project in Ghana that have been sponsored by my friends and blog readers.  I pray over all of our Precious Connection children as well as other children sponsored through my advocacy.  What a blessing!
  • This year, I have also come to know so many wonderful fellow bloggers with a heart for the children of this world!  I have been blessed by every comment, the support and prayers of amazing people!



My sincere thanks to everyone who stops by to read BFTB!  Your support means the world to me!  If you’ve been a “silent reader” and have yet to leave a comment, it would bless me so much if you’d take just a second to leave a comment and say hello!

I hope that 2012 brings many blessings and Happy Dances to all of you!

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday’s Favorites

My favorite moment and photo from the week happened on Wednesday.  After a couple of months of not going, we returned to our local nursing home to sing some carols to the residents. I don’t think I realized just how much I missed these sweet people until I saw them again, their faces lighting up at the sight of a group of silly kids walking the halls.

The moment that choked me up the most was when our sometimes-shy Kaya got out her ukulele and performed Jamie-Grace’s God Girl for a group of seniors.

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It took every ounce of effort I had, to avoid breaking into the ugly cry at this moment. Between Kaya’s step of faith and willingness to push past nervousness in order to share with the seniors and the reaction of those listening, I was so moved. I am so thankful for children with a heart for bringing smiles to others.

(Kaya was inspired to try out the ukulele because of a sweet little girl called Ukulele Mandi.  You should check out her Youtube channel!)

 

Another favorite from this week was the video I saw on Facebook.

Isn’t that awesome?

I am reminded that this time of year really is all about giving, whether it be of your time or your resources. It doesn’t take much time or effort to shine your light and share your love.

What were some of your favorites this week?

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(Please come and join in the conversation on the Blogging From The Boonies Facebook page!)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Today, like every weekday, I made the hopeful trip to the mailbox to see if I have any Happy Dance worthy mail waiting for us! As I walked the quarter mile to our mailbox today, I noticed that these warm temperatures and recent rain have left the dirt road covered with huge puddles.  I picked up a stick and worked on carving out little drain ditches in the mud.

When I finally got to the mailbox, I smiled to find a larger Compassion envelope tucked among the other mail.  Because I had a muddy stick in one hand and a stack of mail in the other, I didn’t rip right into the Compassion letter like I usually do. 

Walking back home, I continued to work on any large puddles I passed, making little ditches to let the water drain.

Then, I heard something. It took me a bit to figure out that the rattling noise was coming from the Compassion envelope. 

What could it be? With each shake, I heard a distinctive noise and the envelope was even a bit thicker than most we’ve gotten.

Back at home, I kicked off my muddy boots at the door and carefully opened the envelope. I pulled out the sweetest little craft!

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From the baby of our Compassion family, little Madina, this paper is bordered in thin little pieces of wood. “M Xmass” is written in glue coated with what appears to be cornmeal. “John 3:16” is written in glue with tiny seeds stuck to it.

The rattling was some seeds that had come off in transit.

What a treasure! We’ve never received anything like this from any of our Compassion children! We will be using a little glue to put some of the seeds back on the artwork, but Kaya suggested that we try to grow a few of the seeds, too.

An excerpt from the letter:

“Madina says she is glad to be loved by you and by God. She received her necklace (that my friend Sherry took to Uganda) and it is so nice and she looks so smart in it. She says thank you so much for loving her and she is proud of you because of the day you come into her life. She loves you.”

As if that wasn’t enough, we also received a bonus photo of our little sweetie, too!

madina122011She looks as shy as ever, but she is growing up quickly!  What a doll!

We were so blessed by these unexpected gifts!  What a joy!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hustle and Bustle

This season has been one full of hustle and bustle for our family. We’re not running from store to store, but instead we’re having fun crafting and gathering with friends.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the activities that have kept us busy this month.

IMG_9175 Faux Stained Glass Paintings

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Gingerbread House Building

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A different kind of Faux Stained Glass to brighten our windows on these cloudy days. (Plus, some for gifting as well!)

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We’ve made yummy treats!

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We even decorated while Skyping with Grandma!

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We’ve gotten together with friends!

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While all of the activities have been fun, it has also been tiring!

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Through it all, we’re trying to keep our hearts tuned into the real reason for the season.

For God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.                                                             John 3:16

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Thank you, Lord, for the most precious gift of all!

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Five Things I Learned…

…when the power suddenly went out around 8:00 last night.

  • If you are sewing something by hand when the power goes out and you drop your needle when the 5 year old screams like a banshee, you will wish you had shoes on when you take a step to look for a flashlight.
  • If your husband takes the flashlight earlier in the day, don't assume he will put it back in the right spot even though he is super organized and always has in the past.
  • Make sure you have a stash of candles *with* a lighter right beside it. You can’t fall back on using the gas stove to light them if the power is out.
  • When you ask your husband to call the electric company, your five year old *will* think that you're actually calling the kids on the PBS show.
  • And lastly, little girls who are in their bedroom chatting in the glow of candlelight will stay up at least an hour later than they would on any other night.

