Friday, January 31, 2014

Compassion Joys: January

I'm linking up with Jill at Compassion Family to share our Compassion Joys from this month! 

 Compassion Family

We've had a lot of happy Compassion-related happenings this month!


This month we received letters from Jayid, Victor, Mary, Tasya, and two letters from Said! We also learned what Mary and Said bought with some recent gifts we sent- Mary's Christmas gift and a family gift we sent to Said as a token of our sympathy and love because of his sister's death. 

Tanzania Trip Progress!

Truth be told, I have not made much headway in the area of fundraising this month, but some other things have happened. I got my visa taken care of, bought a couple of long skirts on eBay (woohoo! Bargains!) and have been in touch with some sponsors regarding the gifts I'm taking to Tanzania for them. I've also been helping my mother in law shop for her sponsor child, who is in Tanzania. : ) I can't wait to take a picture of all the gifts that will be traveling with me!

Compassion Bloggers!

The Compassion bloggers are currently in Uganda, and I am really enjoying their posts! It's particularly exciting to me to see folks visiting another country I care so much about, when I will be visiting Africa so soon myself! Uganda and Tanzania are "across the lake" neighbors, as I call them. : )

Possible New Sponsor!

I got some new child packets in the mail recently, and a few hours after their arrival, I took them to Bible study. We had a small group this week, but one person took a packet home to pray over the decision! This is especially exciting to me because if she decides to sponsor, this would be the first time I found a sponsor for a child packet! Usually I find new sponsors through this blog and social media. : ) 


Our Mishel in Peru celebrated her 13th birthday on January 11th! Yay!

New Kids!

We got TWO new correspondence kids this month! Caleb in Uganda was added to our family on mine and Brandon's anniversary! What a wonderful present! And earlier this week, I checked my account for picture updates, and found Eduardo! There is a little bit of a story behind his joining our far-away family. A group of people (mostly from my church) went to Honduras last fall. Between the holidays and other stuff, we just got around to sharing about the trip three weeks ago in church. I was very moved by the pictures and videos that were shown, and definitely started tearing up when two men who went on the trip performed a song they wrote, which was inspired by the kids they met on the trip! As soon as they started showing pictures of church members meeting their sponsor kids (through another organization my church started sponsoring with a couple of years ago after the first Honduras trip), I knew where I wanted to request a new correspondence kid from! It's so funny- I was imagining a cute little girl with pigtails, like the ones in the video we saw (who sang "Mighty to Save", which they learned in English for the visit!) Instead I got a very serious looking 15 year old named Eduardo. God's plans are not our own! And I definitely don't mind! 



Monday, January 27, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Kenya

I'm always so happy to share my letters on Mail Call Monday!

This week has been a week for letters from Kenya! We got a letter from Victor last week, and, as I predicted, a letter from Mary wasn't far behind! : )

23 November 2013

Dear Jessi, 
How are you doing? I hope you and your family are all doing well. On my side, our family and I are doing well too and I would like to tell you that in Kenya most schools have been closed. In fact, I was position 19 out of 87 with a grade of C+ and I hope next year I will put more effort so that I may be amongst the top ten. 
I want to tell you that I received your letter and I learnt a lot from it, more so about your country and family. I would like to tell you that here in our country we are experiencing a lot of rain but some areas are too hot even plants cannot do well, not only that in our country some activities are taking place e.g. football, in fact I am a great fan of a certain team called Gor Mahia. What about your country? 
Last, I want to thank you for your support and I pray that God may add you more strength so you may continue doing the same to other people. May God bless you and your family. 
Your beloving son, 

I love Victor's letters! I'm very proud of his accomplishments in school and have already written a response letter to tell him so. It makes me happy to know that Victor enjoys the information I have sent him about the United States and Kentucky! He has always expressed a real interest in learning about my country, so last week I found a little activity book for him that has games and puzzles along with fun facts about American history! I'm also glad he wrote to me about his favorite team! I will enjoy learning more about Gor Mahia, and I was happy to write to him about the Kentucky Wildcats.

Then there's Mary's letter!

