Sunday, March 31, 2013

What is happening to us?

Maybe Easter isn't the best time to post about this. Maybe I should do an Easter-related post instead. But it's the end of the day, and I have a lot on my mind, and I don't really have anything else to say about Easter that I haven't said other places around the internet already today (as a Christian, am I allowed to say I am out of things to say about Easter? I don't know.)

I am discouraged. Normally that wouldn't warrant writing anything or sharing my feelings (unfortunately discouragement follows me around quite a bit), but I am discouraged about something very important to me- Bible study. I treasure my Bible study group, and the fact that I am feeling this discouraged about it is very troubling indeed.

Let me first provide a bit of background about my Bible study group. I have attended Bible studies before, but never finished them before becoming a part of this group. I didn't stay motivated, I didn't feel held accountable, and I didn't connect with the material, maybe because I didn't have any say in choosing what the material was, and I didn't know who made that decision. Maybe being removed so far from that process is a bad thing. Anyway, shortly after I got married, my mom said I should come to her Bible study group. It was me and three of her coworkers, plus her boss's wife. My mom works for a Christian bookstore, and she  has since I was six years old, so I know many of her coworkers very well- some of them since I was born. Her boss and his wife moved back to Pennsylvania only a few sessions into our study, and it took a long time, but we finished that study up. Then we started another one, and I think this was the time  our group started to expand. Some more of mom's coworkers joined us, I invited Brandon's mom, and we started meeting in each others' homes. Then the group expanded again, after some bookstore customers were invited, and we started meeting in a room at a local gigantic church (my mom and a few other Bible study group attendees are members there.) Somewhere along the way, my mom sort of became the leader of the study, and even though our group was bigger, it was almost entirely made of bookstore employees or their spouses (plus me and an in-law!)

These past few studies we've done together have been exceptionally great. Instead of voting on the most popular book from a random selection, the Holy Spirit has really led us in a specific direction, it seems. Our last three or four studies have really gone well together (if you're curious, over the past year and a half or so, we've done Priscilla Shirer's Jonah, Kelly Minter's Nehemiah, Francis Chan's Remembering the Forgotten God, one that I don't remember the title of, and now we're doing Jen Hatmaker's 7.) They've been convicting and enlightening. Our group gets along very well. It has grown considerably over the past year,  with over twenty people on my email contact list, but we stay steady at about 12-15 people present at each meeting.

This time around, though, things have been weird. One regular member decided not to participate in this study. Another member hasn't been able to come- she left her job at the bookstore and works somewhere else now, and between her schedule and sharing a car with her husband, she just hasn't been able to participate in a while. Another person came back after missing the last few Bible studies due to a lot of stuff going on in her life, but she has missed about half the sessions. One person who has been there pretty much every week has missed the last three weeks. Another person dropped out in the middle of the study. For a group that started by being pretty much all bookstore employees, it has been really creepy to see them all essentially leave. Two weeks ago, NO ONE from the bookstore was there (my mom was sick.) I was there, and so was my mother in law, but the other people there (we had a small group that night) had no connection to the bookstore, other than they were invited by someone in the study. And I love this group of women, don't get me wrong, but it's just WEIRD. Last week, my mom was back, but other than her, there was no one from the bookstore. I don't know if they've all given up or what. Well, that's not true. One person is currently serving a two year English teaching mission in Japan. Two other Bible study members (her mom and her sister) have been in Japan these past two weeks visiting her. So that's totally understandable. But week, when they're back (please be back! No jet lag!), will they be the only bookstore people? I have sent emails and facebook messages checking on some of these folks, and they go unanswered. I know people have their own lives and sometimes family stuff goes on, but they do realize that when they don't show up (especially when it's several weeks in a row, and you know they're still alive because hey, mom sees them at work), it's worrisome. If you miss Bible study without telling anyone "hey, sorry, I'm not feeling well" or "My relative is in the hospital so I won't be able to make it this week", we worry. We worry about you, and I worry that maybe you just don't like the study, or us, anymore. I am paranoid and insecure, though. My Bible study group are my only friends outside work (where I basically have one good friend, but we don't hang out outside work) and my friends from high school (whom I pretty much see twice a year, on my birthday and at Christmas.)

Maybe I'm taking all these absences too personally. I am worried, though. I'm worried that these people won't be back. And I don't like that idea, because I like them. I'm worried they don't like the study we're doing, because it really is good. But when everyone stops coming to Bible study, and you're not entirely convinced that people are doing a really crucial part of the study (in this case, "fasting" from seven different areas of our life, like media and excessive spending and stuff. It's a long story- I promise to write more when we're done, because I really like the study), well, what's my motivation for doing the work? I no longer feel held accountable. I no longer feel as loved and supported as I used to. I think to a certain extent, other people in our group are feeling the same way. (And mom, if you're reading this, IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT. The fault does not lie with the leadership, but the participants.)

I'm not really sure what the point of this post was, other than to express my concern and sadness. Last week, seeing our shrinking group, and feeling emotional about some of the things we talked about, and realizing that the people I have known the longest don't even come any more, I felt kind of broken. I feel like we as a group are falling apart. And I hate that. I don't want to fall apart. I don't want to stop doing Bible studies. I don't want things to change. I HATE change. I don't want to lose my friends- and if you never see someone and they don't answer your emails and you stop talking to them, are they still your friends? I don't really know. The whole thing is sad.

Have you ever been a part of a Bible study group? How did that go? Did you really click with your fellow members? Did your meetings turn into chat-fests with snacks and gossips and not a lot of focus on the work?   I know that happens a lot, but that's not what's happening with us. I was (and am) proud of that fact. That's why I can't figure out why our group is shrinking. I thought we were doing everything right.

