Sunday, August 31, 2014

Compassion Joys: August

My favorite part of the month is the end of the month- I get to share my Compassion blessings with you, and I love reading other people's posts as well!

 Compassion Family


This month we received six letters- most of them arrived at the beginning of the month. We heard from Bonifas (Tanzania), Jayid (India) and Patricia (Brazil), plus we got first letters from Erick (Ecuador), Eduardo (Honduras) and Sharifa (Bangladesh!) It was very exciting to receive so many first letters this month- it definitely shrank our list of kids we are waiting to hear from!


A special treat this month was receiving an extra photo from Eduardo in Honduras. He is posing with the gifts he bought with the small birthday gift we were able to send. We also got a photo update of Mishel in Colombia!


Our Caleb in Uganda turned 13 this month! Happy birthday, Caleb!


This hasn't happened yet, but I did at least find out about an opportunity to set up my own booth at a community event at my church. I am going to set up a booth selling crafts (including more bracelets and ornaments from Haiti!) to raise money for my next Compassion trip. I've also ordered some child packets and other materials so I can talk about Compassion with the people who come to this outdoor market, and hopefully get some kids sponsored! I also learned that Compassion is partnering with the company my mom works for to do outreach at stores all around the country. There was some initial confusion because the state was listed incorrectly on the website, and it looked like the event had filled up before I could sign  up to work! But it all got worked out, so in October I will help run a Compassion table at my mom's store. I've already got some of my mom's coworkers involved with Compassion, and I know my mom talks about it with customers  sometimes. It will be fun to set up the table and stake out a place to help others learn about Compassion. I'm also going to try to bring some photos and items from my Tanzania trip! So while the opportunities won't come to pass until this fall, I found out about them this month, and I'm excited. : )

Guest posts!

This month I had the opportunity to guest post on Hannah's blog! Several months ago, right before my trip to Tanzania, I did a post for her, and this was my follow-up! It was fun revisiting the trip and sharing some photos there!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Bangladesh

Happy Mail Call Monday, everyone!

This week we received one letter, but it was an important one- our first letter from Sharifa in Bangladesh!

Actually, we received the letter last Monday after I noted in my last MCM post saying that we had been writing to her for almost 6 months. So it was good to finally hear from her! I had never received a letter from a child in Bangladesh before, and I think that their writing is really cool! Sharifa's letter didn't say much- it was written in April, and she said that it was summer and they have mangoes, jack fruits, lychee fruits, and various kinds of melons. She also said that she likes to sing, dance, and play sports at the project. Since Sharifa's letter took four months to arrive, I have hope that she is indeed replying to our frequent letters, but that they are just taking a while to get here! She may live in a remote area that doesn't have reliable postal service, for example. Either way, I was happy to get a letter, and I'm hoping that many more are on the way!

The "H" word.

Just a quick note: this post is not about a specific person, but rather a general attitude among both people I know, and people I don't. In no way am I calling out any individuals in my life. However, if you read this and feel that I am addressing you specifically, perhaps it would be good to prayerfully consider if that is the Holy Spirit trying to bring a teachable moment. I myself have been convicted many times by things that aren't about me, but address things that I do. No judgment here, but it might be something to think about. 

I use the word "hate" a lot. Not as much as "love," but I still use it. And I think that people around me understand when I am using it as hyperbole, or joking around. Some things I claim to hate:
  • Most current country music
  • Crowds
  • Circuses
  • Going to work some days
  • My laptop, when it is being a jerk
  • James Franco and Ben Affleck
I don't think that people take me seriously when I talk about hating things, because I'm usually making a joke out of it. And there are some things or people that I genuinely and sincerely dislike (James Franco makes my skin crawl.) But hate? Hate is a heavy word. I think that hate leads to pain and violence and ugliness. Hate can lead people to do stupid things, particularly if they find other people who hate the same things. Hate led church-going, (usually) kindly southern people to victimize and beat and lynch people within the last century simply because of the color of their skin. Hate leads extremists in certain areas of the Middle East to bomb schools and throw acid on school girls. Hate is ugly. It is blind. It doesn't see reason. If hate leads someone to say or do or believe something not based in fact, hate prevents that person from seeing the error of their ways or admitting fault when confronted with the truth. 

I've been seeing a lot of hate lately. It comes from spending too much time on the internet. People say things from behind the security of keyboards and electronic devices that they wouldn't have the courage to say in real life. I started really noticing this a few years ago when a former classmate of mine posted an incredibly tasteless and cruel joke about a troubled singer who died. The singer had struggled with addiction in the past, and many people made jokes about her passing (though she was clean at the time of her death.) Not all of those people claimed to be Christians, though. There was a huge disconnect between the claims that this young man made about himself- that he was a lover and follower of Christ- and the ugly words that poured forth from his social media accounts. When more than one person pointed out how inappropriate this was, particularly from someone who is so vocal about his alleged faith, he began saying incredibly insensitive and false things about people who suffer from addiction, essentially saying that "they deserve what they get" and that the planet may be better off if they are dead. At this point, I decided to speak up. I sent him a private message stating that another one of his classmates had recently lost his brother to an overdose, and pointed out that he would probably never say those things about or in front of this family. So why should he say it about someone else, someone he didn't know personally? He seemed genuinely saddened by the passing of a relative of someone he was close to at one time, but not long after, he continued posting the same kinds of ugliness. And then I deleted him as a friend. 

Since then, I continue to be surrounded by more hate- from people I know and people I don't. In the past few weeks, I've seen comments from people saying that Dr. Brantly and others who participate in missions work "deserve what they get" for helping others overseas before helping their fellow Americans. Some even claimed that they hoped he would die. I've seen people wishing ill on the children who have been crossing over the Mexican border into the United States from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras- innocent children who have only been sent by their parents in the hopes of escaping disease, starvation, child labor and exploitation, rape, gang violence and murder. I've seen people joke about gay members of the military getting shot in "friendly fire" incidents, assuming that the death of Don't Ask Don't Tell will lead to rampant unwanted advances and sexual assault. I've seen people joke about and claim to pray for the deaths of entire cultural groups and religions, rather than seeking lawful justice for individual perpetrators. I have seen people lash out at races and professions, painting everyone with the same brush, because of the events in Ferguson, Missouri- it seems that many of my acquaintances and other individuals on the internet have divided into two camps of rigid and unmoving stubbornness regarding the events in Missouri. That stubbornness is leading to some downright hateful talk, which alternates between "shoot all the cops, police are pigs" to "shoot all the suspects, if they were decent they wouldn't be suspects in the first place." There doesn't appear to be much room for middle ground or understanding. And then there's the hate directed toward individuals. Hate for the president. Hate for the former president. Hate for possible future presidents. Hate for a reporter. Hate for an actress. Hate for ex-husbands and wives, ex-girlfriends and boyfriends. Hate hate hate hate hate. 

