Compassion

IMG_0136

For those who have followed my blog for a while you know I have three sponsor kids from Africa: Alex from Tanzania, Amede from Togo, and Mamounata from Burkina Faso. These kids have enriched my life in more ways that I ever could have imagined when I first started sponsoring them.

A couple of weeks ago I worked at an event for Compassion International called the Compassion Experience. This experience allows participants to see how children in third-world countries live too frequently. While it’s heartbreaking, it prompts one to want to make a difference.

During the Compassion Experience, each participant is equipped with head phones and an iPhone that leads them through a realistic look into the lives of two real children. In the one I volunteered for, those children were Kiwi from the Philippines and Jey from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Before I began my shift, I walked through Jey’s life (you can listen to it for yourself here) so I could adequately represent it to those I would be helping with the experience. Let me tell you it was eye opening!

Jey didn’t have a father and they didn’t have food or money. He grew up on the streets begging for money and food. When he couldn’t get anything to eat or drink, he began stealing.

IMG_0116

At just 9 years of age, Jey was arrested and found himself in jail. His cell looked like this. Could you imagine the fear he must have felt? Jey admits to not fearing death, as that was the only way he saw that he could get out. And worse, as a mother, could you imagine knowing your child was in this place?

IMG_0117

The above photo is of Jey’s grandmother’s place where numerous family members shared a tiny space. There was one bed, the one shown here, for everyone to share.

 

 

IMG_0126IMG_0125

The above two photos are areas in the slum neighborhoods where children were often found begging and trying to make money for food.

When Jey got out of jail he went back to the same poverty stricken environment. His mother didn’t have any means to provide for her kids. Jey thought he would have to go back to the streets again to beg and probably die. At that point in his life is when Compassion International came in.

The two photos below are of the school in the Compassion Project that gave Jey hope.

IMG_0120

IMG_0122

Jey finally had a place to go where he received food, learned music, and a new way of thinking. That’s when things started turning around for him. The first time Jey heard “I Love You” was from his sponsor. He was told he was special, and that we was going to end up to be somebody. Words that forever changed him.

Today Jey is a DJ and a youth minister. But even more importantly, today Jey is free from prison, hunger, poverty, and destruction.

Jey’s is just one of so many heart wrenching stories. As a mother, I couldn’t imagine a horror so great as watching my child starve or be put in jail as a result of trying to get food or drink.

Tonight as you tuck your children into bed for the night, or you get that phone call from one of your children needing help or just calling to say “Hi, Mom/Dad,” or you pass by your teenager’s messy room, offer up thanks for having a healthy, happy child. Be grateful that you have the means to support them. And give thanks for the freedom and government programs we all have here in our country. Freedom and government programs children in third-world countries don’t have.

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.
― Mother Teresa

All Things Gratitude

IMG_0098

Gratitude fills my heart, my home, my life. And I’m so grateful for that. But I also realize that it’s all too easy to get busy with living and default, as human beings often do, to feelings other than gratitude, forgetting to be grateful. Especially for the small, simple things in life that make a big difference.

So I’ve created a gratitude jar that sits on my kitchen counter. Right beside it are pre-cut strips of paper and a pen for easy access. No excuses that there isn’t time to find a pen or “I’ll get to it later.” My husband and I frequently fill out a slip as we pass by the jar, and family and friends who visit are encouraged to participate as they wish.

Our plan is to go through each item of gratitude on New Year’s Eve as a reminder of all that we have to be grateful for in the past year. And what a way to bring in the new year–with hearts filled with gratitude!

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. -Melody Beattie

Another item of mention that I’m so excited about is that a non-fiction article I wrote titled Gratitude in All Things has been published in an anthology titled Colorado’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction and has been released this week. Yay! It can be found here and here


May I suggest making your own gratitude jar? Get creative. Got kids? Have them help! Make it a family activity.

And in the meantime, let me know what you’re grateful for last week, today, in this moment.

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. -William Arthur Ward

No Regrets

No Regrets

Why is it that we often don’t realize how much a person means to us until they’re taken from us. Whether it be a move, an illness, life getting in the way keeping two people apart, or death, it’s not until the person is gone, the relationship as we knew it changed forever, that we wish we would have known, would have had some warning, and we stop and wonder what happened. And then in moves the destructive visitor of regret. Sometimes he stays for a moment, sometimes a day, sometimes weeks, months, or even years.

I’ve lost too many people who are important to me, from my grandparents (one grandmother in particular) to my step-daughter to several friends. And each time I look back and wish I would have done something different, said something different, or didn’t say or do something that I did, or simply wish I’d taken more time to give them. Each time I’m haunted by the moments these precious people wanted to spend time with me but I didn’t take the time to give them. And how, afterwards, when it was too late, I’d give anything for another chance, because I would make the time.

When someone wants to spend time with you, it’s an honor. A privilege. A compliment.

It’s all too easy to ponder the moments when that harsh word was spoken instead of being patient, when annoyances caused a hard heart and deaf ears, when things in life that don’t matter stole time right out from under us robbing us from what does matter, and guilt moves in to reside alongside regret.

