Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Project Letter: HO-229

This letter came from our little Sofia's project in Honduras! Instead of pulling photos from Compassion's website, I'm sharing some from my visit to the center. :)

I am Benjamin H. M., pastor of the (church) and the project where we minister to Sofia. I thank you sincerely for sponsoring Sofia and for your noble generosity that supports all the little boys and girls in poverty. The economic, emotional, and spiritual support, and the love and affection for Sofia deserves noble attention.

One of the biggest problems that our community and church faces in insecurity, due to the expansion of groups of gangs, which intimidate the families. However, we trust in the promises from the Lord, which we are in His hands. The brothers and sisters in our church and the children from the center show their constant faith in this hostile environment.

The center has made a large impact on the lives of the children and we see that they improve in their student duties, are aiming to reach their professional goals, are in line with integrity and good harmony with the parents, and also have a firm desire to understand the scriptures and abide by the heavenly plan. The most important thing is that the values have been transformed. The youth also receive courses on crafts like fashion jewelry, music, cooking, beauty, and others, as a way to provide them with the tools to generate income and support themselves.

In addition to the holistic development program of Compassion that we use at the center for the children, as a church we evangelize and serve the community through "Libra de Amor" (A Pound of Love), which means food for the neediest. We put our church and volunteers from the center at the service of the families in need. Also, we organize activities from the community board, family and personal counseling as well as evangelization through groups at home. Currently as an achievement of the church and the center, there are 11 families, 45 sponsored children and youth who are now active members of the different ministries in our congregation.

I would like to encourage you to continue writing to Sofia. It is very important to send letters to the children, since this supports the sponsor-sponsored child coupling. In most cases, children are misunderstood at home and in the community. For them, this friendship developed through sponsorship and letters is necessary to make their hearts joyful. When they do not receive their letter there is a void and the child can lose interest in continuing attending the center that is part of the Compassion program. Once again, I am highly thankful for your help towards Sofia and this program.

If you're interested in sponsoring a little girl in Honduras, please consider sweet Adeline, who has been waiting more than six months for a sponsor! 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

Today I've been tasked to write about one of my struggles. Since today is a holiday and I sent a few extra hours in bed, I think the appropriate one to talk about would be procrastination.

Ironically, I almost wrote this entry yesterday. And then I decided to put it off.

I don't know why I struggle with it so much. I think part of it is genetic. I know that my parents procrastinate (sorry, mom and dad.) But most of it is on me. Sometimes it's just because I like being comfortable. Say I need to do the dishes. I might plan to do that after breakfast. So I settle into the living room with my coffee and my laptop, catching up on the news, and then the coffee is gone and the news has been read, and I'm not ready to do dishes. Because that's not fun and I'm comfy and I don't want to get up. And I keep finding things to do that do not involve the dishes. And then it's lunch time.

At least that sort of makes sense, though. It makes sense to not want to to do a chore, especially one that is time consuming and a little gross (looking at you, smushy food particles) and honestly, sometimes it hurts my back. But then there are other, stupid little things that I put off and put off and put off for no reason known to myself. Addressing an envelope to put out in the mail. Or filing my kids' letters. I have a HUGE pile of letters to put away. And I have been *thinking* about it for weeks. I even took my file box over to my mom's last week when I went over there for lunch, planning to do it then (or ask her to do it for me, because I have a mental block against it for some reason.) But then it was raining and I didn't want to bring them out of the car! Now here I am, writing a blog post that I put off for 24 hours, because......I was going to file those letters, and I'm putting it off. Again. Good grief.

Every year I hope to be a little more intentional, and I think in some ways it works out. I don't waste as much time as I used to, but I still waste a lot, or put my priorities in a weird order for stupid reasons. I'm not sure that this is one bad habit I'm ever going to completely break. It seems to be part of my DNA.

So PLEASE tell me that you have some weird habit that you struggle with. Something so embarrassingly simple. Like putting off simple tasks because you've developed an irrational aversion to them over time.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sing Out Loud, Sing Out Strong

My writing assignment for today is to share 10 songs I'm loving right now! I tend to listen to a lot of the same music over and over, and I don't listen to a lot of current stuff. So here are ten songs I really like. I could name a million.

