Thursday, July 31, 2014

Outgoing Mail: July

I have some pretty neat stuff (in my opinion) going out in the mail this week, so I thought it would be a good time for another Outgoing Mail post!

I have recently changed up the way that I am writing to my kids. I don't think that there's one perfect method that will work for every sponsor, but since I have made these changes, I feel like they're working pretty well for me and mean that my mailings go out in a more timely manner- and I'm saving some money, too. Before, I would write to all the kids about every two weeks online, plus doing response letters as soon as I received a letter (so I wouldn't forget what it said.) Then about every 4-6 weeks, I would do handwritten letters on a given topic (or sometimes "hand typed and then printed out at work") and throw in presents for everyone. I feel like that method wasn't exactly perfect because I'd end up hanging on to the package too long trying to get all the letters together, and I wasn't super satisfied with the gifts that I was sending to some of the kids, like lots of postcards for the older boys (and then running out of new postcards and turning to my stash of old ones from long ago vacations, and trying to remember what I had already sent to each kid!) It just didn't seem fair to me to send a stack of postcards to some of the kids because of their age and gender (or language barriers) while others were getting notebooks, coloring books, etc. Anyway, to make a long story short, here are the changes I have made:

  • Alternating letter-writing days. I usually have free time on Wednesday mornings because of my work schedule. I opened the calendar on my phone, picked the first Wednesday that was coming up, and marked that "Boys' Letters." I set it up to repeat every other week. Then I went to the following Wednesday, marked that "Girls' Letters," and applied the same setting. So the kids are all getting letters every other week for sure, but I'm not doing 24 letters at a time, and I can pick a theme for the week and work off of that. Last week's theme was service because my Bible study group and I did a service project, so I wrote to the girls about that, asked them what ways they can serve others, and even provided examples from really simple things for the littles (helping your parents with chores) or more complicated things for the older girls (helping a classmate with their homework.) 
  • Only sending packages for birthdays and special occasions. This allows me to prepare better ahead of time. I loved Hannah's procedure for birthday gifts and sort of adapted that- I have been purchasing lots of folders for the kids, and they will each get a folder filled with goodies for their birthday. Another kind of special occasion would be an introductory gift for a new child, or maybe a gift if they've been sick or had a family tragedy. Or aced their exams! 
This week I needed to mail the folder I have been putting together for Elisha, whose birthday is in September. I also wanted to do something special for Kajal, our newest sponsor child. I have just had a real burden on my heart for her- the Lord has been telling me over and over again that she needs some extra love from us, particularly here in the beginning of our sponsorship journey. I also made cards for the rest of the kids. 

I am an avid collector of cards. I have an entire drawer full of them- I have mentioned before that I am a card person. Birthdays, sympathy, new baby, adoption, wedding, praying for you, friendship, congratulations.....all organized in bags, labeled, and tucked away in this drawer in my room. I have waaaaay too many blank cards, too, which I use for general correspondence (including my sort of pen pal relationship with my cousin Melissa- we mail each other cards but also email frequently, so we have all these conversations going on at once!) I selected a blank card for each child and then wrote a message inside. The message was basically the same for the boys and girls- most of my cards look pretty feminine, so the girls got this message: 

Hello (name)! I thought it would be fun to send you a pretty card! I love sending cards to my family and friends- and you are both to me! I just wanted to remind you that I love you and I am praying for you every day. Today I prayed that you would have a good day at school! 
Lots of love, 

For the boys, I sent cards with animals on them- I found some really nice National Geographic notecards at Michael's (the craft store) a few years back and bought a ton of them. Some of the boys got pandas, and some got zebras. I tried to send the pandas to my African boys since I learned while in Tanzania that no one there seems to know what bears are. The inscription on their cards was almost identical to the girls', except I added a note about the animal being called a panda bear, they live in China, and I think they are cute. Same with zebras- they live in Africa, and I saw several on my trip to Tanzania earlier this year. Then at the bottom of all the cards, I wrote the first, more popular bit of Proverbs 17:17: "A friend loves at all times." 

Now onto the gifts! I have been gathering materials for Elisha's folder for a few weeks now. Can I just say that it's a little challenging to find folders for boys? I have seen so many feminine patterns and colors for folders, but a lot of the boy stuff is licensed characters, licensed musical acts, and cars- not generic cars, but very specific kinds with the makes and models written all over the place. It's been challenging. I did find some really neat wildlife folders at Walmart, and picked up a couple for a dollar each. This one is going to Elisha. They also had some with a polar animal theme, and a farm animal theme! 

Inside the folder I placed a birthday card, a picture drawn by me (since I like to draw and the kids are always sending me pictures, I thought it would only be fair if I started returning the favor), a few coloring pages (astronauts, pirate ships, and an ocean scene), a Hot Wheels sticker book, and a few sheets of car stickers. Everything has been labeled with his name and number in case something gets misplaced.

Then we have Kajal. I put together a folder for her as well- princess themed, since I call her our princess. She got all my princess stickers (three big sheets) and a book that I made for her. I had already written her a quick introduction letter, but Kim over at Three Little Larks shared something really neat recently- a booklet her family made for a new sponsor child. I had been toying with the idea of making something like this for our last few new additions to our far away family, but her facebook post and subsequent blog post helped me put it together! My booklet only has a few pages, but if you wanted to make your own, you could make it as long or short as you want!

I started with some pink copy paper and stapled it into a booklet. On the front, I glued and taped Kajal's picture and added her name to the top. I also wrote her full name and number on the back and the side of the front, in small print.

On the first pages, I wrote that I had received a booklet telling me about Kajal, so I thought it would be fun to make her a booklet about myself! I wrote this on a plain index card, trimmed to look better on the page, and included another one for translation. Then I added another sheet of stickers on the second page (princess themed yet again!)

