Compassion Bloggers: Precious Gifts

Poinsettia
Image by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar, on Flickr

The Christmas season can trigger a variety of memories and emotions — some bittersweet.  As we anticipate the joyful arrival of the infant Jesus into our homes, we are surprised when the shorter days darken our moods. We are disappointed to find ourselves feeling exhausted just when we are supposed to feel cheerful and inspired. We avoid much needed rest because we want to go the extra mile to make the season “perfect” for our families, our friends, ourselves.

I tend to find comfort and inspiration from nature — especially plants and flowers. I am encouraged when I remember a few facts about the poinsettia, one of the most popular symbols of the Christmas season. Its showy, red petal-like leaves or bracts decorate homes, offices and churches between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those brilliant colors are only possible if the plant gets enough hours of rest — total darkness, in fact — from September through at least mid-November.  The uninterrupted hours of darkness trigger the colorful bract formation and turn the poinsettia into the familiar holiday symbol.

I remember the poinsettia when I catch myself postponing much needed rest, solitude or quiet. I remember to honor the cues that tell me to look within, to close my eyes and retreat from the lights, the trimmings and the to-do lists. I realize that rest and regeneration — the good stuff — sometimes need darkness to carry out their work.

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Image by Pete Jeliffe, on Flickr

 

When I look within, I remember the quiet joy that comes with the first dawn of Christmas. I remember that the glory of Christmas began with a child in the humblest of circumstances. I think fondly of the child I sponsor through Compassion International and pray that the light from the Christ child will greet her early, before the sun rises on Christmas morning.

The beauty of nature brings many gifts, whether they are life lessons, pretty colors, or a bountiful harvest. Garden seeds, for example, can save a family from hunger or provide an income from crops. You can share this and other precious gifts from the Compassion International Gift Catalog with a child or family in the poorest areas of the world. I hope you’ll consider looking over the catalog.

Wishing you the light and love of the Christmas season!

 

 

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Compassion Bloggers: Confessions of a Rediscovered Kid at Heart

It’s always a happy occasion when I receive a letter from Joan, the child I sponsor through Compassion International.  Across continents, from her home in Uganda, Joan shares her hopes and prayers for her future. Her childlike enthusiasm is indeed contagious. Whether she’s sharing a drawing or asking for prayer for her studies (she wants to be a teacher), she reminds me of my own childhood and its sense of wonder.

This weekend, an early snowstorm here in Idaho gave me a chance to rediscover my inner child. When I was growing up in New Hampshire, I’d look forward to the first snow almost as much as Christmas. But later, as responsibilities took the front and center spot, I tended to see snowstorms as a nuisance at best and a cause for panic at worst.

We woke up Friday morning to see this outside our front door:

snowy street

After living in Texas for most of his life, my husband John saw snow for the first time in years. Although I grew up in New Hampshire, I moved to Texas nearly six years ago when we got married. Now that we are spending our first winter in Idaho, John’s childlike enthusiasm at the first snow put my fretful worrying to shame!

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After a few minutes outside, the hushed street and clean smell of freshly fallen snow took me back to those first snows of my childhood. As I write this post, I am struck by the way God helps us revive treasured memories with all our senses.

He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them,  “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:36-37

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Maybe God wants me to welcome the little child that dwells in my own heart — the one that gazed at the streaks of sunlight on the snow and couldn’t wait to put on her boots and play outside!

Speaking of kids, you may want to check out Compassion Explorer Magazine, great for kids and kids at heart. It’s free, and full of stories, recipes and other projects.

Now let’s rediscover and reclaim the kid in each of our hearts!

Compassion Bloggers: Back to School!

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The phrase “back to school” always brought mixed emotions when I was a child. Summer was over, and that meant the end of days at the beach, homework-free nights, and sleeping late. On the other hand, I was excited to start the new school year in the next grade and see friends I had missed during vacation. Even now, I feel that indescribable pang when Labor Day weekend rolls around.

As a child sponsor through Compassion International, I am especially aware of the blessings that education provides for children in developing countries. In developing countries, for example, only 66 percent of primary school-age children attend school, compared with nearly 80 percent worldwide. Only 49 percent of secondary school-age children worldwide attend school, and more than half of the children who do not attend school worldwide are girls.

“Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.”

Isaiah 60:1

The important role of education in releasing children from poverty is a major reason why I sponsor a child through Compassion International. The organization’s holistic approach includes educational opportunities, health care and instruction, and life-skills training. Sponsors write letters to their sponsored children, and let the children know that they are valued in a world that can seem so cold and dismissive.

Compassion International’s Christ-centered programs motivate and encourage children to reach for the stars!

You can learn more about Compassion International by visiting the organization’s website and reading about its Holistic Child Development Model.  Here’s to a blessed and inspiring school year around the world!

