On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.

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Cyber Monday Ideas

Today is an important day for online retailers. It’s Cyber Monday. (Doesn’t that sound better than Black Friday?) Maybe you’re finishing your shopping before the kids arrive home from school, or perhaps you have plans to curl up with your laptop after dinner tonight. Or maybe, like me, you’re finishing your Christmas shopping from the comfort of your bathroom floor while your pathetic 9-year old hugs the porcelain.

So what do you give to someone who has everything he needs? For someone who doesn’t want anything but appreciates that you’re thinking of her? Or how about a gift that blesses the recipient and empowers the worker who created it? Here are 3 suggestions for today:

1. Shop with Samaritan’s Purse. This is the organization that flies Christmas shoe boxes around the world to underprivileged children. They also do a pretty amazing job of helping out in times of disaster. Did you know they have a Christmas catalog, too? You can give the gift of domestic animals, emergency relief supplies, clean water, and much more. We ordered chicks one year for each of our nieces. I think their mothers were pleased that we did not actually give the chicks to our nieces.

2. Drink coffee. Do good. If you–or someone you love is a coffee junkie–you know that Rwandan coffee is exceptional. Instead of purchasing beans from your not-so-friendly warehouse store, consider purchasing Land of a Thousand Hills coffee. Shipping is free today! I promise you that this is delicious coffee. There are plenty of bean options available, including Haitian varieties, as well as gift merchandise.

Christmas in a Cup Flavored Coffee Gift Set

3. Don’t forget the Philippines. Donations to disaster relief typically ebb when the disaster is no longer front-page news. Damage from Typhoon Haiyan is going to take many years to repair. Click on the button on the right side of my blog to donate through Compassion International. Compassion International has been working through churches in the Philippines since 1977 and has a vested interest in restoring island communities.

Whatever you choose, don’t forget that the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not about the gifts we give each other. It’s about the greatest gift we’ve be given: a helpless baby who came to earth to be our Savior.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m still in the bathroom. Round 2 seems to be over, and my relief should be home in the next few hours.

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Did you read my blog posts for Compassion during September? I signed up to write because I thought, “Hey, I already write a blog, we already sponsor two Compassion children, and I think rescuing children from poverty is a good thing.” Easy enough. As I encouraged others to think about sponsoring a child, my own husband suggested that we sponsor a third child.

Since Joselinne #1 is the same age as G, and Joselyne #2 is S’s age, we thought we’d let H help us choose another child. H knew exactly what she wanted: a 6-year-old girl who lives in Rwanda. Because it’s heart-breaking to read through all the biographies of the available children, we simply chose the child who has been waiting the longest. And so, 364 days after enrolling in Kigina Student Center, Brenda has a sponsor. While Brenda doesn’t strike me as a typical Rwandan name, we knew we had to choose her. A whole year of waiting?! Welcome to our family, Brenda. (Isn’t she ridiculously cute?!)

Brenda in Rwanda

Now if you want to sponsor a child from Rwanda or another country where Compassion serves through the local churches, this is the thank-you gift that awaits you after you register.

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This is my final post for Compassion International‘s Blog Month. As I posted here and here, the goal is to find sponsors for 3,160 children by the end of this month. Today’s assignment is to ruminate on the following quote.

“The presence of dignity doesn’t mean poverty is absent.”

As I glanced up from my laptop, my eyes locked in on our refrigerator. (Yes, my computer station is in the kitchen; no, I wasn’t looking for a snack.) Like many of you, the kitchen refrigerator in our home doubles as a message board/photo gallery/art display area. An orange laminated chore chart hangs in the middle of a collection of touristy magnets that Ryan brings home from his international trips. A neighbor’s homage to vanilla ice cream sandwiches appears next to S’s National Physical Fitness Award. H’s artwork changes on a daily basis, but today a blue dove flies to a green-leafed tree below a very happy yellow sunshine.

