Women’s History Month Spotlight – Katie Davis

Katie Davis2

Young? Only in actual years. This beautiful, amazing young lady has the servant’s heart of one who has lived a lifetime for Jesus. Her book, Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, is on my bookshelf and travels with me everywhere I go as an audio book. I guarantee you’ll be forever changed after reading it.  Warning – Your life will gain new perspective and you will find a desire stirring in your heart to want to serve.

Katie was a popular teen in high school. She was the senior class president, Homecoming queen, she had the boyfriend of her dreams and college plans were in the making. When she talked her parents into allowing her to go to Uganda for a two-week mission trip over Christmas break to work in an orphanage, her life was turned upside down. No longer could Katie imagine living a life of comfort and convenience, with so many things, when there were so many who lived with little to nothing, who were dying from lack of food and medical care.

Katie moved to Uganda at age 18, adopted 13 girls, and has devoted her entire life to serving others. She began a non-profit, Amazima Ministries, and has been an angel sent from God to so many in need.

I have three sponsor children through Compassion International that I’ve talked about in the past – Alex from Tanzania, Amede from Togo, and Mamounata from Burkina Faso – among other causes I support. I have had people tell me that there are plenty of needs to be met in our own country and have gone on to ask why I feel the need to support those outside. Yes, I really have been asked that. And my heart breaks each time. I look at Katie and thank God for people like her. Not because she serves in another country, but because she serves. She serves where the Lord has sent her. We aren’t all called to serve in the same area, doing the same thing, which is a blessing in and of itself, since there are many needs to be met all over the world. I just ask -and challenge – you to look for a way to make the world a better place. To serve those in need. To be a light in the darkness, stillness in the chaos, peace in the midst of war. Be that someone to another. No matter where or to whom.

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That’s my challenge to you. Find someone – or a group of someones – that YOU can make a difference to. Whether it’s your time, money, talent, love…it’s free to love another. It doesn’t cost a cent. But it can potentially save the life of another and will make you the wealthiest you have ever been. Guaranteed.

“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.”  -Mother Teresa
 

Birthday Blessings

Seize the Day

I’ve heard people talk about 50 as being “over the hill,” “half of a century old,” “on the downward slide,” etc.

When I woke up this morning, having turned 50 myself, the first thing that came to mind was:

I AM SO BLESSED!

I got out of bed, got dressed and headed out the door for an early morning run. As I ran, I reflected on my life. What a better time than a milestone birthday, right? And as I strolled down memory lane, my heart nearly exploded with gratitude. I am, at 50 years of age, at a place in my life that is the best it’s ever been. The heart breaking moments and tragedies of years past are a direct connection to where I’m at now. If every one of those crises hadn’t happened, my life literally would not be what it is today. I think of all the prayers I’ve prayed, disappointed when they weren’t answered, only to realize that they were answered. Thankfully not the way I had hoped for at the time.

So today, at 50 years old, let me share with you some of what makes me the richest woman in the world.

First of all, the people who have been placed in my life by God, at the exact time and in the exact role that He knew I needed exactly when I did.

  • An amazing husband, Clint, who has given me the marriage, friendship, and partnership in life that I’ve always dreamed of.
  • Two amazing boys, Ben and Alex, who have taught me the true meaning of unconditional love and acceptance.
  • A granddaughter, Zoey, who brings unmatched joy to my life, and a chance to experience part of her father as a little one all over again.
  • A step-daughter, Jennifer, and five step-grandchildren who have accepted me into their lives, my life all the more beautiful because of them.
  • A step-daughter, Becky, who enriched my life with her kindness, sparkle and beauty–inside and out–who has gone ahead to greet me at the gates of heaven when I’m called home.
  • Parents who gave me the gift of life and the foundation of family and faith. It took me a while to catch on, but I eventually got it. 🙂 And while they waited, they taught me patience and perseverance.
  • Sisters, Sandy and Brenda, my best friends chosen by God for me to share life with from beginning to end.
  • My grandma Cielinski and my Uncle Earl who helped carry me through some of the most difficult times of my life.
  • Mr. Rude, my high school English teacher, who made such a difference in the life of this high school student with a love of writing.
  • My “Brighton Group” (you know who you are), who have accepted me exactly as I am, broken and flawed, who have taught me how to live a clean life, honest and true, how to love, and how to be a friend.
  • A Church and Church Family that lifts me up.
  • A blogging community with which I’ve grown as a writer and as a person.

And beyond these angels in my life, I’m blessed with and grateful for:

  • A job in which I’m blessed to serve victims of crime. Since I was a victim of crime at one time, I’ve come full circle, blessed to use my tragedy for good.
  • The ability to sponsor three kiddos from Africa (Togo, Burkina Faso, and Tanzania) through Compassion International, helping to release them from poverty and give them hope. Alex, Amede and Mamounata have taught me compassion, that the gift of giving blesses the giver, and the power of prayer.
  • The ability to be a sponsor to Amazima Ministries in Uganda, furthering the work of Christ as he reaches the unreachable.
  • The ability to be a donor to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I mention these things because it is not me or my money that helps in these areas, it’s all because of an amazing God who has laid these passions upon my heart and has given me the resources to be able to do so. And it’s this giving that has changed my heart as nothing else could ever do.
  • The gift of writing, which brings me so much joy and satisfaction. I published a book last year, The Inheritance, a dream I’ve had as far back as I’ve been able to dream, and another book, Shear Madness, due out next month.

