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Acclimating to the Medical World

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I arrived back home from my trip to the Dominican Republic on Thursday night. On Friday morning, Seth received a phone call from Mayo Clinic notifying us that we needed to be there for two days of appointments for further evaluation of his eye cancer starting at 8:00 Tuesday morning.

There wasn’t much time to prepare, so we quickly arranged child care for our two oldest and decided to bring the three-year-old “baby” with us. Because of the timing of the first appointment, we knew we’d need to travel to Mayo the night prior. With that in mind, I got right on the task of reserving two nights in a hotel. I spent two hours scouring the internet for an affordable hotel room that had decent customer ratings and was also a reasonable distance from Mayo Clinic. It didn’t take long for financial implications and worries to set in regarding this medical journey on which we were embarking. Two nights of hotel. Cha ching. Meals for three people for two days. Cha ching. Gas two and from. Cha ching. Parking. Cha ching. Deductible, then 20% coinsurance for two days of appointments at Mayo Clinic. Cha ching. Even with financial implications looming large, there’s clearly nothing we can do about it. The costs are a necessary part of restoring health. So we press on, even so, knowing that medical bills will be the least of our worries if we can just pull through the other side of this health crisis.

Tuesday morning came before we knew it. There we were in the hotel’s breakfast nook eating scrambled eggs, sausage and french toast. I noted a heaviness in the air the moment we walked in. I recalled the fact that it was a Tuesday morning, and most, if not all of the people in the room were visiting because of significant medical concerns.

Maisie, our “baby,” coughed while she was eating breakfast. I held a large, white napkin up to her mouth as quickly as I could and told Seth in a whisper “We need to cover her mouth when she coughs in here. We need to be as careful as we can.” Moments later, I got up to get more orange juice and overheard a lady speaking quietly to the hotel’s breakfast attendant. “We just can’t afford to take a chance. I’m here for eight weeks of chemo the way it is.” It was then that I noticed, the woman and her husband had moved tables AWAY from us, to the back corner of the room. Yep. I was right on that coughing.

We knew we were getting close to Mayo Clinic when we started noticing an unusually large number of hotels downtown Rochester. And we passed the “Limb Lab,” the biggest and most beautiful store we’d ever seen dedicated to prosthetic limbs.

Mayo Clinic was on our right as we pulled in. The parking garage was to the left. When we got out of the vehicle, Maisie said “Is this where you work, daddy?” Seth responded, “No, this is where they’re gonna make my eye better.” Maisie probed with another question, and Seth gently tried to pull some wool over her three-year-old eyes by responding with some vague, not-really-true answer. I noted quietly that it would probably be developmentally appropriate to share that his eye has “an owie” and the doctors are going to help him fix it. I figured there was no reason to beat around the bush. Eventually, she was going to realize daddy has “an owie” on his eye, so we might as well begin addressing it now. Seth agreed and all was well.

We proceeded to patient check-in, which was more like a gigantic hotel than a medical clinic. Seth received a detailed schedule for the next two days, but we were reminded that the schedule is subject to change at any moment. That first day, he was booked in back-to-back appointments from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. which consisted of multiple vision exams, special photography and imaging of the eye, and blood work.

We made our way back to the area Seth had most of his appointments for the day. Seth was greeted warmly and called back immediately. I stayed in the waiting area with Maisie, trying to keep her quiet and entertained. Several individuals with thick eye patches came through as we waited. I couldn’t help but believe this was a glimpse into our future.

After we’d been there a while, an elderly gentleman came over, sat down beside us, and gave Maisie a small bouncy ball. To be honest, I thought he was a little crazy. Give a three year old a bouncy ball in a waiting room at Mayo Clinic? Disaster in waiting. But it was great. Maisie threw the ball much more gently than I would’ve ever guessed, and the scene brought smiles to people waiting near us and with us. I was wrong, so wrong. There was power in that bouncy ball, and there was power in the presence of my three year old playing innocently amidst such medical struggle. The fragility of the elderly woman seated in a wheelchair next to us struck me. She smiled ever so slightly as Maisie threw the ball. I wondered how much she could see. I wondered when the last time was that she was able to throw a ball, catch a ball, or get down on the floor to pick up a ball.