On the front of the freezer door are two clips that hold current photos and letters from our sponsored children, Joselinne and Joselyne. The girls call them #1 and #2 to keep them straight. Joselinne #1 is the same age as G, and we’ve been sponsoring her for almost 6 years. We exchange letters regularly, though her father is most often the letter writer. Joselyne #2 is also from Rwanda, but she–like many African children–lives with her siblings and grandmother. She is the same age as S, and when we saw her folder last year at my parents’ church, I felt a tugging on my heart. (Another Joselyne? In Rwanda? With a birthday a week away from S? Coincidence? No way.) She loves to send us letters and drawings. In fact, her most recent drawings were what drew my eye this morning.

IMG_0001Joselyne #2 usually draws flowers. I think that’s a universal little girl thing to draw, but we never know what else to expect. (Case in point: the semi-nude girl in the bottom lefthand corner.) I’m not sure why she chose to include a cup, but I noticed that the cup is full. The car and the house were also interesting to me. Joselyne’s family does not own a car; she walks to school and church. She walks to fetch water and firewood, and I’m not even sure that she understands that all 4 wheels aren’t supposed to be on one side of the car. Her house, too, isn’t grand, but it has windows and a door. I know that, unlike Joselinne #1, she doesn’t have to worry about finding a solidly-constructed house. In fact, this may be her grandmother’s house.

Joselyne #2 is intimate with poverty in ways that you and I never will be; however, her letters and drawings show me that poverty does not define who she is. As does Joselinne #1, her letters always begin with the same salutation: “I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Always.

Mind-blowing, isn’t it? The average Rwandan, like Joselinne’s parents and Joselyne’s grandmother, lives on less than $2 a day, yet these dear families greet me in Christ and write that they regularly pray for me and my family. That’s dignity staring me in the face. These people know that their worth is in Christ, not in their bank accounts.

This isn’t to say that life is rosy for our Joselinnes. Rwandans face a high HIV infection rate, and their country is still recovering from 1994’s horrific genocide. We don’t discuss these topics in our letters, but I wonder how Joselinne #1’s parents both survived the genocide and why Joselynne #2 isn’t living with her parents. When we send checks for the girls’ birthday and Christmas, we receive thank-you notes telling us about the animals and food they purchased. (And they’re buying milk goats and chickens, not hamsters.)

These two beautiful girls may be the faces of poverty, but their lives are a reflection of dignity, hope, and determination. If you’ve never considered sponsoring a child, consider it today. We’ve chosen to focus on the country of Rwanda, but there are many other countries all over the world where you can make a difference in the life of a child. I promise that it will be a life-changing experience: for a child and for you.



Three Things About One Word: Hope

September is half over, but there’s still time to participate in Compassion’s Blog Month. Better late than never, right? Especially when the goal is to release an additional 3,160 children from poverty. That’s why I’ve chosen to write three things about this one word: hope.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” True words, aren’t they? In the two years that I couldn’t conceive or carry a healthy baby to term, my heart was often sick. The minute that our first daughter G was born, however, I knew the meaning of the second half of this verse.

The sweetest moment for a mom

A longing fulfilled

The children’s author E.B. White once notably wrote in a letter that “Hope is the one thing that is left to us, in a bad time.” Bad times are all around us. Yesterday an angry man senselessly killed 12 civilians aboard the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. It is an understatement to call yesterday’s violence “a bad time,” and yet we continue to hope for an end to the long line of violent tragedies that have beset our country in recent years.

Joseline #1 is 11 years old.

Joselinne #1 is 11 years old.

And hope is what sustains the families of these two young girls–interestingly enough who both share the name Joselinne–who have enrolled them in two of Compassion’s Child Development Centers in local Rwandan churches. The parents and grandmother of these two Joselinnes hope that their girls will receive the educational, nutritional, health, and spiritual instruction to live productive adult lives free of the grasps of HIV and poverty.

Joselyne #2 is 8 years old.

Joselyne #2 is 8 years old.

What about you? For what do you hope? Is your heart sick with longing, or have you found a tree of life?