Anyway, that's the end of my stream-of-consciousness nonsense for the night. Sorry I didn't write a pretty Easter  post. Maybe after some more reflection I will come up with a late post sometime this week. This is just what was weighing on my heart this evening.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Unbirthday present

In some ways, this week has been pretty difficult. I've just really been feeling a lot of the stress that surrounds me at any given point, and it has been bringing me down more than usual. But today has been pretty good.

Today was my husband's 26th birthday. I thought about doing a lame, sappy post like "26 Things I Love About My Husband", but we are SO not like that. Mostly we sit on the couch and watch TV and tease each other. And I love that. Anyway, I started the day off on the wrong foot by misreading his schedule and accidentally setting my alarm for pretty early (way earlier than I have woken up almost every day since my surgery, but still around the time that he's usually headed to work in the morning.) He wasn't particularly happy with me for waking him up, asking "why are you still here??" panicking about him being late to work (he wasn't.) But the day did get better after that.

For the past few months, I have been lobbying for us to get a pet rabbit. I have wanted one for a long time- I even read a bunch of books about them several years ago, before we even got married. But then we had the guinea pig and the rats, and then more rats. Pig passed away last fall, and I lost one of my ratties two weeks after that. I have been pretty sad since then. I love the rats that are still with me, but my girl Monster has a big (though benign) tumor, that is eventually going to take her life. It's so sad that such sweet and intelligent pets have such short lives. It's really unfair, actually. But I digress. I started really pushing for the bunny acquisition maybe a little before I found Monster's tumor. Inspired by all the viral posts like "if we get a million likes, we can get a puppy", I decided to post a cute or funny picture of rabbits every day, with a witty caption (always a reason "Why I Need a Bunny") and then I'd tag my husband in the photo so he'd get a notification about it. The series of pictures has been pretty popular, for the most part. About a week ago we hit reason 41 or something like that, and I finally got Brandon to say "You'd better take care of it" instead of a flat-out "no" when discussing bunnies. So I stopped my campaign, and started looking for a rabbit. My mammaw said she would get one for me for my birthday (which is in May), and she would even go ahead and get it for me if I found one early. Yesterday I went to the pet store a few doors down from the library where I work, and they happened to have two rabbits that had just arrived from a lady who decided they needed better homes than she could provide. One was super friendly and was very happy to see me. I asked about him, and the folks working yesterday said they were new arrivals and most of the employees didn't know anything about them- they didn't even have any info listed on their enclosure yet. They said to call tomorrow (which is now today) and speak with the manager. Well, the manager was in my cousin's class in like, middle school, and she still sort of remembers my mammaw from her teaching art classes and stuff at our old school, so mammaw was open to the possibility of getting me this bunny. I called this morning and found out that this bunny was a good price, pretty young (about 10 months old), and was indeed a "he" (no one else that worked there really knew when I asked  yesterday!) So this morning I dragged Guinea Pig's old cage in from the garage, cleaned it up, and my grandparents and my uncle came to get me and we went and got my bunny! I got a birthday present on Brandon's birthday.  : )

His name is Gimli and he is very awesome. He's super soft and very playful. He is extremely friendly and doesn't mind the rats. He has been running laps around their cage off and on today, and until about 20 minutes ago, they seemed pretty interested in him. He must have sniffed a little too closely, though, because I heard Glitter bop the cage and saw Gimli run back to his cage and he laid down flat in this little trench he created for himself in the bedding- Glitter scared him and he had to run to his safe place! He feels much more confident now. It's kind of funny thinking about him being scared of them- he is small for a bunny (he is a Holland Lop) but he is enormous compared to the rats. 

Anyway, very shortly after getting Gimli settled in, the mail came, and I got my advocate welcome packet from Compassion! It was so exciting! I can't wait to really dig into the material some this weekend. I got a t-shirt (which I will wear at least twice a week, I'm sure) and Wess Stafford's book and all kinds of other cool stuff. I also got a child packet for a precious girl in Bangladesh that I am advocating for (I will post her info on here tomorrow!)

And THEN, this afternoon, I got a call from my boss saying I had been cleared to come back to work next week! This is a huge answered prayer because this week was my last full week of paid leave. This whole process of trying to get back to work after my surgery has been incredibly stressful, particularly over the past week, when the fact that I'm  not working currently has kind of been getting to Brandon. It was frustrating because I really have done everything within my power to get back, even to the point of being a real pest to the powers that be in HR and other departments trying to find out just what the heck was going on. A week ago I found out that it would probably be May or June before I could come back, unless the library decided to be merciful and gracious and work out some very special stuff for me (I wasn't asking for much, but the procedure takes months to approve. And we had no idea about that part going into all this.) The prospect of going a month or more without pay was terrifying. Anyway, I'm very glad it all got worked out today, I got the accommodation I needed, and my boss even worked it out so I'll be off work next Wednesday (which I requested because my mom is having outpatient surgery) and I'll work those hours on Thursday instead. 

I also had a nice evening with my family. They came over for pizza and ice cream cake for Brandon's birthday. We had a good time laughing about stupid stuff. Brandon spent most of the time finishing up a video game. Dinner was late (thanks, Papa John's) but good. The cake was extra big because Dairy Queen (Brandon's favorite) LOST the ice cream cake I ordered yesterday. Oddly enough, they actually called me at 4:00 this afternoon, making sure I still wanted the cake (I said yes, we'd pick it up between 5 and 5:30- when I ordered it I just said "afternoon", and they wrote down "noon.") When my dad showed up 40 minutes later to pick it up, no one could find it. They ended up getting a sheet cake from the deep freeze and scribbling on it. I appreciate the fact that we got more cake for our money, but it's extremely frustrated that I didn't get what I ordered. Oh well. Cake is cake, I guess. 