1. "14th Street" by Rufus Wainwright. Rufus is one of my favorite artists. I used to give mix CDs of his music out like gospel tracts in high school, trying to make converts. I love Rufus. I haven't kept up with his music as much in recent years because I didn't enjoy some of his newer albums quite as much as I did the first four or five. He's been doing more live recordings and special events, and tribute work- and that doesn't work for me quite as much. "Poses" is my favorite album of his, and I recommend that everyone give it a listen at least once, but this is the first song that popped into my head when I sat down to write this post. "14th Street" is a fun, catchy song from Rufus' third studio album, Want One. And that's a really good album, too. It's a bit more theatrical than "Poses," which has a simpler sound. There are lots of layers in almost all the songs, with orchestras and banjos and multiple tracks of Rufus harmonizing with himself. It's cool.

2. "Life on Mars?" by David Bowie. Oh, how I love David. My best friend and I went to see an orchestral tribute to his work last weekend, and it was so fun- and sentimental. We miss him a lot. "Life on Mars?" is, I think, my favorite Bowie song, though it is hard to choose because there are many that I love for many, many reasons. Some have emotional ties, some tell interesting stories, some are just fun to dance to. The concert closed with this tune, and it was so fitting. I don't know why, but it just worked. To me, this is the quintessential David Bowie tune.

3. "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler. This song is so ridiculous, and the video is even crazier. It's beyond over the top. Maybe that's why I like it. I don't go to karaoke bars, but if I did, this would be my go-to song every time. It just feels epic.

4. "Looks Like We Made It" by Barry Manilow. I can't explain my love of Barry Manilow. I have no idea why I love him so much. I have all his albums, most of them on vinyl. I used to buy extra copies at yard sales and flea markets so I could cut up the covers for the artwork. He's just a happy, sparkly dweeb, who has a nice voice and sings cheesy songs that make me feel good. My best friend and I also got to go see him in concert in 2015, and it was AMAZING. He's so old but he puts on such a good show! I love many of his songs, but this one is my favorite. It's just a nice love song. And I love that I got to hear him see it live- I took a video of most of the song!

5. "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers. Holy Crap, Hot Fuss was an incredible album. I've bought it three or four times because I kept losing copies in my car or accidentally scratching them up, carrying them around everywhere. There aren't a lot of albums that I enjoy listening to start to finish, since I have a short attention span and I like skipping tracks. I am so glad this song has become a meme now. Seeing them online makes me so happy! I love the whole album, but I picked this song because it's just quintessential Killers. I think "Somebody Told Me" was their first single from the album, but this is the song everyone remembers. The video helps.

6. "Dance to the Music" by Sly & the Family Stone. I love so many songs, artists, and albums from the 70s. If I had to choose a favorite decade for music, it'd be a really close tie between that and the 80s, just because I love a lot of that pop. This song always makes me feel good and want to dance.

7. "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" by Paul Simon, featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo. "Graceland" is another album that I can listen to all the way through. It had such an innovative sound- Paul Simon almost always has. Well, I say it's innovative, but really it borrows a lot from other genres and cultures, like zydeco and, of course, South African superstars LBM. I love the spirit of the songs on this album, and I think this one is my favorite (though I also really like "Under African Skies.")

8. "Kathy's Song" by Simon & Garfunkel (live version.) Hey, there's Paul Simon again. I love, love, love Simon & Garfunkel. Their original Greatest Hits album is one of my favorites. But this one is at the top for me. It's so pure and sweet. The lyrics are perfect. I remember an assignment from high school where I had to bring in my favorite poem, and I brought the lyrics to this song. It's basically perfect.

9. "Iris" by Goo Goo Dolls. I'm noticing I'm basically just choosing all the same songs I've claimed as my favorites for the last 10-15 years. Well, good stuff doesn't change, I guess. I'm not sure what originally drew me to this song, but it's the first one I learned to play on the guitar!