The next pages were about me. I put my picture, along with my name, on one side, and filled out an index card with information about myself on the other. I put my age, birth date, my favorite colors, favorite Bible stories, favorite activities, and the names and ages of my parents and my brother. I repeated the process for my husband on the next two pages.

Then I did two pages about where we live. I printed out a tiny world map, a tiny map of the United States, and then some clip art featuring my state (I think it might have been printed on a t-shirt!) I drew hearts on my country and on Kajal's on the world map, and then went on to explain my country's name, then my state's name. I asked her if she could find my state on the map- the map was labeled, but having the separate shape was nice, too. And the print is really cute! Then I made another index card with a few facts about where I live, like my state is well known for horses and a famous horse race takes place here every year. I told her we have mountains, lakes, and rivers, and a river runs through part of my city. Translation space was included here as well.

At the end of the booklet, I added in a photo of our pet rabbit, Gimli, and on the last page I wrote a note saying that if she wanted to, Kajal could use the blank space to write down the things she learns about us from our letters! The whole thing turned out pretty cute for a first-time try. Especially since I finished it up late at night!

I think I will continue making booklets like these for our new kids as we get them.There are so many fun possibilities for putting them together- you could include postcards, use scrapbook paper, include notes from family members, and many other things! I added some washi tape at the last minute to brighten things up- I found some on clearance at Cracker Barrel, of all places, and was anxious to start using it! And I hope the folders are a hit! 

Compassion Joys: July

These are my favorite thing to post!!

 Compassion Family


We received a total of 13 letters this month! We got two from Carlos and Mishel, two from Brenda, and one each from Victor, Mary, Sandier, Said, Barry, Prayer and Tasya! Barry and Sandier's letters were first letters, and Barry's was totally unexpected- we just got him last month, but a required letter was already on the way from his financial sponsor (who wrote four times in 2011 and then stopped) so they just routed it to me! I also learned that our first letter from Eduardo is finally on the way after having him for six months- as of the end of last week, it hadn't been received in Colorado yet, but it is so good to know that something is on the way! I hope that I learn some specific ways to pray for him because I gathered from his bio that there may be some stressful things going on in his family.


We celebrated two birthdays in our far-away family this month! Both kids got birthday cards and gifts from us, though they might be a little late since we just got them in May! Julian turned 7 on the 10th, and Anahi turned 6 on the 15th!

New Kids!

We were very blessed to be able to add Kajal in India as a sponsor child this month! I refer to her as my Indian princess. : ) Kajal was just registered in Compassion's program back in November. She had two sponsors within a very short period of time after being registered, but they both dropped her immediately after sponsoring her. For the rest of this year, she has been waiting. The wait is over! And we definitely won't be dropping her, either!

Extra Pictures!

Another sponsor, Katie C., was able to take gifts for Carlos and Mishel when she visited Peru back in May (we did a baggie swap- I was able to take some stuff to Tanzania for her!) When we got letters from Carlos and Mishel this month, extra photos were included! It is neat to see how much Mishel has grown up since her last official photo was taken. And I love seeing Carlos' smile!

New Sponsorships!

Well, sort of. My mom got a new sponsor child this month, too, so I have a new "sister!" Her name is Jaki and she lives in Togo. She is tiny- just 3 years old! I think my mom picked her in part because she  looks like a baby doll! She also got a new correspondence child named Mathumitha who lives in India.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The tenth seven days.

We are up to 70 days now! I am continuing on with my practice of looking for "happy" things in my days, and sharing them here with you! I'm doing pretty well finding five or six happy things per day and writing them in my pretty notebook- it's really good for your mental health! : )

July 20: I am really excited on behalf of my mom! She asked me a while back to try to find someone who might be going to Ecuador anytime in the future. She has a sponsor child there named Jessika (a beautiful teenage girl) and she worries about her a lot lately. Like, getting up in the middle of the night or feeling these intense urges to pray for her and her family. She really wants to send Jessika a package because she can't go see her herself right now. I posted on the advocate boards a few months ago trying to find someone, and after all this time, I got a response today! A very kind lady named Emily is going next spring with Compassion, and even though that's quite a ways off, she said she'd be happy to take something for Jessika! I feel happy for my mom, and for Jessika, too.

July 21: We got a surprise letter from Brenda today! We just heard from her two or three weeks ago, so I wasn't expecting to hear from her again so quickly! All my letters make me happy, but it was neat to get another one from her so soon (and she seemed happier in this one, too!)

July 22: Two things made me really happy today. The first is that my Bible study group got together for a service project this evening. For the past few years, my church as done kind of a free yard sale thing for families in our community who need some extra help. We collect clothes, shoes, housewares (dishes, cooking supplies, linens), large baby and preschool-age toys (like bouncy seats and stuff) and school supplies. Families can register for the event, and come "shop" for whatever they need one weekend in July before school starts again. My friend Dave, who went on the Tanzania trip back in March, said something during the trip that has stuck with me- he pointed out that a lot of times, people want to help but they don't want to be directly involved. Like, his church does similar stuff throughout the year, and people are happy to donate, but when it comes to the relational aspect- assisting on the days when the families are coming to get the items- they struggle to find volunteers. So I came back and shared this with my group, and we decided to help out with this project at my church. Unfortunately, due to the timing of the event, we could't all get together for the weekend project- but tonight we went up to church and worked on unpacking the boxes and getting the stuff sorted out and arranged on the tables for people to come and shop. There was so much stuff, which made me happy! And as a bonus, tonight when I got home Brandon's cousin brought over a window air conditioning unit, which we put upstairs in the room where our pets are. Now I don't have to worry about them getting sick and dying because of the heat- and I can come up here to cool off, too!