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After two to three hours of waiting, Maisie wasn’t tolerating the waiting room anymore, so we went out into the long hallway to change things up. I sat down on a couch and made my sleepy self comfortable. Maisie walked the windowed ledge. The dichotomy between Maisie’s innocence and the medical world was evident once again. There she was walking the ledge as people talked about catheterizing, chemotherapy, “this is all we can do,” and “I’m hanging in there. I’m tough you know.” I pondered all the things Maisie doesn’t know about life yet. I pondered our perceived strength vs. our real-life weaknesses. We’re all walking on the ledge, really. We’re all hanging in there as best as we can. We’re all making the best out of situations that are less than ideal, whether this month’s reality is chemotherapy or living paycheck to paycheck.

I finally gave up. Maisie had been walking the ledge for who knows how long. And I was getting sleepy sitting there on that couch. The exhaustion was really setting in from my trip to the Dominican Republic, four days acclimating to home, and now the trip to Mayo Clinic for Seth’s eye cancer. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d fallen asleep while Maisie watched some silly kids surprise egg video on YouTube. Just as I dozed off, Seth approached. He was done, but needed to head down to blood work. So off we went.

Blood work was crazy busy. Chairs and couches were lined in rows. I invited Maisie to pick a seat, and she invited daddy to sit down next to her. They enjoyed a few minutes together before he was called in.

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All in all, Seth spent 4 1/2 hours in appointments that first day at Mayo Clinic. We ate lunch, took a nap in the hotel room, made a best effort to bring Maisie swimming, and joined Seth’s cousin for dinner.

As we got ready for bed at the end of the day, I told Seth “I can’t quite seem to get my bearings. I feel like I’m totally out of routine.” “You’d better get used to it,” he said, “we’re going to be out of routine for a while now.”

Yep. Out of routine, we most definitely were. Out of routine, we most definitely are.

I brushed my teeth three times that first day. The familiarity and predictability of the habit I’d had since toddlerhood was oddly refreshing to my spirit in the midst of the unknown medical world to which we were quickly acclimating.

This blog post is part of a series I’m writing about our journey through my husband’s eye cancer. If you’d like to read the rest of the posts in the series, click here and you’ll be connected to the first post I published about our journey. All posts in the eye cancer series are listed and linked at the bottom of that post for your convenience. You can also access the series anytime by clicking the apple picture on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, www.divineinthedaily.com.

greensig

 

 

 

Jill Tucker - Sounds as though you had an amazing trip!! Praying for your family and for miraculous healing! Love, JillJanuary 28, 2015 – 6:15 pm

The Apple of My Eye

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Less than 48 hours before I was scheduled to leave for my trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International, my husband called to share the news that he has choroidal melanoma. Eye cancer. I’d just finished my morning workout when he called, and had a whole day of packing and preparing planned for the day ahead. But as I talked to my husband at the entrance to the gym, I began to feel sick. Literally sick. Packing and preparing for my upcoming trip was urgent, yes. But this was life altering and needed my attention today.

The day before, my husband, Seth, had gone in for a routine eye appointment. He shared with the optometrist that he’d been experiencing constant, but dim strobing lights in the corner of his right eye. She evaluated further, told him he likely had a detached retina, and made him an appointment with an ophthalmologist the following morning at 8:00 a.m. We were told he’d need surgery to repair the detached retina that afternoon, so I was ready for anything the way it was. Little did we know, it wasn’t a detached retina at all. It was eye cancer.

Seth didn’t go into work that day. And I didn’t pack or prepare for my trip as planned. We spent time together. We processed together. We ate lunch together. We called our parents together. We made a few key contacts together. We rested together. And in the evening, we shared the news with the kids together.

Needless to say, by the time Friday came rolling along, I was in panic mode. I now had one day to do what I’d originally planned to do in two days. Not only that, I was battling confusion and emotion related to the fact that I was about to leave on the trip of a lifetime writing on behalf of Compassion International, while also facing the reality of my husband’s cancer.

Immediately following Seth’s diagnosis, the ophthalmologist had contacted Mayo Clinic to see if Seth could be scheduled with one of the nation’s leading doctors in the treatment of eye cancer. Apparently, the doctor hadn’t been taking new patients, but they really wanted to see if there way any way Seth could get in with him. Fortunately, we got in. Well, at least we got penciled in for January 29-30. Our appointments weren’t confirmed, but likely.