So all in all it's been a pretty good day. I guess I'd better go to bed before anything can go wrong and mess that up. : )

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kindness, Week 12

I got my days a little mixed up, so this post is a day later than usual. Oops! Anyway, here are this week's acts of kindness.

March 19: Sent an "I'm Proud of You" card. My friend Blaire led our Bible study on this night, and she did a really good job. I wanted to let her know that I thought so, so I sent her a card! Technically it didn't go in the mail until the next day, but I wrote it tonight. : )

March 20: Let others go first. Everywhere I went on this day, I let others go first, like at the stop sign. I let people pass or pull out in front of me on the road (like, if I was approaching a red light and someone was waiting to pull out onto the road, I let them go first.) I HATE being on the other end of that kind of situation, so I was glad to "pay it forward." And hey, it's not like I was in a hurry to be anywhere. Being first in line, or going first, isn't really something to stress about!

March 21: Paid someone's library fines. Actually, it wasn't just "someone", but my mom. Brandon took me by the library on this day, and my mom has exceeded the maximum fine (it happens to all of us sometimes, so I don't feel bad sharing this with you!) Really it's sort of my fault, because if I was working, I would keep an eye on her card and make sure things got renewed on time. But I'm not at work, so she got a late fee, and I forked over the cash I had to help pay it down.

March 22: Registered to be a Compassion Advocate. I had been putting this off for a long time, because of some anxiety issues and not really knowing what was involved (and being afraid of what would be required of me!) But I stepped out in faith and submitted my application on this day. I did my little phone interview thingie on Monday morning, and "Bob", the Compassion guy, was super nice and told me he was so excited that I was on fire for this ministry and he was really looking forward to seeing how God would use me to further Compassion's mission. I'm really excited about this one! : )

March 23: Gave a dollar to this week's family on Give 1 Save 1 Africa. OK, somewhere along the way, someone told me about this really cool adoption blog where a family is featured each week, and people can donate via paypal to their adoption fund. A lot of times they can get matching grants for the funds donated. Anyway, the blog owners also post really neat stuff like Etsy shops benefiting international adoption in Africa. I don't remember where I heard about it, but I'm so glad I did! It's so cool! I hope to make giving through this website a regular thing! Give it a look!

March 24: Made Easter packets for my Compassion kids. They're going to be late (oops) but hey, it's the thought that counts. Hand-writing and labeling stuff for all my kids takes a looooong time (the card, envelope, and any extras ALL get labeled with my sponsor info and their info.) I try to send hand-written letters or cards every couple of weeks- they may take time (and postage), but they're worth it!

March 25: Made a thank you card for my dentist. Dentists don't get a lot of thank you cards, I think. I saw my oral surgeon on this day for my pathology report from my wisdom teeth removal (it took like 2 minutes, and everything was fine.) I really appreciate how kind and friendly Dr. Warren was, but his whole staff was super nice, too! I was pretty drugged up when I went in for my surgery on the 15th (thank you, Xanax) but this one assistant in particular was so friendly and made me laugh. The card hasn't gone in the mail yet (my stamps have been misplaced) but I am going to the post office on Thursday, so if I don't find my stamps tomorrow, I'll throw it in there with the rest of the stuff I'm mailing. : )

So that's what I've been up to this past week! I can tell you that today's act of kindness was super fun, but I can't tell you what it was until next week. :  ) So be sure to check back for my next kindness report!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Let's hear it for the boys

I have a feeling boys don't find sponsors as easily as girls do. I haven't done any super scientific research on this theory, nor have I actually asked Compassion about it, but I've felt this way for a long time. On any given day, you can check Compassion's website, and there's about a 99% chance that there will be more boys listed who need sponsors than girls. Sometimes the difference between the two numbers is staggering. Today the numbers are a little closer- 1500 boys and 1300 girls. But still- why are boys hard to place with sponsors?

I have a few possible reasons in my head. For one, I think that a lot of times, women are the ones who feel driven to sponsorship. All the Compassion bloggers I follow are women (maybe it's just that women like to blog?) Whenever a married friend of mine decides to sponsor, then posts about it on facebook, I see the wife get all excited about it, but the husband doesn't say anything (exception: when my in-laws started sponsoring, my father in law posted a picture of their little girl on his facebook. I think some people thought they were adopting her at first!)

Then you have the fact that, let's face it, a lot of times the girls are cuter than the boys. The girls are more likely to be dressed up: pretty Indian girls in beautiful saris, prim Haitian girls with their hair in bows, the random little girl wearing a princess Halloween costume or a tutu....boys are less likely to be dressed up. Boys are less likely to be compared to pretty baby dolls or precious princesses. And when you get to the older kids, well, I think some people believe it would be easier to write to a young woman in her late teens than a young man. Maybe they even think that the women need sponsorship more than the men do- after all, we all know that, as James Brown said, this is a man's world. In your head you can imagine sponsorship providing more opportunities and being statistically more helpful to females than males. I don't know why, but I really think that's how our brains work.

And I admit, I'm guilty of this bias, too. I am well aware of women's issues globally, and I think that's a tiny, sort of noble reason for my bias. I also know it's easier to find girly stuff to send in the mail- sweet stickers, pretty paper, paper dolls, sparkly cards, and all sorts of other fun stuff. If you look at my Compassion photo album on facebook (where I try to convince my friends to become sponsors), you'll notice that most of the kids I have chosen to advocate for are girls. My first sponsor child was a girl. The first time I requested a correspondence sponsorship, I asked for a girl. I was told the wait would be longer the more restrictions I put on their search, but I was fine with that. I didn't think I could write to a boy. What could we possibly have in common? What would I send him? What could we talk about?