July 23: Today was not great. I could only find two happy things about today: I had a short night at work, and a four year old girl told me she thought I was pretty and she liked my "sparkles." I'm glad that some of our little patrons appreciate my affinity for glitter.

July 24: Today was a good day! I had an interview for my aforementioned "longshot" job opportunity, and I think it went really well. I'm excited about it! I also had a nice lunch with my mom and was able to spend the day with her. Plus I got a letter from Victor, and most importantly, it's my buddy Anell's birthday! He is six today! I can't believe he's been home for about a year! I love that little guy so much, and I hope I can see him soon so I can give him his present!

July 25: We got to go see Transformers today- it was the first showing of the day, so it was really cheap. And I love Optimus Prime. I would totally name a child after him. Seriously. I know that the Transformers movies are not examples of cinematic greatness, but seeing one of my fictional heroes on the big screen makes me really happy. The movie was super long and could have used more Optimus, but going out to the movies was definitely a nice treat!

July 26: Today was pretty good! I went to Walgreen's before work to pick up some photos I am sending to Kajal, and I also found a few other treats- like sparkly notebooks that were buy one, get one free. I also got to work with my friend today, and we had a nice lunch from a local barbecue restaurant. It's always yummy! The day at work was long, but I didn't work with anyone who's been acting weird around me lately, so it was definitely a nice change and a pretty good day, considering I spent most of it at work. : )

Sweet Greetings from Kenya and Indonesia

It's Mail Call Monday once again!

This week we heard from both our Kenyan kids, Victor and Mary, and we got a bonus letter from Tasya!

The first letter we received was from Victor.

Victor said that his family is doing well, but unfortunately, his country is "not going well as usual." Victor always has great things to say about his country- even when Kenya is in the news due to something like a terrorist activity (such as the attack on the Nairobi shopping mall last year), he still has a very positive attitude about it and basically says they will catch the bad guys and everything will be ok. I sensed that he is a little more frustrated or anxious this time, as he shared the following: "Here in our country things have not been going well as usual due to some terrorist have entered into our country and they are causing some accidents like boom being placed in the bus station and this has caused life of innocent people being lost. Will you please pray for my country?" It's a subtle difference from his other letters, but it's a difference nonetheless. I hope that my response letter will be an encouragement to him. Victor also wrote regarding my friend Betty who passed away in March. When she died, I wrote to all the kids about her passing- most of them already knew about her, because Betty adored my sponsor kids and was always excited to read their letters. She even asked me to email her a file with their past letters so she could re-read them and pray for them! Victor says that he is praying for Betty's friends and family, that God will protect us so that "her good characters" will remain in our hearts. Victor also said that the gift we sent for his birthday in March was used to buy "revision books" for school, which help him prepare for his exams! Lastly, he said he is praying for me so I can "continue serving and helping people" (Victor has said in the past that he wants to be a sponsor when he is grown up!) and signed his note, as always, "your beloved son!"

As usual, a letter from Mary arrived not too long after Victor's letter! I love that my Kenyan kids write so frequently and they are on a regular writing schedule!

I love hearing from all of my kids, but Mary's letters are often extra-special. I don't know what it is about her- our closeness in age (she will be 19 this year, so not too far from my 26 years!) or the fact that she works just as hard to encourage me as I do for her, but she's just precious. I want to share her letter in its entirety here: 

Dear Jessi Jones, 
I hope that you and your family are fine. My family and I are doing great due to God's grace and mercy. I am glad to have received your letters and knowing there is someone who cares for me as my second sister. I am glad to have you as my sponsor because you are so caring and you are like an angel sent from heaven by God to give me comfort. 
I would like to do catering and music because I love cooking and especially delicious meals and I love Gospel music i.e. "You don't have to worry" and "Don't be afraid." 
Thank you very much for the stickers because they are as beautiful as you are because God made everything wonderfully and I am sorry for losing your friend Betty and may God rest her soul in peace. I will pray for her soul which I know is in heaven and I will also pray for you to regain your strength and know that there is only one great friend who never departs and that is Jesus. I will also pray for her friends for God also make them regain their strengths. Remember that all challenges you pass through are not temptations but are there to regain your faith and make it stronger. 
My April holiday was fantastic. I was taught in the project how to walk in a firm foundation. This is by targeting your goals and having a mission and a vision to achieve them and I traveled to my aunt's place where I met new friends. I would like you to pray for my country, the Kenyan people, the sick, my family and also me. I always pray for your family. 
Yours sincere, 
Mary Mbari

Mary writes in very tiny print so she can send long letters- and honestly, this one was a little shorter than some of her other ones! I like the fact that she shared what she wants to do when she's grown- I had asked the kids a few months ago what they want to be when they grow up, and then wrote a bit about how they can become anything with hard work and God's help- whether they want to be a doctor, an astronaut, a teacher, or the president! I also think it's very sweet that Mary also sent condolences about Betty, and offered up some more words of wisdom. She is right- Jesus is my friend who will never leave, and that's something good to remember even if you haven't lost a friend to death- I have lost a lot of friends over the past year due to various random circumstances, and sometimes it does bum me out that I don't have quite as many people I can count on anymore. But Jesus is a better friend anyway- and so is Mary! I just wish I could talk to her on the phone when I need some encouragement! : ) She could be a motivational speaker when she's older!

Lastly, we got a surprise letter from Tasya in Indonesia today!

