Monthly Archives: August 2012
It is with love that I introduce you to my college sweetheart and husband of 14 years, Seth.
In a room full of people, Seth tells me I am the most beautiful.
He tells me I look beautiful even when I don’t feel beautiful.
He says to our kids “Don’t you have the most beautiful mama?”
Seth offers manicures and pedicures, but being low maintenance with hair and nails, I never take him up on the offer.
At least once a year, he gives me a complete outfit from my favorite store, always more than I feel is necessary.
When our baby was days old and I was in severe pain from nursing and the kids had taken every last drop of my energy, Seth took my hand and danced with me in the hallway.
When I’m crying in fatigue or frustration, or ranting and raving because something didn’t go as expected, he listens and invites me closer.
And when I reach my end, need a break, when I need filling up, when I’m not so beautiful on the inside anymore – Seth gives me the gift of freedom to do what I need to do to become beautiful again.
My father-in-law and mother-in-law gave me money for my birthday, the only request to use it for something that makes me happy. I knew just what I wanted – to attend a Women of Faith conference where my favorite blogger Ann Voskamp was scheduled to speak. I really needed a weekend away by myself.
I found a floor level ticket on Craigslist. Cyndi promised via phone “you won’t be disappointed” with the seat. Seth, although leery of Craigslist scams, gave me permission to purchase the ticket.
So three days ago, Seth got up, packed the car, loaded three kids, and was off to his parents’ house.
And so began my weekend. The gift. From Seth: The gift of freedom to attend the conference and do whatever it was that helped me feel all was right with the world again.
The gift of being lost in time…laundry, finances, phone calls, putting toys back in their place, organizing files, email, getting ready for the day without kids at my feet. Five hours.
Lost in time so much I forgot to research how long it would take to get to the conference. The trip was 1 ½ hours longer than I thought! If things went perfectly, I would arrive a half hour before the event would start.
One hour into the drive, I hit road construction, driving 5-15 mph for at least 45 minutes.
The gift of accepting what was. It was ok if I arrived late.
The gift of freedom to run in and out of Jimmy John’s, kid-free.
The gift of a quiet drive by myself, the open fields, the windmills. The wind at my back.
The gift of free choice, flipping through radio stations, stopping at songs that spoke to my heart and soul. Jesus Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood, I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt, Amazing Grace by Chris Tomlin, too many to count.
Car says I have 20 miles of gas and sign says I have 15 miles to Des Moines. I’m not sure I can make it. I fill, just enough to get me there. Isn’t that the way it’s been?
The gift of time. I arrive at the hotel at 6:49, event starts at 7:00.
The gift of learning to trust my intuition, again. Cyndi was not a Craigslist scammer. The ticket was real!
The gift of accepting a table prepared for me. Opening the curtain to see a full arena, beautiful music overwhelming, down a long flight of stairs to the floor level, tears welling up in my eyes as I was led to my seat by one, two, three people, transferring my care along the way up to the 4th row, front and center. My seat did not disappoint.
The gift of laughter. Ken Davis made me laugh so hard I cried. I can’t remember the last time I did that.
The gift of Sheila Walsh’s words “Can you imagine if every day you believed the God of the Universe loves you just the way you are?”
The gift of a beautiful voice in CeCe Winans.
The gift of a quiet room, a bed to myself.
The gift of putting my feet up.
The gift of pizza delivery to my hotel room.
And the next day…
The gift of Liz Curtis Higgs’ words “You are beautiful, right now, as you are, to this God.”
The gift of Christine Caine’s unflinching desire for us to proclaim “Today, I’m going to step into the purpose and power of God.”
The gift of finding myself reflected in a woman I had never heard of before today, Angie Smith. My fears, my dreams, all reflected in her on stage.
The gift of being seen. The original purpose of my journey, to see Ann Voskamp speak, now more than fulfilled, I walked as quickly as I could to the autograph area. I was 31st in line of 35 allowed to photograph and autograph with Ann. My heart was racing, grateful I made it in time. I grabbed the attention of a stranger and arranged for a picture of me with this Ann whose blog has spoken to my soul for two years. Just 3-4 people from meeting Ann, we got word they were shutting down, “only two more.” Ann had to go. I saw the guard approach, I saw Ann’s panic, I saw her heart turn to us remaining in line, looking at each one of us, eyes full of disappointment she could not greet us then smiling in a resigned, apologetic sort of way, cupped her hands with gratitude uttering “thank you,” waved, and turned away with the guard. It took me a while to realize I had welled up with tears of disappointment; I was distracted with amazement and gratitude that those of us left in line were acknowledged so whole-heartedly. Though I did not get to meet Ann, my eyes were fully open in that moment to see deep into her heart. Moments later, Ann on stage, I realized the pull she must feel between her heart and current reality, her book One Thousand Gifts on the New York Times Best Sellers List a crazy number of weeks.
The gift of authenticity accepted in Selah’s Amy Perry. Her story and then song through tears, moving the audience to ovation.
The gift of feeling like I could be me.
And on the way home, I stop at Boondocks USA gas station with only 23 miles of gas remaining. And this time I fill up, and I am filled up.
And when I got home….
The gift of hearing God speak quietly to my heart as I walked in the door – now write it out, live it out. I did, and I will.
Thank you Seth, my dear love of my life, for giving me the gift of this weekend. This gift of freedom, of time, of renewal and refreshment, of remembering who I am and who I want to be, of drawing closer to God, so I can be the wife and mama I want to be.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
It is my honor to introduce you to Bethchaida, the sweet girl our family recently began sponsoring through Compassion International. Although I have never met this precious child and only know her by one photograph and a few paragraphs in the child sponsorship packet we received just days ago, I can say with confidence that God led me down a straight and narrow, but very long path to Bethchaida.
Child sponsorship has been stirring in my heart since I was a little girl. Flipping through channels on television, stopping at Christian Children’s Fund commercials, listening to the bearded man tell about children who needed sponsors, seeing the need in a little girl’s brown eyes, boys in piles of trash. Told I could spend 70 cents a day on a pack of gum or 70 cents a day on food for a child, spokesperson Sally Struther’s call to action and the face of these children etched forever in my mind.
I was a child. No credit cards. No ability to make a monthly payment. Didn’t even think to engage my parents about this tug on my heart.
Through the years, time and time again, I stopped at sight of the commercials. Continually called, continually moved by the faces. At times, others even slightly annoyed that I wanted to watch the child sponsorship commercials in their entirety, asking me to turn the channel so they could find what it was they wanted to watch. I knew they didn’t understand what I saw in the faces of these children, the faces that touched the deepest parts of my soul. I changed the channel to appease them, but my heart remained with the children.
That dream, that calling, never went away.
Fast forward to adulthood. I had just joined Twitter in August 2010, and almost immediately discovered the gift of Ann Voskamp and her blog, A Holy Experience. In September 2010, Ann was in Guatemala with Compassion International blogging about sponsorship and had met her sponsored child Xiomara. I read Ann’s post How to Make Your Life An Endless Celebration, tears streaming, and my heart for child sponsorship stirred anew. The little girl inside of me, now all grown up into a mother, was still desperately longing to impact the lives of children I had never met. Powerful words from Ann Voskamp’s post that day…
“I’m the stranger who doesn’t pass by but stays with her here, and I take the bread of this moment, give thanks for it, and I give thanks that we can be broken and we can be given and this is how Christ is recognized in the world.” Ann Voskamp
and later in the post…
“On the bus taking me far away from Xiomara, I am no longer a stranger on the road and I see Christ and I am forever beautifully broken and wrecked for the poor and even my life can be given to satisfy emptiness.” Ann Voskamp
Was it by chance that a newbie to Twitter, I found Ann Voskamp among the first? Was it by chance that I felt a deep connection to Ann’s writing and she also happened to be a blogger with Compassion International? I believe not. I believe God brought me to Ann so I could be daily encouraged by her posts, and to bear fruit in my life through child sponsorship I had dreamed of for so many years.
May 10, 2012: I had been following the Compassion Bloggers in Tanzania on Twitter and read The Nester’s blog post Decorating Truths from a 15-Year-Old Tanzanian Boy. She tells of her trip to meet sponsored child Topiwo, boy with his head down in humility, smiling. The picture of The Nester meeting Topiwo was priceless and just as those children from the TV ads in the 1980’s, it will be forever etched in my mind. Psalm 23 painted outside on the entry to his handmade hut home. The Nester, subtitle of her blog “It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to be Beautiful,” describes Topiwo’s hut as “breathtaking…humble…glorious all at the same time.” My heart was in Tanzania, overflowing with compassion for people I had never met.
Fast forward to July 2012. Ann Voskamp and her son were in Haiti with Compassion International. July 17, 2012, a post from Ann that lingered in my mind for days, The 1 Thing You Really have to Know About Your Family. Ann’s words remind me that “Faith cannot have a non-response.” She shares of 12-year-old Wesley who can’t read. Wesley with Compassion sponsor photograph and letter in hand, Ann posts about this moment…
“Attached is a picture of a couple smiling happy in Central Park. Wesley’s standing barefoot and wordless in front of a windowless shack with a photo of folks hugging happy in Central Park and how can we help where we are born in this world? This soundless howl pounds in my ears.” Ann Voskamp
I think of little ones waiting for sponsors, little ones whose only lifeline is sponsorship. I am moved to sponsor a child. Again. To serve as a source of hope, as partner with Our Creator – what more is there to life than this?
My journey to child sponsorship continued, slowly but surely narrowing in on Haiti.
A die hard fan after two cruises with my husband, I have been looking forward to an upcoming cruise our family will be taking with Royal Caribbean. Months ago when booking, I guided us to an itinerary that included 3/4 destinations to which we had never been, one being Haiti.
As I began thinking through our day ashore, I remembered a family friend who is in the process of adopting two children from an orphanage in Haiti. Following their visits closely on Facebook, I have been very much drawn to their story, the children, that orphanage in Haiti. I had hoped to take a day trip to the orphanage, only to discover upon further research it was on the opposite side of the island, not to be traveled to and from in just eight short hours onshore.
I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to sponsor a child through Compassion International and our family could take a day trip to meet the child – only to discover that our cruise ship would be docking at a private peninsula in Haiti, passengers not allowed to travel beyond a fence because of safety concerns. So close, but so far away.
July 22, 2012. I had come to accept the fact we were not going to be able to visit the orphanage or a sponsored child, but it had been just days since I read Ann Voskamp’s posts about Haiti and I was still having a hard time justifying a carefree day ashore in Haiti. I searched the Royal Caribbean website for shore excursions and got excited about a cultural tour only to discover upon booking that it is not being offered on our sailing. Still searching, I read deeper into the Haiti shore excursion reviews, generally glowing reviews, stating how beautiful the land is, how pristine the beaches, how great it was that Royal Caribbean provides a buffet for passengers on the beach; spattered here and there were heartfelt comments about passengers’ desires to positively impact the people of Haiti beyond the fence. In an effort to make a difference onshore, one passenger brought extra clothes and gave them to people at the market, another shared bananas with a man in the market who gobbled them up in seconds.
How was I going to travel to Haiti knowing there were babies at the orphanage, children I read about on Ann Voskamp’s blog, people in need of so many resources? And me and my family – unloading from the luxurious cruise ship on vacation, sunning on the beach, dining at a buffet. How do these two worlds reconcile? How do I reconcile these two parts of my heart that seem so conflicting? Is the God that created in me a love for cruising, for travel and special time with my family, for meeting people and seeing new places the same God that created in me a desire for child sponsorship, a passion to help people, a longing to make a lasting impact on others’ lives? How, truly God, am I to reconcile these two worlds?
After discussing all of this with my husband, we decided that we would forego all shore excursions in Haiti, and would instead sponsor a child through Compassion International.
I fully expect that my heart could tear in two that day. I fully expect that I will pray for peace that day, to sit on the beach knowing there is such poverty beyond the fence. I fully expect to be drawn to the markets so I can experience just a taste of the rest of Haiti – meet people, look into their eyes, engage them in conversation, admire and purchase the beautiful creations they have fashioned to support their families.
I also fully expect that I will be spending a lot of that day praying for the people of Haiti. And one of the people our family will pray for that day in Haiti and many days and years ahead will be our sponsored child, sweet little Bethchaida. Four-years-old, living with her father and mother, responsible for making beds and cleaning, father and mother sometimes employed as farmers, 4 children in the family, above average performance in preschool, and regularly attends church activities. A sweet face that captured our attention as we scoured the Compassion website for children waiting for sponsorship.