Guilt and regret will destroy you if it’s given so much as a foothold.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the most recent brutal cycle of beating myself up after learning a dear friend has cancer that has spread significantly, is that I’m strong enough to not allow guilt and regret to hold me hostage. There’s no room for them at the Inn. Instead, I can let the past be the past, learn to be a better, more loving person, honor her by living a life of humility and kindness that she’s shown me, and devote time to help her travel her difficult journey.

No matter how devastating the curveball life throws at you, the best thing you can do is learn the lesson if there’s one to be learned. Get back to making room and time for the people in your life by re-evaluating your priorities.  Wake up each morning with a renewed promise to live a life of love and service. Each day is another opportunity to love, be kind to others, and let the people in your life know you love them. Don’t hesitate to give that hug, make that phone call, say that “I love you.” It’s never too late to show the people who are important to you just how important they are.

The only way to make sure you’re happy is to love and care for others, even when they don’t do the same. Spread love in the ways you know how, because the love you give is its own reward. 
― Connor Chalfant

Happy Memorial Day

IMG_3893

Today as we honor our veterans and those still fighting the fight so we can have freedom in our great country, I want to say Thank You!

Thank you for your commitment.

Thank you for your service.

Thank you for giving your life so that we can have ours.

Thank you for giving so selflessly so that we may “have.”

Thank you for giving up time with your families that we may have time with ours.

And thank you for the ultimate sacrifice of YOU.

Today, let’s honor, pray for, and give thanks to the men and women of our great country who are too often forgotten as we live the life we have because of their sacrifice.

Happy Memorial Day!

 “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

 

 

This and That

Blessed!

Last week found me a bit under the weather, which included a trip to see my cardiologist. A reminder of how precious life is and how blessed I am to have a device that keeps my heart beating as it should. So this week I’m listing the top three things I’m grateful for.

1.  Family–A husband who supports and encourages my faith and who stands by my side no matter what; Children who are so good to me and are truly good people; grandchildren who love unconditionally and remind me to live with the innocence and acceptance of a child; And parents who daily model true love.

2.  Medical professionals who are not only knowledgable, but kind and compassionate. And health insurance to afford their care. We are so blessed here in America.

3.  Life! Yup, all of it–the good, the bad, and the ugly. The bad and the ugly because they develop perseverance, patience, and strength and make me really appreciate the good. And the good not only for obvious reasons (we all like good, don’t we?), but it feeds my soul, helping me survive the bad and the ugly. The totality of life is such a gift. Every. Single. Breath.

Go out and live each moment of this day. Really live. And give thanks. For all of it.

living-in-the-moment.png

International Women’s Day

Mother Teresa

I saved my Wednesday post for Thursday this week, because today is International Women’s Day. While I’m not a women’s libber or a women’s rights activist (Not that there’s anything wrong with those who are, in fact, if that’s you, KUDOS! Keep it up!), I do believe women are special and contribute far more to society than they’re given credit for. So today I celebrate a few of the women who have contributed something to my life in the way of lessons learned or those I greatly admire. Those are:

Marilyn Monroe – She was such a beautiful, talented woman, and yet so conflicted. Sadly, Marilyn Monroe has proven that beauty truly is only skin deep and cannot buy happiness or true joy.

Amelia Earhart – Aviation pioneer – She has demonstrated that being a woman should never stop one from doing what one truly wants to do. If anything, she has shown that one should try even harder, pursuing passion with gusto.

Oprah Winfrey – She has shown that no matter what we’re born with and what our past holds, it does not have to define and shape our future. We have the power within us to do and be whatever we choose to be. And, as with Amelia Earhart, passion and perseverance can move mountains.

Katie Davis – Katie has shown that we’re never too young to make a difference. At 18 she moved to Uganda to work with the poor and has adopted 14 girls and made a difference to an abundance of people. She radiates joy, love, hope, and the Spirit of Jesus.

Anne Frank – Her statement, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart,” is astounding to me. She has shown that attitude really is 99% of what we become.

Kathryn Stockett – Wow! Talk about perseverance! After five years of trying to secure a literary agent and approximately 60 rejections, the author of the bestseller, The Help, never quit. Thank goodness she finally caught the attention of just one, because it’s a book I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

Jane Pauley – I grew up watching her on NBC’s The Today Show, and her simple beauty and love of being a journalist fed my love of words. Recently she has spoken openly about her bipolar disorder, helping to overcome some of the stigma surrounding the illness. Go Jane!

Maya Angelou – A woman who has overcome childhood trauma and used it to help others overcome through words. And the poem Phenomenal Woman? I need say no more. Simply phenomenal!

Mother Teresa – I don’t even know where to begin with explaining what this amazing Godly woman has taught me. She was the most perfect role model of grace, humility, and demonstration of love. Her simplicity and selfless service to others knew no bounds.

But the first and most influential woman in my life is my mother. She has taught me that hard work, faith, and dedication are the keys to success. She has taught me that taking care of and being present for my own family is the greatest gift I can give, and that to serve and follow Christ, I need not travel to another country to do so, but it starts in my own home. And she has taught me that laughter and joy are key to aging gracefully.

To you women, celebrate those women who have paved the way to make your life a better one. And to you men, celebrate those women who enrich your lives.

There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.   Michelle Obama

Well-behaved women seldom make history. 
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich