Every once in awhile there is something that shakes me to the core.  Something that leaves me reeling, a moment where my eyes are opened and I gain new understand.  I had one of those moments this week.  I finished reading Passport Through Darkness, a gripping story of Kimberly's journey into the war-torn country of Sudan.  She eloquently tell the story of not only her mission field, but also how the five years spent in Sudan affected her marriage and her life when she returned home.

Her experiences are heart-strings pulling and unfathomable to me as I sit in my first world, protected, comfortable home.  The stories Kimberly shares are about women banding together sharing what precious little they have, one pair of shoes or a one room hut, in order to survive the slavery and rape that is always lurking in their paths.   Children disappear over night because they fall asleep in trees to avoid the hungry animals, but fall out of the trees while asleep and the animals get them anyway.   Young girls, pregnant with babies too big for their bodies to deliver, sick with meningitis and young boys standing by the road, bellies swollen with malnutrition become part of her day to day life.  My mind cannot even comprehend the situations she writes about in this book.  

Part of her time at home was to raise money for the orphanage she wanted to build in Sudan.   A place to protect and educate the children who had no hope for a future on their own.  She writes about one experience where she was scheduled to speak at a church for a few weeks in a row to educate the congregation on her mission and also to raise funds.   After the first visit with the congregation, a member of the church approached her and asked her not to return to finish her scheduled presentations because the content was too upsetting and to offensive to some people in the church.

When I read this I was greatly saddened.   My heart, as you know, aches for the children who live in poverty.   I could not imagine how I would feel or what I would say or do in her position.  

And yet.....

This week while I was scanning my Facebook feed, one of the organizations that Mark and I follow was posting the pictures of the cause they are supporting this week.   I saw the first picture and I quickly scrolled on because I didn't want to "see" the picture.

That is right, I didn't want to "see" the picture.  

The picture showed a young child with white worms crawling out of his nose.   My response to the picture was exactly the same as the church members that so greatly saddened me.

I went back to the pictures, the pictures that I didn't want to see and I looked at them.  I made sure that I noticed them, that they were seen. 

I am thankful for the people around the world who are making a difference in people's lives.  I do not believe that anyone deserves to be treated differently just because of where they live and what is going on in their country.  I just hope that as I can respond properly and not cringe at the picture as too horrific just because it it not something that happens near my home. 

I am posting the pictures below.   There is no pressure for you to look at them, this is part of my journey, not necessarily yours.  

Sevenly is the charity that provided the pictures below.   Their mission is to take one cause a week from ending the seven diseases to finding a cure for autism.  This weeks cause, END 7 diseases by 2020 can be found here


An Apology To My Children

This week we, again, are attempting to to incorporate some healthy habits into our lifestyle.   So easily the quick, processed foods, or the high-sugar sweets slip into our routines.   Rather than the special treats that they are intended to be, they become the norm.   We are on day three of no sugar, no pop, and no processed foods.   Instead we are eating "clean" foods.  Foods that our bodies know how to process.   I feel better already.  Perhaps is it just the thought of better foods for our bodies, but I tend to think that already the clean food is making a difference.  

And this is where I find myself needing to apologize to my children:  We are in the middle of this current journey not because of you, but because of me.   It wasn't that I was not equipped with the tools and the information, rather, it is just one of my many weaknesses.   I am not alone in this weakness, but you and I both are paying for this.   I won't do it perfectly this time, much like the last, there will be failure.  I know that right now it feels like I am forcing you to eat foods you do not like.   I am.  But it is because I love you and I want the best for you.   It does not mean that the treats are gone forever, but my hope is that they will become just that, treats.  My hope is that every time we try, we get a little further and have just a little more success.  You are of age now where you need the tools and so my job is to step it up and provide those tools for you, and here we go.


Monday Morning Reflections

Monday morning. The start of another very busy week, but I am taking a few minutes to reflect on the good and absorb the quiet. The laundry can wait and the to-do list will still be there, always waiting. For a couple of minutes I am going to enjoy the kids, rubbing sleep from their eyes, as they settle in chairs next to me. I want to savor the first hugs of the day and mumbled good mornings as they slowly wake up. I am putting off tasks - perhaps it is procrastinating - but in the mean time, I am soaking up the good around me.


Content in the Snow?

May second. Time for blue skies, green grass, tulips, and daffodils.

May second.  I look out the window this morning at the absence of color as the newly green grass is covered in a thick, fluffy, white blanket of snow. The sky is a cloudy grey, the world white, even the brown of the tress is mostly covered in almost eight inches of snow.

The rumors of this storm at the beginning of the week threatened to pull me into a mood as grey as the sky. We had spent the weekend on the deck getting the gardens ready, all of us getting a little red on our cheeks and noses. The windows were open and fresh air was filling the house after a long hard winter. Another storm seemed unbearable.

I opened the door to our deck to snap the traditional "look at the snow" picture that so many are putting on Facebook today, and I was caught.

Caught by the beauty.

Caught by the peace.

Caught by the quiet.