The second time I requested a correspondence sponsorship, I didn't place any restrictions on Compassion's search. I wound up with a 13 year old boy named Tae who lived in Thailand. He was a little grumpy looking in the first picture I got, but I received an updated photo within a month or two of writing to him, and he was a handsome, smiling young man. Tae's letters were smart, inquisitive, and frequent! His fierce pride in his country and his intense desire to learn about mine shined brightly through his letters, even though I could not make a lick of sense out of his writing (I can't read Thai! To me, it's all beautiful squiggles.) We talked about Thai movie stars, Thai sports and how they compared to American sports, his schoolwork, the drawings he sent, Thai customs and holidays...he shared so much with me. With each new letter, I learned something about Thailand. That led me to do my own research on the things he mentioned, and I learned even more. His letters had depth and character. He told me when he visited a dinosaur museum with his school. I LOVE dinosaurs (don't even ask me how many times I've seen Jurassic Park, because I lost count when I was about six.) I think I was even more excited about his field trip than he was! Tae left Compassion's program last year so he could work to earn money to help his family. Even though we will probably never speak again in this life, he holds a big piece of my heart.

My next correspondence child was Said in Tanzania. This time I was a little less disappointed when I received a boy, because I felt more comfortable with the idea, since I had been writing to Tae for a few months. I don't have a favorite sponsor child, because I love them all dearly, but Said's letters are some of the most fun to receive! This boy has so much love in his heart. He sends me at least one drawing with each letter. He gives his mama hugs for me. His letters give me a feeling that if I ever get to meet him in person, he will absolutely flatten me with a giant bear hug. He is always telling me to "welcome to Tanzania", praising his homeland. We have stuff in common, too. My hero, Jane Goodall, worked in Tanzania. Gombe Stream National Park, where she studied as a young woman starting in 1960, is in Tanzania. Because of my love for Jane, I knew some about Said's country going into our sponsorship of him. In fact, I mentioned Jane and Gombe in my first letter to Said! Since then, almost two years ago, I have received so many wonderful, love-filled letters from this boy, who so desperately wants me to learn Swahili, and is absolutely giddy when I send him verses in his native language (thanks, Bible Gateway!), who loves to draw me pictures and share Swahili words with his drawings...I love this kid so much!

I guess my point of this post is as follows: don't ignore the boys. I know that on the whole, they're not as "cute" as the girls. I know that if you're female, you may feel weird writing to them at first. I know it's hard to find stickers that appeal to boys, especially ones that aren't licensed characters whose popularity in other nations you're unsure of. But don't discount them just because they're boys. I have learned more about my boys' countries and lives from them than I have from my girl sponsor kids. My boys have generally been more exuberant, open and friendly than the girls I sponsor. It is completely possible to have a wonderful, fulfilling sponsor/child relationship with a kid who happens to be a boy. So don't count them out!

A bonus picture I received from Tae's center (that's Tae on the left.)

The very first picture I received from Said, on his very first letter to me. Don't ask me why the bus says "hood." And for the record, I have received about six or seven drawings of jam from this kid. I think that's awesome. Obviously he loves jam!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Compassion Sunday

Please take a moment to check out my Compassion Sunday page! I am advocating on behalf of an adorable little girl in Indonesia named Keyza. It is my goal to find two new sponsors for kids by Compassion Sunday, which is near the end of April. Keyza is the first child I'm trying to find a sponsor for!

My first sponsor child, Tasya, lives in Indonesia. I can honestly say that I knew next to nothing about the country before I started sponsoring her. When I was looking for a child to sponsor, I brought up a list of girls who had waited a long time for sponsors. I clicked on and read almost every one of their profiles. When I came to Tasya's name, one thing caught my eye: in her little biography, it said she liked to read. Now, at this time my mom already had several sponsor kids, and I had visited the website browsing through the profiles several times. I had never read a child's biography that mentioned a kid loving to read. Reading is pretty much my favorite thing to do- it has been for a long time, and I wouldn't work where I do (the public library) if I didn't love reading and encouraging others to read! So that's how I became a Compassion sponsor. Here, almost three years later, our Compassion family includes five correspondence children (and we're on the list for number six!), two kids who have left the program, and two traditional sponsorships. I now know a lot more about Indonesia, and make it a point to learn as much as I can about each of my kids' countries. My coworkers can always tell I have a new sponsor child, because I will reserve every book in our library system pertaining to that country! So if a stack of picture books and non-fiction titles on, say, Kenya comes in, they know who the books are for before they're even checked in. : )

If you have been considering becoming a first-time sponsor with Compassion, or even expanding your Compassion family, please prayerfully consider little Keyza!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kindness, Week 11

Here are this week's acts of kindness! I actually managed to squeeze in a few extras this week, as the opportunities have presented themselves. It's been fun! I can't wait to see what the next week holds!

March 12: Sent a get well card. Brandon's pappaw has been in the hospital for a little while with pneumonia and then an infection. He is in the rehab facility now, which is good. I mailed him a get well card this week telling him we are praying for him, and that he should get well soon!

March 13: Made a photo album on facebook. This one is particularly exciting. I like to share links on facebook to kids waiting for sponsors. Lately, though, all the links I've tried to post from Compassion haven't had the pictures attached. I don't know if this is a change on Compassion's end, or facebook's, but it's been frustrating. The pictures are so important! So I decided to do something different: I made a photo album on facebook for waiting Compassion kids. I upload a few pictures every day of kids that catch my eye, whether they've been waiting a long time, they have a special need, or they're just super cute! I think it's caught people's attention more than sharing links did! On each picture, I post a little about the child, then include the link to his or her profile. The best part is going back through all the pictures, clicking the links, and getting to delete the pictures of kids that have found sponsors! : )

March 14: Surprised my brother with a funny DVD. My brother has been having an exceptionally difficult time lately. He has a genetic condition that causes him a lot of pain and basically makes his life hard. Very hard. Anyway, I went to my mom's house on this day, and I surprised him with a DVD of one of this favorite TV shows, which happens to be very funny and I hope it lifted his spirits.