Having feeling is natural. Feeling angry, upset, frustrated, disgusted, annoyed, hurt, devastated, disappointed, sad, betrayed, fed-up, ticked off....all natural, and ok to experience- as long as we don't let them consume us. And that's where hate comes in. Hate comes from those emotions when we have given in to them, rather than giving them over to God. There is no way to reconcile harboring hate and calling yourself a Christian. Most of us have heard the Bible verse that says a servant cannot have two masters. In context, it refers to loving God and loving money. You can't do both because one drowns out the other, and it's not ok to let anything drown out your love for God. But the concept applies here, as well. We are specifically commanded not to hate. We are told to do the opposite. If you choose to hate, or work to convince yourself that "some hate" is acceptable to God, then you are saying you know best. You know better than Jesus. Your plan is better than his. You don't have to do everything he says. You don't have to follow his example. 

And if that's the case, then I have a question: why bother calling yourself a Christian? 

In no way am I claiming to be perfect here. I may have an excessive amount of empathy in my heart (enough that it causes me problems sometimes) but I still get angry. I get overly frustrated. Many would say that I hold a lot of grudges, because I remember so many slights and offenses and hurts. Part of that last bit is the way my brain is wired, but I know that I could work harder at learning to let go of those memories by going to counseling or working on other ways of conquering my obsessive-compulsive disorder (emphasis on "obsessive.") I don't have to work super hard to not hate, because I get sad when faced with the idea of hurting other people, or even thinking of hurting someone's feelings, but that doesn't mean that I don't struggle in other ways, too. I'm not here to judge, I'm just here to shed some light.

You can't hate and expect to not have consequences.

You can't hate and claim to love Jesus. 

You can't hate and call yourself a Christian. 

Not everyone is hateful all the time. Some people justify their hate by saying things that in some cases may contain a kernel of truth; for example, being upset with someone who has hurt us deeply can often lead to anger, then what we think is justifiable hatred. But again, we mustn't let our negative feelings turn into hate, which is diametrically opposed to the Gospel. 

If someone points out to you, in the interest of accountability and genuine concern for your heart, that some of your speech or actions seem hateful, I would recommend taking a moment to consider their words before lashing out at them in defense of yourself. Sometimes, if we keep hate around long enough, we lose sight of the line between normal, human feelings, and the sin of hatred. One good litmus test to judge whether you are coming from a "good" place (heartbreak, normal human emotion, righteous indignation) or a "bad" place (hatred, vitriol, spite) is if you are talking about violence. Violence is always, always a red flag, whether you are serious or not. Jesus was- and is- the Prince of Peace. The only time he physically acted out was when he overturned tables in the temple, because the money changers and other greedy people were desecrating his Father's house. He never lashed out, kicked, hit, poked, prodded, or smote anyone. He didn't even really talk about it. And, interestingly enough, he didn't want anyone else doing it on his behalf, either. It seems trite to recite "vengeance is mine, says the Lord", but it's true. In the garden of Gethsemane, when the soldiers came to arrest him on trumped up charges, and he was betrayed by one of his closest friends, Jesus didn't even allow Peter to use the sword to defend him! So we really can't say that God would probably be fine with us meting out "justice" on his behalf. God asked, in very specific instances in the Old Testament, for very specific individuals to do this under very specific circumstances at very specific times. And then came Jesus. And Jesus told us not to worry about that. 

He told us to turn the other cheek

He told us to pray for our enemies, and explicitly said not to hate them. 

He told us to give to people who treat us unfairly. 

He told us to go above and beyond what is asked of us, rather than complaining about it or plotting our revenge. 

We, as Christians, are to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We can open the Bible- a gift from God, filled with his direct words and those given to others by him- and read, over and over again, that hate is not what God desires for believers. We are to be peace-makers, not revenge-seekers. We are to feed our enemy when he is hungry and overcome evil with good, not repay evil with evil (or violence.) We are to tame our tongues and only use our voices for building up, not tearing down. We are to love everyone. That is how people will recognize that we know and love Jesus. So please, if you choose to hate, don't pretend that it's somehow OK with God. Don't do it while advertising your Christianity. Don't do it around people who know you go to church but don't know Jesus themselves. 

I've made a new goal. I'm going to try to stop saying that I hate things (and people- you win this time, Franco.) I hope to at least drastically reduce the number of times I use the word. I hope you'll join me, too.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The fourteenth seven days.

This is my penultimate post (alliteration!) for the 100 Happy Days series, as this takes us up to day #98. Because I like consistency, I will post a full week next week, and maybe my thoughts on the project as a whole, depending on how much I have already said in that post!

August 17: Today I worked in the nursery at my church, as I do every third Sunday of the month. One of my happy moments today was spending some snuggle time with one of the little babies in the "crib" room, where I usually volunteer (I have a hard time lifting the bigger babies.) There was a squishy little girl who needed someone to hold her for the morning, and I got to be her buddy. This made me happy for a couple of reasons. One, some of our other kids- regulars- are getting to be old enough and active enough that they are happy to play with toys on the floor, instead of constantly fussing and wanting to be moved around. That makes my morning easier, because I usually have to deal with them- the little bitties are usually snatched up by the other ladies that I volunteer with! And this baby was a very good baby. She just sat and smiled and kicked her legs around. And then she took a nap. In all honesty, as much as I want to be a mom, I have absolutely no desire to have an infant. They are complicated and awkward. I'm happy for my friends who have babies, and I like my time in the nursery each month, but I'm definitely fine with only caring for a tiny human for 90 minutes once a month! It made me happy that my time in the nursery this morning was peaceful and pleasant, without screamers and grossness.

August 18: Today I got my first letter from Sharifa! Hallelujah. We were swiftly approaching the 6 month mark of correspondence to her, rather than with her (we got her as a correspondence kid in late February.) She didn't say anything about her family, or provide much insight to her life other than the fruits that are growing in Bangladesh, but it's a start! And her letter was written in April, about two months after we got her, so hopefully that means she is actually writing the letters, but they're just taking a while to get here.

August 19: Today I was really happy to "meet" another sponsor (online) who has a child in Tanzania, at one of the centers I visited in March! I am a member of a facebook group for sponsors and correspondents, which has taken the place of the now-defunct Our Compassion website. A lady posted a picture of her new correspondent in Tanzania, and asked what our experiences were like with that country. I replied that I love Tanzania, and mentioned that I had gone on the trip earlier this year. She asked if I had visited 812, and I had! That was the first center we visited! I was able to share my few pictures from that day (we weren't there very long) along with the video I took of the choir singing for us. It made me happy to be able to share these experiences and give this woman some insight into her child's center. And I know that it made her happy too- if I could see pictures from my kids' centers, it would make me really happy!

August 20- I got a phone call about another job interview today. We will see how things go. There are a lot of things to take into consideration about this job, because it is only part time and would require me to use a lot of gas, since it is in another county. I'd appreciate prayers for guidance about the opportunity! Getting the call made me happy because I was thinking since I live outside that county, they wouldn't be as interested. But the fact that I got a call (several days after the job posting closed) gave me a teeny tiny self esteem boost. My interview is next Thursday!

