Book Review: Zeina and The Light Between Oceans

Two book reviews for you this week:

I was incredibly busy last week and didn't know if I would get my book finished for the week, but I made it today thanks to a quiet lunch hour and sitting in the car reading while the kids were at piano lessons!   

Review of Book # 45

Zeina by Nawal El Saadawi. 

This book was in the stack that I picked up during my wandering through the library looking for books to read.   I was really intrigued by the back as some of the reviews mentioned that the author is "the leading spokeswoman on the status of women in the Arab World" and that she "has come to embody the trials of Arab feminism."  

In my quest to learn about people and cultures that are different from me so that I can better understand where they are coming from in effort to be more compassionate and understanding, I was excited to read this book.  As I flipped quickly through the pages, I noticed that there are no chapters and really no breaks in the story.   I have never read a novel that is one long continuous story from beginning to end.   I found it to be a challenge in that there was never a convenient time to stop reading which left me pausing in the middle of events.   The story also changes points of view very quickly and changes from present tense to past tense, reality to fantasy just as quickly which at times proved to be a challenge to read at times.  

Some of the main themes in the book are the suppression of women from the poor on the street to the highly educated, hypocrisy mainly among the men with power and status, and how "God's word" can be bent and used to justify anything that is wanted or desired.  All of the male characters in the book viewed women as unclean and low on the social scales but used for pleasure.  The women, except for Zeina, are extremely demeaned.   This is most likely an exaggeration to make a point, but it seems a little excessive when reading the book.   I can't say that this book really moved me and was more of a relief to reach the final page.  

Review of Book # 43

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

This book caught my eye on the best seller's list.  Set on a small island off the coast of Australia, the story is of a light house keeper and his wife.   Secluded on the island for months at a time without contact from the main island except for a couple of months every three years, they only have each other to lean on through two miscarriages and a still birth.   When a boat washes up on the shores after a storm with a dead man and a baby who is still alive, Isabel views this as a gift from God.   Tom, meticulous in his record keeping decides to abide by his wife's wishes and does not record the correct time that the boat comes on the shore.   For two years the couple raise little Grace as their own daughter.  On their first trip to the mainland after Grace's arrival, the couple discovers the birth mother of Grace who is still grieving her lost husband and daughter.  

I realize that this type of story could only happen in the circumstances where a couple is cut off from all human contact besides supply boats for years at a time.   This part of the story took me a little to get over, but the author did an excellent job of describing the tensions between all parties involved from Isabel wanting to keep Grace and seeing nothing wrong with it, to Tom who wants to do the right thing, and every other life connected to Grace.

I could not put this book down and would highly recommend it.  

What was a book you couldn't put down that you have recently read? 


Book Review: Escape From the Land of Snows

I had the rare opportunity where there were no books in my "to read" stack, so I went to the

library and walked around just reading the backs of books and picked up a couple.  The following is one of the books selected during that particular visit to the library. 

Review of Book #45

Escape From the Lands of Snows: The Young Dalai Lama's Harrowing Flight to Freedom and the Making of a Spiritual Hero by Stephen Talty

I was so excited when I picked up this book because I am so intrigued by the Dalai Lama and was anxious to learn more about him.

Perhaps my hopes for this book were misplaced.   Rather than a book describing the war, I was anticipating a book about the Dalai Lama himself; hoping to learn about how the Dalai Lama's trip from Tibet to India changed and impacted his life, and perhaps a little more about the Buddhist faith.  I was somewhat disappointed to find that the book covered mostly the war between the "rebel" Tibetans and Communist China.   A great amount of time is spent on how important the Dalai Lama is to the people of Tibet and the desire they posses to protect him from the Chinese that are invading their city.  Jumping between different people involved in the war, the devotion to the Dalai Lama becomes very apparent.   The actual story of the Dalai Lama's journey is sparsely scattered among the other people fighting the war.   I don't feel that I actually learned much about how the journey impacted the Dalai Lama until the second to last chapter of the book.  

I did learn that a young man, twenty four years of age, who is leading the country has to stand up to Mao Zedong and his desire to spread Communism.  Growing up in a completely secluded, protected environment, the Dalai Lama has no idea that people can be evil and trusts anyone who is human.   His trip to India shows him that people can be evil, are very poor, and need help.   Compassion being something that has run deep in the Dalai Lama from early childhood, he begins to understand humans a little better.   He leaves Lhasa a rich man and enters India poor with "poor man's disease" or dysentery.   The escape to India allows him to change some of the traditions of Buddhism that he struggled with, for example separating government and religion.