Seems like I am not good at tending to the blog world when life gets busy.  My posts are becoming less frequent and I haven’t been on Google Reader to read any blogs in days.  I hope to get back into the swing of things soon, though! 

I hope that this holiday season is full of joy and beauty for you!

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Adventures in Fail

At the beginning of the Advent season, I made the decision to be more intentional in planning fun activities with my girls. We’ve spent lots of time crafting and baking once the day’s homeschooling and responsibilities were crossed off of the to-do list. There have been many magical moments and memories created by this special time, no doubt.

But, if I were to be completely honest, I have been hovering near burn out.

I love that I am able to stay at home with my girls, I truly do.  There are times, though, when the long hours of my job start to weigh heavy on me. There are so many times when I feel as if I cannot complete a task, much less a thought, without having to answer a question or tend to a need or referee a quarrel.

Sometimes, grace wears thin.

Some days I feel like thin ice, ready to crack under the slightest pressure.

I snap at my girls and then close myself in my bedroom in tears, thinking that my unintentional harsh words have just erased a day’s worth of intentional focus.

I beat myself up, wondering how the woman who promotes Compassionate work for the children of the world can sometimes lack patience and compassion with the ones God has put under my care.

Sometimes, I feel like a failure and a hypocrite.

On an evening when I feel so raw and frazzled, my husband comes home early to take my girls on some errands and to a Bible study.  The quiet of a house all to myself refreshes me and I am able to breathe deep and just be “me” for a time. I soak in the time and space to myself.  I crank up the radio and dance. When my feet finally come to a stop and I sit for a moment, I realize that for all of our preparation for Christmas and daily Bible readings, I have let my heart wander from God.

I reflect on how it is possible to be in the Word, praying daily and striving to do His work, yet still have a chasm of distance between myself and the One who needs to be my rock. I am the one who has let myself drift.

The next day, I read a post by Ann Voskamp titled When You Wonder If You Disappoint. A post that hits my heart at just the right time, one specific line resonates so deeply.

God appoints people who do disappoint – to point to

a God who never disappoints.

I’m reminded that failure points up to grace and that stumbling and falling down causes us to look up.

The grace and forgiveness of children reminds me of that which is always waiting for us if we seek it.

A new day brings a fresh fluffy coating of snow and several minutes taking in deep breaths of cold air while birds dance and sing around me.

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I feel renewed and ready to take on intentional time with my family, but also intentional striving towards God.  Grace and forgiveness are poured over me and for that I am so thankful.

If you’re struggling or having a hard time, please let me know how I can pray for you, either through leaving a comment or using the contact form on my sidebar.

I hope that today brings you peace, beauty and blessings!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

My favorite two shots from the last few days.

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Stay Connected with BFTB!



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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Creeper Christmas Carol

I loved reading your comments the other day, sharing some of your favorite Christmas songs!

There’s one song that I hear every year, though, that sort of makes my skin crawl.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

My husband and I jokingly call it the Creeper Christmas Carol. I know it is a classic and many people just love it, but I find it just a wee bit sketchy.

When my girls get older, I just may play this song for them and tell them, “If some guy tries any of these lines with you……RUN!”

The “Say, what’s in this drink?” line? :shudder: Can you say, rufies?

So, do you have any holiday songs that annoy you?

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Monday, December 5, 2011

The Ghana Fund Grows

 

I often think back to the day I finally decided to ask for help in sponsoring the beautiful Kwagala from Uganda.

An excerpt from that post:

I sat with coffee in hand and argued with myself. Well, not so much myself, as I believe I was arguing with God.

“ “Post on your blog. See if you can find a group of people willing to help you out with sponsorship.”

“I don’t want to get my hopes up and get disappointed. What if a few donate and we can cover her for a few months, and then the funds run out and we can’t continue.”

“Post on your blog. Amy was able to coordinate the group-sponsorship of Agnes. You have a lot of passionate readers with big hearts.”

“But, what if NO ONE is interested? What if I look like a fool? Someone who is always asking people for something.”

“Post. On. Your. Blog.”

Back and forth I went until I decided to just try, to put it out there and see what would happen.

Well, love happened.”

That experience showed me just what is possible if we step out of our comfort zone and follow the promptings put on our hearts.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep love for Africa and specifically Ghana.  When a little Ghanaian girl joined our family as our first Compassion International sponsored child, we had no idea just how much she would impact our lives in the years to follow.

I do feel in my heart that, someday, I will set foot on African soil and wrap my arms around our beloved Precious. I will spend time immersed in Ghanaian culture, I will meet with their people, I will worship in their churches.

My inner critic tries to tell me what a foolish thought this is and how impossible it would be for a family that survives on one modest income to provide for a trip like this.  How selfish it would be to seek out donations to help pay for the trip… Yet, another voice comes in and whispers,

“Just ask.”

After some encouraging conversations with a few dear friends, I have created a ChipIn fundraiser. Before doing this, I had already received a $200 donation towards the cost of a Passport and another $500 donation.  In the last week, $100 in donations have come in, What blessings!