2 December 2013

Dear Jessi, 
I greet you in the name of the Lord our provider. I hope your family, country, and you are doing well. May our mighty provider expand your territory and bless the work of your hands. I received the letter that you send me and I am glad because I am learning more about your country. I would like to thank you for the birthday gift, birthday card, notebook and verse card that you send me. May God bless you. 
My family is doing great and I am also fine with God's grace nothing is impossible. Our country is doing well and it's green as this season is raining. One of the special things about Kenya is that we take an identification card at the age of 18 years. At church we are doing great with God's grace and I love reading about the temptation of Jesus in the Bible because they help me to overcome temptations wherever I am tempted. 
At school we are all fine. I am now moving to form four which is the final class in secondary. I have a target of getting a B and above. I will be happy for it and everyone else at home. I come to realize no one was born a fool and anyone can pass exams. I have given myself a motto: if others can achieve their goals, why not me. 
Thank you for the December holiday gift and may the Lord shower you with His blessings. I used the gift to buy a dress and shoes. I would like you to pray for our country. family, and I. I usually pray for you Jessi, your country and family. 
Yours faithful, 
Mary Mbari

Each time I get a letter from Mary, I am just blown away by her powerful faith! She is such a wonderful girl and I am beyond thankful that she is a part of my life. I am so proud of her positive attitude about school. I had been thinking about writing to my girls, giving them a mini "girl power" speech telling them that they can be or do anything. You know, make them feel empowered. I want to tell them about all these female pioneers, like astronauts, judges, politicians, doctors, and scientists. One girl I really admire is Malala Yousafzai, who, despite death threats and one failed assassination attempt, is becoming a powerful voice for girls' education- and she's younger than me or Mary! I think I will tell Mary about Malala in my next letter, and included some quotes about the importance of education!

I also have a little update to provide regarding the gifts I've been able to send to Jayid and Brenda over the past few months. I got in touch with Compassion to ask if they could do an inquiry about the packages we tried to have delivered in India, and they were very helpful! I went ahead and asked how long I should wait before checking in about Brenda's gift, and the wonderful representative I spoke with said she'd be happy to go ahead and check in with the Mexico field office, even though it's only been about a month since the expected delivery date. Hopefully I will get some good news about these inquiries soon! : )

Saturday, January 25, 2014


42 days. At this time in 42 days, I will be flying over the Atlantic Ocean, on my way to Tanzania via Amsterdam. I can't believe the trip is so close! I even got an email from Compassion today reminding me that the trip is coming up, and double checking the names and numbers of the kids I want to visit. I have had all my shots and have started the typhoid vaccine already (did you know that it's actually pills? I have to take two pills every 48 hours, for 8 days- but I have to have the pharmacist administer them!) I've been contacting other sponsors who will be sending me gifts to take to their kids, and working  hard to get things together and organized before the trip. I am still really, really excited about it, but I have to admit, I get a little more jittery now than I have been over the past few months. When I was younger, I took a few years of drama classes and right before my biggest performance, on an actual stage and everything, I felt the same way. Jumpy and slightly unsure of myself- like, "do I really have to do this? I know it's a good thing, but it's a big thing and I'm not sure that I want to do it." Right up to getting ready for the big show in the dressing room, I was nervous and twitchy and completely wrapped up in my little tics and rituals. But the second I stepped out onto the stage, everything was fine. Truthfully, I kind of experienced the same thing when I got married! I was a nervous wreck, completely sick and extremely panicky, all through my rehearsal, and didn't even eat at the rehearsal dinner. But the day of, and during the ceremony- nerves of steel, like it was the  most normal thing in the world. I think that this is a bit of the same thing. It would be wrong to call it stage fright, because in both of those cases, I wasn't frightened while I was on stage. It was right before the big show that I was a little nutty.

Since it's been a while, I thought I'd update you with some prayer requests- how you can be specific in your prayers for me leading up to this trip (and during it, of course) if you are so inclined.

Finances: This is a biggie. And it's also the most awkward one, because to be honest, I am so tired of begging people for money. I'm still less than halfway funded for my trip. I have had to borrow the money to finish paying my balance with Compassion, but that money has to be paid back, and it is a large amount of money. Just a tiny bit more than I paid for my first car (which took two years or more to pay off.) Or my smallest student loan, plus half my second smallest student loan. Please pray for tremendous financial provision for the trip. There are also some expenses I'm responsible for outside that borrowed amount, too.

