Thursday, May 9, 2013

Representing

As I was driving home tonight from a dinner date squeezed between my doctor's appointment and my husband's evening class I watched in my rear-view mirror as a car speed down on me and then tailgated me to a stoplight.  After we both turned right from a one lane road onto a two lane road.  This car sped around me to pull into a nearby coffee shop.

What amazed me as I watched this person break the law multiple times was the large cross hanging from their rear-view mirror.

The Bible says:
"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 
Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience."  Romans 13:1-5
I've always believed that unless the law is completely contradictory to God's law (such as found in Acts 5:27-29) we are to obey government laws, including traffic laws.  Now, trust me I am in no way perfect in doing this.  I often catch myself doing the "five miles over" thing.  When I catch myself doing that, I always readjust myself.

But back to my story, what are your thoughts about people who represent Christ with crosses, ichthys, bumper stickers for Christian radio stations, etc on their cars then race around town disobeying traffic laws?

For me, I liken it to someone who wears Christian apparel or a cross necklace then walks around dropping "f-bombs" or other behavior that is contradictory to the Gospel.  I see it as a stumbling block to my brother or sister in Christ or to a seeker who may be thinking about coming to church.  That's why I personally don't have anything on my car.  I'm not ashamed of the Gospel or Christ, I'm just aware that my behavior behind the wheel may affect another person if I have a ichthys on my bumper and I cut them off or speed around them (not that I do that).

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rollercoaster Ride

I haven't posted in awhile and I struggle not to feel like a failure at this.  Then I take a step back and remind myself that "this" isn't for fame, it isn't for recognition for myself.  It's for God and for the tiniest little off-chance that it may help someone, somewhere in the deep frontier of the Internet.

I haven't been posting because my fibromyalgia has been flaring.  "Flaring" is what people with chronic illness call it when our disease, disorder, syndrome, etc. suddenly gets worse for a period of time before leveling back off to the norm for us.  Mine flares up for several reasons such as when I'm sick, changing weather, stress or changing medicine amongst other things.  Right now its a mixture.

If anyone has ever been to the Tri-Cities in Spring, then you know that the weather can never make up it's mind.  It will be cold and rainy then five minutes later you will be sweltering in the heat.  Plus my doctor's are playing around with my medicines.  That always calls for some interesting times.

The bonus to this is, I have had to lean on Christ hard the past couple of weeks to make it through.  He truly is my Rock and my foundation.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sobriety

Three years sober and going strong. I’ve been on the patch, that is, the flower patch.
It was lonely in those fields and don’t think I didn’t have my run-ins with the queen bee.
But others are joining me thanks to a movie named Twilight and a toothy vampire who fell in love with a human. Blood sucking just ain’t cool anymore.
Well I made the commitment long before that movie. It was in 2010 when I witnessed with my own bug eyes what my bite did to a child in poverty. You see, there I was . . .

Enjoying a puddle left behind by a late season rain shower in Burkina Faso when I caught the scent.  Blood and fresh.  I buzzed around until I spotted my prey, a young boy headed home from school.  I took a bite and ate my fill.  And then, just for giggles, I followed him home.

What happened next changed my view on my diet forever.  For over a week I watched him and his family, feasting happily.  Then it began.  First the chills started and he couldn't keep warm.  No matter what the adults did, he would shiver, shake and cry out at all times.  Then later he would start to get really hot and complained that his head hurt.   The boy began drifting in and out of consciousness before falling into a coma.  Within two days, he was dead.

I didn't know.  I didn't know what my bite could do.  So that's when I flew as far and as fast as I could to the flower fields and I haven't taken a drop of blood since.  My name is Massimo the Mosquito and I am a recovering blood drinker.

It seems rather silly doesn't it?  The idea that a mosquito would go sober.  But the glaring truth of the story is that half of the world's population, that is 3.3 billion people, are at risk of malaria infection.  And 655,000 children die of it, that's one every thirty seconds, each year. 

And what's worse?

It is preventable and treatable.

This Thursday is World Malaria Day 2013 and we can make a difference.  It's as easy as helping to provide mosquito nets for beds.

Attribution: Compassion International




Compassion International has a great program to help with this.  It is called, Bite Back.  Donations to this fund:
  • provide households at risk with treated mosquito nets
  • educate family members on malaria prevention
  • treat children suffering from malaria, chagas disease and dengue fever
 For $20.00, you can buy two nets for two children and help save lives.  That's as easy as making your coffee at home for four days or eating in instead of running through the drive through.  Can you think of other ways you can save money to help children in need and make a donation?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My First Letter!

So I was planning on introducing you to another of my Compassion kiddos today but I have something else to share.  I received my first letter!  I was so giddy when I saw the white envelope stamped with "A Message from Your Sponsored Child."  I started dancing around (well as much as I can) and yelling, "A letter, Tony!!  It's a letter!"  I hobbled down to our room as fast as I could and started opening it.  Then devoured it with my eyes.  I still can't help grinning whenever I look at it or think about it.