I have to say, asking for donations and accepting help is not easy, but I have this feeling that the Lord is using this opportunity to keep me humble and to strengthen my faith.

I am so thankful to those who have donated and who are praying for me as I prepare for my “someday trip” to Ghana.  I am especially thankful to my sister-friend, JD.  She has been such an encouragement to me, more than I could ever put into words.

I’ll keep this ChipIn widget on the sidebar of my blog as well so that you can cheer with me as the total increases. 

My deepest thanks to all of my readers for their wonderful support and encouragement. Your comments and presence here make the time I put into blogging and advocating for Compassion so worth it! May God bless you all!

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Praise

I just love this song and especially love the version that can be found on David Crowder’s Oh For Joy album, which I have heard here and there online.

 

I would love to know, what are your favorite Christmas songs?

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday Snapshots

With overnight temperatures in the mid-twenties, the world was a frosty, sparkly wonderland this morning.
I took an invigorating walk with my camera in hand.
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As the sun came up from behind the trees, it was a simply dazzling sight. I took time to breathe deep and thank the Lord for the beauty that can be found all around us.
I pray that your weekend is beautiful!
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Links I Love

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It has been a while since I have written a “Links I Love” post! I’ve had a few sites I had been wanting to share with my readers.

First on the list is Come Together Trading Company!

If you are looking to purchase some gifts for loved ones, I highly recommend looking through the beautiful items in stock at CTTC!

From their About Us page:

“On a trip to Africa with Compassion International we met so many incredible people who were living in extreme poverty.
Although they were poor in resources, they were spiritually rich! They had a joy and a faith like we'd never seen. We honestly felt like we were the ones who were poor... spiritually poor. Our lives were changed forever and after returning home we realized we had to do something!
So Come Together Trading was founded on the simple idea that if we could just "Come Together" we could help one another. Doing business together through Fair Trade is one way we have found to do that.”

Now, I am not much of a shopper, but I can look through the Come Together Trading Company website for quite some time and see many beautiful products I would love to own.

Beautiful scarves from Asia….

Cotton Striped Netting Scarf With Tassels

Lovely basket totes from Africa….

Bolga Shoppers with Leather Handles

 

Sweet nativity ornaments from Peru…

Cacti Nativity Ornament

And there is SO much more to be found!

If you haven’t hopped over to Come Together Trading Company yet, you should definitely go and check it out!

Moving on, as the team has been home from Ghana, my friends JD, Debra and Tia have all been blogging and sharing the thoughts that are being processed after re-entry.

Compassion Can

Tangled up in Blue

The Road to Ghana

If the stories from Ghana have pulled at your heart, you will want to keep up with the ladies as they share more details and reflections.

Lastly, today I’d like to thank everyone who has donated towards my “someday trip” to Ghana!  I am just so blessed by your support! It means so much to me!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday’s This and That

Outside of my window… the sun is shining, bringing a sparkle to the frost that was left on everything overnight. The chilly temperatures bring a hustle and bustle to the birdfeeder hanging off of our back deck.  Juncos, nuthatches, goldfinches and my favorite chickadees are all vying for breakfast right now.

Around the house… I hear the hum of a fan that is distributing heat from our woodstove and some Vivaldi is playing on the radio.  We almost having music playing around the house, but my girls prefer to listen to classical music while they sit down to do their learning.

The word of the week has been… Intentional. I have been mindful of being more intentional in some things.  Planning activities for my girls, for instance.  Generally, they play and create so well together that it is easy to let them do as they please after their responsibilities are taken care of.  However, they have really enjoyed the special activities I have set up for them each day this week. 

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What fun it has been to bake and create together!

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Today’s activity is to make some Christmas Cards for our troops!

I’ve also been so blessed by being intentional in honoring my husband in different ways. Things like getting up with him to get his lunch and coffee together makes his morning so much smoother.  I’ve taken on some household tasks that have fallen on him in the past.  I’ve made an extra effort to keep the house neat and clutter-free, knowing how messes can affect his thought processes and concentration. It has added to the peace and comfort found within our home.

I’ve been blessed by…

  • refocusing on how special it is to be able to stay home with my girls.
  • decorating the house with beautiful creations made with love.
  • going through the Jesse Tree Journey by Ann Voskamp.
  • taking time to enjoy the moment.
  • keeping the reason for the season at the forefront of my mind.
  • feeling as if I have accomplished a lot at the end of the day!

I have also been blessed by those who are praying and have donated towards my “someday trip” to Ghana.  After praying a LOT and speaking with a few people, I have finally started fundraising in earnest. I am still not sure if the Lord would have me visit Africa in 2012 or 2013, but I do feel certain that I *will* go in His timing.

(If you feel led to help with the cost of the trip, there is a “My Trip To Ghana” ChipIn widget on my sidebar where secure online donations can be made with a credit/debit card or Paypal. As always, prayer is also appreciated!)

What do you feel blessed by this week?

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