My husband and I agreed. While this was absolutely NOT an ideal scenario, there was NO reason for me to cancel my travel plans. The appointments had been penciled in at Mayo. In the meantime, there was nothing we could do but wait. So we decided to proceed. As planned. I would go on the trip with Compassion International and live my dream of writing on behalf of children living in extreme poverty.

So yes, back to that Friday when I was packing and preparing like a maniac. I was non-stop all day long. In fact, it wasn’t until 9:00 p.m. that I finally finished everything and tucked myself into bed. Unfortunately, I’d packed, prepared and worked myself like a maniac so much so that I didn’t get a minute of sleep that night before the trip.

Seth and I refused to let this diagnosis get the best of us. I wanted that to hold true for my trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International, too. So Saturday morning, with zero minutes of sleep in me and a big trip ahead of me, I said good-bye to Seth in the dark of 2:45 a.m. and left to meet family friends who had graciously agreed to drive me to the airport. Later that afternoon in the Miami International Airport, I published a blog post explaining the state of my heart and soul at the start of this trip that meant the world to me. It was vague, but as specific as I could be without revealing the recent eye cancer diagnosis. My goal was to embrace the trip whole-heartedly, so I was bound and determined to keep it free of cancer talk.

The trip was amazing and an honor of a lifetime. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. But I shouldn’t have been surprised when I experienced another near sleepless night mid-way through the trip and wasn’t able to get the day’s blog post published as I’d hoped. I’d come to the end of myself. I was basically a wreck for the first part of a day. I was on this trip to give, yes. But I also needed to learn how to receive. Planning, preparing and executing had been close companions. But now, I really needed to surrender it all. God was clearly at work, transforming me simultaneously and uniquely through my husband’s eye cancer and the trip of my dreams.

It’s been ten days since I returned. We’ve already been to Mayo Clinic for three nights and 2 1/2 days of appointments with doctors. I’ve spent most of the past ten days in a foggy, exhausted state. My emotions have been all over the place. Neutral, angry, sad, distant, distracted, empty, and finally two days ago, back to normal for the most part.

We’ve debated extensively how to share medical updates with family and friends. A Caring Bridge site was recommended, but for a couple reasons, we decided it wasn’t a fit for us. Seth considered starting a blog to document the journey. He even brainstormed titles, had a vision for his posts, and researched available URLs. But he decided the commitment to maintain a blog while managing his health and work would be too difficult. That left us with my blog. While this blog was never, ever intended as a place to “update family and friends about our life,” it is a public forum where you can pop in and read as you wish.

So we agreed my blog would be the best place to share this journey. But I still needed time to discern. I pondered in silence through days of exhaustion and uncertainty. I journaled the days I wanted to write, but wasn’t in any mood to type or edit. I contemplated a scenario in which I’d remain completely silent about Seth’s eye cancer on the blog, but realized quickly that a silent approach isn’t in line with who I am as a writer and would ultimately feel disingenuous to my readers. Plus, I was confident that this journey fit perfectly within my new blog vision, to “love what you live,” even when it’s less than ideal.

Mid last week when we were at Mayo Clinic for three days, we finally decided to make the news public on Facebook. When 230+ people responded with words of encouragement and promises of prayer, I knew right then and there that we had to find a way to update the caring circle of family and friends around us. Practically speaking, I’m in no emotional state to field non-stop calls, texts and emails. So the answer became clear from all angles – blog it will be.

I’m approaching this series gently, with as few expectations as possible. Because the truth is, we have no idea what to expect along the way. So I’ll write when I want to write, when I need to write, and when I’m able to write. This series will include basic factual updates, but won’t be full of jargon you’d have to look up in a medical dictionary to understand. This series will include insight into my feelings throughout the journey, but won’t reveal every detail of my private thought life as wife and caregiver. And last, but not least, I’ll definitely be telling stories and making observations about the world of medicine and cancer, caregiving and loving, believing and trusting in God’s goodness, even when life’s thrown you a major curveball. And yes, there will be vague references to patients and doctors, spouses and families, visitors and helpers along the way. Because we’re all on this journey of life together. We’re all here to learn from one another and love one another, even when life’s hard.