I say this letter was a surprise because we just heard from Tasya very recently, and due to her remote location and the way her country office now organizes letters, we hear from her every 3-4 months. However, her last letter was written in February, and it arrived around the same time as a letter from Prayer (also in Indonesia) and his was written in April. I'm thinking the last letter got a little sidetracked, and this letter is pretty much right on time- it was also written in April. 
Tasya began her letter by sharing the verse in Luke about Jesus breathing his last. Then she jumps right into a cheery "Hello, Mama!" which made me laugh. It was quite a segue! Tasya says that her family is healthy and she had a great Easter- she participated in the Torch Relay (which she has mentioned in Christmases past) and an Easter egg hunt, and this year they added a Bible quiz! She said she was happy because she and her friends came in second place (and here, the translator drew a little smiley face!) She asked about our Easter to make sure we had a good holiday, too, and asked us to pray for her exams. 

I'm so glad that I got three letters this week! We are still waiting on several first letters, but I did find out that we have one on the way from our Eduardo in Honduras. We have now had him for six months, and he also received a gift that another sponsor was able to deliver back in May. I asked about an inquiry and found out that he has a letter on the way, but it was just written this month and hasn't arrived in Colorado yet. It's so good to know that a letter is on the way! I have been worried about connecting with him, but I am thinking there might be something going on at home that may affect his ability to write frequently or even his attitude about having a sponsor. He is 15 and is listed as not going to school, but he "will attend next year." So there could have been things going on at home that led him to not write until now. After that, we're waiting on first letters from Sharifa, Anahi, Julian, Michel, Reine, Erick, and Kajal! : )

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Mexico

Hooray for Mail Call Monday! It's always nice when I have mail to share!

Our first letter this week was from Said in Tanzania!

I'm really impressed with how quickly some of our letters have been arriving lately! Said's letter was just written on June 7. Usually, it takes over two months for Said's letters to arrive! Said shared well wishes and said that he is doing fine. At the time of his letter writing, he was on a school holiday. He went back to school on July 8th. He says that this year in school, he was 11th in his class! Last year I believe he was 16th. He says "I will struggle hard on December exams and be number 1." I am so proud of his hard work- when we started writing to Said, he was really struggling in school. I truly believe he can be at the top of his class and achieve his dream of becoming a doctor! Said also says in his letter that he hurt his leg. I believe this is a new injury (you may remember that Said broke his leg in an accident last fall, and showed me the surgical scar when we visited in March) since he had fully recovered from his old injury, and he knew that I already knew about it. We are doing an inquiry with the field office to see if he did indeed injure himself again, and to see if this injury has negatively impacted his family in any way (he is the man of the house and has so many responsibilities....being laid up with an injury would be a big challenge to his whole family!) Hopefully we will hear back from them soon! 

The next letter was from Barry in Burkina Faso!

This letter was a tremendous surprise- we just got Barry (his preferred name on the website is Omar, but the letter mentions his third name, Barry) on June 17. The letter was dated June 10. I'm very glad that we received this letter- it was a required letter written to his financial sponsor, who wrote four letters back in 2011 and then stopped. We must have picked Barry up as soon as he was listed as waiting for a correspondent! 
In Barry's letter, we learn that he has several friends- four are listed, but their names are a little hard to read. He says his best friend is Mohamed, and that Mohamed is special "because he shares his bread with me." I identify strongly with this- I like to eat bread with my best friend, too! : ) Barry also says that his favorite activities to do with his friends include playing and washing clothes. He met Mohamed at school, and Mohamed also attends the project with him. Barry asked what I do for a job (or his financial sponsor....but he's going to find out about me!) And he asked that we pray for his school. This was the first letter I have received from Burkina Faso. I like the way the form letters are designed! For future letters, there is also a spot for responses and thanks. These spots were blank on Barry's letter, since he hasn't had any letters. Next time there should be even more writing in there, though! 

The last letter arrived today- a surprise letter from Brenda in Mexico! 

We just got a letter two weeks ago from Brenda, so it was a big surprise to see another letter from her! This week's letter was a form letter about her typical week. Brenda says that she gets up at 8:30 and takes a shower. In the afternoon, she rests from school. She also said that she likes to watch TV in the evenings, and that she goes to bed at 10:30! I remember being really proud of myself when I was allowed to stay up until 9 at her age! I'm also glad to read about the shower and TV because that indicates to me that Brenda has at least some access to plumbing and electricity. This is probably due in part to the fact that she lives in a suburb of Mexico City. Brenda says she goes to school Monday through Friday, and she attends the project Thursday through Saturday. She asked that we pray for her health and her family's health, and she included a pretty drawing of the mountains. Brenda's artwork is usually a collection of random things and animals, so it was a little different to see a landscape drawing from her! She said in the open portion of the letter that she saw a painting at school and really liked it, so she wanted to send me one! "I made it with lots of love." 

The ninth seven days.

I definitely can't say that the last week has been happy. I can say that I have been making a thorough effort to find things to be happy about each day. I even bought a pretty notebook in which to record these things. In tribute to my love for Martha Stewart, I have called my book "It's a good thing." : )

July 13: We got a new sponsor child today, and there aren't many more exciting things than that. Kajal is 7 years old, and she lives in India. I have been wanting a little girl in India for a long time- we would love to adopt from there someday, too! Kajal had been waiting pretty much all year for a sponsor. She is really cute, and I love her sweet little dress. I can't wait to shower her with letters and presents and lots of love!

July 14: I had to do a little grocery shopping today, and I found a really pretty notebook. It's covered in purple glitter! I love it! I'm using it to keep track of my "happy moments" from now on.

July 15: My mom got me dinner tonight, and we were able to spend some time together this evening. I miss spending so much time with her- for a while we were able to get together just about every Thursday and eat lunch and watch TV and stuff.