The Long, Long Trip: It will take about 20 hours to get to Tanzania- and that's after I make it to New York. My flight leaves Louisville around 8 am, and then heads to Charleston for a brief layover (fun fact: my uncle actually works in Charleston during the week- for an airline! So I might get to see him.) Then I will catch another plane to New York and get there around lunchtime. After that it's another six hours before our plane leaves New York. The journey from New York to Amsterdam is 7 hours and 45 minutes, so we will be getting there very early in the morning our time (I haven't even figured out what time it will be there.) Then there's a 3 or 4 hour layover at the Amsterdam airport, and then a 9 hour flight to Arusha, Tanzania. The return trip will essentially be the same, except I will arrive back in Louisville a few minutes after midnight. I'm a little sad that I will be back in the US for so many hours without seeing my family! Pray for my sanity during such a long trip. I've been on a really long car ride before, but cars can pull over so we can stretch our legs and use normal bathrooms close to sea level. Planes can't do that.

Communication: Being disconnected from my family (particularly my husband and my mom, whom I talk to throughout the day via text) is going to be hard. I know that at least one hotel we will be staying at has Wi-Fi, so I can use a texting app or FaceTime or Skype. I don't know about the rest of the times, though. This will be such an adjustment for me, because when I am feeling anxious or having a hard time, I break out my phone and text my mom, asking her to pray. If things escalate, I have some other friends I recruit, too. Just getting confirmation that other people are praying for me brings me a tremendous amount of comfort when I am under fire like that. I don't think that it's because I rely too heavily on these people in my life, but more like this: even when I'm praying out loud, God isn't responding out loud to me. When things are really scary, getting an audible or visual connection is important to me. I have to prepare myself for the possibility that that kind of connection may not be available to me as immediately as it is here at home.

Climate: This is probably going to make me look dumb, but I completely forgot that it is possible to be experiencing a high elevation if you are not currently standing on a mountain. There is a little section in my Compassion travel booklet about altitude sickness, and I didn't really think about it too much because, hey, it's not like we're going to be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Well, yesterday I was checking the weather report in Arusha, and the website was kind enough to inform me that the elevation there is around 4300 feet above sea level. Singida, where we will also be spending quite a bit of time, is 3600 feet above sea level. So then I looked up Louisville, where I live. My hometown is less than 450 feet above sea level. Upon learning this, I spent the next hour reading up on altitude sickness. It sounds to me like a lot of the symptoms sound like the same symptoms of a mild panic attack. Please pray for our entire group, that we will be able to avoid this issue. I'm sure that it will still be an adjustment, but please pray that that adjustment won't be difficult, and any symptoms we may have will be extremely mild and go away quickly.

Food: I'm not going to have as much room in my suitcase for food as I had hoped. Don't get me wrong, I am not planning on avoiding Tanzanian cuisine. I am an adventurous eater and love trying foods from around the world. But my experiences are limited to single, one-time restaurant visits, not complete immersion for 10 days. Pray that I will be able to eat what is presented to me. I don't want to offend anyone and I don't want to get sick, either.

Connections: Pray for my visit with my boys. I cannot wait to wrap Said in a big hug and tell him how much I love him. I haven't had the other two boys as long, though. We've been writing to Bonifas since October and Elisha since November- and we haven't heard from Elisha yet. Bonifas' first letter was a little hard to connect with, too. I love them all, but since I don't feel so connected to the little guys yet, I hope things aren't weird for them (I keep having this weird thought that Elisha will either be weirded out by my visiting him, a correspondence child I barely know, or he will be so overwhelmed and may expect me to come back for frequent visits, which is something I can't do!) and I am so scared I will accidentally pay less attention to them. Also, I haven't heard from Said in over 4 months, which is really unusual for him. Prayer for all the boys would be really great.