So please join us here for updates as you wish. For the next three to four weeks, I’ll be blogging our journey through eye cancer. After that, posts will be occasional as significant updates arise. As with any major series I write, I’ll put “The Apple of My Eye” graphic on the right sidebar of my blog. Anytime you’re looking for an update, get on your laptop, click the apple graphic (picture) on the right side of my blog, and it’ll connect you to this post. Scroll down to the bottom (just below), and I’ll include links to ALL posts I’ve written in the eye cancer series. The most recent post will, of course, always be on my home page.

He’s positive. He’s upbeat. He expects to get through this without a hitch. He’s approaching this with bravery, courage and hope for best possible outcomes. He’s not looking for pity, sadness, despair or hopelessness. Plentiful words of affirmation will suffice just fine for my man. Yes, he has eye cancer. But he’s still the apple of my eye.

Other posts in this series:

Acclimating to the Medical World

greensig

 

 

 

 

Amy - Thank you, sweet Jennifer. You are faithful and dear to my heart.January 27, 2015 – 1:28 pm

Amy - Wow! That’s fantastic. Thank you so much, Mark, for your thoughts, prayers and positive, specific focus towards Seth. We appreciate it very much.January 27, 2015 – 1:27 pm

Amy - Thank you, Kim, for your generous and positive words.January 27, 2015 – 1:26 pm

Amy - Thanks Monica. I will definitely let you know if/when we need some help. Appreciate you so much.January 27, 2015 – 1:25 pm

Amy - Thank you, Annette. You are always a blessing to me. :)January 27, 2015 – 1:25 pm

Amy - Hi Amanda! It’s a pleasure to meet you and good to hear you had positive outcomes with choroidal melanoma so many years ago. I mentioned this on my response to you on Facebook, but had they not been able to get us in at Mayo, they were going to send us to Philadelphia as well. Had that been the case, we probably would have seen the same doctor you did. Thanks for following, and I’m sure we’ll get to “know” one another through the journey. Best wishes to you. :)January 27, 2015 – 1:24 pm

Amy - I do, sweet Sandra. Thank you for your steadfast prayer support.January 27, 2015 – 1:22 pm

Jennifer Camp - Dearest Amy, praying for you both, sister. xoJanuary 27, 2015 – 3:10 am

Jessica Revak Milkes - Thank you Amy! I hung onto every word of that. I love the love you two share… It’s heartwarming :)January 27, 2015 – 2:56 am

Meigan Thornton - :)January 27, 2015 – 2:24 am

Melissa Wilkowski Sterling - You guys are right to expect the best possible outcome, having seen a couple of these in my career from what Seth posted on FB sounds like you guys got the best possible prognosis/treatment plan that you could get. Good luck to you both, you’ve got this.January 26, 2015 – 9:50 pm

Carol Femling - I’ll see you all on Sunday. Looking forward to staying with my sweet grandkids!January 26, 2015 – 9:44 pm

Carol Femling - Love you all to the MAX!!! Great choice!! And by the way, Seth’s awesome attitude brings me to tears! XOXOJanuary 26, 2015 – 9:19 pm

mark parrish - Amy- You are a very talented writer! I look forward to staying in touch with you through your series of writing. Please let Seth know he is in my thoughts, prayers and has been my dedication in all my yoga classes. We focus on one person and send positive energy towards that individual. Lots of good vibes coming your way!January 26, 2015 – 8:52 pm

Gretchen Wendt O'Donnell - Uff da, Amy. We’re praying.January 26, 2015 – 8:51 pm

Mary Katherine Boyle - Love and light to you and your family.January 26, 2015 – 8:49 pm

Lynne Hackman Kellerman - Please give each other a big hug from me.January 26, 2015 – 8:09 pm

Kim F. LeDoux - Life takes us on many journeys…. Sending you and Seth strength, love, and healthy healing prayers to help you through yours. He’s definitely got an amazing partner to help him through. Thank you Amy!January 26, 2015 – 7:56 pm