August 21: I was very pleased that my friend Shelley agreed to write a guest post for my blog (hit "older post" at the bottom of this page, or just scroll down a bit, to read.) I'm very excited about her upcoming trip to Kenya, and think it would be really neat if she wound up visiting Victor or Mary's centers! And by asking her to write the post, I got to learn more about her motivation for going to India earlier this year as well. : )

August 22: My family had a yard sale today. We used to have them more frequently, sometimes twice a year. I was thinking that we wouldn't have one this year, but it's good that we did. I had a lot of stuff to sell (some of it donated) and my own sales are going toward funding my next trip with Compassion. It was VERY hot today, and muggy, and my hair was going bonkers and my shirt sticking to my back after like an hour, and I wound up a little dehydrated (I did well the first few hours, but after lunch I was too tired to drink!) but I'm really pleased with the day's sales. I ended up making more money today than I usually do when we have a yard sale, and the bonus is that they are putting everything out again tomorrow! I have to work, so i won't be able to help, but my dad and Pappaw will be running things.

August 23: Normally I would not say that waking up early is a good thing, but today it worked in my favor. Brandon and I have been a one-car family all week (and it's looking like we will be next week as well...) but we both had to work today. One of his brothers is on a high school retreat with church, so this morning we got up very early (for me, anyway) and went to get his keys and then his car from the church parking lot. Brandon drove that car today. Getting up early allowed me to take care of some things that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. By getting up early, I was able to go by my mom's and get the shoes she ordered for me (so I could wear them to work and hopefully save myself some pain!) And it was nice to see her for a moment. Then I was able to go to the post office and mail something that I recently sold on eBay. And then I got to come home and go back to  bed for a little bit! If I hadn't had to drive around this morning with Brandon, I would have slept much later, wouldn't have had my new shoes for work, would have had to visit the post office after work, and wouldn't have been able to take care of the things I did accomplish in the time between leaving work and going to pick up Brandon. Plus going back to bed helped me feel much more rested when it was time to get up and go to work! So a small inconvenience saved me lots of time, energy and pain later in the day. That's pretty neat. But I don't want to make a habit of it!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Guest Post: Shelley talks about Kenya!

The friendships that I have made through becoming a Compassion sponsor, advocate and blogger are such a wonderful, extra blessing on top of the relationships I have with my sponsor kids! Today I'd like to share a guest post from my friend Shelley, who blogs over at Unforced Rhythms of Grace. Shelley is such a sweet and big-hearted person, and I am so happy that I've gotten to know her this year! She will be travelling to Kenya with Compassion in November, after taking her first overseas mission trip to India earlier this year. I've asked her to share a little about what led her to start actively participating in the Great Commission this year. And for further reading, you can check out this blog post from Compassion UK- they featured Shelley recently, and spoke to her about sponsoring multiple children while living the often financially challenging life of a student! 

I’ve wanted to go and serve overseas for as long as I can remember (or at least since becoming a Christian nine years ago). I didn’t really have any idea of what this would look like, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I got to wherever I was going, but I wanted to go somewhere and do something.

As I got older and these trips seemed more likely, God closed so many doors to some spectacular countries working alongside some wonderful people. My heart broke more times than I care to count, and I remember so many times going into my bedroom and crying over opportunities that were meant for someone other than me. The passion was there, and so was the willingness, so why wasn’t the door opening?

I’d planned to travel to Colombia in April 2013 to visit a very special Compassion child of mine. I’d looked at the cost and planned how I could afford it and was completely ready to book onto the trip. However, a few months prior to the trip, I received a rather unexpected health diagnosis which required surgery, which ended up being scheduled for around Christmas 2012. I would have recovered well enough to go on the trip the following April, but there was the potential for a second surgery, and my consultant strongly advised that I didn’t go.

More heartbreak and tears followed, but this one hurt more. Partly because there was another trip that I couldn’t go on, but partly because of the diagnosis I had received, and I didn’t know how this would affect any future trips that I wanted to take. I allowed my heart to become hard to the idea of travel and mission and became defensive whenever anyone tried to talk to me about it.

One thing I learned through this whole experience is God really does have a good plan because He really can see the bigger picture. Around the time I was due to travel to Colombia, I received a letter from Compassion telling me that the child I was going to visit had left her project and moved away, so even if I had booked on to the trip, I wouldn’t have been able to meet her. Because I now had a free week of my Easter holidays, I decided to volunteer at an event here in the UK called Spring Harvest. I worked on the Compassion stand for a week and made some incredible friends. God really blessed me that week, and I wouldn’t have been able to go had I have traveled to Colombia.

This is turning into an incredibly long story, so let’s fast forward a few months.

Between September 2013 and June 2014, I was studying for the final year of my degree at Bible College. Part of my course provided the opportunity to spend five weeks working for an organisation or church of our choice, gaining experience in the field that we wish to pursue once our degree is complete. Another bonus to this is a set amount of money is provided by the college, and we were allowed to travel and work overseas for our placement.

I was so nervous pushing doors to find out where God would have me go for this placement. Part of me wanted to find an organisation here in the UK so I wouldn’t need to face the heartbreak of more closed doors and not being able to travel overseas, but I felt God prompting me to be brave and push some doors.

I attend an Elim church, and this particular denomination has a missions department, with missionaries working across the globe serving in all sorts of different environments and capacities. I gave them a call to find out if a placement was something they could facilitate. Some calls were made and questions asked, and they told me that this was definitely something they could organise! I was emailed a list of suitable countries, with some information about the work they do and was told to choose one. I now felt like I had 100 doors opening instead of just one.

I read through the information and inquired about going to work with a missionary based in Haiti who was helping earthquake victims. Some more questions were asked, and I was told that I wouldn’t be able to travel to Haiti because the missionary there was moving on. I quickly began feeling the heartbreak of more closed doors again, but felt God prompt me forwards to try again. I reread the list and decided to inquire about going to spend five weeks in India, working with a charity called Frishta (which, by the way, is the Hindi word for angel!), which is an orphanage for street and railway children. Yet more questions were asked, and I received the go ahead from both Elim and my College!

In February 2014, I got to spend five weeks with twenty one of the most amazing children and young people I have ever met. The challenges they have faced completely broke me, but their joy and their faith was just incredible. I have never met a group of children more passionate about walking with Jesus, and those five weeks completely changed my life.

I’ve been home from India for nearly six months now, and God is still teaching me so much through this trip. Almost as soon as I arrived home I began planning for my next trip, but every trip I looked at, I felt God redirecting me. I decided to stop looking and I began to pray where God would have me go. A couple of days later, I received an email from the wonderful people at Compassion UK inviting me to travel to Kenya for a week with them in November! Not only will I get to see firsthand the work they are doing in this beautiful country, but I will also get to visit one of my precious sponsored children, eighteen year old Dorcus!