My spiritual walk: I feel weird talking about this one too, but it's still important. Sometimes I feel like I am floundering in my relationship with God. This trip has something to do with that. I felt such excitement and peace when I signed up for this trip, because I felt like I was following God's call for my life. I still do. And I felt so empowered. I have said before that I have always wanted to travel and engage with people and go on mission trips, but I haven't been able to because of my anxiety. When I said yes to God on this, I felt like this whole world was opening up to me. This would be my thing: short term missions, since I don't think my husband is ready to, say, pack up our life and move to Africa to open an orphanage and school for girls with HIV. I want to be an active activist. And because of that, and because of my confidence that this is what God wants me to be doing, I thought that this journey would be easier. It has been a lot harder than I expected. And yes, the finances are a big part of that. I kept thinking "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." I am not equipped. I am called. So....why am I not fully equipped yet? Why has this been so difficult? So frustrating? I had this crazy idea that I would be able to take a trip every year- alternate between countries closer to home and further away, to make things easier (like, go to Africa one year and then Central America the next.) But at this rate, I will still be paying off this trip two years from now. And on top of that, if I can't afford to fund these trips myself, that also messes with our plans to adopt, which costs money. Do I choose the trip or the child? How can we start the adoption process if we are willingly taking on debt like this? I experience some big doubts sometimes. It's more than an exercise in patience. It's not quite despair, but it definitely has me feeling lost sometimes. I would appreciate prayers for peace, clarity, and discernment. Peace about my situation, and peace if it turns out that I am completely misunderstanding what God wants me to do. Clarity and discernment for His will. And faith. Sometimes I feel like my faith is like a gas tank, and on those days when I'm feeling lost and confused, that tank is running reeeeeally low. After all, this trip was a big step of faith. And when things started not going according to my plan, well, it makes it hard to keep that faith tank full.

Despite all these requests for prayer, and random concerns, I know my trip will be 100% worth it. I am looking forward to it unlike anything else I have ever done. I am ecstatic about the chance to meet my boys, and I get all smiley when I think about the time we will spend with all the other kids, particularly the moms and babies at the Child Survival Program. And I'm looking forward to hugging the folks at the field office and telling them how much I appreciate them taking care of all the letters I send each year (which is a lot.) And I can't wait to come back here and share all the details with you!

Oh, one last thing: you can check out my facebook page here for updates on the trip. I have been using it to sell some crafts to fund the trip, and when I get back I hope to turn it into a mini business, but all the proceeds will go to Compassion. I'm hoping that I will eventually be able to bring in enough money each month to commit to "sponsor" a Child Survival Program center, and maybe even do a special sponsorship. I will continue to post trip updates there, and plan on posting some things there while I'm actually on the trip, too (whenever I have internet!)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Indonesia

I almost forgot to post for Mail Call Monday! Since today was one of those rare holidays where the library actually closes, I totally forgot what day it was! : )

This week we got a letter from Tasya in Indonesia! I was very excited when I opened the envelope and saw the familiar handwriting. I haven't heard from my sweet girl in such a long time!

10 November 2013
Dearest mama Jessi, 
First of all I wanna tell you that I and family are doing fine now. School is fine. I'm excited because I will have the semester test in a few weeks ahead. Thanks for praying for me. I pray that you can do your job well. I have a cute younger sister. Her name is Silia. She is four years old. I'm glad to have her as my younger sister. I like to play with my friends. We usually play dolls. I pray that your grandfather gets well soon. I also pray that God bless all of you. I like reading the story books in the library. Some time ago, I joined the marching and tambourine competition in Tamako. I stayed there for one day. There I got the new friends. I was so excited do join the competitions. 
That's all about my letter!
God bless mama and family. 

What a great letter! I was happy to finally learn how old Silia is. I have known about her since I first started sponsoring Tasya almost 4 years ago- that means Silia was just a new little baby! I hope someday I am able to send a doll to Tasya, and maybe one to Silia too. : ) It was also great to read that Tasya likes reading in the library. As I have shared in other posts, the reason I chose to sponsor Tasya is because she listed "reading" as a favorite activity, and that is still one of only two times I've *ever* seen that listed on a child's biography. I will have to do some research and see if I can find some info on this tambourine and marching band competition Tasya spoke of. Having the name of the town should help in my search! 