Monica Palmer - so very proud of you & Seth! I can’t express enough how willing I am to help in any way! You are all on my heart and mind continuously! Pslam 16:8-11 HUGS!January 26, 2015 – 7:52 pm

Annette Tryon - Will be following and know this will have a positive outcome for your beautiful in every way family.January 26, 2015 – 5:47 pm

Amanda Hill - Please get my contact info on facebook (I friended you) and call me! I’m a friend of Sandy’s and an eye cancer survivor. I’d love to share positive stories. When I went through it I knew no one and was scared to death. But it’s survivable, and I’d be glad to answer any questions you might have.January 26, 2015 – 2:58 pm

Sandra Heska King - Love you, girl! You know I’m praying. xoJanuary 26, 2015 – 2:25 pm

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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It’s true, you know. It’s really true.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

I love taking pictures. Photography is the one thing besides writing that I’ve done consistently since I was a little girl. I just purchased my dream camera and lens in September 2014, and was particularly looking forward to using it on our sponsor trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. So you can imagine how upset I was when I realized I’d forgotten my charged camera battery in the hotel room on the most important day of our trip, the day we met our sponsored children. It had been a really tough morning for me the way it was. The fact that my camera battery was missing was the last straw.

Looking back, I realize that perhaps God was releasing me from photography that day. Yes, He knows, acknowledges and loves that I love photography. He built that love in me. But I think God wanted me to step away from the camera so I could give and receive whole-heartedly. He wanted me to step away from the camera so I could love, serve and just BE with my sponsored child, Meranyelis.

Here’s the awesome thing. God provided. In big and mighty ways.

God knew that I’d be devastated if I didn’t have any pictures from the day with my sponsored child. He knew how much I value those treasured moments. And He knew how often I’d refer back to those pictures, reliving our time together for months and years to come. So He put a photographer in my path that morning, a photographer who was willing to take photos for us anytime we wanted as we went about our day.

God sent Lairsz Johnston to photograph the day I spent with my sponsored child, Meranyelis. And boy, did Lairsz capture some amazing moments! I continue to be blessed by his art. Not only is Lairsz super funny, but he’s full of wisdom and willing to go deep at the drop of a hat. Thank you, Lairsz. You are amazing.

And thank God for sending Lairsz when all of my “perfect” plans seemed to be crumbling in front of my eyes.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

I can’t think of a better way to wrap up this blog series about my sponsor trip to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International than to share some of the beautiful photographs Lairsz captured the day I met Meranyelis. These photos are a gift. They show my heart for children living in extreme poverty. They show the impact of sponsorship on a sponsored child. They show what it’s like to take a sponsor trip and meet your sponsored child face to face. And they show the heart of Compassion International.

This is what sponsorship looks like. This is what sponsorship feels like. This is Compassion International.

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Will you sponsor a child through Compassion International? It’s $38 a month to sponsor one child. Sponsorship releases children from extreme poverty, and provides them hope for a better future. As you can see from the photographs in this post, the investment is worth every penny and more. So click here, take a peek at all of the children who are waiting for a sponsor, and take a risk. Change a life. Become a sponsor.

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This blog post is part of a three-week series I’m writing about my journey to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. Click here to read all the posts from my series.

If your heart has been touched by the words in this blog post, would you be so kind as to share it with friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, and via email? I would be oh so grateful. The more we spread the word about Compassion and the great work they’re doing, the more sweet children will be released from extreme poverty. Thank you, friends!

greensig

 

 

 

Karen Selby - Hey Amy, I was finally able to sit down and read all your posts. Thank You! Your writing is amazing and you reflected several things that felt when I met you and it is awesome to read the work God did in your heart as you progressed through this. The post about being empty reminded me of a time when someone said and I remembered and could find no other words except to repeat it when I needed it. God can only fill empty vessels. The giving and receiving is an area I am growing in and I will message you about the 3rd.January 24, 2015 – 9:36 pm

Amy - Thank you, Yvonne. It’s an honor to advocate for the children and Compassion. I’m tremendously humbled when I consider the fact that I’ve been able to experience two sponsor trips with Compassion. I’d take the trips again in a heartbeat, and will recommend them without reservation to anyone who asks me about my experiences in the future.January 20, 2015 – 8:59 pm