Overall, I think if I had not had preconceived ideas of this book I would have enjoyed it much more.  Although I did learn some things, so it was not a complete waste of time.

Curious to know what you have been reading? 


Halloween Weekend

Our weekend full of festivities:

In costume, we headed to Haunted Hallways.   
We have never been before and had a great time.  

(They made up their own costumes this year; I thought they did a great job!)

After the Haunted Hallways, a snack was in order, 

 Today involved pumpkin carving.  

We have a theme this year from costumes to pumpkins!   

The kids did a great job picking out their own pumpkins and cleaning/carving by themselves!  



My New Year's Resolution in October

I am two weeks ahead of schedule. Considering the year that it has been and the changes to my schedule that I had not anticipated, I was so pleased to log my 44th book yesterday. At the beginning of the year, I set a goal for myself to read 52 books this year. A book a week. I knew it was an aggressive goal but it was something I wanted to try. I got the idea when my college roommate posted on Facebook that she had read 80 books in 2011. I knew that was unrealistic for me, but I wanted a challenge.

On top of the challenge in how many books to read, I wanted to challenge myself to expand beyond my favorite and preferred genre. This year I have read biographies/memoirs, self-help/self-esteem, culture awareness, best selling fiction, and classics that I have not read before and otherwise might not ever read.

There have been so many books that have touched me in different ways that I always wanted to write about and I never got around to doing so. I don't know if I will go back and write about each of them, but moving forward I would like to. I am not an expert review writer, but I would like to share them with you. At the end of the year, I will post my entire list of books read this year.


Unplanned and Much Needed

It is weekends like this that cannot be planned, rather, it just happens.   Without any planning, we had a weekend full of everything that the four of us needed.   There was time to read books, listen to music with headphones, play on the computer, art projects, and movies.   While most of the weekend was spent in pajamas, we did take time to go to the block party downtown, and the kids found some amazing pizza with real cheese! 

 We found some great finds on a trip to Target.

I spent a good portion of the weekend standing next to Mark in the kitchen making food for the week.   While this may not sound that exciting, it is a time when we connect.   We both love to find new recipes and create new meals and dishes.   This isn't usually time for deep or life changing conversations; it is a time that we bond and we can get on the same page as each other again.   I value this time, especially as busy as we have been lately. 

This weekend turned out a couple of great dishes:

Chicken Fried Rice

 (Quick, Easy, and gives me a gluten-free option 
for Chinese when I am really craving it!) 

Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

 (One of Mark's favorites) 

Sunday afternoon is here.  Rather than the feelings of dread about the upcoming week, I feel relaxed and rested.   We have had a productive weekend that has been both quiet, and full of laughter.   Of course it helps that we also have a short three day week ahead of us followed by a four day weekend!  

Have a great week!


Dear Martha

Sunday night while we are getting everything ready and organized for the week, Mark is wiping the dining room table off and says more to himself than to anyone really, "I wonder why there is a white mark on the table by Addy's spot."

In the middle of packing lunches, I don't think much of it until, mid peanut butter and jelly sandwich, my breath catches, my heart sinks, I remember that my darling Addy was taking her fingernail polish off at the table earlier this evening.   Yep.   You know the rest of the story.   My dark stained dining room table has a nice white streak in it.

I had consulted with my mom, she agreed, the was probably not much I could do about the table.   Out of desperation, I went to the internet Monday night typed in my search and came up with results of refinishing the table, sanding and painting, and the worst, "Nothing can be done."

But wait..... one last message on a message board gave me hope:

mix mayo and ashes (fireplace or cigarette) and let sit for 15 minutes, then buff in. you can also spread mayo on it and then sprinkle ashes on top, and buff in. can repeat. sometimes it will make it go away, sometimes it makes it drastically less noticeable. its something about the fat content in it? some people add a little olive oil to the mix and leave it on for an hour before wiping off.

Hope this helps.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

I went out to Mark's grill pulled some ashes from the bottom, grabbed my bottle of Mayo with Olive Oil and began mixing.   Nothing to loose right?   

The first application was 20 minutes with some improvement.   
The second application was 30 minutes with quite a bit of improvement. 
The third application was 15 minutes (I was tired and ready for bed) with more improvement.  

Dear Martha, you have saved my table and my sanity.  Thank you for this weird but helpful advice!   


Vacuumed Stairs

I vacuumed my stairs yesterday.    I know this probably does not seem like blog worthy material, but for me it is a big deal.   It was the first time in the month since school has started that I have had both the time and the energy to even contemplate attacking this project.   For some reason, the stairs being vacuumed is a big deal to me.   The house can be picked up and the bathrooms cleaned, but if I see that my stairs are dirty, it really bothers me.   Don't ask me why.   It is not like I look at the stairs of other houses that I walk into, actually, I never even think about it, but for some reason, mine are a constant reminder to me about my home.  But I digress. 