In other Compassion-related news, this weekend I had a very fun time spending the afternoon shopping with my mother in law Denise. Her sponsor child, Suzan, lives in Tanzania (and attends the same center as Said!) and I will be taking a gift to send to her when I go on my trip- which is less than 7 weeks away! Anyway, I found a pink and white mini backpack for her to fill up, and made a list of suggestions. My husband is one of four boys, so Denise never gets to look at the girly stuff at toy stores or check out the frilly things in the girls' department! We got several things to go in Suzan's backpack, including a small babydoll (wearing pajamas that say "love"), a glittery polka-dotted hoodie, a pack of headbands, gummy hearts, a pack of pink balloons, sparkly crayons, a tube of Lip Smackers, and some glitter gel pens! It was so much fun! I hope that they are able to send a picture of Suzan with her little backpack once it's been delivered! 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

You're Invited...

I've posted about my Bible study group in the past, but it's been a while. I think it's high time for an update.

I've been a part of my Bible study group for about 4 years now, and I really like it. I've attended some Bible studies at church before, but never really connected. After I got married, my mom invited me to the one she attended. It was just her, three coworkers, and their boss's wife. The boss's wife moved away, and the group changed a little. And more people started attending, and the group changed a little more. At one time we met in each other's houses (which I liked, because it was cozy and felt like we had something in common with the early church.) The hostess would fix dinner for everyone, and a good time was had by all. Then we moved to a room at my mom's church (which also used to be my church.) This worked well for a couple of reasons. It took the burden of preparing dinner for everyone off of a single person's shoulders. It provided consistency in location. And the facilities are more accessible. I think that in a way, it allowed for us to be a more open group, too. My mom works at a Christian bookstore, as did almost everyone else in our group when it really started taking off. Sometimes, customers get invited. I think it's easier to invite a stranger when you say "we're meeting in this room at the big church in this part of the town", rather than "this week we're meeting at this person's house. Here's their address."

Most of our studies have been workbooks over the years. Here are the ones I remember off the top of my head.

  • Duty or Delight
  • Jonah
  • One In a Million
  • Remembering the Forgotten God
  • Gospel Revolution
  • Nehemiah
  • Live in the Word
I've made some new friends through the group, which is great. We've done some service projects together, and fun things like Thanksgiving dinners and baby showers. 

One recurring theme in Bible study is, obviously, the importance of the actual Bible. And over the past few months, we've had some good discussions about this. It has popped up several times over the years, but has been coming up more frequently over the past few months. When you think about it, these days we have a lot of opportunities not to read our Bible. Like at church, a lot of times verses are projected onto a screen, and looking them up for yourself is a suggestion. Or in my case, I've attended Christian schools for a grand total of 8 years of my primary and secondary schooling. That includes Bible classes and chapel. As an adult, who has read most of the Bible (honesty time: I get bogged down in the last few books of the Old Testament and have a tendency to skip them), there are things that I was told in school that I now know aren't true, aren't Biblical. For example, I had a teacher who, for two years, stressed that our salvation isn't guaranteed, because John 3:16 says "whoever believes in Him SHOULD not perish", not "WILL NOT perish." That's pretty scary stuff for an elementary school student to hear. Of course now I know that that's not true (and I wish I could tell my childhood self to tell my parents about "learning" that so they could talk to me about it when it happened.) We assume that people in authority, like teachers and yes, even pastors, know better than us so we should just take their word that the Bible says and means certain things. That's dangerous. We want to have an actual relationship with God, right? So why would we always rely on a middle man to tell us what He's saying? But I digress. 

This year, our Bible study group is reading through the Bible chronologically. It's something I've tried to do in the past, but a project that's always failed. I'm really glad that I have these built in accountability partners in my Bible study group, and a weekly get-together to talk about what we're reading, too. For those that don't know it, chronological reading is reading the Bible in the order that things happened. For example, instead of reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in that order, you would read, say, the story of the resurrection of Jesus in all of those books, on the same day. Or, instead of reading the book of Job right before reading the Psalms, you would read it while reading Genesis, because that's when that story took place. Things make more sense if you read them in order, which I think is worth the tiny annoyance of flipping back and forth sometimes. We do have a workbook that a lot of us are using, as a reading guide and for thought provocation (there are discussion questions and stuff in the book, too) but that's definitely not a requirement.  