Amy - Thank you, Bri. It was a true delight to spend the day with her. Words don’t adequately express how good it was for my soul. That’s why I love the pictures. They say it all. :)January 20, 2015 – 8:42 pm

Yvonne Reynolds - Absolutely beautiful, the post, the photos, and your heart for Compassion! Thank you for sharing your journey with all of us!January 20, 2015 – 12:19 pm

Bri McKoy - I love how much you loved on and engaged your sponsored child, Amy! These pictures capture both hearts so beautifully! XoxoJanuary 20, 2015 – 10:53 am

How a Formerly Sponsored Child Taught Me Anything’s Possible

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On our last day in the Dominican Republic, Yulesi, Diana and Jonathan came to the front of the room to share their testimonies with our group. All three grew up in extreme poverty as children. All three had been enrolled in Compassion International’s Child Development Sponsorship Program. And all three completed the program successfully. Yulesi is in medical school and wants to be a cardiovascular surgeon. Diana will begin college in April and wants to be an ambassador. And Jonathan already obtained his college degree; he hosts groups who come to the Dominican Republic to meet their sponsored children and see the good work Compassion International is doing with children living in extreme poverty. As a child, Jonathan received from Compassion International. Now, he’s giving back to the organization by leading groups like ours.

The formerly sponsored children shared powerful words…

“I don’t care about money, I just want to show God’s love.”

“Financial support is important, but a single word can change a life.”

“Don’t conform yourself with what THEY do.”

“Don’t wait for people to tell you what to do.”

“Be yourself wherever you are.”

My heart was on fire. I wanted to know what was next. I wanted God to reveal His plan for my life. I wanted to continue this good work for Compassion and children living in extreme poverty. And I wanted to do everything I could to ensure that the future I desperately longed for would happen.

But here’s the thing. I’d just spent the week learning that God’s desire is for me to be fully surrendered to His plan. He doesn’t want me to know what’s ahead. He doesn’t want me to have my life perfectly planned out. He doesn’t want me to schedule and prepare and execute everything perfectly in advance. He just wants me to remain open, with a heart willing to listen, obey and serve. He wants me to trust that everything He has planned is better than anything I could ever imagine.

So I clung to the fire that rung true in my soul. I encouraged the formerly sponsored children who were now fully-functioning adults and leaders. I gave them hugs. We talked. And we took pictures together so we could remember.

All the while, I had an idea brewing in my mind. I wanted to know if it was possible, or if I was just dreaming up crazy things. I had a hunch that one of these three formerly sponsored children could provide insight into my idea.

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Jonathan said something to our group that struck a chord with my soul. So after we cleared the room and before we left for the afternoon, I just knew I had to pull him aside. I wanted to ask him a couple of follow-up questions, and I needed to know if my idea was possible or totally far fetched.

So I pulled Jonathan aside. Our interaction was two minutes long at most. Two minutes with Jonathan – a formerly sponsored child and now a successful, fully-functioning adult – was all I needed.

I asked him a couple questions about his presentation at lunch and quickly realized that I needed to be more straight forward. Within seconds, I cut to the chase and found myself sharing the idea with Jonathan. I just wanted to know if it was possible.

Jonathan’s eyes lit up as he confirmed, “Yes, it’s possible! I will pray for you. God bless you!” We smiled the biggest smiles. We hugged. And we parted ways.

I felt hope. I knew this day-old idea was possible. And I began wondering if it was from God.

Later, I asked Jonathan for a picture. Because I’m big on pictures for remembering. And I wanted to remember this moment just in case, just in case this was God’s idea and Jonathan, a formerly sponsored child, was the one who encouraged me from the start. I wanted to remember this moment for the future, for when I needed to be reminded that anything is possible.

The greatest gift we can receive from a formerly sponsored child is to know, without a doubt, that anything’s possible.

I traveled 2,000 miles to hear Jonathan testify to God’s truth…

Anything is possible.


Compassion International provides hope to children living in extreme poverty. Through their holistic child development model, they teach children that anything is possible. Will you sponsor a child today? It’s $38 a month and worth every single penny and more. Click here to check out the Compassion website where thousands of children are waiting to be sponsored. 

