February 11, 2014

One Day: A lesson in living in the moment

One day.
My house will remain clean.
There will be fewer dishes in the sink.
My laundry pile will shrink.

The noise and chaos will be replaced by peace and quiet.

I know one day I'll miss it:
The busy pace,
the sound of children laughing.
I'll miss the endless questions,
the constant chatter,
the tiny voice saying "hold me, mommy."

I must not wish this day away.

And yet, at the end of another endless day
I sink into the couch and I wonder:
Can I do this?
I'm so very tired.
I'm so very impatient with the endless questions,
the constant chatter,
the tiny voice saying "hold me, mommy."

I love them as much as I love the breath that fills my lungs,
but some days leave me feeling breathless.

No one told me.
I didn't understand how love and frustration could mingle together.
Longing and loathing.
Hope and hopelessness.

I will not wish these years away.

For slumbering cherubs will one day fly.
Tiny feet will strike out on new paths.
Timid voices will have stories to tell.

One day, I will sleep again.
One day, the silence will be deafening.
One day, I will miss this.
One day will come before I'm ready.

February 7, 2014

Andrea's Story (part 2)

In June of 2013, I traveled to El Salvador to meet my sponsored child, Andrea. This is the story of how we met.
When we arrived at Andrea's project location, I scanned the crowds of children, looking for her. All I had to recognize her by was a picture taken a year earlier that was printed on my child sponsorship card. 

We spent the morning visiting with Sara and her family, and that afternoon, we returned to the church for a presentation put on by the children.  

They invited all of the visiting sponsors to come up to the front of the room, and the children presented each adult with a shirt featuring the hand prints of the children from the center.  There was the sweetest group of little girls standing right in front of me, so I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture. Everyone else was looking away, but one little girl stared straight at me.
Everyone was dismissed to participate in the day's planned activities (music, Bible story, recreation). I was told that if I waited outside, they would find someone to locate Andrea so that we could finally meet.

Imagine my surprise, when the same little girl in the purple striped shirt turned out to be my Andrea. She had never seen a picture of me, and I had only ever seen one picture of her. I was so excited that I inadvertently tossed my cell phone down a storm drain . . . miraculously it survived and was retrieved thanks to some helpful friends. 

She told me that she had really wanted to give me her hand print shirt, and was sad when another child handed one to me first. Neither of us knew that I was her sponsor at the time. It was one of those God-sized coincidences.

Usually, when a sponsor comes to visit their child, they have the opportunity to visit the child in their home, to help get a glimpse of where the child is coming from. Unfortunately, due to the gang violence in El Salvador, it wasn't safe for us to travel to her neighborhood. It breaks my heart that my sponsored child lives in the midst of such dangerous circumstances. I pray for her safety regularly.

 My Spanish was a little bit rusty, but it was so neat to have some time to talk with one another. A Compassion translator helped fill in the language gaps. Her favorite subjects in school are English and Computers. Andrea told me that when she grows up she hopes to become a doctor. After witnessing how detailed and meticulous she was coloring a picture, I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see her realize her dreams. Dreams are rare for those in poverty. It's hard to imagine a hopeful future when your family struggles on a daily basis.

She was only seven, but she'd already had her share of heartache. Her grandmother shared with me that when Andrea's mother was pregnant, her father left to go to America, with the promise to send for them once he had gotten settled. He never returned. They found out later, that he had met another woman, and started a family with her, leaving Andrea and her mother on their own.

At the time I visited Andrea, she was living with her grandmother. Her mother was pregnant and living with a boyfriend who was a gang member. Andrea's grandmother said that she didn't trust the boyfriend, and wanted to make sure that Andrea was safe. You could tell how very special Andrea was to her Abuela. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me for sponsoring Andrea. She called me an angel.