One thing we're doing differently this year is hosting an online group, as well. Reading through the Bible is going to take a whole year, and that is a big commitment- not only to read, but also to attend Bible study meetings most weeks. When my mom first started reading through the Bible several years ago, she actually did it through a blogging group. She wanted people to have the opportunity to talk and express themselves throughout the week, and also to include some of our friends who aren't able to participate regularly. For example, my aunt is going to participate, I believe, but she is a CPA so she is so extremely busy until tax season is over that she can't attend meetings right now- but she can still do the reading! Or one of our friends is unable to get out in cold weather because she can't breathe in it. She doesn't have to miss out on all the Bible study fun because now we have the online group. And then there are a few people who would like to join us but can't, because of distance (like, my mom has a friend in Texas who is doing the reading, and does so every year. Or we invited my aunt in Georgia.) It's just an extra way to stay connected for those who are doing the study. 

And I'd like to invite my bloggy friends to participate, too! If you're looking for a bit of fellowship or have been thinking about starting a year-long Bible reading but have been struggling to find the motivation, we might be the group for you! We aren't too far into the year yet, so there's not a lot that you would need to catch up on. Last night's discussion ended with the introduction of Rachel and Leah, so that's about where we're at in the reading. If you're interested in joining us, we'd definitely love to have you. Just reach out on here or on facebook. The group is closed (and "secret"), which at first may sound a little strange. If everyone is invited, why is the group closed? Well, it isn't closed to keep people out, per se, because everyone is invited to join in. But we do want to protect the privacy of what's shared there, like prayer requests or even if you want to tell the group something personal that God has revealed to you in your reading. And because the group has changed so much in the past year or two, we have some new people coming in (who have no idea who we are, other than what we've said in the past 2 weeks) and we want them to feel open and safe enough to share things. Right now, the group contains just those folks we know are participating in the study, rather than every one of our past Bible study attendees. I realized after we had several people who joined us for a visit or two that perhaps not everyone is comfortable with having their personal prayer requests disseminated among a group of people (in this case, an email list) that they don't know and maybe have never met. All of our Bible study friends, though (past and present) are really nice people, and we've established a lot of trust and shared with each other in the past. This is just us testing out a new way of staying connected in this particular study. We are still sending weekly prayer request emails and other updates to what we would consider our "whole" group, but the facebook page gives our newer friends the opportunity to share semi-privately if they feel so inclined. I hope that our friends who haven't been with us for a while, or maybe aren't able to participate here at the beginning, will be able to join us soon! It would be nice if everybody got to know each other. :)

I'm really happy that we're doing our Bible study this way this year. I am excited about finally reading through the Bible all the way, and even though we've only officially met once (the first meeting was at dinner), we're already sharing some good insights!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sweet Greetings from India

It's Mail Call Monday! Yay! : )

This week we got a letter from Jayid in India! It was a form letter about his favorites. I think Jayid's project is a newer one, and it seems that they are still getting in the swing of things sometimes. Several staff members at his project speak and write English, so they usually just go ahead and write everything down for Jayid. I'm looking forward to when he's older and writes his own letters, so we can connect more with Jayid through his letters!

In Jayid's letter, we learned that Jayid's favorite subject at school is social science. He likes to wear a kurta and pyjama pants, his favorite animal is a cow, his favorite Bible story is "Abraham's faith story", and his favorite thing to draw is a lotus flower! There was also a short message saying that Jayid was preparing for a children's day drama (Children's Day was November 14, and the letter was dated a week before that), and he made a new friend named Sourabh. 

I like learning more about Jayid! He has a lot of interesting favorites. We actually first had Jayid as a correspondence child in 2011, and in his first few letters, he told us is favorite color was black! : ) So he likes black, cows, and drawing lotus flowers. Also, I thought it was neat that his favorite Bible story is about Abraham- I'm assuming he means the story of Abraham and Isaac, in which Abraham exercised a great amount of faith by being willing to sacrifice his son. I received this letter at the same time I was reading this Bible story in my chronological Bible reading!