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This blog post is part of a three-week series I’m writing about my journey to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. Click here to read all the posts from the series!

If your heart has been touched by the words in this blog post, would you be so kind as to share it with friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, and via email? I would be oh so grateful. The more we spread the word about Compassion and the great work they’re doing, the more sweet children will be released from extreme poverty. Thank you, friends!

greensig

 

 

Vicki Thunstrom - I love this Amy! I can’t wait to see what God is going to do through you! :)January 19, 2015 – 3:29 pm

A Best Friend for Eternity

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When our group arrived at the Compassion Child Development Center, we headed straight upstairs for lunch. We’d spent all morning visiting homes, so we understood the reality of what it looks like to live in extreme poverty. Without a doubt, one of the most humbling gifts that comes from a trip to visit your sponsored child is witnessing joy and hope amidst extreme poverty.

We were told to find a table and seat ourselves next to a mama and her precious babe. Most of the tables were already full, but as I entered, I noticed a seat available next to a beautiful mama and her sweet baby girl. I sat without hesitation.

Mama’s smile was radiant. Her skin, dark ebony. Her eyes told the story of her life. And as far as I was concerned? She was glowing with love and authenticity. This was going to be amazing.

We went around the table and made introductions. Dominick translated for us. I told her about my family, that I had a husband and three children, 12, 9 and 3 years of age. She smiled warmly and told me that she, too, had three children, a 10-year-old, a 5-year-old, and 2-year-old Megan. Sometimes as mamas, we just need to know someone understands our life. Anna recognized herself in me, and I recognized myself in her. The connection was obvious from the start.

Anna and her daughter, Megan, participate in Compassion’s Child Survival Program. Compassion International is passionate about ensuring childrens’ well-being, even before they enter the sponsorship program. So mamas and babies receive support as they journey through the reality of parenting and living in extreme poverty. Anna and her daughter have been the recipients of this great gift. Anna knows this is “substance to get through.”

Throughout the meal, Anna shared her story of everyday life in extreme poverty. It was humbling to be in her presence.

Anna had the opportunity to take a nail painting class that Compassion offers for moms. So Anna paints nails and cleans houses as a way to generate income for her family as she’s able. After her 10-year-old daughter heads to school in the morning, Anna brings the two youngest children to a friend’s house where they’re cared for while Anna works. Anna pays for the child care, but can’t afford all-day care.

So mid-day, when the 10-year-old is done with school, she walks to the friend’s house, picks up the 5-year-old and 2-year-old, and brings them back home. From then on out, the 10-year-old is responsible for watching the younger two. There’s no one else to watch them while Anna’s at work. Anna’s family lives far away, and her husband’s family is “not aware when she needs help.” So Anna has to “figure it out on her own.” She taught her three children from a very young age to take care of each other. When they’re home alone, Anna locks the door and gives her oldest daughter the key. She tells them to stay inside, and they do. This might sound risky to us, but this is the day-to-day reality of surviving in extreme poverty. Anna loves her children and does her best to provide what they need.

Anna’s baby, Megan, isn’t in the sponsorship program yet. She’s only two. But Compassion provides food and medicine for Megan. They offer wisdom for Anna’s parenting journey, as well as as education and encouragement so she can provide and be the mama she wants to be. In another year, when Megan’s old enough to enroll in Compassion’s sponsorship program, she’ll be in a much better place than she would have been otherwise. Living in extreme poverty is more bearable when you have hope for your child’s future.

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“It’s good,” said Anna. “It’s just good.”

Anna revealed much of herself during our two hours together at lunch. We smiled. And we laughed. We discussed the hard realities of life in extreme poverty. But most of all? We felt joy. There was great peace in that place, at the table that day.

It didn’t take long for me to recognize that Anna was one of those rare people I’ve found in life that I know, without a doubt, could be a best friend – if only we lived closer. I sensed it in the deepest parts of me. This brave, beautiful woman living in extreme poverty was best friend material.

I imagined Anna and I chatting over lunch, with the kids running and playing. I imagined us at church together, singing together. I imagined this woman, with a life so different than mine, being my best friend.

I knew this was true. I knew this was right.