10. "Your Song" performed by Ewan McGregor, from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. I have always loved Elton John. And I've always loved this song. But seeing Moulin Rouge was such an experience for me! It is one of my all time favorite movies. It has everything that appeals to me: 80s music, singing, lots of glitter and sparkles, forbidden romance, and some tragedy. I loved the soundtrack, especially the tracks sung by Ewan (also known as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Amazing.) I love this song so much, it's what I chose for walking down the aisle in my wedding!

Friday, January 13, 2017


For this writing assignment, I'm supposed to share about five places I'd like to visit. If only there were just five places I'd like to go! I honestly couldn't narrow it down. I want to be able to visit all of the countries where Compassion works, and there are a couple dozen of those. I want to see several countries in Europe and tons of places in my own country. I want to go to Alaska, Seattle, northern California, Chicago, New York (More than just the airport), New Orleans, the Dakotas.....all over. So since I have to pick five, how about I pick five places I want to go back to?

5. Atlanta. It has been a while since I went to Atlanta- probably before I got married. I feel like we used to go all the time when I was a kid, because I have family there. My dad worked for Delta for a while and my uncle used to live there. My aunt still does. The last time that we were there, mom was working a conference and we were heading on to Disney World after that, so we worked a bit and we also did some fun stuff. There's a lot I like about Atlanta. I like the history and the Civil War museums, even though they were on the wrong side. I loved the zoo- I think I was 10 years old the last time I was there! The botanical gardens are absolutely gorgeous (that was the last trip) and there are lots of cool parks and museums, too. There are a lot of things I'm remembering that would be really fun to re-visit, and a lot that Brandon has never seen before that I want to share with him! 

4. Washington, D.C. I think a lot of people visit Washington for 8th grade trips. My school did that. But I was in 8th grade in 2001. And a big thing happened then that made our school administration feel Washington might not be a safe place to visit just then. My family couldn't really afford the trip, anyway, so I probably wasn't going to go. But the summer after I finished 8th grade, my cousin went to a sports camp thing at a school in Washington, and my aunt and grandpa were going to make the trip up with her, and I got invited along. We went to a few of the museums and monuments, and it was cool- but I'd like to see more of it. And as a 14 year old, I didn't really appreciate what I was seeing at the time. My fascination with politics and the presidency didn't really set in until I was in college. I care a lot more about what I'd be seeing now than I did then. I hope that Brandon and I are able to make a trip over there sometime and see everything that I missed the first time, and give a better look to the places I've already visited. 

3. Gatlinburg. My family used to visit Gatlinburg a lot. I think it was every year for the first few years of my life. And then every other year (we'd alternate between Myrtle Beach and Gatlinburg for a while.) I feel really sentimental about that place, and it makes me sad that I haven't been there in so long! Brandon and I have never taken a vacation together (not since our honeymoon, anyway) and since Gatlinburg is only a few hours away, I'm really hoping we can go there sometime in the next two or three years. So much of it is kitschy and touristy, but I still love it. I love the mountains and the little shops, and all the candy stores (a large part of the town smells like sugar.) I like driving through the woods and I like eating at the Pancake Pantry. It just makes me feel happy. 

2. Honduras. I liked being there and the people were really nice, but mostly I just want to hug my kids again. Honduras is really pretty and the people are lovely, but I didn't quite connect with the culture as deeply as I did with the next place. 

1. Tanzania. For over two years, I thought about Tanzania every day. I ached to go back there. I miss the red dirt and the clay homes and the big pots of food that I got really sick of eating. I miss hearing Swahili and sweetly accented English. I miss the radiant joy and open hearts. Since I went to Honduras last October, that ache has subsided just a little. I deeply miss being with my kids in Honduras, and feel like I have to get back there as soon as I can to squeeze them and play with them and hold hands and talk with them. But Honduras is a lot closer and more accessible than Tanzania is. If I got a ticket right now to go anywhere I wanted, it would be Tanzania. If I had to move to another country for some inexplicable reason, it would be Tanzania. If I could recommend a place for someone to visit, for a week or a month, it would be Tanzania. It gets under your skin and sets up permanent residence in your heart. You can't shake it. And I so hope that I get to go back someday. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Good Friends Who Influence People

This is day four of my thirty day writing challenge! I think I'm making pretty good time!