September has been an intense month, new schedules, new jobs, new classes, and new teachers.  Nothing, it seems, is the same.  The evenings are now filled not only with homework, piano lessons, rock drums, percussion lessons, and soon dance lessons, but also the many things I used to get done during the day time when I was home.   I am not complaining as I know there are many families who do this same routine, it is just very different for our family.   It has taken a lot of getting used to, but we are getting there.  

Amid the busyness and chaotic schedules, there has been so much that has been good.  Both of the kids are doing well with their new schedules, E at middle school, and Addy with the before school care.   Both are making new friends and challenging themselves in school, with music, reading, and math.   And both are exceeding my expectations.  What more can I ask for?   I am able to be home when the kids are home for the most part and help them with homework, something that I didn't have the opportunity to do before. 

I have the opportunity to work with some exceptional young people.  I had no idea I would be able to work with these young lives in the way that I am. I am able to assist in language classes by reading books, math class by helping with math problems, and assessing skills for the work force in the work based learning classes.  I am realizing what Mark hoped would be true, I am learning to love my new job. 

Another gift, the sunrise.   It is not that I am getting up any earlier, but rather than I happen to be driving to work while God is painting some absolutely breath taking sunrises.  As my car heads East, I have a full view of the colorful hues that begin each day.   One morning the clouds looked as if they were lined in liquid gold, set against a yellow, orange, and blue background.   Of course, a picture cannot capture the stunning scene.  It is a moment each day when I connect with God, giving him thanks for the blessings and asking him to walk beside me through the day.   And he does not fail. 

After the intense month of adjusting to the new way of life, yesterday I took time to wake up without an alarm, enjoy a cup of coffee with the love of my life while my puppy snoozed on my lap.   Then I vacuumed my stairs because I had time and energy to, and that felt good.   It felt good to do something "normal" or at least what I felt was "normal" from life before chaos. 

Tomorrow brings a new month and a hope that by the time we end that month, I will feel a little more of "normal" return to life.  


Happy Birthday Addy

My dear Addy, today as we celebrate you and everything you bring to our family on your birthday.  You have a great sense of humor which keeps us all laughing.   Even on some of the toughest days, your sense of humor can shine through and bring a smile to our faces.  You especially know how to make your brother laugh, it brings me so much joy to hear you both enjoying each other. 

Creativity is so natural for you.   From the day you first picked up a crayon, you have been one that creates.   Whether it is a picture, a card, or a sculpture, our house is full of your "touch" of creativity.   I enjoy seeing the world from your point of view through your creativity, it opens up my mind and my world.  

You have a positive outlook on life.   Many days, the smile that is on your face when you wake up is still so apparent at night when you go to bed.   You live life to the fullest, enjoying what each day brings, and finding the best that can be found in each day.   You don't let much get you down, often reminding me how to find the fun in each day. 

From the moment that you were placed in my arms, I knew God had given our family a gift.   He gave us a wonderful life to complete our family, someone who bring us so much joy and love.   I enjoy the relationship that we have and look forward to many years of friendship as you continue to become the wonderful young lady that God has intended you to be. 



He has seen the movie many times and knows it by heart, where I have only seen it once. He quotes the lines right along with the actors, not missing a cue.

The actress asks, "Do you believe me?" The actor on the movie is silent, but he turns to me looking me in the eye and says, " I do believe you."

The actress asks, "Do you trust me?" The actor again is silent, but he turns to me looking me in the eye and says, " I do trust you."

And I know deep in my heart that even on the hardest of days, I am going to hang on to these words because these words were not prompted or scripted. They were words that he chose to say to express his feelings and they will get us through.


A Letter To God

Dear God,

There isn't a day that goes by that these children aren't on my mind.   In the quiet moments when I am sitting, I wonder what they are doing at that same exact moment.   I think about them in the morning when I am getting ready for the day, and I hope and pray that they will feel your love as they begin their day.   They are one of the last thoughts on my mind at night during our conversations, as I pray for your protection over them.  When I am outside enjoying your glorious creation, so many times I wish they could be standing next to me sharing the same view. 