This trip worked out perfectly. I sponsored Dorcus last Summer in memory of my nan, who passed away when I was fifteen. I struggled a lot with bullying at school, and it was always my nan that I went to for help (or just for a good cry), and Dorcus also struggles in school. On top of this, she also shares a birthday with my nan, so meeting her in person is going to be extra special.


Your prayers for this trip would be so appreciated. I’m launching a huge (in my eyes!) fundraiser starting this coming week to go alongside another that’s been running for about four weeks now. I have just under a month to find the remaining £900 that I need. In my eyes, this is impossible but I know that God always provides for us when He calls us somewhere, and I have seen this proven so many times in my life.

To financially support Shelley's trip to Kenya, please check out her GoFundMe page here. Even if you can't give financially, please be praying for her upcoming trip, particularly for speedy financial provisions! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Tanzania

Yay for Mail Call Monday!

This week we got a surprise letter from Bonifas!
I'm really pleased that my Tanzanian kids have been able to send letters every two months this year! This is pretty similar to what it was like when I first started writing to Said. I checked my notes, and Bonifas' letter arrived almost exactly  two months after his last one! It was also interesting to see that Bonifas' center sent a "free form" letter on his behalf, instead of having him fill out a form letter as he usually does. He needs help writing, so the words on the page are usually filled out by a project worker, but because of his age, we usually receive form letters. 

In this letter, Bonifas sends his greetings and says that he is doing well in school. He added that he loves me very much and "welcomes" me to Tanzania. He also said that at the center, they "learn the words to sing to God, pray and worship." He shared Psalm 23:1, and asked how he can pray for us! Bonifas says he wants to be a teacher when he grows up, but sometimes I think he might end up being a pastor! He is such a sweet little guy. 

I'm hoping that this week brings lots more letters! We have six first letters outstanding, and one is approaching the 6 month mark. Maybe when I get the mail letter today, there will be a stack of cream colored envelopes inside! 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The thirteenth seven days.

I'm almost at the end of my 100 happy days posts! This post brings us up to day 91.

August 10: I think today was a really good day. Our sermon at church was good (it was about forgiveness.) Then later in the afternoon, we went over to Brandon's parents' house. His mom really wanted to make us dinner, and I wanted to spend some time with her anyway. So we went over there and she taught me some crochet basics while Brandon played video games with one of his brothers. We had a good dinner and I got back to crocheting while Denise and I watched "19 Kids and Counting" on Netflix. I was very glad to get to spend time with her, and I'm glad Brandon got to spend some time playing with his brother, too. I'm excited about learning to crochet- I am going to try to make some things to sell to fund my next mission trip!

August 11: I didn't do much today, but what I did get done, I feel pretty good about. I got a little bit of housework done and spent much of the rest of the day working on the scarf I'm crocheting (it's totally for practice- it doesn't look very good!) I was also happy to have leftovers for lunch and dinner. I'm thankful that our families have shared food with us!

August 12: Do you ever get really excited about something you find for a really awesome price? Today I found some steeply discounted yarn in a clearance bin, and I bought two skeins to turn into scarves. I started on one today, and I think the practice I had on my "ugly scarf" really helped. I just started a new one with the pretty, soft, new yarn, and I'm already very pleased. The stitching is neat and the colors are so pretty! I'm looking forward to finishing it so I can see how it looks and start on the next one. It's also nice to work on something you can be proud of!

August 13: Hey hey hey! I don't remember what I was originally going to write for this day, but I have something super exciting for today- I get to go to  Disney World! My cousin will be in Orlando for work in November, around her birthday. My aunt was talking about driving down to do a few days at Disney, since they'll have some of the Christmas stuff going on. I guess they've nailed down the dates and are starting to make things official, and my aunt texted me and invited me to go along! I'M SO EXCITED!!! I adore Disney. I am one of those people who tears up when seeing a commercial for the parks. I love it, love it, love it. And my last visit there wasn't super awesome- we tried to do two parks in one day, and it was hot and we were tired, my dad was in pain and my brother was absolutely miserable (his medical issues limit his mobility, and he spent the entire trip in a wheelchair. Despite not having to walk- which he couldn't have done- he still had so much pain and the heat made him feel terrible.) We will be spending a long weekend there in November, so we don't have to rush through as much, and hopefully since it's the week before Thanksgiving, things won't be too busy! I'm super pumped. Ridiculously so. This has made me so happy!

August 14: Today is my best friend's birthday! Kelli and I have been friends since 8th grade. She is one of my oldest friends and I love spending time with her. Around senior year of high school we saw each other every day, and spent a lot of weekends together. She came over once or twice a week throughout most of college, too. But then we got older and I got married and our schedules are harder to coordinate, between when I'm at work and when I have things going on and when she's out of town or working nights. I actually haven't seen her since my birthday (mostly because we haven't had air conditioning most of this summer!) I'm so thankful for her. Spending time with her makes me happy. Actually, usually I get sick when we hang out together, because we eat and then laugh and talk and laugh even more, and my reflux starts acting up big time (she is the only person to whom I can say "being with you makes me feel like barfing" and it be a compliment.) But it's worth it! I hope she has a really fun birthday, and I'm looking forward to spending time with her this weekend! Besides being happy and thankful for my BFF, I'm also happy that I got a letter from Bonifas today!

August 15: I got to take a surprise field trip today. My boss needed to get some books on a specific subject for one of our volunteers, and the task kind of got away from him this week. Today, he asked me to try to track down the books, and said that he would even be willing to travel to a nearby branch to pick them up. I found that our branch didn't have the books, but another branch did- the one that my dear friend Jess went to work at! I selflessly (haha) volunteered to drive over and get the books for my boss. I kind of had to work hard to convince him that I definitely didn't mind going! So I got to leave work for a little bit, drive over to the other branch, and spend about five minutes speed-talking to my friend whom I miss terribly. It's still so weird that she's gone- as I said last week, we've worked together for the better part of a decade. She's like a sister to me, and I'm sad that I no longer get to see her every day. It still sort of feels like she's just helping out temporarily at this other branch! But getting to drive over to see her for a few minutes was an unexpected blessing. I don't think I could do it every week, because of using the extra gas, but it'd be nice if I could run errands to see her every once in a while!

August 16: Today I got to spend the day with my BFF Kelli. I did some cleaning this morning and baked up a batch of birthday brownies for her, then she came over around lunch. She picked up lunch on her way over (we had lunch from Mark's Feed Store, a really yummy local barbecue chain.) I'm happy she liked her birthday presents- there were some inside jokes, lots of candy, and a really sweet Harry Potter t-shirt (it was navy and had a doe patronus and the word "always" in floaty script. And if you like HP, you will know why this is awesome.) We watched "My Neighbor Totoro", read some funny articles I had been wanting to show her, and then decided to watch "Jumanji." I had been wanting to watch it all week, as the passing of Robin Williams has weighed heavily on my heart. And Kelli said she hadn't seen it since she was a little kid, so it was fun revisiting that part of our childhood together!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Honduras, Brazil, India and Ecuador

Happy Mail Call Monday, everyone!