Also, this weekend was Mishel's birthday! Mishel just turned 14. For her birthday, we sent her a sparkly card and a pretty notebook. We were also able to send a small financial gift, which I'm thankful for because she has never received a gift from her financial sponsor. Mishel shares a lot in her letters- I can't wait to find out what she got for her birthday!

Lastly, I'd like to share a prayer request with you all. As you may remember, my mom and I were able to send gifts to our Indian kids (my Jayid and her Amisha) when my mother in law went to India in the fall. The packages were going to two different places- the India office and the East India office. I found out last weekend that there may be a delivery problem with one of the packages, and I'm not really sure about the status of the other one. We're not really sure what the deal was, or if the package(s) will arrive at their destination (the Compassion field offices.) I would really appreciate it if you could pray for these packages, that they will safely arrive at the Compassion offices and be delivered to Jayid and Amisha. A lot of love went into preparing these gifts for our kids, and it makes me sad to think that they might not get to them! My plan is to wait another four to six weeks and then check in with Compassion about possibly doing an inquiry with the field offices, to see if they received the packages. They were mailed either late in October or early November, so they should be there by now, but I want to give them enough time to get there before I start bothering people about it! Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Meet Caleb!

I love Uganda. It's just one of those countries that's close to my heart. I have read a lot about Uganda, and Brandon and I hope to adopt from there someday (maybe not our first child, but hopefully our second!) We had a correspondence kid in Uganda for a very short period of time, and in my first letter to her, I made it very clear to little Annet that I just loved her country and was so excited to have a friend there. And then her financial sponsor cancelled. And we had just picked up Jayid's sponsorship, and couldn't take her on. I was so sad. That was over a year ago! I think about Annet a lot, and still had a strong desire to sponsor a child in Uganda.

I had been thinking recently about requesting another correspondence kid. I know some people can't handle writing that many letters, and that's ok. We all have different gifts, you know? I really like writing letters and cards. I sometimes feel like I am single-handedly keeping my local post office in business. Sending cards and other mail is just what I do. And since I only work part-time and don't have any kids of my own, I have the free time that it takes to write to lots of kids. So I sent the email to Compassion, asking to be put back on the list- but this time, I specified that I would like a child in Uganda. I've never asked for a child in a specific country before, so I was a little nervous! I guess I was a little worried that I would sound demanding (not that I think people who request kids in specific countries are pushy- it's just something I wasn't super confident about!) And I was afraid I'd have to wait a long time. But I only had to wait about two weeks! Maybe a little longer. That's pretty awesome, considering there were a few holidays in there.

Brandon and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary on Thursday, January 2. My husband, whom I love dearly, is not a gift giver. It's just not something he does. Some people's spouses are the flower-sending, card-buying type, but mine is not, and that's ok. I do get a little bummed sometimes on anniversaries and Valentine's Day when I don't have any surprises, though. So I was very, very happy when I logged into my Compassion account that night and found an unfamiliar name in my list of kids!! I consider our new correspondence kid my anniversary present, even though Brandon didn't pick him out and Compassion had no idea it was my anniversary. : ) Caleb! He's 12 years old and his birthday is August 21. It looks like he lives near Iganga, which is to the east of Kampala. He likes everything- sports, art, games, singing, telling stories, and running! I'm really excited to get to know Caleb. I've already written him an introductory letter that will go out with everyone else's letters this weekend!

Caleb's current photo...

...and his previous one!

Memory Verse: January

Last year, I did a series of posts filled with letter writing topics for each month. I'm not sure I could come up with new ideas for this year (usually my letters are pretty improvised, anyway.) I thought I'd try something new this year!