And the blessings just go on and on. Go back to my thirties? Not a chance. Not even my forties. My best days, my best life, is right here, right now.

And as a side note, at the end of my run, still dancing on my pink cloud, I nearly stepped on not one, but two, squished flat as a pancake, messy toads. If that was the enemy’s way of bringing me down from my high, it didn’t work. It simply made me drive more carefully than ever to work. Just in case… 🙂

Carpe Diem

 

 

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Letters

Does anyone else miss the days of pen to paper letter writing? Technology has made things so fast and easy, that it seems the personal touch of actually writing has become obsolete. Not only is writing electronically faster, but when you make a mistake it’s easy to hit the backspace or delete key and with no indication whatsoever of any error, you’re back on your way to creating the message. When you make a mistake when handwriting a letter, unless you scribble out the error, leaving it look less than beautiful, or you use the tacky, sticky white-out method, still leaving proof of an error, the only way to be error free when handwriting is to start over. And over. And over.

But there’s something about putting pen to paper that makes a message more personal and intimate. Choosing the stationery or notebook, the style and color of ink, feeling your hand move on the page, even the smell of the paper. And speaking of the smell of the paper, did I mention the extra personal touch of a spritz of scent on the paper before sending it on its way?

When I write, whether it be novels, poetry, or even writing practice, typing on the computer and writing by hand produces a significantly different outcome, which I’ve come to learn there’s a reason for: How you write affects the way your brain processes information.

One of the items on my bucket list is to become friends with people from ten different countries. In my pursuit to make that happen, I began looking at different websites that assist with finding pen pals. When I looked over the lists, a large number of those potential pen pals are looking to exchange letters specifically via email. I have to admit, I bypassed those.

I began to look at my own letter-writing habits and realized when I write letters to my sponsor kiddos in Togo, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso, I write them on the computer, sending pictures electronically as well, because it’s faster and easier. But when I receive their handwritten letters, seeing each curve and individual style of their handwriting in their handwritten letters, it brings me a sense of closeness to them, and pride when I see the progress they’ve made in their handwriting skills. I treasure those letters. Not to mention the thrill of seeing a letter in the mailbox. Oh the joy! 🙂 Perhaps it’s time to send them good old-fashioned handwritten letters in return.

In an age like ours, which is not given to letter-writing, we forget what an important part it used to play in people’s lives.”  ~Anatole Broyard

What are your preferences?

Writing pen to paper or email?

Actual books or electronic readers?

Electronics–friend or foe?

Receiving handwritten letters via snail mail or email?

Carpe Diem

Living With Compassion

 

Live Simply

If there’s one thing that can turn a bad day into a good one every single time it’s connecting with my Compassion kiddos. I can be having a terrible day at work, but if at the end of that day I come home to find a letter from one of my three kids in the mailbox, it’s like the dawning of a new and better day. I learn so much from them on how to be thankful for the smallest things in life, about praying for one another and asking for prayer for our families, and that less truly is often more.

I look at today’s kids with cell phones in kindergarten, people of all ages texting or otherwise immersed in phone or computer games and social media instead of connecting with one another in person and it makes my heart heavy. Trust me, there is no judging going on here. Me, my children and my grandchildren are all active participants of this movement. But it saddens me, nonetheless, to see that we’re moving away from personal contact with others, from living relationships with others, to cyber relationships.

I watch as we in this country become so obsessed with things, when my Compassion kiddos are simply trying to stay fed and clothed. And yet they’re happier and richer than anyone else I know. One of my kids, Alex Mandari, from Tanzania sent me a letter last week thanking me for his birthday money. With it he bought clothes, shoes and food. Buying all that with the small amount I sent him shows me he’s a master at making the most of a dollar. He tells me what he learns at the Compassion Center on Saturdays, about the goodness of God, how it’s important to listen to Him, and tells me every time he writes that he’s praying for me and my family. He’s a fifteen year old boy going on fifty in terms of wisdom and life lessons.

I began my sponsorship with these three angels wanting to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. To share what I have with those who have not. However, what happened is that they are the ones who daily make a difference in my life. They teach me about faith, unconditional love, and the power of prayer. They teach me that giving is a gift to the giver. They give to me of their lives, their worlds, their enthusiasm and zest for life, and the best part of humanity I could ever hope to experience. They aren’t just my sponsor kids, they’re part my family. And I’m so richly blessed!

Alex M. Amede Mamounata

Alex, Tanzania, 15                         Amede, Togo, 8                      Mamounata, Burkina Faso, 10

I have come across criticism a time or two for sponsoring outside of my country when we have so much need here. My answer is that thank goodness there are so many people with so many different interests. My answer is that it doesn’t matter where you give and who you give to, only that we give to each other. My passion lies with these three children and the people who make up their worlds, and also the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I’m so fortunate to have these passions laid upon my heart.