Today I'm supposed to write about someone who inspires me. When I first read that, I felt a little stuck. I know that there are a lot of people I really like and enjoy, people I want to emulate or just love reading about. Jane Goodall, Jim Henson, David Bowie, and Malala Yousafzai all come to mind. But I don't think "inspire" means that you really like someone. Or even that you hope some aspects of their life look like your own. I hope I'm as brave as Malala and Jane (who were brave in different ways.) I hope I'm as creative as Jim and as innovative as David. None of those people have ever stirred me to action, though. I double-checked the dictionary today, to see what the word inspire really means, rather than just working off of what I feel like it means. To inspire is to fill someone with the urge or ability to do something. Synonyms include motivate, encourage, influence, and affect. So let me tell you about someone who really and truly inspires me.

My friend Hannah has had a really big impact on my life, in ways that she probably doesn't understand. I've grown a lot as a person and as a Christian in the past several years, and I owe part of that to Hannah. We have never met in person- our friendship exists because of the internet, and our meeting through the Compassion sponsor community. But that friendship means as much to me as if she'd lived next door to me for ten years. Hannah is a patient, gentle, kind, loving person who has inspired and encouraged me in many ways.

Her patience and gentleness when dealing with difficult people has inspired me to try to extend those same qualities when I am frustrated with someone. She may be angered or irritated by some current event, but instead of voicing those opinions publicly, like I might, she shares them quietly with individuals- which avoids a lot of arguments and maddening discussions with people who feel differently, I'm sure. If someone writes something mean or stupid on one of her posts, she deletes the post instead of contradicting them. She shares a lot of joy with the people around her, working hard to encourage them and lift them up if she's surrounded by people who are feeling down. She's inspired me to think before I post, to reconsider my words and my tone, and to be a better representative of my faith (which is all about love and not about arguing.) The person I was on the internet even three or four years ago is so different than the person I am today, and so much of that is due to Hannah's influence. She inspires me to do better in my interactions with people.

Hannah is a great friend to me and is always available to chat, to be a sounding board, to listen to my problems and offer me encouragement. She's very available to her friends and is thoughtful and loving in her responses. If I ask her to pray, I know she will. If I am feeling burdened by something and tell her about it, I know she shares those burdens, too. Yesterday I was so anxious waiting for something to come to pass, and she messaged me throughout the day, telling me that she was waiting with me. She lives hundreds of miles away and we have never been in each other's presence physically, but her heart was with me as she went about her busy day. She inspires me to be a better friend, both to the people in my every day life and the people that I only know through digital interaction.

And Hannah has inspired me to be a better sponsor! Long ago, I "met" her through the Compassion Bloggers network and an old social network the sponsors used to have. I loved her enthusiasm for her kids and the way she cared about each of them as individuals. I loved her blog posts and her ideas for things to send her sponsor kids. Hannah's enthusiasm for Compassion and for ministering to children through letters had a huge influence on me, and inspired me to pray for and write to our kids faithfully. Her passion for the ministry helped awaken a similar passion in me. I really believe part of the reason God placed her in my life was to inspire me to be the best sponsor I can be, which has led to accepting more financial commitments, more correspondence kids, and saying "yes" to God's prompting to go on TWO overseas trips in less than three years. And because of those things, I've had these amazing experiences, met some beautiful people, and now write to over 100 kids all around the world.

Thank you, Hannah, for being so awesome! I'm grateful for your friendship and for the impact you've had on my life!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

How Rude.

Well, skipping one day of my writing challenge isn't too bad. I've got plenty of time to kill today so I figured I'd stop by and write something.

Today I've been tasked with sharing my top three pet peeves. I feel like I have a lot of "peeves." There are a lot of things that bother me, some of them irrational. I can't stand seeing certain actors in movies (I will boo or throw things in the direction of the television. Or claim to be dying.) I have a weird beef with celery and honeydew melon. Overreacting to things like this is done partly in the name of comedy, but gosh, I really, really do not like some things.

This post feels like complaining. Remember that I was asked to do it.

