Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Chapter All Its Own

****This Is THE Fastest Update EVER! Jumaa Has A Sponsor! Thank you Diane!!****

 If our family had its own history timeline on the wall or in a book, these past few weeks would get a room or a chapter all its own.

I'm not complaining....just making a list. You know I adore lists......

1. It's the hottest week of the century (for May) and our central air DIED. Which means I died along with it.

2. Our main computer refuses to let anyone log on, a direct result of Caleb playing one too many online Lego Battles, and so the entire household needs MY laptop for their surfing pleasure. My mother taught me to share but I have always been a slow learner.

3. During the hottest week of the year with no central air, we decide to shampoo the rugs AND relocate two kids to new sleeping quarters. PLUS we painted a room and moved furniture, which unearthed a lot of dirt that needed to be vanquished.

4. Lightening then took out our phone and our internet. It honestly felt like I had washed up onto a deserted island with no hope of rescue for at least TWO DAYS.

5. My son, Spencer, is graduating from high school this Saturday and I could not find the cap that went with his gown anywhere. I finally found it amidst all the moving and shuffling of rooms, and carefully placed it where I would be able to find it easily.


I have no idea where that carefully chosen place is anymore. I'll be lucky just to tuck the kids into the right beds tonight.

6. That same son caught a bunch of fish (of some sort) from the pond and used my kitchen AND my cutting board to hack them up, fry them up and eat them up. My house still smells like a bait shop.

7. I did make a double batch of chocolate fudge brownies, which helped. I was going to give up eating chocolate, but I'm no quitter.

  On the Compassion home front, it looks like a sponsor for 11 year-old Prisca has come forward just in time! I am so incredibly happy for her and so honored to have a part in matching a child with their new hero.

  Twelve year old Jumaa from Kenya is waiting, waiting, waiting. I MUST turn his packet back in to Compassion tomorrow so that he can be put back into the system to continue to search for his sponsor. He is a thin boy with a look of doubt on his face and he lives with his farming parents and seven siblings. Average wage is 14 dollars a month. So if his face and profile stir your heart in some way......let me know! And hurry! June 1st, 6pm EST at the latest. Thank you!

Today is also the deadline for the library books for the project in Kenya that I visited while in the country in March. Another 60 dollars can be added to what you see on the chip in button, so we are up to 900 dollars. We almost made it to a thousand and I am really surprised....humbled.....grateful.......and proud of you! Some very generous and big hearted friends I have. You can read about this GROWING library here if you missed it! And I'm really not sure how to thank you all adequately. These books are going to benefit these children for YEARS to come. They LOVE learning, and yet the poverty that they live in day to day means that learning is a huge challenge. Thank you for clearing some rocks and planting some flowers for their road ahead.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Generosity Abounds

A few updates and reminders!!

   Harrison from KE910 in the Dandora slums of Kenya, who I featured on a recent blog post, has been chosen after a long, nine month wait! I just love it when a child is taken off the waiting list and into the heart of his new sponsor. For me it is the equivalent of seeing a double rainbow or eating a handful (or two) of Peanut M&M's....which means I am very, very happy with a big smile on my face. Thank you, Ginny!

   I shared my adventures in Kenya with my church family this past Sunday, and this is where Harrison's packet was snatched up, along with a boy named James who looks like he is eight but is actually sixteen. He is listed as developmentally delayed and I spent the day at his project while in Kenya. Thank you, Kim!

   Let me reroute to a completely different subject for a moment. Most of you know my son, Caleb and the story of his run in with cancer at age four. You can read about the BEAST if you need to catch up!
   A few weeks ago on a Saturday night, Caleb came running out of the bathroom in full panic mode, crying that he was "peeing blood". He threw himself onto the couch and buried his head in the pillows, crying and whimpering. Of course he remembers what blood in his urine meant four years ago almost to the day. KIDNEY CANCER. So he was understandably frightened. A CT in the ER revealed that his remaining kidney was completely fine and the doctors decided that the blood was coming from a pretty intense fall from his bike. BIG sigh of relief around our house, as you can imagine.
   Sunday we had a hero's welcome for a generous man in our church named Steve who was released from the hospital after donating one of his kidneys for whoever needed it the most. This means that Steve had no connection to the recipient and simply wanted to prolong someone's life with this gift. Which really isn't very simple at all.
   Turns out that a 28 year old father is now living with Steve's healthy kidney. This man was very near death when they took him to surgery and it took several hours for the doctors to stabilize him for the operation. Steve is my hero. And yes, I have a soft spot for kidney donors because of Caleb's story. I didn't even know it was possible or legal to give your own kidney away to a perfect stranger! I considered that it would be such an honorable thing to do, but then remembered that I should save my extra one for case he ever needs it.
   Steve and Caleb stood side by side on Sunday and I was so proud and in awe of Steve and his unselfish gift of life.