The letter is from Sawdaou, my four year old boy from Burkina Faso I told you about.  It is a yellow form letter but it is still precious to me.  Since he is so young, I'm assuming that they either talked with him or his mother for the answers and someone else wrote them down.  But this is what it says.

On the front are four boxes.  Each box talks about different parts of his life.

My family members are:  My dad, my mum and my 3 sisters.

My best friend's name is:  Alahami.
My best friend and I love to play: cooking.

My Project is 01 km far from my home.
I go to my project by foot.
I go to my project on Thursdays.

My favorite food is Spaghetti.
My favorite color is white.
My favorite pet is dog.
My favorite activity at the project is singing.

On the back is a large box for a drawing.  His is of a squiggle that is labeled "a dog."  I giggled at this.  I'll try scanning it and posting it later.  Then there are two more sections for questions and answers.

Questions for my Sponsor:  Sawdaou would like to know if you enjoy cooking.

Prayer Requests:  She wants you to pray so that you will get an opportunity to come one day in his village.   (I'm assuming the "she" mentioned here is his mother."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spin Cycle

I belong to a great community on Google+ of Christian bloggers, this week we were challenged to write about our favorite Christian song.  At first I was boggled.  How do I narrow that down?  I have a favorite song or group of songs for every situation, mood or season in my life.  So I just want to talk about first a new band I discovered and second one of the songs on their debut album they just released.  The band is All Things New.  I first heard them at the Our God's Not Dead tour in Yakima back in March.  I immediately fell in love with their sound.  Heck, they have a banjo.  We only heard three songs that night, but it was enough for me to pre-order their album.

I got the album last weekend and haven't stopped playing it.  Or singing it at the top of my lungs whenever I'm alone in my car.  Because nobody wants to hear that...trust me.  But praising God along with these guys just lightens my heart.

Now to the song.  The song that lifts my heart the most is "Washed Over Me."  Here's just a taste of the lyrics:
My chains were broken, my debt was paid
I traded dirty rags for riches in Your name
And in that moment, my soul could sing
When Your love washed over me

Like water, You poured out
And grace covered me
When Your love, oh Your love
When Your love washed over me

My search is over, I've found my home
My cup is overflowed, with You I thirst no more
There on the river I found the victory
When Your love washed over me 
 This song reminds me that Jesus died to set me free from my sin, from death.  I am righteous in God's eyes because of him.  The visual I get of God and Jesus' love just pouring out over me and the world brings me to tears.  Belong is the lyric video of the song, take a listen, praise God with me and the guys from All Things New and let me know what you think and what songs remind you of God's great love for us.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Learning Curve

Remember back in high school (or was it college), when we were taught about the learning curve?  I think when it comes to trusting God with my health and chronic pain, I'm on a steep one.  I think I have it all figured out, then something comes along and trips me.  And I end up rolling down the curve to land at the foot of the cross.  When that happens, I go back to the start.

In my journey there have been two songs that have really spoken into my heart:  "Blessings" by Laura Story and "Even If" by Kutless.

They've taught me two things:

1.  Not all "trials" are hardships, some of them are blessings in disguise.  All things have a purpose, even my chronic pain.
2.  I can grow closer to God through my suffering by leaning on Him through it.  Yes, I pray for healing but more than that, I pray He gives me strength to get through it and wisdom to learn from it.
3.  No matter what, God is good.  He is faithful.


Romans 5:3-5 says "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love."
I have learned in the past year that God is always with us in our trials, whether we sense His presence or not.  If we learn to lean on Him and be still, He will battle for us and He will be our strength.  And our faith will emerge stronger.  But the key thing here is we must trust in Him.  If you try to handle the trials and problems on your own, then the endurance, the patience, the learning is stunted. 

Has there been situations where you've learned through a trial or a problem?  What about when you've stumbled and lost sight of the cross in the midst?  How did you get back on track?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Introducing Sawdaou

I've talked about sponsoring, now I'd like for you to meet my Compassion family.  I financially sponsor one child and I am a correspondence sponsor for three others.  What a correspondence sponsor means is I write the child but I do not financially sponsor them.  Usually they are sponsored by a business or organization (or occasionally a person) who cannot write them, but because letters are so important they are encouraged to allow correspondence sponsors to encourage the children in their stead.  I'll introduce you to the children one by one.  First we'll start with my youngest and the one that I financially sponsor.  This doesn't mean I love him more or less than the others. 

So without further ado, this is Sawdaou.