March 15: Contacted my representatives about ending horse slaughter in the US. I am on the mailing lists for a lot of different charities and organizations. I don't always sign the petitions they send out, but I did sign this one. I live in Kentucky, which some people think of as the horse capital of the world. Horse racing is a big deal here (even though some of us don't really want to admit it.) Unfortunately, the horses used in these races are often discarded after a relatively short career, sent to slaughter for no good reason- and then often make their way over to Europe where they turn up in frozen dinners and IKEA meatballs. Ick. I have known about this practice for a while, and I'm glad it's gotten more press recently. This petition was urging our government to go ahead and outlaw horse slaughter here in the United States. I hope that this legislation passes. The bad publicity about horsemeat recently might just be the push it needs to end this cruel practice.

March 16: Called my grandmother. How often to you call your grandparents? I've mentioned before that I live relatively close to most of my family members, but I'm ashamed to say that I don't talk to my grandparents nearly as often as I should. We don't have family dinners or other stuff with my mom's parents like we do my dad's parents, so sometimes I find myself going an extremely long time without talking to them, and that's sad. I was reading a cookbook on this day and saw a recipe for tuna salad. It sounds weird, but whenever I think of tuna salad, I think of my Mimi, because she makes the best tuna salad and I used to ask her to make it for me pretty much every time I visited. I put the cookbook down right then and picked up the phone. She was so happy to hear from me! And she laughed when I told her about the tuna salad. : ) You should call your grandma today!

March 17: Visited The Rainforest Site. This is another one of those quick, free acts of kindness. The Rainforest Site provides several opportunities for acts of kindness. They have a big green button on the top of the page that you can click every day, and with each click, ad revenue from the site goes to protect the rainforest. They also have other opportunities to "earn" protected land, like signing up for emails and signing petitions. They also have an online store with lots of fairtrade goods and other fun stuff to look at!

March 18: Donated to Samaritan's Purse. Samaritan's Purse currently has a campaign called 5 Wells in 5 Days. Their goal is to raise enough money to build 5 new wells in South Sudan. Clean water is a cause that is very important to me, and I was happy to make a small donation to help their cause. Small donations add up! God can move mountains, people. I am reminded of this fact all the time. I pray that they exceed their goal and can build twice as many wells as they hope to.

So that's it for this week! I hope you found a little inspiration to spread kindness. Every little act of kindness makes the world a better place!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The young'uns birthday

So I am kind of a bad pet mommy at times, apparently. Today is Glitter and Cupcake's first birthday. I totally forgot. I don't know why. It could be because I haven't been feeling well today. It could be because I have spent approximately 70% of the time I've owned them being frustrated at them for a variety of reasons. It could be that I have been thinking more about Monster lately. I don't know. But today is their birthday, and they actually got a present a few days ago, even though I didn't mean to get it for this occasion! I ordered a new hammock for them from a really nice Etsy shop I've ordered from before. This one has four exits, so they shouldn't be inspired to chew any extra holes in it (they have a tendency to "remodel" pretty much any hammock or house they've ever had, because they like having multiple exits.) This one's also cool because they can sleep on top, too- it's called a "double bunk."

Anyway, in honor of their first birthday, here are some pictures of the babies when they were little, and now that they are grown up. Hopefully now that they are a year old they will stop causing me so much grief! And it would be nice if they were a bit friendlier, too. : )

The day I got them, four weeks old

Glitter meets Quincy for the first time, and thinks she is her momma

Cupcake sitting on her water bowl, when she lived in the "baby cage"

Little miss Glitter, enjoying some noodles

Huddling together on their first field trip to the big cage (Quincy and Monster were outside the cage playing. When they found out the babies were in their cage, they were NOT HAPPY! They bopped them through the bars!)

Cupcake in the doorway of the last hammock they had (and ruined)

Glitter enjoying a tortilla chip

Glitter checking out her stocking at Christmas

Cupcake and her rawhide candy cane

Glitter likes my new bathrobe

Just havin' some bread 

New hammock!

This hammock is Glitter-approved.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy Birthday, Joane!

Today is my sweet Joane's birthday! Joane is our sponsor child in Haiti. She is 17 years old today.

We have been writing to Joane for about two years now. She doesn't get the chance to write often, because of all her responsibilities with her family and school, but she is such a sweet girl! I sent her a birthday card and a bunch of stickers two months ago in the hopes that they would arrive in time for her birthday. I hope she had a wonderful day today!

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Hello, my bloggy friends!

My dental appointment went well yesterday. I am so thankful that the surgeon is nice and friendly (he was nice even before he knew that I was friends with his sister-in-law!) and I am extremely thankful for the blessing bestowed on us in the form of a steep discount for his services. I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon at 1 pm to have my wisdom teeth taken out. I would really appreciate your prayers for the procedure and everything leading up to it. My pain is pretty unbearable at times, and I can't sleep at night because of it. Also, I usually try to schedule surgical procedures for early in the day (because of that "no eating or drinking for 8 hours beforehand" rule), but the earliest I could be seen was the afternoon. This means that I won't be able to do a lot of the things I usually do to cope with my anxiety (which was VERY active on the way to the surgeon's office yesterday), like sipping Sprite, nibbling saltines and going through lots of hard candy (we all have our vices.) I would really appreciate your prayers tonight and tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I am currently experiencing a lack of coping skills.