I can't tell you how much these children mean to me.   They have brought so much joy and love into my life.   I had no idea when Mark brought up sponsorship in February of 2009 how much I would fall in love with these young lives.   I was scared when we first began sponsoring these children because I didn't want to begin something that we couldn't keep up or commit to for the entire time they needed us.  I was completely unsure what to expect, but I took a step of faith, and began sponsoring our first two children.   I couldn't wait to write them a letter, to send them some information about our family, and to learn about them.  

I still remember the first letter we received, and the joy that just completely filled my soul when the letter was in my mailbox, I literally jumped for joy.   I could not wait to learn about this new little girl that we had sponsored.  And that is where the story begins.   A story of building a relationship.   A relationship that is built on love, prayers, and letters.  

I wondered how much I would come to love these children that we sponsor.   I wondered what impact if any that our family would have on their lives or them on mine.  Because of them, our children understand that the world is really not that big.  My children know that the children growing up around the world play games, draw pictures, sing songs, and love you just the same as they do.  They understand that our world is bigger than just our home, our street, our city, our state, and our country.   I value that our children understand that when it seems like others seem to have more than we do, that you have truly blessed our family in abundance.  These are lessons that they have learned from our children around the world. 

These children have changed my life in so many ways.  I know that their prayers that they close each letter with are heard and answered by you.   I have seen results of that in my life.   I love sharing bible verses and bible stories with them, just like I do with my own children.    I get excited about the stories of passed exams, promotions into the next grades or levels, and about their hobbies and interests.   It never ceases to amaze me how love grows.   There is always enough love to give, and there is always more love to share.  

I have to admit, I wondered how long the excitement about the sponsorships would last.   I wondered when the letter writing would become a task, and when the fact that these children are many miles away would affect the relationship, but again, you have amazed me.   Nearly three and a half years later, and with seven children between sponsor and correspondent children,  I am still so very excited to write letters and communicate with them.   I still think of them constantly and pray for them daily.   

Thank you God, for this journey we are on with these precious lives around the world that are connected to our family because of you.   You have brought each special person into our lives, and each one is very much a blessing. 



First Day of School

Yesterday was the first day of school for three of us in this house.  

E began his first day of middle school, where in the world has the time gone?!?!  He got on the city bus, made it to school on time and did great.   He met one new young man who is in most of his classes and also plays percussion.  His favorite class, Science.  Why?  Because he could sit anywhere he wanted.   (Ah, the important things in life!)   He is excited about the class that uses the iPads, but thinks that class is going to be an easy A as today they learned where the power button is and how to slide the button to unlock the iPad, "Things I do EVERY morning."   At the very end of the conversation, E commented that he likes middle school better than elementary school, whew! 

Addy had her first day of School Age Child Care to begin her first day of school.   She said the morning was good, but quiet.   She loves her new teacher, they had Popsicles, and sang songs.   She is the recycling helper in the classroom this week, although she "doubt(s) there will be much recycling this week."   She has two or three friends in her class, but "sits by ALL boys!"

Today was not technically my first day of my new job, but it felt like it.  I worked only fourteen days last May before school was let out for the summer.  (Not a bad gig really!)  I returned to a building full of staff that has overwhelmed me with how kind and nice they are.   I met some of the new ninth graders coming in, which I really enjoyed.  Around noon, I met up with the students I would be working with this year.  I was so excited to see them and find out about their summers. 

Luckily my day was so busy I didn't have long to think about that this was the first time I was missing dropping off my children for their first days of school.   That was a big change for me.   As they headed off to their respective schools, I was getting in the car to head to mine, but I knew they would get there as they were in very capable hands.   


Those Waiting for a Sponsor

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, this month I am joining many bloggers as we help Compassion International on a sponsorship goal.  I want to let you know about one of my favorite pages on Compassion's website.   It is the page that shows all of the children waiting for sponsors.   (Check it out here.)    This page offers you the option to see many children waiting for sponsors, or if you prefer, you can use the search functions to find children by:
  • Gender
  • Country/Region
  • Birthdate
  • Age Range
  • Longest Waiting 
  • Affected by HIV/AIDS
  • Orphaned

I have used these search functions when searching for our children that we sponsor.   The first two children that we sponsored through Compassion where chosen using the age range as we wanted a boy about E's age and a girl about Addy's age.   Our third sponsored child was chosen because of her birthday, the same day Mark and I were married.  

I visit this page often to pray for children still waiting for sponsors.  Some days, I scroll through the general pages, lifting up the children who are still waiting for sponsors.   Other days, I will search for a child using the search functions, and pray for them based on a search.   Perhaps a child's birthday is today and I want to pray for them on their birthday.  

