My Mailbox Runneth Over

For months and months, my mailbox looked like this:

(Disclaimer: Not my actual mailbox) Photo Credit

Well, not exactly. It has had plenty of bills and junk mail to fill it, but not one letter from my little Compassion friends.

I’ll admit: I was getting pretty bitter about it. I was starting to understand why so many people dropped sponsorships or didn’t keep up with letter writing. After all, communication is a two-way street; it’s hard to feel connected if you don’t have some….well, connection to the other person.

Then one day among all my junk mail, I spied one of those happy envelopes marked “Message From Your Sponsored Child.” Squeee! And not long after that, two more  happy envelopes. My mailbox runneth over! :)

I actually received two letters from my sweet Peruvian boy, José. One was written in March and another in May. Even though I knew going in that correspondence is sometimes slow due to translation times, snail mail issues and the rural locations of some of the centers, it’s still hard to imagine a single letter taking four months to travel. Never fear–my impatient American-ness has now been cured. (Quit laughing…it could be.)

I feel like I learned a lot about my little amigo through these recent letters. For the first time, he was able to let me know that he had received specific items and answered specific questions that we had asked:

  • He is learning numbers in Math (I assume this is his answer to “What is your favorite thing to learn in school?”)
  • Blue is his favorite color (Mine, too!)
  • He has two siblings, a 3-year-old sister and an 8-year-old brother
  • I send the same introductory letter to all of my kids which includes lyrics from “Jesus Loves Me.” He said “I don’t know the song, but I like the lyrics.” Awwww…..
  • He said The Eldest’s origami was very pretty and that he will ask his father to make one. This is good news, because he once wrote asking for us to pray for his parents’ reconciliation. They may not be reconciled, but it’s good news that his father still has some kind of presence in his life.
  • He said that he purchased three Transformers with his Christmas gift. He is definitely ALL BOY.
  • He asked that we send photos. I think I have already done so (I send a photo collage with the first or second letter), but they say that photos are treasured by Compassion kids.
  • In both letters he asked if we have beaches in our country. Why, yes we do…and our family visits one every summer! I can definitely feel a themed letter coming on, complete with photos!
  • He says he loves me so much and always prays for me. *swoon*
  • One letter came with a hug, the other with a kiss!
  • As usual, my budding little artist included drawings….

These are from his “castle period.” :)

Come back later this week to hear about what Happyness bought with her family gift!

 

 

Posted in Compassion International | Tagged | 5 Comments

Sunday Smorgasbord

 

 

Are you getting ready for back-to-school? Even if you’re just a bookworm like me, check out DealOz which searches the internet and compares book prices (they also search movies, video games, etc.).  Sometimes, I’ve found the prices can be a little off when I actually go to the vendor’s website, but they are generally accurate (or very close).

My baby sister’s got the blogging bug! Check her out at Faithfully Frugal in KC.

I’ve mentioned that Shaun Groves is releasing a great new album, but he just announced this week that his family has unexpectedly received a little blessing from heaven–a little boy from another country who needed immediate placement in a home (they had begun the process of adopting from Ethiopia, but God had other plans). So, the music alone is great enough to merit purchase, maybe the opportunity to help fund the Groves adoption is exactly the extra push you need to click on the link and pre-order the album! ;) (Hear the music HERE)

Did you see the article about the father-son combo who witnessed the first and last space shuttle launch, even recreating a 30-year-old photo? It blessed my little astronaut wannabe heart.

Special thanks to Kimberly who shared a link to bentolunch.net last week where I found a delicious and kid-friendly recipe for mini cheesecakes. Yum! I’d also like to try making cheesy zucchini bread.

My kids aren’t on Facebook, but I anticipate that they will be someday. Here’s a great article: How to Keep Your Kids Safe on Facebook.

My daughter has a Knifty Knitter which allows knitting-impaired people like myself to create something wearable. What’s better than that, you ask? Why, free Knifty Knitter patterns, of course!