My Bible study group and I are reading through the Bible chronologically. I plan on writing to my kids about this project, as I have written to them about Bible studies in the past. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could get my kids to participate in a scripture memory project, though. I'm sure some of them don't have complete access to a Bible (they may not see one every day of the week), but I can share a verse with them each month, sometimes in creative ways, and encourage them to memorize it. Scripture memorization is so important! It seems daunting at times, but it can be easy. Memorizing Bible verses is an important weapon in our arsenal against spiritual warfare. It also shows God that we think His word is important enough to commit to memory. And to some people, access to the Bible is a privilege. My mom told me once about a Christian woman in Asia who was practicing her faith illegally and in secret. She knew she would be found out soon, so she worked so very hard to commit as much scripture to memory as possible, so she could recite it to herself in prison. Prisoners of war also shared Bible verses they had memorized during the Vietnam War. If you found yourself in a similar situation, how many verses do you think you'd be able to remember? We have Bibles everywhere- you can even get them at the grocery. But what if God called you to a situation where Bibles were not available, or were even illegal? We wouldn't have the "crutch" of being able to grab a Bible and open it whenever we want to.

So here is the verse I chose for this month:

The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy all your needs.
Isaiah 58:11

This month, I'm going to send my kids a card with the verse printed on it. Since it is basically the arctic tundra where I live right now, I was inspired by the weather and printed the verse on a pretty snowy background!

I'm hoping to be a bit more creative for the verses I'll be sending throughout the year, but for a last minute decision, I think it turned out pretty well! I'm printing the verses on cardstock, about the size of an index card, so they'll hold up a little better. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


I thought about making New Year's resolutions. I really did. And I thought about writing a wrap-up post for the old year, looking back on the things that happened. Maybe even revisiting the resolutions I hoped to keep. I just couldn't bring myself to do it, though. In all honesty, 2013 sucked. Sorry to be blunt, but it did. And judging by the stuff I've seen on facebook and other blogs over the past day and a half, I'm guessing I'm not the only one who feels that way. I know people who have experienced a lot of difficult, stressful things this year. Deaths of friends and family members. Career changes and unemployment. Illnesses, surgeries, diagnoses. Broken marriages and lost relationships. The hardships are just too many to number. It's so very sad.

I do feel that the passing of the old year and the start of a new one deserves some kind of recognition, though. I had an idea to try to describe 2013, and then 2014, in one word, and then expound upon that. So if I had to choose one word to describe 2013, it would be "hurt." That sounds depressing, doesn't it? Don't get me wrong- good things did happen in 2013. But there was an awful lot of hurt, too. Hurt of all kinds. On January 14, I had spinal surgery. I was off work for over two months. And not long after my restrictions were lifted at work, I strained myself pretty badly and then missed more work. Just like my previous surgeries, I have nerve damage that I will probably never get rid of. I had my wisdom teeth removed, too, and some other major dental work done. All of that put some major hurt on my bank account, too! Last year also had quite a bit of emotional hurt. I was hurt very deeply by a friend- and I think we all know that the people we love have the ability to hurt us the most. I had some serious struggles with my depression last year. It was much worse than anyone realized. Some of it came about because of my natural brain chemistry, but some of it stemmed from events and happenings. And then there was grief. This year we lost pets, and a sweet friend, and a grandparent. And my heart hurt for all my friends who were (and are) going through difficult times, too.

But here's my word for 2014: "change." Change is normally something I hate on principle. I really don't have any coping skills, and I kind of hate surprises, too. Well, not kind of. Really. I really hate surprises. Yet strangely, the potential for change is something I'm really looking forward to in the coming months. I'm hoping for all kinds of change. Some of it's personal and arbitrary- like the fact that I'm hoping to fully transition to a vegetarian lifestyle by the end of the year. Some of it's spiritual- I've made a commitment to read through the Bible chronologically this year, and I'm off to a good start. Some of it feels like pipe dreams- I really would love to become a mom this year. I'd even settle for being halfway to parenthood (meaning, halfway through the process of adopting.) But that's my hope every new year. Perhaps most importantly, I'm expecting to return from Tanzania in March a totally and fundamentally changed person. I expect that some of my acquaintances already find me a little annoying, because of the amount of time I spend talking about justice and poverty and my kids. When I get back, I expect to be downright insufferable. It will be LIFE-changing, not just year-changing. Not just a tiny blip on the radar. It will be big, and unavoidable, and earth-shattering. I really believe that.

So here's to the new year, and the new me, even if I haven't fully encountered her yet. And it's my prayer that 2014 holds better things, and good changes, for the rest of you, too.