I want to encourage you to check out the page of children waiting for a sponsor.   Perhaps today is just a day to pray for all of the children waiting, or perhaps there will be a little face that will touch your heart in a special way, and you can pray for that little one.   Maybe, much like we found our children, there will be a child that you are praying for and they will become part of your family as you may decide to sponsor a child.  Either way, I hope you take time to visit the page.  The kids and I have fun looking at the pictures, reading the short bios, and learning that these children are not all that different than us even though their living conditions are very different.  


One to Remember

Summer is winding down and school is just around the corner.  For the first time in years, I will be returning to school with the kids.   Honestly, I have never been excited for the start of school, I love the time with the kids and the relaxed schedule.  This summer has been different though.   As Mark put it, it is one that if possible, I would put it in a bottle and keep it on the shelf, never to forget.   Our summer was full, like most every summer, but it was a different kind of full.

Full of Family.   We focused on family time this summer, with a family vacation, Mark taking many days off of work, and I was able to be home everyday with the kids this summer.   Mark and I had a week together while the kids were at camp, it was like a second honeymoon.   The time has been good and much needed coming off a busy school year last year.

Full of Relaxation.   There was no agenda this summer.   As much as I tried to put myself on one at the beginning of the summer, it just didn't happen.   I realize now, I needed it, deep down at a soul level I was parched and exhausted.    I feel rested, revived, and truthfully I am seeing the difference it is making in my life. 

Full of Books.   I have spent the summer reading.   I have read a record number of books this summer, taking me to different places, learning about different people.   It has been a fun way for me to relax.  Perhaps I will have to share about some of the books that changed my life in another post.

Full of Change.   I ended my ten year career as a piano teacher, one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.   We are getting ready for middle school, years that scare me, not because of who my son is, but just because of what those years are in a young person's life.   We have a young daughter who desperately needs to be stimulated and challenged, which is proving to be a challenge for this mom, but I am excited about some new opportunities for her.   Mark continues with school, and we are looking at that addition of busyness to the normal busy schedule that reigns during the school year. 

The summer is over, and yet, I am not depressed.   It has been a very, very good summer.   A gift of time and family.   A time of relaxation and rest.


Blogging For Compassion

As you know, I am very passionate about the children we sponsor through Compassion.  In the month of September, I will be joining other Compassion Bloggers as we blog about Compassion International and the sponsorship program on a sponsorship push.   The goal is to get as many children sponsored between September 1 and September 30th.

There are three ways you could help during the month of September.

First, if you have been considering sponsorship and you take the opportunity this month to sponsor a child, please do so through my blog.    There is a prize for the blogger who brings in the most sponsorships,  spot on one of the 2013 Blogger trips.   This has been a prayer of mine for a couple of years now, and I would love to join other bloggers, visit a Compassion Development Center and see Compassion working up close and personal.

Second, if you sponsor a child and have a blog, consider joining us as we blog for children in need.  

Join the Compassion Blogger Network

Third, please pray for the children who are waiting for sponsors.   The children waiting for sponsor constantly pray for a sponsor.   I hope and pray that this month the prayers of many children will be answered through the blogging community as we share the mission and vision of Compassion and child sponsorship. 


For the Love of Music

There is a new obsession in our house. Well, to say new, I should say that it is new within the past year. When the obsession first popped up, I wondered if this was another passing fad, but alas, it is not a fad.   It doesn't surprise me, as he is following in his Father's footsteps.

I knew from the first day that I met Mark that the love of music ran deep. I first met him at a music event at work, and the first time we worked together, he was playing air guitar to Jars of Clay. Who could deny ,that this guy, who ran the music department at the store we worked at knew his music. I was always amazed when customers would walk in and the following conversation would happen:

Customer: "I heard a song on the radio and I would like to buy the CD with that song on it."
Mark: "Sure, do you know the name of the song or the band?"
Customer: "No.... But one of the lines was ....(insert random line from a chorus here)."

This conversation happened many times and almost always Mark would help a satisfied customer walk out of the store with the song they had heard on the radio. His music knowledge to this day still amazes me.

While he has a love of music, and when I say he can listen to most anything, he truly can. His music collection carries a little something in each genre. But his ultimate love, when it comes to music is a band he has followed since he was a young adult. He knows the band members, their likes/dislikes, and the story behind each person. He knows the stories behind the songs, the meanings of the lyrics, why the song was written, etc. He has seen them in concert two times, one of which I was lucky enough to attend with him. The band: U2.

E, following in similar footsteps has introduced another band into our house. He is learning the stories, the songs, the band members. There is a small picture of the band on the wall by his bed, and he is anxiously anticipating the release of their new album later this year. This is not a new band, I know some of their songs from when I was in school growing up.