   Now go back with me to the topic of Kenya! The chip in for library books for those empty shelves at KE214 has nine days left! I am so surprised to see how much you have given, as we are at 810 dollars! It would be really exciting to reach 1,000 dollars before the deadline! Once the deadline passes, I will send all of the monies raised to the Compassion Office specifically marked for the library in Kenya.
   I can still see it so clearly and remember how proud the staff of KE214 were with their newly constructed library....about as big as my living room. Cement walls and floors, lots of metal shelving, and lots of children eager to learn, with some of them studying at the tables nearby. But those shelves were lacking books! Which is exactly where God asked me to make the need known. His intent was clear and your response has been so generous and kind. Thank you!!

   I also have two very special children who are in need of a sponsor! I am so sorry about the quality of the pictures. My scanning computer has been ill for the past few days and so I had to try and load these from my camera.
   Prisca was born on August 8 and will be 12 years old this year. She lives in Kenya with her parents and one sibling, loves to jump rope and is ABOVE average in school. She has only had one letter since 2007 and a loving, attentive sponsor will be such a gift to this young girl's heart and life.

The other child I have is Jumaa, who will be 13 on November 5th. He lives in Kenya with his parents and SEVEN brothers and sisters. The average wage for his family is 14 dollars a month. Jumaa helps care for animals at his home and he loves a good game of soccer. He looks painfully thin in his photo and he is listed as below average in school. He is waiting for you to step forward and rescue him from the voice of poverty that says, "I don't matter".

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I Am A Mother

   Nighttime is the only time I stop moving long enough to relax and turn the pages of whatever written words  I've carried to bed with me and once in a while I will stumble across a book that rattles one of the well guarded gates of my work-in-progress heart.
   Does that ever happen to you? You think that you've come a long way and that you have learned so much and have become so wise and that you should never have to go back and stumble down that same, worn  path ever again. You're already way ahead of where you used to be and you're looking ahead to see what's next......when God sets you up and you find yourself  in an unexpected yet familiar place.

  "Heaven Is Here" is the memoir of Stephanie Nielson who began sharing her joy-filled, picture perfect family life in 2005 with eager readers who followed her blog. She was an upbeat, candid  mother happily raising her four young children, madly in love with her husband, Christian, and filled with gratitude for her blessed life.

   All of that changed in an instant in August of 2008 when Stephanie and Christian were in a horrific plane crash. Christian was burned over 30 percent of his body. Stephanie's burns covered 80 percent and she was near death and in a coma for four months.

   The story became personal for me when this broken, forever scarred woman emerged from her coma and courageously took back the life she thought was lost. Not without intense pain, fear and doubt and multiple setbacks along the way, but with such dignity and love for her family that I couldn't help but look at my own journey to now and wonder about some long forgotten lessons learned.....all along the lines of  faith, beauty, and on being a mother.

   I love Stephanie's complete satisfaction in being a wife to her adored man and mother to her cherished children. She's honest and candid. Both roles come with hair pulling moments and the temptation the throw the humming hair-dryer in with her tub-soaking husband. But the big picture is this: being a wife and mother was the fulfillment of all of her girlish dreams and there was nothing else in this world, aside from her faith, that filled her up with as much pure joy and satisfaction.

   As a mother, I too have lost some hair and am tempted from time to time to throw in the towel.......or the hair dryer, whichever is closest. But how often do I recognize my great privilege and power and irreplaceable role as a wife and mother? It is far too easy for me to catch hold of the current culture which implies that I am just a keeper of my home. That I am not enough. And that someday I should get on with life.

   Maybe you don't go there. I know I'm a slow learner. But reading Stephanie's story awoke something in me. Something I already thought I had figured out. That being a mother is a beautiful thing. A position that makes use of the entirety of me. Every gift I have, and every talent and strength of character, is recognized in motherhood. Every flaw is also nicely framed for all to see as well, but what a great opportunity to know where you've been and where you need to go.