My biggest pet peeve, I guess, would be when something is happening that's not fair or right. I really can't stand it. When I was a kid, I'd get incredibly stressed if I read a chapter book that had someone being mistreated in it. The same thing would happen with television shows. My brother and I were just talking about this the other day- I got the entire series of Full House on DVD for Christmas, and we were texting about all the crazy things that happened on that goofy show. One episode that always infuriated the both of us was when Michelle, the youngest daughter (do I really have to explain that?) kept getting a free pass for her bad behavior from dad Danny. The older two girls, Stephanie and DJ, would get in trouble for the smallest infractions. Near the end of the episode, spoiled Michelle brings her kiddie pool into the kitchen and fills it with water. Stephanie and DJ call their father into the room, so he can see that Michelle has a problem with feeling entitled and privileged. Danny comes in and immediately blames his older daughters. I don't know why that enrages me so much. It's a TV show! But it's not right.

My moral compass is more like an overbearingly loud weather alert radio. It cannot be ignored. And it's incredibly obnoxious at times, particularly when it's going off because of something inane and not particularly pressing (like when my phone alert goes off just to tell me that there was lightning somewhere seven miles away.) I don't talk about my moral compass to be self righteous or make me sound like I think I'm perfect. I make mistakes all the time. And sometimes those mistakes include reacting when I'm trying to stifle my moral compass! This past year I really struggled with some issues floating around the election. I know that my posts upset some people because they thought I was criticizing them, or because they didn't agree with me. My tone wasn't always as gentle as I hoped it would be (that happens sometimes and I try to self-censor by deleting more combative posts later on.) I'm not going to say that people of one religious persuasion are incapable of voting for a particular party. That's ridiculous. But I could not tolerate some particular statements that those around me made regarding the morality and ethics of their votes. The hypocrisy and, well, unfairness of it all brought me literal, physical pain. I started having high blood pressure around the times of the debates because there were things that were said that were not true (which is something that is wrong, which bothers my moral compass) and there was no accountability for it. Which also bothered my moral compass. I think telling the truth is something that is objectively always "right" and it bugs me that we now live in a world where truth is questioned, or bastardized on the regular. It will be interesting to see what the next few years are like. No matter who had won the election, we'd be in the same place we are now, because of the way our minds have been shaped over the past few years. So I'm not blaming the person who won. I'm blaming everyone. I hope that someday soon we can get back to the point where we don't think a myth-busting website has a dishonest agenda just because they're reporting something that upsets us. If someone debunks a viral news story that was making you feel better about your viewpoint or your personal stance on something, they're not lying. They're telling you a truth you don't want to hear. I didn't want to hear that the viral video about a big hawk picking up a small child was faked, because I thought that was really funny and interesting. But when I found out that it wasn't, I didn't say "oh, no, that's a lie. I know what those birds are capable of. I know they really do that. The pro-bird people just want us to think that they're nicer than that, and that they wouldn't want to do something like that." That's silly. But that's where we are now.

I think I'm going to decline to follow the assignment to the letter today, because listing more pet peeves would just stress me out. My emotions are already running pretty high, and I've got some anxiety issues going on because of something I have to do this afternoon (a skippy heart and butterflies in the tummy. Manageable but not enjoyable.) You can just take my word for it that there are plenty more things out there that annoy me, though none of them are directly linked to the craziness that's going on across the country right now.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Origami Butterflies

I made it! I'm back for the second day of my writing challenge- on time! Woohoo! It helps that it's freezing cold here and I have no motivation to do anything besides sit with my blankets and my laptop, avoiding my responsibilities.

Today I've been tasked with writing about something somebody has told me about myself that I've never forgotten. That opens up some doors to pretty hurtful things. I won't forget the camp counselor who told me I had anxiety because I didn't pray enough. Or the Bible study member who told me that, after talking it over with everyone else in our group, she didn't feel that I was a good enough Christian (and she linked that to my anxiety, too.) I won't forget the time a relative told me I'd have better friends if I dressed differently, or the time another one told me that I should choose a different career path than the one I was interested in at the time, because I "probably wouldn't be that good at it, anyway." But those things aren't really fun to dwell on. Or write about. Since we're at it, though, if you're reading this- your words matter. Some things are hard to forget. And if you think it's ok to gossip in Bible study group, you should spend less time gossiping and more time reading  your Bible. But I digress.