We were blessed to receive four letters this week- and two were first letters!

The first letter we received was from Eduardo in Honduras.

Eduardo's letter was a long time coming. By the time it arrived, we had been sponsoring him for six months, one week and a day. In some ways it was frustrating to wait that long, but I had a feeling that Eduardo might have some special challenges in his life that might keep him busy or distracted, based on some things in his profile. I was encouraged to see that Eduardo addressed me as his "dear friend"- I am glad to know that he thinks of me as a friend, and hopefully this means that he has enjoyed reading all my letters and feels encouraged by them. He says that his favorite hobbies are playing soccer and going out with his friends. He also watches TV- it's always nice to learn this because it means that our kids have at least some access to electricity. That's a good thing! He asked if I like animals, and said that he has a pretty dog named Jugueton. He also wanted to know my favorite Bible verses. Eduardo asked that we pray for his mom, as she is sick. He also mentioned the small birthday gift that we sent for him earlier this year- he bought jeans, a shirt, and hair gel! I was very happy to get an extra photo of Eduardo posing with his birthday gifts. I couldn't help but feel a little sad, though, because Eduardo look sad or stressed to me. He also looks thinner in this photo than he does in his "official" photo. Since we were able to send a gift to Eduardo when Kim visited Honduras back in May, I'm kind of hoping that we get another photo of him with that gift as well!

A few days later, two letters arrived on the same day. The first one I opened was from Patricia in Brazil. 

In my imagination, Patricia is a social butterfly. Her letters are usually pretty short, and so friendly. She always ends them really sweetly- "Kisses! Patricia", sometimes with butterflies, hearts, or little lips drawn around there. So cute. Patricia's letter was written in May, and she responded to some of my letters by saying she was sad to hear about Brandon's grandfather passing away but she was very excited that my family adopted a dog. She also said that at Christmastime in Brazil, people set off fireworks, and it makes the sky "very beautiful!" 

Then came a letter from Jayid in India! 

Jayid's letters are interesting to see- usually they just have what looks like four or five words written in Hindi on the front, and then a full page written by a child development worker on the back. The child development workers write on behalf of Jayid, since they know English, but I always wonder what those few scribbles on the front say! Jayid says that he is taking English lessons and is participating in martial arts lessons at the project. He is excited about learning English. He has been learning new songs and Bible verses, and made a new friend named Sahil. 

Lastly, we got our first letter from Erick in Ecuador!

We just got Erick as a correspondence child in June, about two weeks before he turned five. The letter must have been written right away, since he says in his letter that he is four years old! It was also an "about me" form letter usually reserved for financial sponsors, so it was exciting to get to know more about Erick so quickly! Erick says that he lives in Pulucate Centro. His favorite color is red, his favorite class in school is drawing, his favorite activity is playing, and his favorite sport is running. He says that his favorite food is "potato and guinea pig!" He describes himself as "robust, tall, playful and cheerful" and says that he lives "beside the stadium, the church and the trees." The letter was written by his mom Monica! 

Erick also drew this neat picture- I think it's really good considering it was drawn by an almost 5 year old! 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The twelfth seven days

Movin' on up! I'm continuing to share my "happy" moments from the week, inspired by the #100happydays movement.

August 3: This was the day that my mom had to go to the hospital. I'm happy that she didn't have to be admitted, and I'm happy that I was able to go over and take care of her while my dad caught up on sleep. This was the start of a week of abundant food, which was one positive thing about my mom being sick. I got to spend a lot of time with her, and she fed me well. It was nice to have a variety of things to eat instead of toast and sandwiches for every meal.

August 4: Today my first letter from Eduardo arrived, and it included an extra picture! It made me very happy to finally get a letter from him after six months, one week and two days of writing letters, and extra photos are always a blessing. However, I am tremendously burdened to pray for Eduardo....I think he must have some really tough stuff going on in his life. So while I was happy to get the letter, I also felt sad reading it and looking at the picture.

August 5: Much of my happiness this week was food based. Today I left work at 1 and went straight over to my parents' house to sit with my mom. I picked up some fast food on the way, but as a special treat I stopped by the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen and got pie and cookies for my family. The Pie Kitchen is a local chain of stores around my city, and as their name implies, they sell ice cream and pie...and cheesecake and cookies and upside down cupcakes (which have frosting poured over them!) I got peanut butter Reese's cup pie for my mom, chocolate cherry pie for me, and giant football-shaped cookies for my dad and my brother. I hope they liked it! It was nice to have a sweet treat.

August 6: I wasn't feeling too well today, and was happy to settle in with my laptop for a bit and watch some Netflix before Brandon came home and I had to go to work. I started watching the show "19 Kids and Counting" (which started as "17 Kids...") and it made me really happy. I have loved the Duggar family since I first found out about them- before I got married I watched all their specials on TLC, but I only caught their regular show periodically in the little while between its start and the time I got married. I am really enjoying watching the show! It's fun to see what all the Duggars are up to (like meeting Dolly Parton!) but I also think they're a pretty great family. The dad, Jim Bob, is really involved with his family and has a lot of fun with the kids, and is so supportive of them. He also mentors other kids who have lost their dads. Michelle, the mom, is such a peaceful person- she just sounds like someone who should spend all day reading children's books. She's so gentle and loving with all the kids, and even sounds sweet and kind when the kids are being disciplined. Anyway, I had a good time watching that this morning. And then I went out to the mailbox and found letters from Patricia and Jayid!

August 7: Today was my last day with mom for a while, but the happy thing is that the doctor says she is getting better and won't have to be hospitalized or anything for her infection. She can go back to work soon- she has some swelling left over and the pain isn't constant, which is good. I also got my first letter from little Erick today, and my mom got two letters: one from Karen in Nicaragua, and her first letter from Herlan in Bolivia. I want to share Karen's letter here, because it was so pretty:

Hello esteemed sponsor Karen: 
I hope you are in good health together with your beautiful family. I want to thank you for your faithful sponsorship and for the letter that you sent me where I found words of encouragement for my life. 
I want to tell you about the weather in my country. We are in winter. The climate is a little bit cool. The leaves of the trees are green and there are pastures for cows, horses and other farm animals. It is cloudy and the sun does not come out. Nature looks beautiful when the sun is hidden; all is cloudy. The road with ponds and mud; the birds sing in the morning for water. Winter is beautiful. Thank God, the rain is a blessing from God. 
I always pray for you. I ask you to pray for my family to be always together; this is my greatest desire. You are a very important person that God placed to light my path. You cannot imagine how grateful I am. 
I say goodbye to you with love, Karen Nathalia

Last year I did a blog post of waiting kids who had the same names as the members of my Bible study group at the time, and Karen was on there. I'm so glad that my mom decided to be her sponsor! 