July 16: Today was a day of good food! I had ice cream for breakfast, and Hot Browns for lunch! If you don't know what a Hot Brown is, here's an explanation: it's this kind of amazing sandwich thingie that was created by the head chef of a fancy hotel in my city, which was mentioned in "The Great Gatsby" and used to have visitors like Al Capone and other famous folks in the first quarter of the 20th century. It's a thick piece of French bread topped with turkey, smothered in cheese sauce (basically just Parmesan, butter, and heavy cream) and bacon. Some people put tomatoes on it, too. It's just a baking dish full of cheesy heaven. And my mom makes the BEST hot browns. My family had them for dinner last night, and I got the leftovers.

July 17: My friends said nice things after I didn't get the job at work. And that's basically it. I worked really hard, finished the day on a bad note, came home and cried. For hours. So I'm counting the nice comments from my friends on facebook as my "happy thing" for today.

July 18: My mom and dad came by late tonight and brought over some leftovers and a card and CD from my friend Helen. They made the trip over to our house at 10:30 at night just to bring me these things, and then turned around and went home. I'm glad that they took the time to do that.

July 19: Today I got a letter from Said, and our new sponsor child Kajal's info packet arrived! I already sent her an intro letter online, and am putting together a folder of goodies to send with my next package of letters for the kids. I found out this week that Kajal was registered in Compassion's program in November, and found a sponsor right away- who promptly dropped her. And then she found another sponsor right away- who also dropped her. She's been waiting ever since. Never received a letter. Well, she's definitely going to get lots of letters from me! Kajal definitely won't have any doubts as to whether her new sponsor loves her! :)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I need a map.

There have been many moments over the past week when I have come to this page and started a post. Or thought about starting a post. I feel like I have so much to say, and so many prayers to ask for. I always change my mind about posting because I don't want to seem like I'm complaining, and I don't want to deal with any backlash about what I have to say. Each time I have started a post, or formulated one in my head, I've given too much information, and been too bitter and angry and not a good representation of what a forgiving, Christian person should be. So I will try to keep this short- which should be a prayer request in itself, since you all know how much I like to write.

This post is about direction. And needing a map. And I can't think of maps without thinking of Spongebob. So there's your explanation for this picture. 

The past week has been horrendous. I want to say "hellish" but I am not a fan of swearing, and I come from a background that considers the word "hell" to be unspeakable even if you are reading it straight out of the Bible. So let's just say that it was horrendous. And painful. There has been a lot of upheaval in my life. I already consider my home life to be frustrating many days, because of things I have discussed here before- financial struggles, and personal challenges, and that gnawing ache that I always have at all times- longing to be a mom and live the life that I had planned for myself for a long time. Recently, there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel- the full-time position I have literally been waiting 8 years for finally opened up at work. I am comfortable at my job. I love working in a library. I love books. I love literacy. I love seeing kids get excited about reading. I have thought for a long time that the library is where I would stay- but eventually I would go full-time, so I could do things like pay more than the minimum balance on my student loans, and buy groceries other than spaghetti and hot dogs. And then the big things would come, like replacing broken furniture and finally painting over the patched-up walls we inherited when we moved in. Making our house a home. Filling it with kids.

I found out last week that around the time we found out that this job would be opening up- about six weeks ago- some of my coworkers started complaining about me to management. And by "some," I mean "75%." I work with a small group of people, and feel like I am friends with all of them- and none of them have ever expressed any problems with me, personally or professionally. The interesting thing is that what they were saying was just completely false. Made up. Also known as "lies." And because of the fact that I work hard and am not a jerk, my managers were able to tell me in my super-awkward meeting last week that they had not seen evidence of any of these complaints. I take comfort in that. I wasn't in trouble, I was being given a heads up, because the situation was downright weird. And so I went home and cried. For a long time. It's extremely startling to find out that you can essentially trust no one. I am a pretty trusting person. When I am not at home with my husband, I am with these people. I felt like I knew them pretty well. Apparently that is not the case.

I went back to work and continued being kind and working hard, as I have always done. Time passed, and I had my interview for the position, and things went very well. And then, a week from the day of my super awkward terrible meeting of horrible-ness, I had another meeting. This one was also informative- I did not get the job for which I had applied, and the position would instead be going to my coworker. And I will let you take all those facts- the timing of when the complaints started, and the fact that I only work with about four other people and at least three of them have been complaining about me- and I will let you come up with your own conspiracy theories about what might be going on. I had some of my own, but I have decided to stop caring. This situation and the people that created it are just not worth the energy or time or space in my brain.

I so desperately wanted to go full-time. I wanted the money. I don't feel like it was for greedy or selfish reasons- it's not like I'm sitting at home thinking I'm going to be able to go out to fancy restaurants and buy designer handbags, like some people I know who claim to be in equally stressful financial situations. No, going full-time for me would mean less shame, because my husband works so hard at his physically demanding full-time job, and I work 20 hours a week in what is essentially a big room full of books and computers. It would mean being home with him more often, because I'd work a schedule more similar to his. It would mean being able to call a repairman because our air conditioning is out and it gets so hot in here that it makes me sick. It would mean actually eating vegetables once in a while, and feeling better physically because I'm eating more than just bread and peanut butter for two meals a day. It would mean being able to go to the dentist and get my teeth fixed once and for all, and not fearing every noise my old car (or my husband's older car) makes, because a mechanic is probably out of our budget, and a replacement vehicle definitely is. It would mean more sponsorships of Compassion kids. And regular tithing. And mission trips. And adoption.

I set my sights on this mythical light at the end of the tunnel, and the tunnel collapsed. My pain and upset is partly my own fault for focusing on that dumb light too much.