   Beauty is another theme laced into my trip down the lane of lessons yet to be learned.
    I love bracelets. I have three or four of them that I adore. They are sterling silver and I have not worn them for a long time. Honestly, I feel like they are too beautiful for me. I can't bring myself to slip them onto my wrist. They were meant to be worn by someone with features to compliment their beauty. To be combined with well manicured hands and a slender waist.
   Do I really believe that?
   Apparently so.
   The bracelets remain on my dresser and I do not have any desire to draw attention to myself with lovely jewelry. I'd rather hide.

   Reading Stephanie's story made my heart stop several times. She was a beautiful girl. She lost most of her facial features in the fiery flames of that crash. Her children were afraid to look at her. She refused even to look at herself. But in the end, her love for her family brought her out of her own misery and into the life she now lives, which just happens to be incredibly beautiful. She does the best she can with what she has left and leaves the rest to God. The flames that ravaged her face defined beauty for her in a whole new way.

   As a mother, as a woman, and certainly as a child of God, I am looking through a much clearer lens these days.

                                                     Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Simply Beautiful

   It's time to back up a bit and take you in with me to the slums of Dandora, located 15 km east of Nairobi. This was a day of firsts for me in so many ways.

    After our team loaded into the vans, it was incredible to see how quickly the view out our window changed, from the sights of the bustling, often colorful city to the desolation of the crowded, filthy  slums. There was a pervading sense of danger even before our driver told us to close and lock our windows. Seeing little girls walking barefoot and alone, my stomach dropped through the floorboards, as I could not imagine my child left to wander in Walmart, much less these trash strewn, beggar laden streets.

   There were people selling something every few yards and the items for sale ranged from shoes and sweaters to eggs and kale. Makeshift shanties lined the streets but in my estimation the customers were few and far between.
   Desperation. Hopelessness. Despair. Slavery.
   These were the words that were etched on every adult face I looked into. How do they go on like this? Why do they even try?
   The children were mostly a different story.
   Smiles, Curiosity, Energy, Playfulness.
   Compassion is wise to reach and rescue the children first.

     As we pulled into the Compassion compound, the atmosphere changed dramatically. It was a gated oasis from all that threatened to drown those on the outside and even I was relieved to
 rest my eyes from what we had just seen. We were welcomed with clapping and songs and of course, more tea!! These children from Dandora were so playful and friendly and they ALL wanted their picture taken!

 Our home visit took us back out into the choking, impoverished landscape, down a narrow alley and into a building that looked like a remnant of war. Stepping in through the door, darkness descended and we carefully made our way up three flights of concrete steps and into the tiny but clean home of Sharon, a Compassion sponsored child.

  Her father welcomed us in and seven of us sat hip to hip and almost knee to knee on the seats arranged in the room. Through the translator he expressed his gratitude for Compassion's intervention, as his daughter was wasting away from aids when they took her in and registered her with the project in Dandora. Treatment and a regular intake of medication brought her back from the edge. And while she is still fragile, her health is on the rebound and it comes as no surprise that she hopes to be a doctor someday.

Because of that interest, I showed her pictures of my son during his battle with cancer and encouraged her in her dream of one day helping others like herself and Caleb heal and thrive. I told her how grateful we were for Caleb's doctors and nurses and that I believed she would reach her goals.

It was such a small thing, to be able to look her in the eye and cheer her on. One small act and connection I will forever treasure.

   She rode back to the compassion project with us and we spent the rest of the afternoon together. She seemed tired and was content to stay in one place while the other children swirled in packs around us. I offered her my iPod and her face lit up when the music came rolling through my earphones. She added the glasses to complete her cool look! Of course I adored this girl more and more as the sun increased in intensity and the day lengthened out. She kept her sweater on while I was literally melting into the dust beneath my feet. We hugged many times before we finally parted ways. I will likely never see her again. It is a strange feeling.

 Sharon is only one girl in a sea of African  humanity.   

  Does she matter?

  Is her life worthy of rescue?

  Is Compassion wasting their time and effort for this one life?

All around me were laughing, galloping, rescued children. It was simply beautiful.....

There is one more child from this very project in Dandora, KE910, who is looking to you for friendship and support. His name is Harrison and he's been waiting for eight months to announce that he too has a sponsor....that he has been chosen.
Harrison Ngumbi is eleven years old and lives in Dandora with his mother and one sibling. Carrying water and running errands are his household duties. Soccer is his favorite activity!

I have his packet here on my desk and would love to help you claim Harrison as your own! You can email me at or leave me a message here on my blog.

One more picture!