I heard one of their songs on the radio one day last week. I quickly quizzed E on the song, playing him just a short clip from the song, which was released in 1994. Within just a moment, he had the band and the name of the song in just five short seconds... Basket Case by Green Day. Just like his dad.

On any given day when E thinks I am not within earshot he has Green Day music blaring from his iPod. If he is sitting in his room playing music, it is Green Day. While listening to music at top volumes is not always my favorite thing to do, and I often ask him to turn it down or grab earbuds, I know that he honestly can't help it, the love of music runs deep.

For E's birthday he received drumsticks with Tre Cool's signature on them.
(For those who don't know, he is the drummer for Green Day.)


When Becasue Doesn't Cut It

At three years old and his favorite word was, as is with most three year old children,  "Why?"  He used to ask that so many times that I would run out of answers and finally just have to say, "because" or "I don't know."  At eleven, his ever inquisitive mind is still asking questions.  The questions, still "Why," now have more thought and more words.  These whys require more than a one word answer, an answer with more thought and explanation.

The answer "Because" does not work in our house.   Not only does it frustrate the inquiring minds who would like to know more, it does not give them the skills to take a question or situation, gather information, analyze it, and come to a solution.   Because, when used alone as an answer, is often a conversation-is-over answer.   I don't want our children to be satisfied with just taking my answer.   I want them to ask questions, wrestle with different view points, and come up with their own understanding of the topic on hand.

Jason Mraz says in one of his songs:

Don’t dress up your children like dolls from your past
Or They’ll run from you madly, they'll never look back
And when they grow older, they’ll do just the same
The world’s a reflection of how children play

Failure to offer my children the chance to explore the world, expecting them to believe only what I believe and to understand everything and I understand it, creates a world of limitations and restraints.  I want to be open to discussions with my children.  Discussions where we both wrestle with and gain new knowledge.   Discussions that may end with all parties in agreement, but also with the possibility where there will be disagreement as the end result.

If I can create this environment in our home, where it is safe to come to different conclusions, then I feel we have succeeded.  Home is supposed to be the safe place where we can test out our thoughts and opinions because it is a safe place.   A place where love reigns. 
If you agree with me, you are loved.
If you disagree with me, you are loved. 
If you just don't know, you are still thinking about it, you are loved.
No matter what, you are loved.

Loving my children with open arms won't always be easy.   There will be days when it is easy to love, when life is going smoothly, and everyone is happy.   But there will also be days when it is hard to love, days when we don't understand each other.   Either way, if my children know that they can practice making their own decisions in a safe place, one where mistakes are acceptable and even expected,  and to think different thoughts, then they will be able to better make sense of the world around them.


Letter Writing Exercise

The summer has been pretty quite for us as far as letters from our Compassion family, but last week we received two letters from two of our children. One was from Citlali who is set to graduate from the program next year. I was watching the calendar sad that the time is so quickly approaching. As it appears, I was not the only one watching that, she mentions the completion in her letters as well. This letter is full of answers to the questions I have been asking. I am both sad and encouraged by this letter. Three years of corresponding and it finally feels like a relationship is building which is very encouraging but sad as the year will go quickly. I know she will do great things with her life. She has a heart for God and loves to share the good news with younger children. She constantly write about working in Sunday school classes or summer camps with children. She is reading Second Timothy and "wish(es) we could read it together."

In a letter from Mary Grace, she writes about how proud of E and Addy she is as they do well "in their studies." Continued thanks for the love that she says she feels, she says that we "inspire" her. Again, I feel the relationship forming with this young life across the world. While we celebrated our thirteenth anniversary yesterday, she celebrated her thirteenth birthday. It was a special day for both of us.

I haven't had and/or taken the time to pull a packet together for our children in a while. I have been writing faithfully and sending a picture here or there, but not like what I used to do. So yesterday, the kids and I sat down and got busy creating a fun mailing. I wanted the kids to share about their experience at camp. I asked each of them to write a letter about their week.

I assembled a craft project for the girls and baseball cards and notepads for the boys. E bought each of the kids, my mom's two included, a postcard from camp. I was so touched that he thought to remember them while away. Addy drew a picture. The packets are almost ready for mailing, I just have to write a letter to go with them.

As a side note, I watched both of my children struggle with sharing their week at camp in writing. E got very frustrated when his note was not what he though it should or could be and Addy finally chose a picture to express her week. As I watched these struggles, I have more appreciation for what our Compassion children go through, especially the younger ones when it comes time for them to write their letters to us. I imagine that the excitement of receiving a letter is far more fun and exciting than when they are asked to sit and write a letter to us. I am convinced this is a good exercise or practice for the kids. Definitely something I think we will do again.