Bethchaida’s photograph was flagged because she had been waiting 182+ days for a sponsor.
Why it took me this long to find Bethchaida I do not know, but I feel confident that God always knew this was the path.
Little Bethchaida, as we begin this journey together, I pray that you are nourished with food, clothed in protection, bathed in love and care, with the things you need not just to survive, but to thrive. I pray that you discover your creator God and His son Jesus, who died so that you could be saved and live with Him for eternity in the beautiful paradise called Heaven, where there will be feasts and singing and days filled with joy and peace. Where we will dance together, hand in hand, you and me and all of your little friends. Sisters in Our Creator, for eternity.
One more thing I am compelled to note…if you look at the photographs and regularly read posts from Compassion Bloggers, you know that even amidst the poverty, there IS joy, there IS peace, there IS beauty, there IS love, there IS hope for things to come. These things cannot be purchased, but are treasures bestowed on us by God.
Do you feel called to sponsor a child? It’s just $38 a month. There are children waiting for a sponsor at Compassion International.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-40.
*A heartfelt thank you to The Nester and www.picturesofpoverty.com for giving me permission to use your photographs.
It is my privilege to introduce you to Mick! My encounter with Mick was truly extraordinary in that he managed to capture my attention like no other store employee has been able. In fact, Mick exhibits qualities so exemplary that if we all lived as he does, the world would be a much better place.
Strolling through the Mall of America with my mom, sister, niece, and three children, we passed a toy store called Air Traffic. My son and I were last to pass the store, so everyone else in our party was far ahead when my son pulled me back abruptly to go into the store. I quickly called out and suggested they join us.
We were greeted with a warm welcome by the employees, one being Mick. I answered Mick’s inquiry as to how I was doing today with some generic, in a hurry to get out of this store kind of answer like “just fine, thank you!” (Remember Meet Dan? Clearly I had NOT fully learned my lesson about engaging people authentically around the question “How are you doing?!”) This was when Mick first caught my attention, questioning “Aren’t you going to ask how I am?” Smiling sheepishly, I responded “How are you doing today?” He responded, satisfied I thought, that he reminded me to be more fully present that moment.
An employee engaged me and my two oldest children in a game of Blue Orange Chef Cuckoo! and we headed to the back of the store where my son had discovered a plethora of yo-yos.
See, the reason I decided to go into the store that day was because my son showed such strong interest in the toys. He loves fishing, golfing, balls, Nerf dart guns, and screen time aplenty, but through the years we have had a challenge finding toys that keep his interest. When he was four it was Transformers, kindergarten Pokemon cards, first grade Bakugan, second and third grade baseball cards, and spatterings of interest in legos through the years. We just wanted him to love and have fun with toys. A couple months prior, a yo-yo master’s performance at our childrens’ school wowed our son to the extent that he and other boys purchased trick yo-yos. He had a very strong interest in yo-yos, but also had very low tolerance when the yo-yo did not perform as expected. It had become disconcerting to us as parents to know he was so interested in yo-yos, but was on the other hand getting so extremely frustrated every time he tried. So many times he had tried that yo-yo only to throw it down and quit in frustration because it “wasn’t working.”
Mick approached. I explained to him we were interested in looking more closely at yo-yos because of my son’s strong interest and frustration with his yo-yo.
Mick took time to ask if I was mom or sister of my three kids. Although on my way to 40 and an old soul, I have passed for a teenager countless times the past 15 years. I am used to people thinking I am much younger than I am, but am typically offended because I desire the respect that comes with being perceived as the full-fledged adult that I am. In any case, it was honorable for him to ask if I was mom or sister, a truly unique way of inquiring about my age and relationship to my children!
Mick picked a couple yo-yos off the shelf and put one on the counter next to my daughter. He asked if she wanted to try, stating “I’m going to put one here in case you decide you want to have some fun!” My daughter silently rejected his offer and left the yo-yo right where he had placed it on the counter. Mick observed and said a matter-of-fact “It’s ok, some people don’t want to have fun.” Many talk about enjoyment of life as a choice, this man lived it out in that moment. Choose to have fun, or choose not to have fun. It’s your choice.