Posted in Blogging, Books, Crafts, Education, Good Music, Link Love | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Temporary Tent Dwellers

Photo Credit

 

“We come from God and we go to God, and in between, we live in tents.”

~Joachim Jeremias

 

Life is short: how are you spending your tent dwelling days?

Posted in Contemplations | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sunday Smorgasbord…in REVERSE!

Normally, the Sunday Smorgasbord is where I share some of my favorite links that I’ve discovered around the web. This week, I want YOU to share your links on specific topics. Game?

School is rapidly approaching and I’ve got one thing on the brain: lunches. This year, I will be doing a lot of school lunch packing and I want to make a list of various brown-bag options so the girls can throw something together easily without having to eat PBJ everyday. Do you know any great links for lunchbox ideas?

I’m still looking for some supplemental resources to help my kids learn more about ancient Greece and Israel before our big trip this fall. Point me in the right direction if you can.

I really thrive under structure, but when it comes to housekeeping, I’m the most unstructured person I know. Does anyone know where I can find and implement a reasonable chore schedule? Flylady was great but too overwhelming.

What’s your favorite music these days? I realize that I hardly ever listen to music anymore, and I miss it. I think I need to download a few new tunes to my MP3 (yes, an old-fashioned MP3, not an i-thingamajiggy).

We’ve got some road trips coming up: know of any fun games to entertain kiddos while traveling?

Teachers: I’m looking for a few good (online) teacher supply stores and/or any classroom decorating/organization tips you’d like to share!

 Our church is gearing up for our annual Kids Kamp in a couple of weeks. What are some crafts, games or songs that you’d recommend for 8-9 year olds?

Thanks for sharing!!! :)

Posted in Link Love | Tagged | 7 Comments

Guts

Chances are, you did the whole parade-watching, watermelon-eating, fireworking 4th of July routine this week. Unless, of course, you live in Texas or Oklahoma where it’s so dry things might start self-combusting soon. In that case, just replace fireworks with homemade ice cream instead. Burn ban. Bummer.

While you were waving your little made-in-China American flag, did you have any fleeting thoughts about our founding fathers? Call me a nerd if you must (I don’t mind),  but I did think about those guys. It’s easy to gloss over history with the well-rehearsed stories that we’ve heard over the years: George Washington/cherry trees, Ben Franklin/electrified kites, John Hancock/excellent handwriting, Paul Revere/lanterns, etc. The stories are so familiar that we sometimes forget how GUTSY those guys must have been. It’s not every day you decide to commit treason and risk imprisonment! They put their property of the line. They put their family name on the line. They put their lives on the line.

We like to be all “Oh, I’d do that,” but would we really?

I don’t know about you, but I think living in modern America where everything is easy-peasey has made me a gutless wonder.

I’ve never had to stand up for my beliefs in a way that might cost me friends or freedom. The hard choices that I have experienced have been limited to deciding which restaurant we will eat at or which pair of pants I should wear. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I distinctly remember bawling after learning that Cassie Bernall said “yes” and I was left wondering, WWMD: What would Megan do? Would I be that brave or would I totally wimp out? I feared it would be the latter.

Plus, I’ve come to the awful discovery that, despite what I say, I am a people pleaser at heart. That makes it even harder to bravely take a stand.

For those of us who have grown up in the faith, who have heard the old, old stories a bazillion times with or without flannelgraphs, it’s easy to forget that when  Saul became a Paul, he was basically cutting himself off from every meaningful relationship in his life and became a hunted man. The disciple Peter was a married man; can you imagine what his wife was thinking when he wandered off with a man who claimed to be the Son of God? Just last week, I learned that when Luke included the story about a paralytic named Aeneas, he was basically slamming the Roman government, saying that Rome was crippled and in need of a savior. (Using the name Aeneas would be like using “George Washington” had an American written Acts. Aeneas comes from The Aeneid, the mythical story of Rome’s founding, though that’s not saying that the paralytic was not a real guy.).  That was a gutsy move; you didn’t mess with Rome!