Isn't he cute?!  I certainly think so!  As I mentioned before Sawdaou is from Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa.  He's four years old with a birthday in December.  He doesn't currently attend school because he's underage but he does attend the project as well as Sunday school.  Sawdaou lives with both parents who are occasionally employed as farmers.  As my Compassion information says, he on the plains of Benaverou, home to approximately 5,000 residents. Typical houses are constructed of dirt floors, mud walls and wood or tin roofs. The regional diet consists of maize, fish and potatoes.

Common health problems in this area include malaria, coughs, meningitis and typhoid. Most adults in Benaverou are unemployed but some work as subsistence farmers or market traders and earn the equivalent of $20 per month. This community needs employment opportunities and tuition assistance.

I'm still waiting for my first letter from him.  When I hear more, so will you!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Staying Positive

I get asked a lot about how I stay positive all the time.  With so much going on with my health, how do I not give in to depression or despair.  Well, sometimes I want to.  I can feel it creeping up inside of me.  So here are my strategies to stay positive.

  • I've started thanking God for everything, from the chronic pain to the roof over my head.  When you come at life from an attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude it is hard not to have joy and remain positive.
  • I change my perspective.  I read a book, watch a movie, etc that changes my perspective on my life and my problems.  I'm sure some of you have heard the phrase "first world problems."  And that's essentially what I think of when I think of this step.  This is even more evident to me now that I'm a sponsor. 
  • I pray.  Sometimes it's as simple as "Oh Lord, I hurt.  Please help."  Sometimes it's long, drawn out pleas for healing.  And a lot of the time, it's not even about me.
  • I stay grounded in the Word.  Jeremiah 17:7-8 says,
    "But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit."
    When we stay grounded in the Word and put our confidence in God, we don't have to worry about the hard times because He is our hope and our confidence.  

    This is what works best for me.  How do you stay positive when the going gets tough?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Story

I told you I would write my story on Monday and I procrastinated so much that now it is technically Tuesday, but I haven't slept yet. So if I wanted to split hairs, I could say I am keeping my word. But truthfully, coming clean with my story behind even the (somewhat) anonymity of the internet scares me. You never know who could be reading.  If I went through my whole testimony, it would probably take up several pages so I'm going to try to keep it somewhat short and sweet, focusing mainly on what God is doing in my life right now with a brief introduction on how I got here.

I had a difficult childhood, not a terrible one.   I had enough to eat, a roof over my head and food to eat but I was physically, emotionally and/or sexually abused by three different males in my family (at different times).  It wasn't as bad as the horror stories you hear but it was bad enough that it had a huge impact on me, how I saw myself and how I saw men, especially older males in authority over me.

I found God and Christ as a teenager and grasped onto Him with both hands, hoping for something.  At 14, I don't think I really knew what I needed.  Instead of seeking true healing through God's mercy and grace, I tried to turn it into a salvation by works.  And if you've been saved by grace, you know that doesn't work.  And I began to sink into a deep depression.  At 15, I began to self-harm.  Taking a lighter, I would burn myself whenever emotions would get too overwhelming.  The physical pain was my way of coping with the emotional.  By 17, I was on my way to becoming a hermit.  I was still attending church and going to school, but that was about it.  I barely had outside contact with my friends.

I began using the internet for the majority of my social needs.  I got sucked into online gaming, chat rooms, the world of cyber sex and erotic literature.  I eventually graduated high school and started community college but I was struggling.  Just the though of moving out of my parents' home would send me into panic attacks.  I wanted help and when I sought it out, some things were said/implied that made me leave my church.

I wouldn't start attending church regularly for another 11 years.

Last April, I got really ill.  I couldn't keep food down.  And pardon me for being graphic, but it was coming out both ends.  I went to the emergency room four times before they finally figured out that my gall bladder was only functioning at 4%.  I was told if I just ate a low-fat diet I should be fine and was sent home.  Within four days I was back again, I still couldn't keep food down.  This time, surgery was scheduled and they took my gall bladder out.  A week later, I was back again.  This time I was in isolation.  Eventually they treated me for c. difficile.  But I spent six days in the hospital, most of the time in isolation, alone.

God had me where He wanted me.  I realized how much I missed that reassurance that I had had all those years ago when I was walking faithfully with Him.  I was terrified those six days and I wanted my God.  That Sunday I went back to church and rededicated my life to Him.  

I am thirty-two years old.  I have fibromyalgia syndrome, osteoarthritis, hypothyroidism and a chiari malformation.  This means that I am in chronic pain.  I take a total of six different medications each day.  And I am content. Why?  Because I trust in my Lord.  He has a plan for me, a glorious one.  What it is?  He knows.  I just remind myself that what happens here isn't going to last forever, that there will come a day when my pain will be gone.  He may heal me here on Earth or He may wait until I join Him in heaven.  Either way, I will be healed someday.