About a week and a half ago, the same day I discovered my rat Monster has a tumor in her belly, I chipped a tooth. Chipping a tooth is creepy, and I hate it. I hate all dental problems.  I have since I was little. Anyway, this wouldn't be a huge deal, except this tooth was already pretty badly damaged, covered in a huge filling from when I was in middle or high school, and the last time I went to the dentist, they said it was basically dying, but I didn't have to do anything about it yet. I broke the tooth next to it the week after Brandon and I got back from our honeymoon. We didn't have dental insurance at the time. Right after we got it, the following summer, I lost that tooth. I had to go to the dentist to have the root removed. It was a very scary and stressful experience. So I have a gap in my mouth, because I cant afford a dental implant or a bridge right now. But it's been ok because it's not a front tooth and it's not really noticeable. Anyway. This newly chipped tooth is right next to my missing tooth, and I have been really upset about it because I've been afraid I'll lose another tooth and everyone will notice and make fun of me.

My chipped tooth hasn't really hurt since it happened, until this Sunday. It hurt so bad it was driving me nuts (or so I thought at the time.) It hurt to eat. I started to take a lot of Tylenol and ibuprofen, which I hate because it upsets my stomach. But I had to do something to cope. I brushed my teeth a lot and used mouthwash and massaged my gums. The next day, my chipped tooth felt better, but I had apparently irritated my wisdom teeth. Yes, I still have them. I have had them for about 8 years. I have room for them, actually, and the dentist said I didn't have to have them taken out if I didn't want to. Well, they want out now. And I mean NOW. They have been torturing me since Monday. The pain is so bad at times it makes me want to throw up. I went to Target Monday morning to get some Orajel and as of about half an hour ago, I've used about half the tube. I even started taking my pain pills again (from my back surgery) which really makes me mad because I worked so hard and went through so much to get off those things. Withdrawal was awful and made me feel terrible. And now I am taking them again, and I can't stop, because the pain is so bad. Last night at Bible study I got a smoothie from the cafe. I ended up holding my smoothie on my jaw near the end of the night because it hurt so bad. At bedtime, I took two pain pills and fell asleep with an ice pack on my face. Three hours later, I woke up ready to scream. I switched out ice packs, took more medicine, put on more Orajel. I was so thankful that I got sleepy again right away and went back to bed...but I woke up again two hours after that. That was an hour ago. I actually thought earlier "I am ready to die." It hurts that badly. I have been crying. It is taking everything in me not to throw up. My face is a little swollen and I am just in so much is beyond insane. I can't think straight. I am practically hysterical at times.

I have an appointment with the oral surgeon at 10:30 and I'm not really sure I can make it until then, to be honest. It's that bad. Since I made my appointment Tuesday morning, I have been praying that the doctor can give me some shots or something to deaden the pain, and that he can get me in Thursday morning to take these stupid things out. I can't handle it anymore. My two spinal surgeries didn't hurt this much. It is literally the worst pain I have ever felt, and nothing I can do makes it feel better. I would really appreciate your prayers as I wait to see the doctor, and then wait for a solution. I am frustrated because I have been praying so much over the past few days, and I get those terrible feelings that God just does not care. If he did, why aren't my narcotic pain meds working? Why isn't anything working?  Why don't I feel better knowing that my  friends are praying for me? I just can't handle much more of this.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kindness, Week Ten

This week's acts of kindness were especially fun- one involved a game! Read on for more details.

March 5: Donated my change to the ministry collection box at Lifeway. This day was my first day running errands on my own. In my travels, I went to Target and bought Easter cards for my Compassion kids, and then I went over to Lifeway, where my mom works. There I bought some Easter stickers, also for my Compassion kids. I paid in cash at both places, and Lifeway sets up plastic donation boxes for various ministries at their registers (I think they switch them out every month.) This month, the cause was hunger relief.

March 6: Returned carts to the cart corral. On this day, I went to two different grocery stores. It was a really ugly day- either raining or snowing, I can't remember which. It was also senior citizen discount day, so the stores were extremely busy. I had to pass up seven or eight decent parking spots because people had just left their carts when they left the stores. When I was finally able to park, I grabbed the nearby carts and returned them to the cart corral, freeing up spaces for other people (and making the employees' jobs a little easier, too.)

March 7: Made a card for someone I don't see very often. A dear friend of mine hasn't been able to make it to our last several Bible study sessions, and I miss her a lot. This week I sent her a card telling her so, and thanking her for the beautiful handmade "get well" cards she sent to me after my surgery.

March 8: Tipped well. My best friend came over for lunch and a movie on this day, and we ordered a cheap pizza deal from Pizza Hut. Since we got such a good deal on our meal, I decided to give a generous tip to the driver. Even if you don't go overboard with your tipping, it's important to give a fair amount. People in the food industry make next to nothing because their employers expect them to get tips. When we are stingy with gratuity, it not only makes us look rude and inconsiderate, but it's also a bad witness.

March 9: Played the Half the Sky game on facebook. Half the Sky is a great book about "turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide." I had skimmed the book before, but it was brought to my attention again recently in Bible study (we're doing Jen Hatmaker's 7, and Jen mentioned this organization in the video preview for the week about clothing, and how it's important to be conscious of the business practices of the companies we buy from- if the workers get paid fairly, if the companies employ children, etc.) Anyway, I started following their facebook page, and they mentioned that they were unveiling a new online game to raise awareness about women's issues worldwide. The game is so much fun- you play as a woman in India, and you complete little quests like getting a microloan to buy a goat so you can raise extra income for your impoverished family, getting donated books for the local school, delivering mosquito nets to those in need, and stuff like that. The game is not only educational, but it presents the opportunity for giving. Every few challenges, a screen will pop up that offers to take you to the website of an organization linked with that part of the game. For example, while playing a part of the game centered around mosquito nets, they will share facts about malaria and then give you the opportunity to donate $10 to buy a mosquito net to protect children from malaria-carrying mosquitoes. There are also opportunities to donate for free, through the help of sponsors. The more you play, the more you learn, and the more opportunities you have to help!