I’ve always grimaced when reading Luke 14:26. Jesus said,

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Why would He–the guy who lobbied for love–want me to hate my own family? But I think I’m starting to see things a little clearer now. Maybe He was just giving everybody a heads up. A modern paraphrase: “Hey, guys…this is not going to be easy, you know. You are going to be disowned by your family, and you are going to have to be okay with that. You are going to have to make some really hard choices and sever some really important relationships. You are going to have to give up a lot to follow me. Do you have the guts to do it?”

Do we? I wish I knew, but I’m glad that I haven’t been put in the position to find out…I think.

Do you have guts? What do you think about Luke 14:26?

Posted in Contemplations, Spiritual Growth | Tagged | 1 Comment

Preparing for Israel and Greece

Remember when I shared my big news about our family getting an opportunity to travel to the Holy Land this fall? We are sooooo excited!

I resolved to do some studying on ancient Greece and Israel this summer with the girls (we are also going to Turkey, but just to visit the ruins of Ephesus). Thinking that homeschoolers or school teachers might have created some unit studies, I begged asked for ideas on Twitter.

That was a fail.

So, I headed to our local library and checked out a pile of books. Meanwhile, The Eldest and The Youngest printed off pictures from the Holy Land and covered old notebooks with a collage. We haven’t done any hard-core studies, but whenever we get some free time, the girls read/browse through my pile of books. I usually ask them to find at least five things that they think are interesting , and write them in their notebooks. I just want them to have at least a little more background information before we go.

I’ve found some really interesting books–books that would be helpful for kids, Sunday school teachers…people of any age who wants a better understanding of the history and cultures of ancient peoples in Israel and Greece.

My favorites….

Growing Up in Bible Times: Families at Work and at Play by Margaret Embry

Amazing Bible Factbook by The American Bible Society

The Parthenon by Peter Chrisp

Everyday Life in Bible Times: Work, Worship and War by Margaret Embry

Life in Ancient Greece by Lynn Peppas

Ancient Greece by Tim Loverance (This one has cool see-through pages so you can visualize the inner and outer architecture of buildings)

We have also watched videos, though The Eldest has been more interested in video than The Youngest so far. It is kind of hard to find things on a nine-year-old level. Netflix has become our best friend. We’ve watched:

Rick Steves: Eastern Europe, Israel and Egypt–A little dated, but it briefly covered several sites that we will be visiting

Rick Steves: Greece and Turkey 2000-2009–Much better than the Israel dvd, this one had a lot of good historical and cultural information.

National Geographic: Secrets of Jerusalem’s Holiest Sites–This includes good discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (the history and current living conditions) and archeological finds.

PBS’s Greeks: The Crucible of Civilization–This was FANTASTIC! See for yourself… 

Got any more recommendations for our study? This is me, still begging asking nicely for ideas! :)

Posted in Holy Land Trip | Tagged | 1 Comment

This-and-That (Alternately Titled: An Underachiever’s Post)

 

Photo Credit: Alex{G}
  • This week, I’m spending my days (quite literally: eight hours daily) in a live, online class in preparation for my new job. It’s invigorating. Seriously! Debating free will versus predestination, comparing Hammurabi’s Code with Old Testament law, looking at “pagan” literature (mythology) through the light of the Christian worldview…all before lunch yesterday! It’s fantastic! It’s making me even more excited to teach this fall.
  • I may or may not be addicted to thin bagels and low-fat strawberry cream cheese.
  •  It is hot in Texas. So. very. hot. I should really try that “frying-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk” bit. Then I should do a rain dance. We are SO dry.
  • The best part of summer is not having to set my alarm clock. I hate my alarm clock: it plays “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and I have no idea how to change it. As if the sound of an alarm is not annoying enough, try turning it into a Christmas carol.
  • The current song replaying in my head (no–it’s not “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”) is “Headphones” by Britt Nicole. Special thanks to my kids and our friend who made her own music video version on you tube for getting it stuck in my head. (It’s a good song.)
  •  I’ve really been slacking on my blog reading lately (mainly because I’m reading and preparing for school like crazy). So, if you’re one of my regular blogs, I still love you. I’ll catch up ASAP. :)
  • A sweet lady brought me some huge caladiums for my front porch. It is the only thing that I’ve been able to keep alive. Perhaps my black thumb curse has been overcome. Oh wait…the hanging baskets I got for Mother’s Day. Maybe not.