Anna lives in extreme poverty. I live in relative wealth. The reality is, we won’t ever be best friends here on earth. But God made us friends. He brought us together for one day on earth, so we could recognize each other as best friends in heaven. He promises unity in eternity, together forever, in heaven.

Then, we’ll know.

Then, we’ll go.

It’s time friend. It’s time to fellowship. As friends, best friends.

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I could barely contain my tears as I sat at the lunch table next to Anna that afternoon in the Compassion Child Development Center. I took it all in. God’s love washed over me. His vision for His people was clear. This is what heaven looks like. This is what heaven feels like. Moments later, Amanda, another sponsor on the trip, approached and shared quietly “I’m in heaven. I always loved Compassion, but now I’m sold.” I sat in wonder, tears readied to burst free.

A sentence came to mind as clear as day. I broke out my journal and wrote it, right there at the table as I sat next to Anna and Megan, so I wouldn’t forget.

This is a constant joy and grieving of what we see could be and will be, with what is.

Anna and I got up from the table, walked down the stairs of the Compassion Child Development Center, and strolled slowly down the street to her local church. I soaked in the moment once more.

We sat next to each other in a big circle of chairs at church. I was one foot away from Anna as she shared how Compassion has helped her so much. I was there to see little ones run wild and free, just like our littles back home. I was there to witness her friendship with other mamas and babies served by Compassion

We were there to hug good bye. We were there to bid farewell with love. We were there to go with hope.

We’re all living in poverty, really. We’re all in need of something greater to hold us together, to give us hope, to give us a reason to keep on living. For me and Anna, it’s God, sweet Jesus. Our love for Compassion International unites us. Compassion gives us “substance to get through.”

Between now and heaven, I’ll wait courageously, knowing God will reunite us someday. Between now and heaven, I’ll rest in peace, knowing Anna and her sweet girl, Megan, are in good hands with Compassion International. They’re in God’s good hands. Before long, Megan will be eligible for a sponsor. I pray her sponsor will fully grasp the gift they’ve been given. I pray her sponsor will know the beauty of child sponsorship, so it won’t be as much about the financial support as it is about the sharing of hearts through letters, love and friendship.


Will you sponsor a child today? The impact you have when you sponsor a child is incredible, immeasurable. Your sponsorship means so much to those living in extreme poverty. We can’t imagine what it’s like to live in such poverty, but we can extend a hand and say “I’m here. You can do this. We can do this together.” Let’s give. Let’s receive. Let’s live as friends, united with one purpose. To love one another. Click here to sponsor a child.

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This blog post is part of a three-week series I’m writing about my journey to the Dominican Republic with Compassion International. Click here to read all the posts from my series!

Be sure to check out my fellow travelers’ most recent blog posts! Kris Camealy wrote a beautiful post about hospitality amidst poverty with “Generous Hands Are Blessed Hands,” and Sandra Heska King wrote a sweet post about a 45-year old single man, Luke, who visited his sponsored child, titled “What Happens When Sponsor Meets Child.”

If your heart has been touched by the words in this blog post, would you be so kind as to share it with friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, and via email? I would be oh so grateful. The more we spread the word about Compassion and the great work they’re doing, the more sweet children will be released from extreme poverty. Thank you, friends!

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Denise Korman - You are incredible woman. God bless you and keep you safe on your journeys. You and your family will be in my prayers in the next several weeks I pray that all goes well!January 17, 2015 – 5:42 pm

Denise Korman - Amy I am truly humbled by your efforts to help these people in need. No child should be hungry, have no clothing,Live in squalor just to get by day by day. Amy God has given you the well and power to help these people in these poor countriesJanuary 17, 2015 – 5:36 pm

Dominick Gonzalez - Oh, thank you for putting into words what can sometimes be so difficult to express.January 16, 2015 – 5:40 pm

Dominick Gonzalez - I have tears thinking back on our lunch and the time we had with this young lady, Anna, and her daughter. It was a divine appointment and a time of mutual encouragement.January 16, 2015 – 5:35 pm

Carol Femling - If I had the extra $, I would sponsor this little girl! Thanks to Compassion International for their help to people like this!! Great posting, Amy! Thanks for sharing! I am anxious to visit with you about your trip!January 16, 2015 – 2:48 pm