The Gift of Time

Today Mark and I celebrate thirteen years of marriage.  To celebrate, we did something a little different than in years past. While the kids were away at camp, Mark took some time off of work and we spent seven days together, without kids. There was no schedule, we got to choose what we wanted to do each day. We played card games, went shopping for the kids' birthday presents, went to a party with friends, and watched movies.

The one constant this week was conversation.  We spent a lot of time just talking, connecting, and enjoying each others company without a lot of distractions. In a way, it was like a second honeymoon for us. 

This year our gift to each other was not something that was purchased or even made. I have a feeling though that it will be one of my favorite gifts we gave each other, the gift of time. 

 Happy Anniversary, My Love.   My life is so much better because of you.


Celebrating Another Year

Today we celebrate you and what you bring to our family. You have a tender heart always ready to love, to forgive, to accept. Your laughter is infectious, often bringing the rest of us to laugh with you, reminding us what it is to laugh often, deeply, and freely. You bring so much joy to our family.

Your passion for life and for learning is never ending. Inquisitive and curious, you are not afriad to dig in and learn something new. You keep me guessing as to what your next new endeavor will be and I love that about you. Your creativity and originality knows no limits. I hope you never loose that.

Happy Birthday to you, my son.


Church Camp

They are on their way.   This is the first year that either of them have gone to church camp.  The week was filled with preparations, many trips to the store, much excitement, and a little anxiety thrown in the mix.  

They left this morning, one is all smiles ready for a week away, one is a little hesitant. The house will be quiet this week without their laughter and bubbly personalities.  But I am praying that they will make new friends, come to know God on a deeper level, and have a great week away. 

As for Mark and I.  We have a week of vacation time with just the two of us, and I am excited about that as well. 


Taking a Stand

We have been watching a video series at church that is completely and totally rocking me to the core.  I listen to these words and while my heart is cheering, "Yes, this is what I believe!   I agree!"   The other part of me is weeping wanting everyone to hear this message, embrace the truths, and love.   Just love.   Love despite differences.   Love without abandon.   But I know the controversy that these messages have created, you don't have to search the web very far to know that.   And so, my heart weeps.   Weeps for a love that is lost.  

We are so quick to get on our soap boxes and "stand up" for what we believe.   What we claim a "right of free speech" has become proverbial yelling to anyone who will listen.   Even if we don't want to listen or don't agree, we have no choice but to see the "free speech" filling the different feeds of social media we choose to use.   Love is not splashing our views of everything bad out on the web, intolerant of another.   Love is not telling people who they are, what they believe, or what they like is wrong and immoral.

Aren't we called to love others?   To bring them into the love that God has for us?   What I read on my facebook page is not compelling.   Rather it is completely the opposite.   Why would someone want to come to know Jesus, when people who claim to follow him do nothing but hurl insults and condemnation?   I know Jesus and I am turned off by it.    I am ready to turn off the social media or do some serious cleaning out of those whose opinions I do have filtering into my feeds.  I doubt He is very pleased with it either. 

No, my heart is weeping because of the lack of love.   He showed us how to love.  We, of anyone should know what it is to live in grace.   Did He, perfect in every way, accept, love, and forgive me, a sinner?   What right do I have then, as a sinner, to condemn anyone else?   If nothing else, I should be walking along side those who are far from him, supporting, loving, forgiving, and offering grace.  I know how sweet that gift is, why withhold it from others? 

Is the parable of the king forgiving the debts of a man, who immediately upon pardon runs to another demanding his money, so quickly forgotten?   The debt that I have been forgiven is no less important than the next person's debt.   Our struggles may be different, but they are all sin.

Today, I am not taking a stand on any political or social issues.   The only stand that I am taking today is the stand of loving others.   That each person, no matter who they are, deserves to be loved, forgiven, and shown grace because in truth, there is only one who can claim to be perfect.   The rest of us fall short and need forgiveness.


Celebrating Ten Years

Ten years ago a friend of mine asked me if I would teach her daughter piano lessons because she was having trouble finding a teacher that would take someone who was so young. 


I haven't touched a piano in four or five years!

What on earth could I possibly teach someone about piano?

Where do I start?

What books do I use? 

I'm. so. scared!

"Sure, I'd love to!"  And thus without my knowing it began a new chapter in my life. 