August 8: Tonight I went upstairs to try to cool off a bit. Brandon's cousin brought over a window unit air conditioner for us to borrow, and it has been keeping our pets safe and cool in their room. I was trying to get some cleaning done, and the heat was making me feel sick. Anyway, my husband was up there playing with the animals (the rats and the bunny get an hour of playtime every night- not at the same time, though!) and since I went up there, I got to spend some more time with him, and my pets! I cut up the remains of a big cucumber I had bought and took it to the animals, and they really enjoyed it. Seeing my animals happy and being able to provide them with a special treat made me happy. 

August 9: Today was the summer reading finale at work, so it was really busy and crazy. And it was also my last day working with my best friend. Neither of these things make me happy (although it is always nice when SR is over.) However, not long after I got home, our air conditioner was working again!!! It's been out for about a month, and the timing couldn't be better, as it's supposed to be about 100 degrees several days next week. I'm so thankful to have the air again- I can sleep better, we can turn on the lights, and it will be so nice to be comfortable in my own home again. And a big shout out to cousin Wayne for working so hard to fix all three problems our AC unit had, giving up so much of his free time to come do work for us! We'd be lost without him! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Guest Post: Hannah talks about prayer!

Today we have a guest post from my good friend Hannah! She blogs over at Because of Shamim, and I just love her. She has a precious family and lots of sponsor kids, and her posts have provided me with a lot of information! I asked her if she'd be willing to do a guest post on prayer- specifically, praying for our sponsor kids. When people ask us to pray for them, we usually know specifics about what's going on. We pray for people we see regularly and know well, or we pray about situations. But how do you pray for someone you've never met, and you only know through letters? Here's what Hannah has to say! 

I’m so excited to be posting on Jessi’s blog today! She asked me to share about praying for our sponsor kids, so I thought I’d share what I do and have done over the years.

To be honest, some weeks I have wonderful prayer times for the kids, and other weeks my prayers are brief and generic. I suppose many of us go through similar ups and downs in many areas!

In order to do better remembering to pray for our kids, I had my husband help me hang 5x7 photos of our kids on the wall. We call it our “Compassion Wall” and it hangs in our eat-in kitchen/dining area. I like being able to see the photos of our kids throughout the day, as the photos remind me to pray!

I also have signed up to receive the monthly prayer guides from Compassion (if you’re interested in becoming a prayer partner, check out this link.) I asked them to mail them, as I probably won’t print them out in time to pray! But I take these and put them on my fridge. Then, each day when I get my sons milk in the morning, I pray for the day’s prayer request.

Both of these are just practical ways for me to be praying for our sponsored kids and Compassion’s ministry throughout the day.

Another thing I try to do periodically is to sit down for a lengthy time of focused prayer for our kids. Many of our kids share prayer requests, which helps me pray specifically. Other great resources are the pastor’s letters from the kids’ projects! And, on the back of the bookmark you receive with your introduction packet, there is a basic prayer guide for each day of the month (you can see a detailed version of the 31 days here.) (And Compassion has a 52 weeks of prayer guide, if you would like to have a focus for each week. )
For a time, I was documenting my kids’ prayer requests in a journal. I have since lost that journal, but writing this post has inspired me to find a new one! I like keeping track of my kids’ prayer requests so that I can follow up in future letters.

Occasionally, when I sit down for extended prayer for our kids, I will journal (usually by typing) as I pray. Then I have copy and pasted a part of it and sent it to the kids in an online letter! I wish I could be there to pray over each child in person, but this is a little way for me to do that. I figured that since they can’t actually hear me pray, they might enjoy knowing what I am praying for them!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The eleventh seven days

A few days late, but here are last week's happy moments. : )

July 27: We had a nice evening at home today. Some of my other happy moments in these posts have been related to good movies we have watched- that is how we like to spend our time, and when a movie is really good, and I get to watch them with my husband, and we have a good time. Tonight we watched "Howl's Moving Castle," which is another film from director Hayao Miyazaki. I really liked this one as well!

July 28: Today was my observation day at the preschool where I applied for a job, and it was so much fun!! Ridiculously so.

July 29: I had a nice evening at Bible study. Mom got dinner and we had some good discussions. Then we stopped by the store on the way home and she bought me a few things, like princess band-aids and Hello Kitty fruit snacks!

July 30:  Many things to be happy about today. I had the most relaxing dentist visit today. Which sounds impossible, but it happened! I went to see the new endodontist since the last one I visited didn't finish the job. He was super nice, they had a "Tempurpedic" brand exam chair (so comfy) and I popped in my earbuds, they turned on the nitrous, and I basically just zoned out for over an hour. Absolutely no issues whatsoever. Which is the first time in my life that has happened. No exaggeration. Also, my dad brought me a milkshake at work since my mouth was tired and hurty, and then later that night, I got texts from my friend Ashley- I sent my buddy's A.'s birthday present over to him via his dad (who is my mom's boss) and I got pics and a video. They really made me happy. I love my buddy so much! The bubble mower was apparently a big hit! : )

July 31: I'm happy with myself because I got some work done around the house today! Between having no energy and having a hot house (still no AC!) I haven't felt like doing much. So I'm happy I got some stuff done today.

August 1: Today was a pretty good day at work. Nothing particularly special happened- I had a nice cup of coffee when I got to work, and had a really long day, but nothing traumatic happened and there were no major problems. I am glad that I got to spend the day with my best friend- this was my last regular day working with her as she is going to work at another branch starting next week. And now I will stop writing because this is supposed to be about happy things, not sad things.

August 2: A letter from Elisha arrived today! It was short and didn't say much, but it was still a nice surprise. I feel like I have heard from my TZ boys so much lately- that's definitely something to be happy about!

Sweet Greetings from Tanzania

Happy Mail Call Monday, everyone!

This week we only got one letter, but I am kind of hoping that when I get home from my mom's, there will be twenty cream colored envelopes in my mailbox. : )

Our letter this week was from Elisha in Tanzania!

Elisha's letter was very short. It was a form letter about his school holidays, which is a type of form letter I don't think I've seen before! Elisha said that he has school breaks in June and December, and his breaks last for 4-5 weeks. When he has a break, he often goes "to the village" and sees his grandmother. He helps her during those visits, and he lies eating a mixture of maize and beans called "kande." His grandma (or Bibi) is his favorite person to see during those break times,   but he would also like to visit his aunt. I say that Elisha's letter was short because in the open text portion of the letter, he just wrote that he says hi and that he's doing fine and thanks for the letters. He often draws several small pictures on his letters, but he literally just drew a circle and scribbled in part of it with pencil.