Moving forward, I am trying to be grateful that this opportunity didn't work out. I am not angry toward the people who have hurt me, but I certainly have no interest in trusting them anytime soon. It is possible to forgive someone while at the same time saying "you're never going to do this hurtful thing to me again, because you won't have the opportunity." I should consider it a good thing that I am still working part-time, because who wants to spend more time with malicious, dishonest people? Who wants to spend more time in a poisonous environment? Not me. At least, that's what I'll keep telling myself. Meanwhile, I am finally looking to move outside my once-comfortable comfort zone, and am currently seeking other employment. The best situation would be for me to find a full-time job somewhere, but if it comes down to it, I may wind up working two jobs (which means more gas and more wear-and-tear on my car, but I digress.) I have never worked anywhere else. Up until today, I hadn't created a resume since high school. I sent an email on a longshot opportunity and got a response asking for my resume and answers to a few questions- we'll see what happens. But something needs to change. I can't keep going the way I have been going, even though changing direction is scary and uncertain.

Remember when I said I'd try to keep this short? This is my attempt at short. Trust me, I could have shared a lot more. I just really need prayer. I want prayer. Your prayers, because mine aren't amounting for much right now. Life has been knocking me around pretty hard lately- and I will spare you the details, but there's a lot more going on than what I listed here. This is just what's at the forefront of my mind right now, and probably the biggest single thing, since it involves life changes. I would love it if you would be praying for me, friends. Pray that I will find the courage to move on with my life, after sitting still so long, waiting for something that wasn't meant to be. Pray that a good opportunity will make itself known to me soon. I'm not looking to be a millionaire here. I just want some stability. I don't want to live in fear. Don't want a bigger house, just want to be able to take care of the one I have. And put some tiny humans up in those spare bedrooms that have been sitting empty for too long. And pray for patience and positivity, too. Staying positive is really challenging right now. Some days I struggle to have any good thoughts- so I think about my kids. Just list them all by name in my head, even if I can't muster up a prayer for each of them at that moment.

Hopefully I will have some halfway good news on this front to share with you soon.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Mexico, Honduras, Tanzania, and Peru

It's time for Mail Call Monday!!!

This week has been AMAZING! I mean, for letters. There have been lots of letters. The week was actually pretty terrible, which made receiving the letters a real gift. Hopefully there are more letters waiting for me at home at the end of the day!

The first letter we received last week came from Brenda in Mexico.

Brenda's letter was a form letter about the weather. She said that during her birthday and Christmas, the weather is cold. I looked up a map of average temperatures for her area, and it looks like a cold day for her would be a pretty warm winter day for us- warm enough to make a trip to the zoo! She said that when it rains, she likes to play in the rain, and when it is sunny out she likes to play with her cousins. Then Brenda had some sad news to share. She said that her aunt passed away, and asked us to pray for her cousins and her grandma, who is very sad about this. Her aunt's name was Carolina. I have written back to her and have asked for her cousins' names as well. I know she has mentioned them in other letters, so I feel like their family is probably close knit. I'm so sad for Brenda and her family. In my response letter, I shared a comforting Bible verse and explained that even though I have never lost an aunt, I have lost friends and family, and I know that it is very sad. But even though I am sad they're no longer here with me, I am happy that they are in heaven with Jesus and I will get to see them again someday!

I really want to know what's going on here! If I ever meet Brenda, I'm going to show her a photo of this drawing and get her to explain it to me. The lady on the right is either part butterfly or an angel...I wonder if it is supposed to be her aunt Carolina? 

At the end of last week, six letters arrived on the same day! The first one was from Sandier in Honduras- our first letter from him!

Sandier's letter was about his hobbies and pets. He likes soccer and enjoys playing it with his siblings. He also shared that he has a cat named Picho. Sandier's letter was written by his tutor, whose name is Ana. Right off the bat, she said "He is a restless boy, but a good boy at the same time." Hmm....restless. He must really like to play! He also asked if I like to play soccer, and he said "bye sending all his love and blessings." He also drew a colorful picture- including Picho the cat! I'm glad we got our first letter from Sandier- we are waiting on several first letters, including two from Sharifa and Eduardo, who joined our family before Sandier did! Also, Kim was able to take baggies to Honduras for Sandier and Eduardo back in May. I am looking forward to hearing what they thought of their surprise presents!

Can you spot Picho the cat? 

The next letter was from Bonifas in Tanzania!

At first I thought I had received a repeat letter from Bonifas, but then I realized that I had just received the same form letter from Elisha a few weeks prior! The letter was about school. Bonifas also lives within walking distance of his school, and his uniform is purple. His teacher is named Miram, and his favorite things about school are reading and playing. Bonifas wants to be a teacher when he grows up, so it made me happy to learn that he likes to read! In my response letter I told him that reading will make him so smart- he is very smart already, and just imagine how much more he can learn between now and when he is grown! At the end of the letter, Bonifas' helper wrote "He says that he was so happy when (at the time) you came to visit him. You are most welcome to Tanzania once." I was very happy to hear that! Bonifas is the only one of the boys so far who has said anything about our visit together! Then he drew a very busy scene that includes a soccer match and what appears to be either Robocop or Judge Dredd.

It's hard to see here, but there is a goalie drawn behind that soccer ball that has been partially erased. When Bonifas draws people, he gives them slightly triangular heads. And Bonifas' head is shaped the same way in real life. It's adorable. 

The next letters were all from Peru! We received two letters from Carlos, and two from Mishel! First, for Mishel's letters.

In one letter, she wrote responses to many of my letters throughout the past 8 or 9 months! She said that they have turkeys in Peru and that she is thankful for her family and the center, which would be in response to the Thanksgiving letter I sent. She said "I have read that Bible verse many times", which might be in response to the Valentines memory verse bookmark I made for the kids. She told me she wants to be a hairstylist, and she asked that we pray for her mom's health. The second letter was a thank you note for the gift that we were able to send her when another sponsor visited Peru back in May! She listed out the items in the pencil bag I packed for her- which included glitter pencils, gel pens, sparkly nail polish, shiny headbands, a pretty notebook, sugar cookie flavored lip balm, and Hello Kitty strawberry soap! We also sent a photo album in the bag, and I am thinking that perhaps the labels on the photos did not get translated, as she asked questions like "what's your rabbits name" and "who were the youth people in the photos." Hopefully she can get some translation help! I can tell her Gimli's name, but I'm not really sure I can remember all the other pictures I put in there- and certainly not the order! : ) Mishel's letter came with an extra treat- a photo of her with the gifts! It was printed on copy paper. She looks so beautiful and grown up!