There is one thing someone told me once that is positive (shocker!) that I don't think I'll ever forget. It happened a couple of years ago when I was in Tanzania. I had volunteered before the trip to help put together a craft for the VBS day we'd be hosting. I never meant to be put in charge, especially since I didn't have any spare room in my luggage, but I thought my experience helping to plan programs at the library would be helpful. Our theme was butterflies and how coming to know Jesus is a transformative experience. I thought it would be fun to do thumbprint caterpillars and coffee filter butterflies. The samples we put together after dinner one evening were so cute! It was fun seeing adults of all ages inking their thumbs and making these little caterpillars on construction paper, or getting creative with their coffee filter designs. We were doing the VBS day at a project between Singida, where we spent most of the week, and Arusha, where we started and ended the trip. We loaded up our luggage and checked out of the Singida hotel to head out to the project, which was a few hours away from where we had been staying. As we pulled into the muddy road leading to the project, our trip leader turned to ask me if we had remembered to get the luggage containing the craft supplies from the hotel office. No, we had not. Because we (meaning I) didn't know that it was in the office. I thought that our hosts had it and it had already been on the bus! My mind started racing, thinking of something else we could do with the craft and school supplies we were bringing as part of a project gift. Handprint butterflies were easy enough and could be done with crayons and paper. And, miraculously, one of our travelers was a big fan of origami and had brought a bunch of paper "just in case." And he knew how to make butterflies. When we set up the small classroom for our craft area, he taught a few people how to do the butterflies while I explained the handprints. It was chaotic and passed by way too quickly, but everything turned out fine. All the kids had fun- and some of the grandmotherly lunch ladies and project staff sat in and learned some origami, too!

Two mornings later, when we had finished our game drive (aka safari) and made it to our final hotel, I was joined by our trip leader at breakfast. We made small talk and I told him a little bit about my life back home, and he mentioned how glad he was that everything worked out for our VBS day. I was thrilled at this fun example of God's provision for the trip; "provision" was a word I used over and over to describe my journey and the events leading up to it! And then Sean, the leader, said "I was so impressed with how you handled everything! It was a crazy situation and you brought everything together so well. You must be a really calm, cool headed person." And I nearly spit out my hot chocolate. I burst into laughter, which really confused Sean. I thanked him and explained that those words have never, ever been used to describe me in my life. For all my years leading up to that point, everyone has seen me as an anxious, neurotic, overly emotional mess. I told him about my anxiety disorder and what a miracle it was that I was sitting there in that hotel, in Africa, getting ready to meet my sponsor children. I told him about how God had provided (provision! There's that word again) a calm spirit and a joyful heart, and the encouragement of so many family and friends. I bragged on God, sharing how I had fully expected to have a panic attack every day during the trip, and had made all these plans for how to cope with them and pull myself out of them as quickly as I could- but I really only had issues once! And even then, I was more sick than panicky. If I had felt that way back home, I would have had a full blown anxiety attack and probably had to miss work the next day. But everything worked out fine.

The fact that Sean was under the impression that I was a chill person, and shared that with me, still amuses me to this day. And it means a lot to me. It reminds me of God's faithfulness in a situation I never would have been able to dream of, let alone handle, without Him. It reminds me of the things I can do and have done- now when I'm feeling anxious about something, I tell myself, "girl, you have been to Africa, you can drive two exits down on the freeway. Seriously."  And it reminds me of how far I've come! My anxiety isn't "cured"- the structure of my brain is not such that I will ever just "get over" this condition. But I cope with it so well now. It's not perfect, but it works for me. I lean less heavily on others when I'm experiencing anxiety, and I've learned several tricks for helping me cope with an attack- or warding one off completely. My life looks so much different than it did just a few years ago because I have learned to remind my brain that I'm in charge, and I'm not letting it ruin my fun. And for that, I am so grateful!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Room Without A Roof

In the new year, I'd like to work on my writing more. It's something I enjoy, and sometimes I think that other people enjoy it, too. I mentioned on my blog about a month ago that I may not be posting much in the future. I'd like to amend that; I think that I'm going to try to keep writing, but I might not be keeping up with some of the same types of posts that I used to. I will definitely keep advocating for children in poverty, and will definitely keep sharing about my own kids, but I think I need a break from my "regularly scheduled" type posts!