The reason I share this with you is to say that I totally understand that it's easy to become frustrated with our kids when they don't write as much as we like. I have seen some people who appear to be downright angry. They're irritated because they write thoughtful letters to the kids, and it can be disappointing to get a "lame" letter in response. But if you feel you're starting to have ugly thoughts and feelings because of these kinds of letters, it's good to take a breather and remember two things. The first is that we should never do something nice or helpful for others with any kinds of expectations. If you are going into something good while focusing on how it will benefit you, then it might be time to look for another way to help people. And this doesn't just apply to sponsorship, but in this case, your goal as a sponsor (or correspondent) should be to make the world a better place by helping a child break the cycle of poverty, and to encourage them and show them love. Some of the kids will write great letters in return, and some of them will write frequently and share a lot of their lives with you. If they do, that's a bonus. But you shouldn't go into sponsorship with expectations of a "pen pal" type relationship, because that's not really what the program is about. It's just a really awesome bonus!

The second thing to remember is this: they're kids. Children. Tiny people. They're not necessarily thinking "hmm, let me gather my recent correspondence and send a prompt and warm reply to each letter." They are thinking "I have lots of homework" and "what will we eat this week" and "the sun is shining and I want to play!" I might be a little disappointed in Elisha's letter (and drawing) if I hadn't had the opportunity to meet him earlier this year. The child is a wild man. He was so, so quiet when he first arrived, in part because he'd been in a car for hours and was hungry and it was tea time. But as soon as we finished our tea and walked outside, he was a nonstop tornado. Just insane. I can't even describe to you how much energy this kid has. He can't stop moving. You could ask him to design his dream playground, and you could build it for him, and he would play on it for a few minutes and move on to something else. There is a world to be conquered out there. The child can't walk, he only runs. So I see Elisha's letter, and his drawing of a quickly scribbled circle, and I don't think "ugh, I'm mad at Elisha for not trying harder," I am thinking "goodness, something fun must have been going on at the project that day! Maybe someone found a soccer ball, or they were having relay races." They're kids. Most kids, when presented with the options of playing or sitting in a classroom and writing letters, will probably approach the playtime with more enthusiasm. And I'm happy about that. These kids lead challenging lives that we will never fully understand. I want them to be able to play and have fun and be kids, and not have to worry about grown up things (and I don't want the grown ups in their lives to worry, either.)

So if you find yourself frustrated with short or impersonal letters from your kids, remember- they're kids. Maybe they are more like Elisha and express themselves by running around like a maniac. : ) Just keep writing, and show that your love isn't conditional. You'll still love them and pray for them and write to them even if they don't have as much to say when they write back!


Several of my Compassion blogger friends have been posting recently about how they got started in sponsorship, so I thought I would join in the fun and share my story, too. : )

Most of us who have owned a television in our lives have seen commercials about child sponsorship. They would show lots of sad children and then a nice man with a beard (or Sally Struthers) and announce that "for pennies a day" you could help these kids. I know that I had told my parents and grandparents before that we should call (I had pennies! And days!), but then they would explain to me that "that costs money" and I'd know that we would not be calling. Money was tight growing up. And anyone can make a sad commercial out of just about anything- at the time, we didn't really know how to verify which organizations were legitimate and whatnot, even if we did have the money.

Sometime around 2008, my mom, who was an avid blog reader and writer at the time, read a post on someone's popular website that stirred her to action. Or participation. You see, this blogger liked Compassion, and had shared a bit about sponsorship with her legion of readers. This blogger also had the financial resources to sponsor many kids, thanks to her family's business and the popularity of her blog. So she basically said "if you will commit to writing to one of these kids, I will sponsor one for you. Leave a comment and we will get in touch." And my mom decided to leave a comment.

My family's journey with Compassion began in the form of a correspondence sponsorship (though we didn't really know it went by that name) that came about because of a blog post. And a few weeks later, my mom found out that her new sponsor daughter was a young woman named Shema Elisabeth, who lived in Rwanda. I was very excited about this, because it was at this time that I had just watched the movie "Hotel Rwanda" and was devouring any information I could about this country. I knew that because of her age, Shema Elisabeth probably knew some people who had died in the massacre that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. I was glad that she joined our family and was proud that my mom was going to write to her and be her friend. I even wrote some notes for her from time to time!

My mom continued writing to Shema Elisabeth, and added a financially sponsored child from India- beautiful, sweet Amisha. Over the years her own far-away family has grown and shrunk from time to time- Shema Elisabeth left the program several years ago, but she has picked up several financial sponsorships and added multiple correspondence kids over the past few months (and I'm very proud of that!) Right now she's up to 12 kids- and I think at least five of those have joined the family since Easter!

My mom's love for her kids and her sharing their letters with me made me very interested in sponsoring a child of my own. At the time, I was unaware that you could just call Compassion and request to be a correspondence sponsor, even if you were not a financial sponsor. Right after I got married, I was caught in this weird limbo- being completely freaked out by marriage and being an adult all of a sudden (I didn't live on my own in college, so this was the first time I had lived with anyone other than my parents and brother- and it was an ADJUSTMENT. Emphasis completely necessary.) and being completely smitten with wedded bliss (ha) and the idea of being a happy little family with kids. We knew that there was no way we could afford to be parents right away (once upon a time we had this plan to start trying to have a family after being married for six months. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.) But we were very committed to tithing and maintaining regular charitable contributions- prior to getting married I set aside a portion of my paycheck each month to buy baby things for the crisis pregnancy center in town, and liked to look for other projects (such as "back to school" drives) as well. My mom kept telling me about the letters her kids were sending, and I kept wanting to be a mom, and we kept wanting to faithfully "give back" some of what we were receiving. A commitment to sponsor a child seemed like a good way to hold us accountable for our spending, when our financial situation was so rocky and unpredictable there in the beginning. So just over six months into our marriage, and after several weeks of asking my husband if we could, I finally was able to sit down and register to sponsor a child. I had been browsing the website off and on for weeks, but when I got the green light, I parked myself in front of the computer and just started from the top. I limited my search to "girls" and organized them by "longest waiting", and got to reading. There were over 900 girls available for sponsorship. I read through the first 9 or so pages of them. I read each and every biography, girls of all ages, many of whom lived in countries completely unknown to me. I read about their families and situations, their neighborhoods, their challenges, their favorite things. And then I came across a sweet but solemn little girl, wearing a yellow shirt, hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her name was Tasya, which sounded Eastern European to me, but her biography said she lived in Indonesia. Wherever that was. And her biography said she liked reading. Reading! My favorite thing! None of the other kids' profiles said they liked reading. She liked other things too, of course, but once I saw that, I knew she was the one. So I clicked the link to sponsor her, and got the neat little confirmation email....and went straight to facebook, to change my status to "just submitted my information to sponsor a child through Compassion International!" (July 24, 2010, and I hope you know the tremendous effort it took to find that post in the billion things on my timeline.) Some things never change. : )