My beautiful teenager! Mishel is 13!

Mishel's pretty drawing. She usually draws mountains, but this artwork had the boldest colors so far!

And now for Carlos' letters!

Carlos, like Mishel, wrote a regular letter and a thank you letter. In his first letter, he said that he likes animals, and his family has a dog named Black, and two playful cats. He also said thank you for the "letters, pictures, and book markers" which I suppose means he received the bookmark I made for him! He asked what my favorite dish is, and said that it was very cold where he lives (again, I checked a weather website- not so cold) but the good thing was that they don't have snow. He closed his letter with a big hug! In the second letter, Carlos also listed the items that were in his pencil bag. I packed him some notebooks, a Bible, a pocket knife multi-tool, a leather cord necklace with a Bible verse pendant on it, some pens, gum, and maybe a few other things. He said that he was especially thankful for the Bible, and that it was "very pretty!" He also really liked the photos and said that Gimli, our pet rabbit, is "very beautiful" but he doesn't look like the rabbits they have in Peru. Carlos said that "very soon" he is going to send me pictures of his family and pets so that I can know more about him! And he also sent a picture- this one was actually a developed photo, but it was smaller than 4x6- it looks like the little photos in my grandma's old photo albums! Carlos is wearing the necklace we sent in the picture. : )

Look at that handsome young man!

"Jesus guide my way"

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The eighth seven days.

Here are this weeks moments for 100 Happy Days! We're over halfway to the end- but I might just keep posting after I reach 100!

July 6: OK, truth be told, I didn't write anything down for this day. From what I remember, it was an ok day. Right now I feel like most of my days are pretty stressful. So if I can look back on a day and say "hmm, I don't remember anything terribly upsetting that day," I will count that as a blessing.

July 7: I kind of want to say the same for this day, too. I had a good laugh at work tonight, though, and heard a happy story from a coworker. The night wasn't too bad.

July 8: Bible study was canceled tonight, which was a bit of a bummer. My mom and I weren't going to be there, and that's like 40% of our group. And she's the leader. So it was canceled. Anyway, I did go by my mom's work and give her a hug and I gave her a card that I had found at the store. I thought it might help put her in a good mood. I was also pleased because I was able to sell a bag of books at the used bookstore across the street, and I got a few more bucks than I expected. I purchased a book on adoption that I have heard is very helpful, and am adding it to my bookshelf to read later.

July 9: My dentist appointment this morning was really quick! I had to stop by so the hygienist could look at my gums and make sure my antibiotic shots had gone ok, and basically we just had a quick conversation and then I left. I was happy that I didn't have to hang around.....I feel like I'm spending to much time around dentists lately. It's gross.

July 10: Today was a very bad, bad day. I had been quite proud of what all I had accomplished, and was feeling pretty positive until this afternoon. Then something unpleasant and unexpected happened, and I have been upset for much of the evening. But I do have two happy things to report. Well, the first one isn't all happy- right after this upsetting thing happened, I was of course, well, upset. And concerned that the upset would get the better of me. I still had a little less than an hour left in my shift at work, and when I got back to my station after this upsetting thing happened, a friendly face was there! My friend Darlene had stopped by the library for some reason or another, and before she left I was able to write her a note on a piece of scratch paper asking her to pray for me. What a relief that was. She said she could definitely do that as she left. I also want to say on here that today was Julian's birthday- he is one of our new Colombian Compassion kiddos. He is at CO 384, and I have seen a lot of sponsors post this week that they are getting first letters from the kids at this center! I hope to have one from Julian tomorrow or the next day. I didn't get the chance to share his birthday post on facebook, so I will give him a shout out here, before the end of the month Compassion Joys post. : )

July 11: My mom ordered pizza for me and Brandon to have for dinner. It was a nice treat! Especially since this week has been so challenging.

July 12: I decided it would be nice to go have lunch with my mom today, since Brandon was working and I don't get to see my mom so much anymore (I have been scheduled to work on her days off so now the only time I get to see her is Bible study, and we have had a few cancellations over the past two months.) On my way over to meet her at work, I stopped at the mailbox, and boy was I glad I did! I had SIX beautiful Compassion envelopes waiting for me! I was so excited!!! When I met my mom, we walked down to a burger restaurant that is in the same shopping center as her store, and we opened the letters and read them while we waited for our food. Two of them had surprises inside! But you'll have to wait until Mail Call Monday to find out what they were! : ) Unless of course we are facebook friends, in which case your newsfeed was inundated with posts from me yesterday. It took over an hour to type all the letters up and post photos of the artwork and stuff! It was definitely a wonderful treat at the end of a pretty dumb week.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Indonesia

Woohoo! It's Mail Call Monday!

I don't have much mail to share this week- the only letter we received was from Prayer in Indonesia! I like the fact that Tasya and Prayer's letters have been arriving close together recently....Prayer's letter was from April, and Tasya's most recent letter was from February. Since Tasya's had an extra delay of two months, I wonder if there is another letter from her headed my way soon?