March 10: Donated free pet food to animals in need, via the animal rescue site. I found another super-easy opportunity for a free act of kindness! You can visit the (ad-covered) website once a day, and click the button to donate pet food. The sponsors take care of the donation part- all you have to do is click!

March 11: Organized a birthday card shower for someone who is going through a rough time, and probably isn't going to have a very festive birthday this year. I would have done this one anyway, even if I wasn't doing an act of kindness every day! I just sent out an email alerting everyone of this person's birthday, and we are going to have a few surprises for her tomorrow evening. I love sending birthday cards, and I'm glad that this person has a birthday on a Tuesday so I can see her at Bible study and give her one in person.  : )

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Jayid and Brenda are growing up!

Gah! I'm so excited! I logged onto my Compassion account earlier to see if there were any kids at the same projects where my kids go (so I could share their info with friends.) When I logged on, I discovered that both my youngest kids' pictures have been updated! Here are the pictures from the website (I'll update this again when I receive the new pictures in the mail and scan them into my computer- they'll be a bit better resolution.)

So here's Jayid's old picture, from early 2012, when he was six years old:

And here is his new picture, at almost 8!

I love the tie! So adorable!

Here is Brenda's older picture, which we received when we began writing to her about three months ago (she's probably 4 or just barely 5 here):

And here is her new picture! Brenda will be 6 in October:

I'm a little sad she's not smiling in this picture, but I just can't believe how much older she looks! Oh my goodness! What a beautiful little girl. 

I can't wait to get the new pictures in the mail so I can hang them up on my wall!!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Kindness, Week Nine

I hit a snag this week with my acts of kindness- one of them is sort of in limbo. I'm working on fixing the problem, though! This week I discovered some new opportunities for sharing kindness!

February 26: Lent an ear to someone who really  needed someone to just listen. How often do we try to turn conversations toward ourselves? This day, I encountered someone who really needed to talk- and not necessarily have me talk back.

February 27: Made an encouraging card for someone going through a rough time. That was my last stamp, too...since I'm stuck at home, a lot of my acts of kindness revolve around mailing things to people. I hope to get more stamps this week! : )

February 28: Took a survey for the city government. I think that voicing concerns about civic stuff is important, and it extends beyond just voting when we have a major election. I saw the link, and decided to help out. Hopefully my answers will help influence some people to make our city better!

March 1: Signed a petition to stop the ivory trade in Thailand. I signed a petition sent out by the WWF (whose emails I receive) regarding the ivory trade in Thailand. I am a firm believer that respecting God's creation is an act of worship (He made it, so we shouldn't trash it.) This petition was to be presented to a representative of the Prime Minister of Thailand. I was happy to see similar stories pop up on the news websites after I got this email, and yesterday, the New York Times reported that the PM has announced intentions to outlaw ivory trade in Thailand! Yay!

March 2: Tried to donate to a fundraiser for Compassion. OK, here's the story. I follow Lizzie, a blogger who writes a lot about Compassion and participates in Monday Mail Call. Lizzie posted earlier this week that she was participating in One Meal One Day, where people pledge to give up a meal to raise awareness about worldwide hunger, and fundraise to fight hunger (or donate the money they would have spent on that meal.) Lizzie set a goal to raise $85 for Compassion, so they can feed hungry kids in Ethiopia (the focus of this year's campaign.) Shortly after she posted about it, I tried to donate, but I'm having trouble with the website! I've tried to donate four times, and it won't go through! I emailed customer support for the website, though, and I'm waiting to hear back from them. Hopefully my issue will be resolved, soon! In the meantime, please check out Lizzie's blog and her fundraising page!

March 3: Sorted coupons for the troops. Last year, I signed up to "adopt" a military base overseas (the Army, Germany) and send them my sorted and clipped coupons. Military family members can use manufacturer's coupons up to six months after the printed expiration date. If you stock up on coupons, and then don't use them (like me), this is a really easy act of kindness! You can do a one-time donation by sending your coupons (sorted into "food" and "non-food") to a group that will collect and mail them overseas, or you can check out the website and "adopt" a base yourself!

March 4: Donated a "Cup of Joe for a Joe." This is a program put on by the Green Beans coffee company. They are based out of California, but they also have operations in several countries where US troops are stationed (the "Joes".) They are in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE. You can make a small donation ($2 for a single cup) and buy a cup of coffee for a service member! They also give you plenty of space to write a nice, encouraging note. You also have the option to share your email with the service member who gets the coffee you paid for. This is a really easy and inexpensive way to do something kind for our military!

Sweet Greetings

On Mondays, blogging Compassion sponsors often post the letters they may have received during the week. I am linking up with Blogging from the Boonies- please check out Michelle's lovely blog and the wonderful Compassion-related resources she posts there.

This week was a slow letter week- we got one letter from Mary in Kenya. This letter was actually another "first letter", but it was originally addressed to the foundation that provides her financial sponsorship- hence the delay. It was still nice to hear from her, though!