Committing to us much more time than necessary, Mick showed us a variety of yo-yos, demonstrating tricks with each one. The store carried the yo-yo my son had; Mick suggested a yo-yo that would be more appropriate for a beginner but would still allow him to do tricks. At the sales counter Mick greeted my sister, complimented her tattoo, and shared with us information about upcoming yo-yo classes as well as a yo-yo championship at the mall the next day.
After purchasing the yo-yo, we left the store and my son immediately took the yo-yo out of its packaging. He spent the next hour trying it out, attempting a few tricks Mick showed us in the store, but quickly became frustrated to the point he felt confident it needed to be returned right now!
Disappointed this wasn’t going to work, I reluctantly returned to the store, son and yo-yo in hand. I found Mick, explained the yo-yo just wasn’t working out as my son expected, and that it looked like we were going to have to return it. Mick caught my attention again, this time even more dramatically by putting the problem back on himself. “Oh it’s my fault. I forgot to show you how to tighten and loosen the string. If we do this, then it should work a lot better for you.” Mick made some “adjustments” and tested the yo-yo to ensure it was indeed working properly, but my son persisted it needed to be returned.
Resigned to the fact this yo-yo “needed” to be returned, Mick and I met at the counter and he began processing the return. Another employee noticed we were back so soon and wondered why we had to return the yo-yo. Holding back tears of disappointment that my son was once again crushing his own dream of learning to yo-yo, I was taken aback when Mick responded nonchalantly to his co-worker, “Yep, it didn’t work out for him today.” I just LOVED the way this man so casually stated the yo-yo didn’t work out today. As if there were so many more activities to discover and become passionate about another day, as if the yo-yo didn’t work this day but might some other day, as if it was no big deal at all. No emotion attached, no worry, no cares, no judgement. It just didn’t work out today, that’s all. Wow, if I could only approach life like Mick, I wouldn’t be disappointed nearly as often and wouldn’t be so anxious about things turning out “right.”
That night, I told my husband the story of Mick and this yo-yo. I knew we had to return the next day for the yo-yo competition and check out the store one more time.
24-hours later, entire family in tow, we returned to the Mall of America to watch the Midwest Regional Yo-Yo Championship. Rotunda packed, yo-yo performances one after the next. Almost immediately, we happened upon Mick at a table of yo-yos. Brave with the opportunity, I approached, explained how he had impacted me so much the day before and asked if I could feature him on my blog. He agreed, but humbly explained that yo-yos just scratch the surface of who he is. He performs with a group called The Danger Committee. You know…he throws knives, juggles and throws a little fire in there for some extra fun! He suggested we should come and check it out sometime. I smiled, curious of course, but honestly having no clue as to what I would discover about this later.
We stepped to the back, observing the yo-yo masters perform. I couldn’t help but think…what if I adopted Mick’s philosophy of embracing what was and realized that for this moment in time, it was OK to just observe? I let myself relax a bit, observed my son as he watched the yo-yo masters. Maybe one day he will want to try yo-yos, but for today, it’s OK just to watch.
One more visit to the store, we picked up a cool frisbee which has caused enjoyment rather than frustration.
Two weeks later, I finally got around to checking The Danger Committee’s website to discover there was much more to Mick than met the eye. The Danger Committee, comprised of Mick and two others, has made multiple national television appearances including advancement to top 100 of 75,000 acts on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, and performs at theaters, festivals and corporate events around the country. Mick has been a performer and keynote speaker for two decades, speaking to hundreds of companies across the United States, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, and England. He has won or placed in international juggling competitions fifteen times. For Mick’s full bio, click here.
I had NO clue who I had encountered that day. I love Mick’s humility and the fact he didn’t brag about who he was beyond his employment at the toy store. I love his attention to the moment, his matter-of-fact attitude, kindness, his patience and passion, and the way he went above and beyond with us in the store that day. I have no idea what Mick speaks about, nor have I ever witnessed The Danger Committee’s performances, but based on everything I learned about Mick’s personal character that day, I have to believe it’s all phenomenal.
Thank you Mick. I am honored to have met you.
So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you…” Matthew 7:12