I'm nothing special. I'm just an ordinary mom with a mortgage. But God can use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Not because there's anything special about me, but because there's something incredibly special about the love of God. 
 There's not a doubt in my mind that God loves this poor, fatherless girl immensely. So much so, that he'd send a complete stranger to another part of the world just to give her a hug and tell her how very special she is. That's the kind of God we serve. A God who loves the poor and the fatherless. A God who says "I see you," "I know you," "You have value and worth because I made you."

My family is blessed by the opportunity to sponsor Andrea. I love that it gives my children a glimpse into her world. We pray for her, write to her, and let her know how very special she is. What a blessing to have the opportunity to speak life into this little girl's world.

Only God knows what Andrea's future holds, but I can tell you my dream for her. My prayer is that she'll continue to grow and develop into a woman who loves God and her community. I pray that she'll work hard and accomplish her dreams - that one day, she'll serve her neighbors and friends as an incredible doctor. I pray that she will break the chains of poverty in Jesus' name, and that she'll always know that God loves her, and we do too.

You can make a difference in a child's life and in the life of her family. It's a monthly payment with eternal dividends. You have to power to change a child's world.

Read all about my journey to El Salvador

February 6, 2014

Andrea's Story - An invitation to be God's hands and feet (part 1)

Have you ever taken a moment to look back on your journey and wonder, how did I get here? The story of how I got to be connected to my Compassion sponsored child, Andrea, is one of those God-sized stories. It's one of those "If you give a mouse a cookie" type of tales.

My story begins with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). I so love this organization. We moved to a new city and state when my husband accepted a staff position at a church. I knew no one. At the time, most of my days were spent alone with my six-month old. Babies are precious, but eventually you crave a conversation with someone who can speak back to you. MOPS entered my life like a breath of fresh air. I was surrounded by women who understood exactly where I was coming from.

The next year, I got involved with my local MOPS leadership team. The year after that, I served as assistant coordinator. That summer, my friend and I traveled to the MOPS convention. It was fantastic. I was certain I wanted to come back the following year.

A few months later, MOPS hosted a twitter contest in which they gave away a free registration to the 2013 MOMcon convention. I entered, crossed my fingers, and won.

A few weeks later, MOPS mentioned they were looking for a MOMcon Crew - people who were willing to help promote the convention. The only stipulation: You had to already be registered for convention. Thanks to the contest, I was registered and more than excited to help spread the word.

A few weeks after that, we got an e-mail asking if anyone on the MOMcon Crew would be interested in writing an article for the MOPS blog about convention. (If there's one thing I love about as much as MOPS, it's writing). I submitted my article, "The Sisterhood of MOPS," and was thrilled when it was selected.  

A few days later, I got a phone call. Would I be willing to travel to El Salvador with Compassion International to write about the work that they're doing from the perspective of a MOPS mom. . . and could I let them know by the next day. I'm sure my husband must have been rather surprised to receive a phone call from his excited wife, wondering if there was any way we could make this work. He assured me, that if this was something I wanted to do, that we could figure out a way to make it happen.

Then I began praying about sponsoring a child. I've attended plenty of events over the years where Compassion sponsorship has been featured. I've picked up packets and looked at pictures, but I had never sponsored a child before. I began looking at our budget and tried to determine if we could make it work. You can read the whole story here (complete with information on how I managed to shut down our local YMCA).

A couple weeks before I was scheduled to leave, I had her picture and her name. Andrea. A seven-year-old girl from El Salvador. I'm the mom of two little boys (now with a third boy on the way). Most of the time I'm shopping for things like sports balls and super heroes. It was so much fun to walk around Wal-Mart with a cart full of pink. I picked out a couple dresses, some socks, a hairbrush, a doll, and a few other small toys and items that could fit inside the small pink and purple backpack that I was bringing for her.

I was excited, a little bit nervous, and not quite sure what God had planned. Here I was, just a normal, stay-at-home mom, about to hop on a plane to El Salvador and meet a little girl that I didn't even know existed a few weeks earlier.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I was excited. I knew that God had been pulling the strings behind the scenes and I couldn't wait to see what He had planned.