What have you been up to??

 

 

Posted in Random | 2 Comments

Sunday Smorgasbord

Have you heard Shaun Groves’ new album (do we still call them that?) Third World Symphony? Oh, you should. You really should. You can here all the new tunes HERE or pre-order the CD for only $10.

I’m trying to do battle with my desire for cola but it is so hard. Here’s some motivation: find out what happens to your body after you drink soda every day for a long time.

Motherhood as a mission field? You betcha.

My bloggy friend, Michelle, introduced me to an awesome resource: The Good News coloring book. What makes it so great? It’s downloadable, it’s written in several languages and it’s FREE! Download one for your kiddos or, better yet, your Compassion kid!

Speaking of Compassion, have you seen their newly redesigned website?

Do you guys remember my friend Katie who guest-posted (Pizza and Love Should be Cheeeeesey) recently? She went to Israel and she blogged about it. Check out her blog Harpatka’ah which–surprise!–means “adventure” in Hebrew. She’s good for a few chuckles, and you’ll probably also develop a craving for chicken and dumplings.

Posted in Compassion International, Good Music, Link Love | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Advice for Ministry Newbies

Photo Credit: Qfamily

This week, my little sister and her husband are packing up their house and moving. My brother-in-law feels called to the ministry, so he has enrolled in seminary and has taken his first ministry job as a youth minister. Though my husband had already been working in ministry for several years when we married, their ordeal brings back memories of when I was a ministry newbie myself. I’ve learned a lot in the past fourteen+ years. Maybe I should impart some words of Wisdom to those who are just starting the journey. (Disclaimer: The author never claims to impart actual “wisdom;” all “Wisdom” referenced hereto refers to said author’s maiden name.) 