While wasting some time on Pinterest yesterday, I came across some interesting posts about writing challenges. I know that I won't be able to keep up if I promise to write something every day. I have never been successful at those kinds of things. I'm making a "temperature blanket right now, crocheting one row in a different color each day to correspond with the weather. At the end of the year, I'll have a big, beautiful blanket! But we're only one week into the new year and I'm already two days behind! :)

The first assignment in this little challenge was to list ten things that make me really happy! So here they are:

  1. Laughing with my husband! Whether it's watching a funny movie (or making fun of a really bad one) or playfully picking on each other, Brandon is really good at making me laugh. And I love making him laugh. I feel a little proud of myself when I get him cracking up hard enough that he sounds like he can't breathe!
  2. Music! I have always loved music! I like to listen to it when I work and when I sleep. I attach memories and feelings to songs and albums. .I love singing in the car and I love when I have someone to sing with me. If I were to look back on a time, searching for a memory of vague happiness, music is always involved. I felt happy going on field trips, sneaking headphones and a splitter to share with my friend. I felt happy catching a ride with classmates after play practices (or even detention....oops) singing along to musical soundtracks. I felt happy as a little kid, making my Barbies "lip sync" a concert or seven. And I'm happy I'm going to a concert tonight! My best friend and I are going to see an orchestral tribute to our favorite artist, and I'm really looking forward to it! 
  3. Dogs! I really love all animals- Brandon and I love visiting the zoo and learning about animals through documentaries and books. But dogs make me so happy. Meeting a new dog is always the best part of visiting someone's house. I follow dozens of dog-related facebook pages and instagram accounts related to dogs, whether they're cute puppies, senior dogs living out their golden years at a rescue farm, or videos of pups just being their sweet, innocent selves (like the one I saw last night of the lab who danced and pranced waiting for a machine to throw a ball for him. God bless.) Even if you are more of a cat person (.........) or don't really care about animals all that much, sometimes seeing a dog being its regular, goofy self can cheer you up. 
  4. Books! Reading books is fun, of course, but even being around them makes me happy! Growing up, just walking into a library or bookstore could relieve my tension and lift my spirits, even if I knew I wasn't coming home with any of the books! There's just something about them that's relaxing and cheerful. Of course, walking into a library or bookstore now also makes me feel like I should be working. I tidy the shelves sometimes without being asked. I can't help it. 
  5. My job! Work actually makes me happy. Now, of course, there are times (or situations or people) that do NOT make me happy. But in general, I'm happy to be at work. Driving over there I have a sense that I could be doing more interesting things with my day, but when I get there, it's all good. My coworkers are the best. I have so much fun at work sometimes, I feel a little guilty. I even come in early at least once a week to have dinner with those coworkers who are working longer days than I am. And it's not just my coworkers, either! I like greeting my favorite patrons and handing out stickers and seeing kids excited about books. I like making recommendations and asking patrons to come back and tell me if something's good. 
  6. Nostalgia! I think a little bit of nostalgia makes everyone feel good sometimes, but it usually makes me feel really warm and fuzzy inside. I get really excited when I remember the name of a forgotten favorite toy or TV show from my childhood. I like watching the same movies and shows over and over (as I'm typing this, I'm listening to the DVD set of Full House I got myself for Christmas!!) I hope that when I'm a mom, my kids will like the things I've saved for them that made me so happy when I was little! It's nice that something that made you feel good when you were 8 can still make you smile 20 years later. 
  7. Feeding people! Playing hostess is fun, but I like feeding people even if they aren't coming to my house. I like to bake and bring stuff to work, or to family gatherings, just to make people happy. There's something sacred about sharing food. I honestly wanted to make something and take it with me last October to Honduras- I figured fudge or cookies would make it safely and would still taste good on the second day, when I'd be visiting the child I sponsor with Manna 4 Lempira. Sadly, there just wasn't enough room in my bags! 
  8. Culture! Well, experiencing other cultures. And meeting people from other countries! I sometimes feel a little awkward because I get excited when I meet someone from another country. I love accents and trying to guess where people are from. I've hung around the pharmacy to talk to the Senegalese pharmacy tech before, or spent extra time helping my Bengali patrons. I like borrowing our "world" music CDs from the library, and trying new food at one of my city's numerous immigrant-owned restaurants. I never minded doing reports on different countries in school because I got to learn about all the customs, costumes, and cuisine! 
  9. Comedy! I know I already said I love to laugh with my husband, but I like laughing by myself and with other people, too. I will pick comedy over other genres almost any time. I save books and articles that make me laugh. I will listen to the same comedy specials over and over because they make me laugh and that's invaluable. I even save funny photos and share them in albums on facebook, because I love laughing and sometimes I need a place to go where I can find one when I'm down. It brings me a lot of joy to know that my friends like these albums, too, and get excited when they see that I've posted in them. Laughing myself sick is something I do on an embarrassingly regular basis. But I think it's good for me. 
  10. Kids! Kids make me happy. I work a few hours a week in a childcare center watching three and four year olds, and it is so much fun. I don't get the opportunity to babysit very often, but I love it. Family gatherings are extra fun when our little cousins are there. Kids are hilarious and fun. We have a lot in common. We love dinosaurs (and dogs!), playing dress up, coloring, arts and crafts, reading storybooks, the works. I can't wait to be a mom and I hope someday I get to be an aunt, too. And I'm thankful that my friends let me love on their kids and send them fun mail and surprises. 
Now that I've spent this time sharing things that make me happy, I'd love to know something that makes you happy! 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Project Letter: BO-361