Over the past four years our far-away family has grown by leaps and bounds. We hit the "limit" of three correspondence kids in 2011 after sponsoring Tasya for about a year (all three were added that summer), added our "bonus" child Jayid when the need for correspondents was great that fall, picked up his sponsorship when he was dropped, and when the restrictions were lifted on the number of kids we could have, added a few more....and a few more....and a few more. When I left for Tanzania in March, I had 15 kids, and was happy to explain to my fellow travelers that no, I definitely did not have that much money, and told them about the correspondence program. Fifteen kids in March, and as of today, we are up to 24. Some of them call me Mama, some call me godmother, some call us "mommy and Father Brandon", some call me sponsor Jessi and a few just "Jessi Jones." No matter what they call me, they are the children of my heart, the sons and daughters I may never meet in this lifetime, but they will have my heart until my dying day. I love each and every one of my kids so much, and am eager to share my love for them with just about everyone I meet! I know that my posts about my kids' letters have nudged at least 10 other people to reach out and become sponsors or correspondents, and that makes me happy. I don't look at that as a personal accomplishment (that claim belongs to God and God alone)- I look at that as 10 fewer kids in the world who need that kind of love and encouragement. And so many more friends who would do a great job with that! I don't see it as something for which I am proud of myself - I am proud of my friends, and happy for their kiddos. And I'm thankful that me and my kids got to play a small part in that.

The moral of the story is: if there is something (or someone) you love, and are passionate about, something that makes your world a little brighter and someone else a little happier, share it. Tell people. Don't be ashamed. Don't think "no one wants to hear about that" or "no one cares what I like." You never know who is watching. You never know who will see your joy and think "I think I could get in on that." Never stop sharing what you love. You never know when you might inspire someone else to make a move!

And this is what happens when I try to find appropriate clip art for a post while in the vicinity of my husband.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Not quite Ebola, but still.

Hello people. Sorry my "happy days" post is running a bit late. I had intentions of catching up with that today, and it didn't work out, and then I ended up leaving my "good things" notebook at my parents' house, so I can't finish it tonight, either!

I'm here this evening to ask for prayer. I had been thinking about doing a post over the past day or two to do this, but didn't get around to it. That's probably a good thing. I might have sounded selfish and ugly at the time. I definitely would still like to have your prayers- for direction and peace and discernment and maybe a miracle or two ("longshot" job opportunity turned into an interview and an observation day, I fell in love with the prospect- being a teaching assistant at a preschool that serves children on the autism spectrum- and didn't make the cut, unfortunately. I'm not angry and totally understand- my experience with special needs kids is limited almost exclusively to older children and teenagers, so if someone with more experience with the littles came along, it definitely makes sense that the job would be offered to them. I'm just sad because I felt really happy and fulfilled during my time there, and was looking forward to taking my life in a new direction.)

But I digress. There is a more urgent prayer need than my restlessness and dissatisfaction and hurt feelings. My mom is pretty sick. And I would like to ask you to pray for her.

She missed work on Friday because her face hurt- she suspected a sinus infection. She was frustrated with herself because there was much to do at work, preparing for an event that would take place on Saturday. But I did talk to her that morning and she sounded pretty icky. She missed work again on Saturday because she was still sick. And I was frustrated with her because I was going to come see her at work and have lunch with her. I didn't talk to her much yesterday. I went back to bed after I found out that she was staying home again, and I stayed in bed until my husband came home. My depression issues are acting up again- I just laid there and thought. And alternated between feeling sad and angry and disappointed and frustrated about so many things that are going on right now. I feel bad because I should have checked on my mom sooner, but I didn't want to talk to her because of this frustration (and really, such a tiny percentage of it was directed toward her. I just didn't want to talk to anyone.) I finally said something later that night because I was having a really down moment and wanted someone to pay attention to me.  And she just said that she felt bad again. Finally she said that her face was so swollen that she couldn't see out of one eye. That's not normal. That doesn't happen with a sinus infection. My mom has some other health issues, too (doesn't everyone in my family?) and she gets hives and things a lot, so I thought maybe this was one of those times where she was just having a weird body thing happening because she didn't feel well, and I told her she might need to go to the hospital, since having your face balloon up is not normal. She said she was home alone (well, my brother was there, but he is asleep a lot and he can't drive.) My dad was at a play with my cousin and my aunt. So I said "well they will come get you, you know, or I could take you." And asked her if she wanted me to. She said no. Who wants to go to the emergency room? It's expensive and a pain  in the butt. I decided to text my dad and tell him what was going on, and told him that he might need to take her to the hospital even though she said she didn't want to go, and he said they were leaving the theater and he would let me know if they were going to go. And then I went to bed.

They ended up going to the hospital this morning, a little after 4. Mom made the decision that it was time to go when  the swelling started spreading upward around her eye, running along her nose and up under her eyebrow. She texted me but I didn't hear it. And then my dad texted me two hours later to tell me they were going to run some tests. I don't remember responding to this text, though, but I did. I must have seen it when I got up to go to the bathroom, and written "ok keep me posted" before falling back to sleep. If I had heard the first text I would have been awake and freaking out when the second one arrived. Or I would have been over there. I'm so frustrated with myself for not hearing it. And being so tired that I don't even remember the second one coming through. All I know for sure is that when I got up this morning and finally stopped hitting snooze on my alarm, I saw these texts and immediately started crying.

My mom apparently has a staph infection in her face. And it might be MRSA. Which is a scary thing to say. She said she heard the doctors and nurses throwing the acronym  around outside her little cubicle thing, but when they finally came and talked to her, they just said "you have a staph infection." And MRSA is a kind of staph infection, so if she has it, technically they wouldn't be liars. The people working the ER this morning were apparently pretty terrible, and based on the other things I have since learned (like not disposing of bloody rags in the biohazard bin, or not telling her and my dad how to prevent the spread of infection to the rest of the family, or not giving her a prescription for  the pain) I would not be surprised if they flubbed the delivery of her diagnosis. She got to go home with a prescription for strong antibiotics and orders to see her regular doctor within the next few days. I don't want to sound alarmist, but if she doesn't make enough progress in her recovery within that time, she may have to be hospitalized and treated with more aggressive antibiotics through an IV. That's how MRSA operates. If it's MRSA.

My poor mom is in a lot of pain. I spent the day with her today and will be back to take care of her tomorrow, too (I'm so glad that my schedule is weird this week and I'm off on Monday!) She hurts so badly. Her face is still pretty swollen- it looked really bad when I first saw her this morning, and then it got some better, and when I left the swelling had gone up a bit again. Seeing her makes me really scared, and I have to remind myself that if things were really that scary, they wouldn't have let her come home from the hospital. But I am really worried. And I feel bad that she feels bad. I hate it when my mom cries. Especially when I can't really do anything about it. She really can't do anything but take her medicine and keep putting heating pads and warm washcloths on her face. It's so sad. So I would like to ask you to pray for my mom, that what she has isn't the big scary version that doesn't take too kindly to treatment. And that she feels better very soon. Like tonight, preferably.