I thought this was just a short term commitment until my friend's daughter was old enough to be accepted by another teacher.   God saw it differently.   Starting with just three students, it quickly grew to five students, then six and seven.   I had no idea what I was doing and was learning as I was going.    In less than a year, I had enough students to fill the time I had available with Mark working full time and a one year old running around the house. 

God has used these ten years as a faith journey: 
  • Stepping outside my comfort zone
  • Overcoming the childhood fear of playing in front of people
  • Trusting Him to provide for our family 
  • Discovering new talents and joys I didn't know I had

I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with many students, and have learned from each of them.   I have learned about myself and what it is to be patient and understanding.   I have learned about life in general and how to relate to different people.  They taught me how to love music, wasn't that supposed to be my job?!  I am grateful for the people who have sat at the piano with me as we learn and grow together.   I appreciate the parents who have trusted me to work with each student, many of you have become close friends as well. 

To each of my students and their parents, present and past, I thank you. 


Getting Ready for Middle School

As we stand by the door, ready to part ways, I know how you feel.   You may not believe me, but it is true.   You look hesitantly to the door.  The other side holds the unknown, something bigger, something new.   I see it in your eyes, you are processing what that new unknown could look like. 

I know from experience what is on the other side of that door.   It is bigger, it is new, and yes, there is a part that is unknown.... even for me.   But it will be good, I can tell you that.   Today those doors look scary but I promise you this, soon, crossing those doors will be easy.  Soon, you will not be hesitant, you will be confident with brand new experiences under your belt.   You will be a different person than you are today.  

The other side of those doors offer you the opportunity to learn, to grow, to develop new ideas, and new thoughts.    You will learn about the world and you will learn about yourself.  You will meet new people, some who will support you, some who will challenge you, and some who won't treat you well.   All of this is exciting and at the same time scary for me as well.

You probably think this is easy for me to leave you by the doors of this place.   You probably think I walk away and don't think about how you are doing amid a sea of new faces and personalities.   I know it feels that your friends are not near right now, I feel that for you.  But I know you will shine as you have done though the years.   You are strong and steadfast with a lot to offer these new acquaintances.

No, it is not easy for me to leave you at these doors with so many unknowns.  Will it always be easy, no.  Definitely not.   Will there be bumps in the road, absolutely.   Will we get through it?  I have no doubt.   I cannot wait to see the friends you make, the interests you pursue, and the person you will be come. 

As we part ways, I tell you I am praying for you.   And I am.   I pray that you see that almost everyone sitting next to you is feeling the same thing.   You are not the only one who is apprehensive.    I am praying that you will encouraged and excited.   I am also  praying that the wonderful person that God made you to be shines though so that others can see how wonderful I know you are.


A "New Normal"

My "new normal" as a friend put it.    I couldn't have picked a better way to describe life and the amazing amount of changes that happened to our family in the month of May.   Despite that we are in the second half of the month of June, I find that I am still trying to get a grasp on what our "new normal" will look like.

I don't know if I can totally process all of the changes, and some of it will be just going to the motions until it becomes routine.   Then the "new normal" will just be "normal".   Perhaps I am struggling because as I tend to do, I have put myself on a schedule.  As I get ready for the day today, I ask myself, "How can I put myself on a schedule to process this information?"   I can't.   Maybe that is why my mind won't move forward.  

Working full-time.  After eleven years of being self employed, and working various part-time jobs, I find that I am searching.   Searching for what life will now look like.  I know where I am at is part of His plan.   How could it not be?   The timing, the open doors, everything falling into place so easily.   Truthfully I am very fortunate, and I know that.  But, a small part of me feels that some things I was excited about and passionate about are now on hold or will never happen. What do I do with those now?

Michal Zacharzewski, SXC
At this stage of the game, I don't see how the two will gel, the plans I had before and the way my life seems to be going now.  Who knows, perhaps there is a way that this step leads me in the direction of those passions and plans.   Maybe those plans where "my" plans and not "His" plans? 

I know His timing is always perfect.   And I find comfort in the fact that in looking back over my life, He has always prepared me for the next step.   I didn't always realize it at the time, but He ever so gently took my hand and walked ahead of me paving the way to where I am today.

So as I sit here, with questions and curiosity about the next step, feeling like there is a change of direction in my life, I know that He is preparing me for the future.  I may not completely know or totally understand what that looks like, but I do know without a doubt, that when I do reach that next step, I will look back to today and know that this was part of His plan, and I will be so grateful for this part of the journey.


Three Days

What a gift my sister gave us when she called and asked us if we could watch the girls for three days.   The days have been full of laughter, playing, smiles, but most importantly cousin bonding time.

Thank you, dear sister, for giving us time to enjoy and love your girls for a few days!