Here's a letter from Carla's project in Bolivia!  All the photos came from Compassion's website. 

Fraternal greetings in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, hoping that the grace and peace of the Highest One overwhelms you.

My name is Roberto R. I am the Pastor in the (church) in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. We work with the Child Development Center where you sponsor Carla.

We are deeply thankful for the work and social help you give to Carla. Sponsorship is a great blessing for us and this is a great tool to teach the Gospel to the families that are receiving this benefit. We know that this is the great commission for the church; to preach the good news. The letters that the sponsored children receive are an encouragement where their worries are transformed into strength.

The church is located in a neighborhood that is growing in population because a lot of people from the center of Santa Cruz are starting to move here. Many people are moving to the suburbs of the city so we, as a church, have the need to preach the gospel to families that don't know the way to salvation. A really good way to reach them is to get to the families with food and education based on Biblical principles and Christian values. During these times we have been struggling with social insecurity, alcoholism, and drug addictions. Sadly our neighborhood is involved in these same social misbehaviors, but we firmly stand with the conviction that only God can change men from their sins.

The church is accomplishing the work in the measure of our possibilities, knowing that the center is a social tool of the church for this community. We have enthusiasm but we struggle with problems like family disintegration, very low family commitment, social dangers, etc.

We see big differences in sponsored children. They are healthy and have Christian values. The student center is an oasis inside their world where their reality is another one. Some of them do not have food, they don't have affection compensation, nor any advice, despite that all, they try to overcome their reality making a difference. We have former sponsored children that already graduated from different professions and they are also spiritual leaders in their churches.

This last year we have been putting an emphasis on missions, we are forming missionary teams, and we are also doing recess with the children from the suburbs and going to schools. The reception of letters and gifts are priceless for our sponsored children, we can see the great joy in their faces when they know that somebody remembers them. This has even more value because they don't physically know their sponsor, they feel that someone cares for them unconditionally, and that feeds their self-esteem. One can see the difference with the other children who don't receive anything, they feel sad. We know that sponsors have little time, but we encourage sponsors to please continue writing letters if they can. We know that this is a great encouragement for the boys and girls.

We ask you to please pray for the students and the people responsible of the student center, because it is a really delicate work. I say goodbye with a fraternal hug, wishing many blessings from our Lord Jesus Christ for your support of Carla.

I also found a video filmed at Carla's project! It was shared by Compassion Canada's facebook page, and I recognized the uniform shirts. :) I asked them just to be sure that it was her project, and I was right! 

If you are interested in sponsoring a child from Carla's project, precious Dulce has been waiting over six months for a sponsor! She's 9 years old and her birthday is July 11. You can read more about her here!