I would love to hear how you volunteer your time and support others and to hear how it has enriched your life, the giver of self, time and finances. It has paid me back far beyond what I’ve expended. 🙂

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” -Mother Teresa

Carpe Diem

“M” is for…

Mamounata.  And Alex and Amede.

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These three precious children have changed my life. They’ve taken me out of my own self-centeredness by sharing their lives with me.

Mamaounata is 9 years old, from Burkina Faso, and likes dolls and group games; Alex is 14, from Tanzania, and likes soccer and singing; and Amede is 8, from Togo, and likes soccer and group games.

Before I had begun sponsoring these kiddos, I had been praying for some time that God lead me to an area in which He wanted me to serve. A way to serve that would glorify and honor Him in the way that would make the biggest difference to His children.

And He led me to Compassion International, where I looked at these three angels and my heart was so deeply filled with a need to love them, that I knew it was right.

Sponsoring them has been such a gift and a blessing, receiving their letters in my mailbox turning a difficult day to one of gratitude. Hearing that they are praying for me? Wow! Reading that they bought clothes, rice and beans with the birthday money I’ve sent them? Again, Wow!  They tell me their favorite bible verses, what they’re doing in school, who their best friends are, ask me how my family is and that they pray for me, they draw me pictures, and on and on. The blessings are endless.

I have had people ask me why I choose to help children in another country when we have so much need right here in our own. To that I say “Each of us is called to serve in our own unique way.  I was called to this, and it’s not for me to say ‘No.'” As long as each of us is serving in some way, helping in some area of need, the world will be a much better place.

Being of service isn’t time taken from us, it’s life given.  Giving to those in need isn’t giving money away, it’s an investment.  For me, there is no better investment than investing in the life of a child. And I have so much life to live and so much more investing to do.

albert-schweitzer-quote-service

Peace.

Thankful Thursday – My Sponsor Kiddos

Compassion International

As far back as I can remember, volunteering in some capacity has played an important role in my life.  The latest is one that has enlarged my heart’s capacity to truly love, empathize, and want to give in a way I’ve never known was possible.

Several years ago I felt a stirring in my heart to sponsor a child from a third world country.  My love of children and desire to make a difference, even to just one, and to step outside of my “circle” and comfort zone, fueled that desire even more.

Having a tendency to be somewhat of a skeptic–not always a bad thing–led me to do some thorough research on organizations available.  That research led me to sponsor through Compassion International whose focus is on the spiritual, physical, social and educational needs of a child.

I could speak volumes on how wonderful the program is, but what I want to focus on here, on Thankful Thursday, is how grateful I am to participate in this program and in the lives of these precious children. What began as sponsoring one child has progressed into sponsoring three.

The financial contributions each month are a very small price to pay for what I get in return.  And it makes my heart swell with gratitude to have the means to be able to reach out and help others.   However, it is the written correspondence with the kids that enriches my life beyond my wildest dreams.

To receive a letter with a school report card enclosed, the pictures their little hands took the time to draw for me, to hear how they spent their birthday and receive a photo of them with the presents they bought with their birthday money  (usually beans, rice, flour, and shoes or pants) makes me realize not only how financially blessed we are here, but how spiritually rich these children are.

And when they tell me what they’re learning through their Compassion studies, their favorite Bible verse and that they are praying for me… Wow!  They’re praying for me?!  It brings tears to my eyes.  And I close my eyes and give them a hug in my mind.  Circling them in arms of love and joy. And immense gratitude.

Here is a brief overview of the children who have changed not only my life, but my heart. Who have taught me the meaning of true richness.

The first child I sponsored is Amede from Togo, Africa.  This sweet boy is now 7 years old and in first grade.  Homes in his vicinity are typically made with dirt floors, mud/earth/clay/adobe walls, and roofs of leaves, grass or thatch.  Amede loves to play soccer.  39% of the families in Togo live on less than $1.25/day.

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The second child I added to our family is Alex who lives in Tanzania, Africa.  Alex is 13 years old and in 6th grade.  He lives only with his mother, as his father has died.  Life expectancy is low due to HIV/AIDS and malaria. Homes in Alex’s area have floors made from brick, block, or cement, walls of mud, and roofs of tin or corrugated iron. Alex loves to play soccer and draw cars.  Here, 58% of the population live below $1.00/day.

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Then there is my latest addition, my sweet Mamounata from Burkina Faso, Africa, who is 8 years old, in second grade, and loves to draw.  Homes where this precious child is from typically have floors of dirt, walls of mud, and roofs of tin or corrugated iron.  57% of the families live on less than $1.25/day. Every 30 seconds a child in Burkina Faso dies of malaria.

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I truly believe God led me to these beautiful children not only to help them get the food and water, medical help and vaccinations, and education I can help provide, but to teach me the real meaning of love and wealth. Of what it means to truly give of oneself.  Because these children give me more than I could have ever imagined.

I truly am so thankful.  And beyond blessed.

All is Grace.