Like Tasya, Prayer mentioned the upcoming end-of-year exams for Indonesian kids. He said that he was having three extra lessons a week in order to prepare him for the exams, which would be the "final exam of elementary school." He also said that Easter was coming up soon, and asked how we celebrate Easter. Prayer said that the Indonesian elections were coming up, and that his country would elect a president and a vice president. He said "I hope it can go well and (they) are good people" who fear God. I'm proud of Prayer for praying for his elected officials! I will write to him soon and ask him if he is interested in politics- that would be something we have in common! 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The seventh seven days.

June 29: Today my coworkers and I met for lunch to say goodbye to my friend Laura, who is retiring. I am sad that Laura is leaving, because she has been a part of my library experience since I was a small child, and she was even the one who told me about the open position right as I was finishing up my junior year of high school. I hope that she is able to come and visit us pretty frequently. Today I am happy that I have such good relationships with some of my coworkers, and that I got to go out to eat (I took my mom as my date since Brandon wanted to stay home!)

June 30: A letter from Tasya arrived today! It was a nice surprise in my mailbox- and I'm thankful that the letter got to me, because it had been written 4 months ago! After that long, I guess it's lucky that it didn't get lost in the mail! Tasya lives in a very remote area, so I always expect her letters to take a while to get to me- they have to travel on boats and planes and more boats and everything else. So each letter from her is extra special!

July 1: Someone stole my antenna topper over the weekend- which is a really dumb thing to steal. I really liked it because it was cute and pink and Disney and cupcake-shaped. I posted on facebook asking if anyone was planning on going to Disney this summer, so maybe they could pick up a replacement for me. My cousin's wife found a link to buy them online, and my father in law ordered one for me! I got it today, and was able to put it back on my car. Now I can find my car in parking lots again. It was really thoughtful and I'm happy to have it!

July 2: I don't know that "happy" is the precise word I should use to describe this, but I am thankful for a prescription today. I am having some problems with my mouth, where my wisdom teeth used to be. This is part of the reason I've been to the dentist so often lately. They said I had a few spots of infection back there and last week I had it all cleaned out and got some antibiotic shots. Things have only gotten worse since then, and it's so bad that the pain wakes me up in the middle of the night. I called yesterday begging for a last minute appointment, and they saw me this morning. Unfortunately, it looks like something a little more complicated than an infection may be going on, but I did get a prescription for pain pills. They worked really well for a few hours. I'm happy to have them (even if they aren't providing total, constant relief- it's definitely better than it was) and the medicine was very affordable, too!

July 3: A friend of mine came by the library today with her daughter, her friend and her friend's granddaughter. This friend of mine used to be my Sunday school teacher, and I don't get to see her too often anymore- and visiting with her is especially fun since she has an adorable, sweet daughter now! It was a really long day, but I was happy to have a visit from them!

July 4: We had such a wonderful day today!! Since visiting the Jones family farm back in late May, we have had the intention of spending Independence Day there...Brandon planned to have the day off and everything! I made a cake the night before to share with everyone, and we packed up our backpacks and hit the road not too long after a late breakfast. The ride down there is over an hour long, but Brandon had the fun idea of bringing along our world atlas and quizzing him as he drove, to entertain him. I had my doubts at first, but it was actually a lot of fun! Unfortunately as we got close to the farm I started feeling a little car sick (apparently I can read in the car, or talk, but not both) but I recovered quickly after we got there. We had fun talking about different countries, and I also threw in some questions about our sponsor kids ("What is the capital of Brazil? And how many kids do we have there?") Several family members were able to make it to the farm- Brandon's parents and two of his brothers had been staying there all week, but we were also joined by a few aunts and uncles, some cousins, and Mamaw Jones. I brought bubbles and sidewalk chalk and had fun drawing a gigantic (like, 8 feet long) brachiosaurus on one of the driveways. We also had an Uno Attack tournament (I won, for the first time ever) and Brandon played lots of games like badminton and basketball. My mother in law grilled up a bunch of stuff for lunch, and everyone loved the cake that I brought (which made me happy because it was a recipe I hadn't tried before!) We made a journey down to a creek on the property and looked for geodes- we didn't find any (after cracking open several sparkly, promising-looking rocks) but did find one rock with two fossils in it. Then we went back to the house and I watched some classic TV (the only thing the antenna picks up) with my youngest brother in law before we ate leftovers for dinner, followed by a walk down the road, and then a popsicle break! When it got dark, some of the guys set up a little fireworks display, and we all sat outside to watch. I was a little nervous because I am extremely sensitive to the noise, but Jonathan found some noise-cancelling headphone things he uses for shooting, and that really helped! The fireworks were so pretty- I was able to get a few good pictures with my phone, some of which I attached to the letters I sent to our kids talking about the holiday! We got home a little after midnight and were really tired, sore, and a little sunburned, but it was a wonderful day. Here are some of the pictures I took!

Out in the middle of the woods, I looked up and it was so pretty! The sun was gorgeous in the trees. 

We headed out for a walk just before sunset. 

July 5: Since we were at the farm all day yesterday, we missed my family's informal Fourth of July celebration (a KFC dinner at my grandparents' house.) With my cousin out of town and my mom at work, we weren't the only ones missing. Tonight, we went to my aunt's house for dinner- my dad had fun playing with her new grill, and fixed up some barbecued chicken and grilled corn on the cob (which is my go-to food this summer, for some reason!) And my aunt made homemade vanilla ice cream and extra chocolate-y brownies for dessert. My mom was able to be there, too. The food was really good and I was glad to see my aunt and spend time with my parents. I also came home with quite a few cards and stickers for my kiddos- my aunt is a very generous person, and is involved with many charities. So she gets tons of those free greeting cards, address labels, notepads and stickers that those organizations send out. She has quite the collection of stuff to share! My mom and I both picked out a whole stack of cards, including Christmas cards to save for the fall, when Compassion collects them for the unsponsored kids!