I greet you in the name of our provider. I hope you are fine. My name is Mary. Our family is composed of three children and I am now 17 years old. I live in a place called Waithaka. My school is called Mwenda-Andu Secondary School and I am now in form 3.
I like singing and at school. I usually participate in music festival. I also like socializing and making new friends. Our country is fine and has enough peace. I love my country Kenya. It is green and also full of wild animals. 
I usually go to Redeem Gospel Church. My best Bible is 1 Timothy 6: 12. It says Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. I also appreciate to have you as my sponsor. 
I would like you to pray for my family, country, and I. I would also like youo to pray for me so that I can use my talent in God's will time. 


Today is Election Day in Kenya, where Mary and Victor live. In 2007 and 2008, more than a thousand people were killed in election-related violence. So far the international news is reporting between 12 and 19 people dead. I was so encouraged when I read that Mary's country "has enough peace"- Kenya is generally regarded as the most stable country in Africa. But apparently things get pretty crazy around election time. I'm spending the day praying for Mary and Victor and their families, and the rest of Kenya, as well. I pray that as little violence occurs as possible, and I am praying for all the Compassion children there- and their families. Will you join me?

Friday, March 1, 2013

March Letter Topics

I can't believe it is already March! The year is 1/6 over. That's just crazy. Here are some ideas for letters you can write to your Compassion sponsor child in the month of March. I cannot stress the importance of letter-writing enough! Please, if you sponsor a child or have a correspondence sponsorship, make an effort to write to  your child at least once a month. The online letter-writing tool makes this extremely easy. Can you take the time to send an email? Then you can write a letter! It doesn't have to be long- even short letters are meaningful and important.

  1. Easter. This is a pretty easy one! Easter is an important day for Christians. I guarantee your child's project will be doing something special for Easter. Ask your child what that is. Tell your child about Easter traditions in your family. I know so many holidays in America have a strong focus on food- Easter is one of those days. I know a lot of people (myself included) feel uncomfortable discussing this with their sponsor children, because there is likely to be a huge difference between our eating habits and theirs. However, there is nothing wrong with talking about some foodie topics with your kids. For example, I will tell my kids that on Easter Sunday, my husband and I will go to church, then we will go have lunch at my grandparents' house. We will then go to see Brandon's grandparents- both sets! It's also fun to talk about childhood Easter memories. One year Tasya wrote to me to say that for Easter, she and the other children at the project "hunted the egg." I wrote back to her to say that I loved hunting for Easter eggs when I was small, and that my grandmother had many pictures of me hunting eggs at her house. Tasya wrote back and said "I am always waiting for the picture of momma as a little kid, hunting the Easter eggs." So I called my mammaw and asked her to dig up some pictures for me. I scanned a few of them and sent them via the online letter writing tool. Tasya was thrilled! Easter offers an abundance of letter-writing ideas. You can also send your child Easter coloring pages (or even coloring books, if they are the right size), paper crafts, sticker sheets, bookmarks, and cards! Do you have a favorite song about Jesus' resurrection? Send your child some of the lyrics! Check out an online encyclopedia to see if there are any special Easter traditions in your child's country. 
  2. Springtime. Spring officially begins in March. What is spring like where you live? Our sponsor kids like hearing about the changes in weather we experience, because so many of them live in tropical climates or other regions that basically have two seasons- wet and dry. Tell your child about the warmer weather heading our way. Are you excited about it? Why or why not? I live in an area prone to tornado warnings in the springtime. I have written to my kids before, asking them if they know what tornadoes are, and asking them to pray for the safety of the people where I live, since we can have severe weather this time of year. Do you have any beautiful flowers growing in your yard? Take a picture of some and send it with an online letter. You could even draw a picture of some spring flowers, or perhaps pick a small bloom, press it between two pieces of clear packing tape, and staple it to a letter. 
  3. Local holidays. Check out an encyclopedia or a book about your child's country to see if there are any important holidays in the month of March. A quick search revealed that March contains the Bangladeshi Independence Day. If you sponsor a child in Bangladesh, you could write to your child and ask her how this holiday is celebrated in her country. Your child will be happy to know that you have taken the time to learn about her country. 
  4. International Women's Day. This holiday is celebrated on March 8. It is officially recognized in a few countries where Compassion is active (Burkina Faso and Uganda), and several other countries celebrate it as well. Is your sponsor child a girl? Tell her you are praying for her as she grows up. Tell her you pray for her to be a godly woman, who is brave, strong, and smart. Tell her some of the things you appreciate about her. If your sponsor child is a boy, you can still discuss this with him. Ask him if there are any important women in his life- a teacher, a relative, a project volunteer? Ask him to pray for the women of his country, that they will be safe and treated fairly. 
  5. Grandparents. My pappaw's birthday is in March (he happens to be the first grandparent birthday of the year.) Ask your child if he has any grandparents. Ask him how often he gets to see his grandparents. Are your grandparents still living? Share some fond grandparent-related memories with your child. I spent a lot of time with both sets of my grandparents growing up- maybe more time with them than I spent at my own house! So I have a wealth of writing material there. Our kids love hearing about our families, so you can share all sorts of details here. Here is an example: If I were to write a grandparent-themed letter to my kids, I would tell them my grandparents' names, and tell them what I call them (mimi and pappaw on my mom's side, mammaw and pappaw on my dad's side.) I would tell them that both sets of grandparents live close to me, and I am thankful for that. I would say that I had a lot of fun at my grandparents' houses when I was a kid. When I stayed with mimi and pappaw, I would have friends come over to play. We did lots of arts and crafts at mammaw and pappaw's house. 

The important thing is to share your life with your sponsor child. No matter what you are writing, they want to hear about it. Writing to them also gives them an invitation to open up to you. I can't tell you how many times I have read about kids who want so badly to write letters to their sponsors, but they feel they can't (or shouldn't) because they never receive letters. In almost every case, the more you write to your child, the more you will learn about your child in letters received from him or her.