Quickly I closed the door to shut out the cold, ready to get on with my day inside. Easier said than done. Something kept drawing me to the picturesque scene. It wasn't enough to observe the scene from my living room. I just stood in the driveway absorbing the quiet. It was early, the snow blowers were not yet in use. A chickadee flits from tree branch to growing and back again. The snow falling in snow globe fashion. Down the street, a tree branch cracks and falls to the ground.

I found every reason to be outside today, whether it was shoveling back-breaking heavy snow or shaking snow from tree limbs and branches. I couldn't come inside. The anticipated disgruntled feelings are replaced by a surprising calm and peace.

Yes, it is May.

Yes, I am more than ready for the gardens to come out of their slumber. Ready for the colorless landscape to be painted with brilliant colors.

However, for one more day, I am content.

I am at peace in the tranquil morning.

And it is good.


Change A Life

Photo by Nate Dietzman

This year's theme for Compassion Sunday is Change A Life. Change the life of a young person in poverty, and give them the chance to peruse their dreams.
This weekend we had Compassion Weekend at our church. I know these days are very important for the children still waiting for sponsors. Without someone sharing their stories and their needs, they remain hidden in a corner of the world, struggling with poverty, wondering if anyone cares. I am so excited and praising God for the 15 children who now have sponsors as a result of this weekend!  Change A Life. 

Little did I know when we began our partnership with Compassion four years ago how much my life would change as well. I still remember scanning each and every picture until "the right ones" were found, then anxiously awaiting the first letters to arrive.

Four years and seven Compassion children later, I am still in awe at how much these children whom I have come to know through letter and love so dearly are still changing my life. I see the diligence to learn and love no matter what the circumstances. I know they lift our family up in prayer and there are days I feel that prayer and know that it is their prayers that made the difference. Their stories and their lives help my children to expand their worldview from our home and our backyard, to the world.

Sunday morning I woke up a little down, feeling a case of the "end of vacation blahs" setting in.  As we headed into church to set up our table and get ready for the morning, the stories that I love to hear began before the service even started.  Connections being made, stories told, children receiving sponsors, as with other events, my heart is singing a song of thanksgiving to God.  This brings us to another way these children have changed my life. I never would have thought that giving up an evening or a morning to stand behind a table and help children would be something I would enjoy and yet, participating in these events encourages and energizes me.  

A changed life. Theirs and mine.


Fourth and Final?

Yesterday we woke up to our fourth snow day of the season. It certainly has been a year for snow days, more than in years past it seems. While waking up to a winter wonderland is beautiful and the idea of a day at home with no school exciting, I find myself hoping that this is the last big storm before spring comes and the gardens can finally wake from their long slumber.
The longing for spring does not put a damper on the day, however. We have made the most of it. Chores and "to do" lists were finished in record speed because the seven inch thick, white blanket was calling. Snow ball makers were rediscovered from last winter, the deck became a platform for snow dives and jumps, and the kids buried each other in snow. Pix even joined in the fun rather than sulking by the door preferring his warm window seat to observe the snow.

The push and pull of screen time, reading time, and chores was absent. In its place, laughter and excited barking filled the air as, all in agreement, we were where we needed to be. Enjoying the outdoors, filling our lungs with fresh air, and stretching getting out the cooped up feeling that comes at winter's end.


Adding to the Family

We knew it could happen when we took them on as correspondent sponsors. After four years perhaps I began to think it wouldn't happen to us. One of them is graduating next summer, but that is the natural way to lose them, right? We are already seeing it in her letters, the processing of the end of the relationship. She has told us that she is thankful for our support and love as she looks forward to college. I am so happy and excited for her, and yet, I know that we have a short time to have discussions about her friends or her love for the younger children she teaches Sunday school to.

I was unprepared when the call came informing me that his financial sponsors had ended their sponsorship and we could no longer correspond with him. My heart began to fill with sadness as I asked "Is there nothing we can do?" Our option, to begin financially sponsoring him ourselves. I asked the representative on the phone if I could talk to my husband, and how long we had to decide.

I love my husband for many reasons. He is a really great guy. One of those many reasons that I love him is his caring and compassionate heart. When I told him of the call and what our choice was, he looked me in the eye and said, "You told them of course, right?" (Isn't he great!) 

I couldn't bear to say good-bye to this young man that we have come to know and love over the past four years. The very first picture we received of him showed a young smiling boy giving a thumbs up. I imagine the spunk and personality this young man has.

I called Compassion as soon as I could the following Monday to add him to our account. One week later it is official, our Compassion family has grown by one!  Maybe a better way to say it is, our little family is saved from shrinking by another one.

God's timing is written all over this story, because had we received the call from Compassion even a few months ago, it would have been a much harder decision financially to sponsor him.  God knew that and his timing is good, and for that I am thankful.   As we pulled out of the garage to go to the  Tenth Avenue North concert,  I asked Mark "What if there is another child that needs a family tonight?" Little did I know it would not be one of the child packets on the table that night that would need us, rather one of our own who needed us most. God is so good.