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Life Changed

I don't have time to write a long post.  But I promise I'll write my story on Monday.  But I wanted to post this video about a life changed. As I said on Wednesday, Compassion works. Watch the video about Olive and how Compassion changed her life. This is just one of many stories which you can view on on Compassion's Vimeo channel. I chose her because she's a social worker and that's what I was studying to be. I'll explain more on Monday.

Olive Aneno - A Life Changed from Compassion International on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

So what is this blindfolded faith about?

For me, I really seem to struggle with faith.  I believe in God with my whole heart and I love Him.  But I really struggle with trusting Him.  I could go into the long and sorid details of my life and give you excuses why.  But it just comes down to one word.

Fear.

Have you been there? 

A few weeks ago, I found a quote in one of the books I read (I'm an avid reader) and it just stuck with me.
"I love the recklessness of faith.  First you leap and then you grow wings."                                  -William Sloane Coffin
Who wouldn't want wings?  But before I could get wings, I had to get a handle on this faith problem I had.  So I started to tackle it on two fronts.  First, I started praying for more faith.  Second, I started to blindfold myself.  Not literally, more like spiritually.  See, for me faith is like skydiving.  And I have a small fear of heights.  To jump out of a perfectly sound plane sounds crazy and you would need to blindfold me to do it.

So to take a leap of faith, I blindfold myself spiritually, put my trust in my God and leap.  As you can read above, it took a leap of faith for me to sponsor my little boy in Burkina Faso.  My husband and I aren't the richest.  We wouldn't even be considered middle class.  In fact, most people would consider us under America's poverty line.  But compared to the people Compassion helps, I'm a queen.  People in BF live on an average of $20 a month, I know I couldn't do that.

Will you take a leap of faith with me?  And sponsor a child?  See, coming up next month is Compassion Sunday.  I thank God everyday that I was born in a land of plenty.  But there are thousands of children that are not.  And God calls on us to take care of the poor, the orphans, the little ones.  And sponsoring works!  Don't believe me?  Check out this study.

Sponsorship is more than just helping the child learn about Christianity.  You help feed the child, give the child access to medical care and important life-skills training.  But you also have the chance to develop a life-changing relationship with your sponsored child.  Through letters, you can encourage your child to stay in school, to come to know Christ.  You can love and assure them.  You can make a difference.

So will you sponsor this child?  And in doing so, you not only help her, you also might help my sponsor child.  If I can help two children get sponsored, my sponsor child's family gets $50.00.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Taking a Leap

Ever since I was a little girl, I've seen the commercials on TV. I've laughed and scoffed at them. I But it never really took root in my heart. This past year, God has been working to heal my heart and recently as we began the Lenten season I began to pray that God would break my heart (gently mind you...) and remold it to love like His.

I read a book called "A Hole in Our Gospel" by Rich Stearns, the President and CEO of World Vision.  I cried most of the way through it.  By the end I felt a small prodding to sponsor a child.  I began to make excuses why we couldn't. Why we shouldn't. Like Moses at the burning bush, I couldn't see what my magnificent God had planned for me.


Then I read in my Lent devotional that the time of Lent is not just about fasting, it is also about helping the poor. And I realized, I wasn't living in trust and faith. So at a recent Gods Not Dead tour concert, when Jason from Building 429 started talking about sponsoring children and Compassion International, I started feeling a more insistent prodding. I took a blindfolded leap of faith and I raised my hand. And when I looked down at my packet, I cried.


Looking up at me was this beautiful boy with this expression that reminded me of an old 1980s sitcom ("Whatcha talking about Willis?!").  A small giggle escaped through the tears.  I eagerly opened the packet and soaked up the little information within.

He was four years old and from Burkina Faso.  BF is a small, landlocked country in western Africa.  It's little bigger than Colorado.  It battles HIV/AIDs, diseases that we have cures and vaccines for, and child rights violations such as slavery.


It is one of the poorest countries in the world and is one of the most illiterate countries in the world.  And I thanked God that I had been blessed to be born in the United States and began praying for this little boy that He brought into my life.

I didn't have my debit card with me that night, so it wasn't until the next day that I set up my account.   But it would take up to two weeks to get my welcome packet (I just received it today!).  So onto my computer and Google I went for more information.  And more heart breaking.

Eventually, I had to step away.  I was on information overload.  Then late last week, I received a thank you letter from Compassion and it had my sponsor number on it so I was able to sign up for my account at compassion.com and ourcompassion.org.  And I was able to write my first letter to my child online.  Just a short one about me, Tony and where we live.  It'll be weeks to a couple of months before I get my first letter.  But I am so excited.  I took a leap of faith.  And now I'm flying with God as my wings.

"For I was hungry, and you fed me.  I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you invited me into my home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing.  I was sick, and you cared for me.  I was in prison, and you visited me.  

'Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality?  Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

'And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'"  Matthew 25:35-40