 

 

Why I Am a Compassion Sponsor

Her name is Joan and she lives in Uganda. At age six, her favorite pastimes include storytelling and singing, and I have been her sponsor for a little over a month. As I searched and prayed for a child to sponsor, I kept going back to Joan’s picture and story. When my new sponsor’s packet arrived in the mail this month, I put Joan’s photograph on our refrigerator.  I placed the Compassion bookmark imprinted with Joan’s picture and suggested prayers in my Bible.

Many small steps led to my decision to sponsor a child. In the summer of 2013, I heard a pastor speak about how women and children have suffered from violence and poverty throughout history. Children have been specifically targeted from the days of the early lives of Moses and Jesus to the present day violence in Syria.

“Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.” Jeremiah 31:15 (KJV)

I never had children of my own, and I wondered what I could do to help a child. As a freelance writer and blogger, I have shared my Christian faith and to be inspired by the faith of other bloggers. I noticed that some of my fellow bloggers were writing posts about Compassion International. I visited the organization’s website and was impressed with its holistic approach to releasing children from the cycle of poverty.

My husband began sponsoring a child from Ghana through Compassion International in January 2014. Soon our refrigerator was covered with drawings and letters from my husband’s sponsored child. We could see the difference Compassion was making in her life. I felt an irresistible pull to sponsor a child as well, but I hesitated. We were preparing to move out of state and besides, what if my freelance work became scarce? The last thing I wanted to do was begin sponsoring a child and then have to stop.

I had forgotten that we have a Lord who provides.

“So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Genesis 22:14 (NIV)

When higher paying, more reliable work came my way, I followed my heart and became a sponsor for $38 a month. Besides, the gym I had been attending had closed, and it was no coincidence that the membership fee that I was no longer paying had been $38. The Lord knows I like to have confirmation, to see the numbers.

The day that I was able to write Joan a letter and tell her that I believe in her was one of the happiest days of my life. I was able to tell her that I am proud of her for helping her family at home, and that I like singing and storytelling, too. I read about Uganda and looked at the map. Joan is in my prayers and thoughts, as are the children who still need sponsors. In the years to come, I cannot wait to see how the Lord works in our lives.

Word for 2014: Hope

How do I choose a word — one word — for the year 2014? After all, there are so many “good” words that could make the short list. As I prayed, reflected and meditated on this blogging assignment, I kept coming back to one word.

 

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

This verse was on the wall at a Flagstaff, Arizona shelter for women and children that became my temporary home several years ago. Hope is in the verse, and hope is part of the shelter’s name. This fall, I returned with my husband John to this women’s shelter to share my testimony at their annual banquet. It was an evening of renewed friendship, shared stories, and hope.

Hope returned again this week, as my creative soul began to heal and I sang and played music for the first time in twenty years. This week, John and I embraced hope and became sponsors to a little girl in Ghana. In this joyous season, we sing songs of hope as we greet the newborn King.

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Las Cruces Sunrise

You can read more ideas from Compassion Bloggers, who are linking up and sharing a word for 2014. What is your word for the coming year?

 

 

 

 

 

Philippines Typhoon: How You Can Help

As you know, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines with unprecedented fury on November 8. It lived up to forecasts as the strongest recorded storm ever to make landfall. With electricity out and nearly half a million people displaced, the 1.7 million children in the typhoon’s path are particularly hard hit.

Philippines: ECHO team first on the ground in rural Leyte province

According to an article by the Associated Press, wind and storm surge damage as well as infrastructure problems are hampering relief efforts in the Tacloban area. Authorities hope, however, that the reopening of two airports in the devastated region will help.

With its usual focus on children and families, Compassion International is mobilizing to provide emergency food, water, shelter, school supplies, trauma counseling and much more. Click on this page to find out more about Compassion International’s work in the Philippines, and how you can help. God bless!

Compassion International Bloggers in Nicaragua

Learn more about sponsoring a child.

This week, a group of bloggers is touring Nicaragua with Compassion International, the Christian child advocacy ministry. I’d like to invite you to follow these bloggers and witness hope in action.

One member of the Nicaragua tour is Kelly, who runs the  blog Faithful Provisions. She had the privilege of meeting seven-year-old Marcos, the child whom she sponsors through Compassion International. Marcos and his grandmother welcomed Kelly into their home and told her how much her sponsorship has helped him go to school and eat nutritious meals. Like many other sponsored children, Marcos now has plans and hope for his future.

Kelly’s story reminded me of a verse I read on the wall of the kitchen at a women’s shelter where I lived five years ago:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Whether you are a homeless person in the United States or a child living in poverty in Central America, people often do not want to look you in the eye. It’s too real.

Compassionate acts really do make a difference! As the organization states in its mission statement, Compassion International works to release children from all types of poverty: spiritual, social, economic and physical. There are many ways to get involved, including sponsoring a child or following and sharing the Compassion Blog Tour.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6 (NIV)