  1. You don’t have to know it all. No one has ever completely figured out all the intricacies of faith. If you claim to, people won’t take you seriously. Don’t feel bad if someone asks you a Biblical/spiritual question that you don’t know the answer to. Memorize this phrase and use it often: “I don’t know, but I’ll be glad to study it and get back to you.”   Ministers are guides not know-it-alls.
  2. Search out the best cook in church, and become friends immediately. Trust me. You won’t regret it.
  3. Prepare to be broke (at least for a while). Ministry is not necessarily a lucrative profession, but you know that, right? After all, nobody decides to pursue ministry because of the salary; there’s the whole “calling” bit. Still, like almost any profession, when you start out at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole, you get bottom-of-the-totem-pole salaries. The problem is that we generally expect this in our twenties, but many people enter ministry mid-life or after they have already begun families (like my sister and brother-in-law). It can definitely make things difficult, but it will also force you to be creative. Honestly, some of my best memories come from the days when we scraping the bottom of the barrel. We really learned how to rely on God instead of ourselves. Consider brokeness a blessing! ;)
  4. You can still wear cute shoes. Sure, you may not be able to wear designer shoes (see #3), but some people think that being in the ministry means giving up cute wardrobes in lieu of polyester pants suits from Sears. Not true. Just ask The Preacher’s Wife; she wrote a book about it.
  5. You don’t have to be perfect. Do you enjoy hanging out with perfect people who have all their ducks in a row, have angelic children who never fuss and fight, and who have a gourmet meal on the table every night promptly at 6:30 p.m.? Yeah, me either. Those people make me feel perfectly inadequate. Why would you, as a minister or minister’s wife, feel like you should be perfect?  You are not the standard that others should strive to be; that person is Jesus. Relax. So what if your kids squirm during the sermon or forget to say, “please?” So what if you call the Samaritan woman a “hoochie mama” during Sunday school?  If you are real and admit your inadequacies/failures with others, they will be more likely to understand and feel comfortable around you.
  6. Remember that people are watching you. I realize this is almost like stating the opposite of #5, but hang with me… My mom used to drive me crazy by constantly using the phrase, “You never know who’s watching you,” when I was a child. It’s actually surprising that I didn’t develop paranoia. Still, she’s right: you don’t know who’s watching you, but you can bet that somebody’s watching. There are SO many people who have not grown up in families of faith or in church and they will turn to the most visible example–the minister’s family–to determine what this looks like. While you don’t have to be perfect, you can model what it looks like to be a part of a family that respects and loves one another through thick and thin. You can model what it looks like to be an active and engaged church member. This is also probably the time to mention that you shouldn’t be seen leaving the liquor store even if you were just going in to pick up whiskey for your great-grandma’s “cough syrup.” ;)
  7. Ministry Wives: Encourage-Don’t Correct-Your Spouse. Once when we were still dating and I was a know-it-all  fresh out of a university-level New Testament class, The Husband The Boyfriend (then youth minister) was teaching. When he got to the crux of the lesson–the part where you remind people that Jesus was hanging on that cross for their sins–I decided that it would be a good time to clarify that Jesus probably died of asphyxiation rather than bleeding to death. It was really not relevant–the point was that Jesus died for us, not how he died for us–but I like to make sure the facts are straight. As you might have discerned, this went over really well. I learned a hard lesson that day: don’t correct your spouse in public. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever question him…just don’t do it in front of the people he is supposed to be leading. How would you feel if the tables were turned. Spouses (ministry or not) need encouragement not belittlement. Also, tell him when he’s done something well because we all battle discouragement. Like the song says, “we all need an ‘Atta boy’ or ‘Atta girl.’” 
  8. Hang out with the senior adults. For reals: they always have the most fun get-togethers and the best food to boot. Why, you might even be able to mark #2 off your list while you are there! Seriously though…these people have wisdom that can only be gained through time and experience. Some of our biggest ministry supporters (whether youth ministry or pastorate) have come from the senior adult sector. Just spend time with them; you will be blessed.
  9.  There will be things you don’t want to do…but do them anyway.  You might prefer to be chillaxing by the pool with your family during the summer, instead of spending most of your time catching up on sleep or emptying your suitcase and repacking for the next youth camp. You might not want to attend the children’s Christmas musical when you could be visiting your extended family instead. You might prefer to eat a steak at home instead of attending the beans-and-cornbread community fundraiser before the football game. You might dislike hospital visits or trying to comfort someone whose spouse just died. You may hate the thought of shaking all those hands after church (germs!). Why, you might even prefer to stay at home on Sunday night to watch reruns and gorge yourself on popcorn instead of attending Sunday night services. There are a hundred little things (and sometimes big) that you will not want to do at one time or another…but do them anyway. You should be used to this by now. It’s called: “responsibility” and/or “putting others before yourself.” 
  10. Enjoy the journey. I’ve said it before, but can’t think of any other profession where you get an instant family. People genuinely care about their ministers and their minister’s families. I have been amazed at the generosity and thoughtfulness of our church members so many times. Be thankful for the many people who you will meet and learn from along the way. There will be ups and downs as you travel the ministry trail, but take heart knowing that you are doing something that has eternal value.

Do you have any advice to share with ministry newbies? Psssttt…you don’t have to be in ministry to give good advice. ;)

Posted in For Laughs, Life as a Preacher's Wife | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Lessons in Satire

Sometimes the truth hurts…even if it’s funny. :)

Posted in For Laughs, Giving, Spiritual Growth | Tagged , , | 3 Comments