Saturday, January 28, 2012

Just a Minute

Well, I have to say that this is a rather difficult blog assignment for me to complete.  But it's a good thing for me to do.
Wess Stafford has released his new book, Just a Minute.  (That link goes to, but you can also buy it at Amazon (of course!), Barnes and Noble, and most likely other Christian bookstore sites.)  I read Too Small to Ignore by Wess, and it changed me.  I can't wait to receive this book because his writing is inspiring and real.
In it he shares how we can change the life of a child in just a minute.  Having been a teacher for many years, I do not need to be convinced of the truth of that.  
So my assignment is to share how the words of an adult changed my life for the best or for the worst in "just a minute."  
*Warning: don't expect a warm and fuzzy post.*
I grew up in a family of five children.  We didn't have much.  After this most people say, "But we had love."  Umm . . . can't say that.  We rarely had enough food.  I never had a bike like my friends.  The bills were never paid.  My parents argued constantly (daggers in the stomach of a little girl).  I wore hand-me-downs most of my life, so other kids made fun of me.  I never even owned a pair of jeans until I was in high school, and I can describe those jeans to you vividly to this day.
I never heard my parents say they loved me.  Actually, my mom said it right before she died a few years ago.  That was the only time.
I did hear them say many other things.  "You are the reason for all the trouble between your mother and me."   "That sure is a stupid way to do that."  "You never do anything right."  "You are just a troublemaker."  "For someone who makes straight A's, you have no common sense." (For the record, I made 2 B's in high school, so even that wasn't accurate.)
What did I glean from all those minutes? That I'm stupid and I'm worthless.  
Many years later, I still struggle with those ideas, and I wonder if I will ever, ever on this earth be able to allow myself to find healing.
But here's the good part.  I believe with all my heart that the negative comments my parents made to me (with language I wouldn't repeat) led me to become a teacher.  And as a teacher (although I have failed at times), my goal has been to make as many kids as I can feel good about themselves every single day.  I can't even remember how many former students have told me I have changed their lives because of one positive comment that I don't even remember saying.  And I teach high school students, so if it impacts them, imagine how the words you say will impact a small child.
I have also made an effort for my entire life to make children, especially my friends' children, feel important.  When all the other adults are ignoring them, I talk to the children.  Part of it is my anxiety about talking to adults, but most of it is my desire to let those children know how special they are, and to hope that what I say to them will somehow spare them from what I experienced as a child.  I have no children of my own (you can probably infer from what I've already said what has led me to live my life alone), but I feel like God has used that to allow me to be able to bless other children, including my own nieces and nephews.
And that leads me to my involvement in Compassion.  I didn't really begin sponsoring children because I thought I would make them feel better about themselves.  I just wanted to help.  Then I realized that my letters to them, my interest in them, my telling them that Jesus and I both love them very, very much can literally change their lives.  
Children in poverty lack hope.  Believe me, I grew up in conditions much better than these children live in, yet I didn't have much hope.  To think that I now live in a house (although I don't own it) right across the street from the Atlantic Ocean and have been given the honor and privilege of impacting the lives of many children here in this city and now children in other countries through Compassion, is an amazing thing for this "troublemaker" to believe.  How am I even worthy of all this?
I became a Compassion Advocate so that I could help others to see how they can give hope to children who have no hope.  If I could tell every child on this planet how important and beautiful and special he or she is, I would do it.  Now.
I never, never want a child to feel the pain that I still struggle to forget.

Francis Goes Shopping

This is my sweet Francis who lives in Nicaragua.  I sent her a family gift a couple of months ago and received this photo with the thank you letter.  Francis (whom I think is so very pretty) never smiles in her pictures, but her letters are full of joy.
I love the little pink (or red) dress on the right.  She also bought two pairs of shoes.  My Francis will be stylin.  I didn't send a lot of money by US standards, but she also was able to buy underwear :), toothpaste, a purse, shampoo, baby oil (for her little brother), cookies, candy, and corn flakes and other things I can't even remember now.
No matter the reason that I send Francis a gift, she always buys cookies, candy, and corn flakes.  I LOVE that.
I also love that her mother or grandmother (whoever shopped with her and the Compassion staff) allowed her to buy things for herself and not just for the family.  It tells me that she is loved.
Francis lives with her two sisters, her brother, her mother, her grandmother, and aunts and cousins.  I don't even want to ask how small that house is.
One of the amazing things to me about being a sponsor is to see pictures like this and know that I bought that stuff for her.  She chose it, but God used me to give it to her.  That blows my mind.  I love to picture her shopping with the Compassion staff.  It makes me very, very happy, and I know she's excited while she's doing it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Word to Live By

So . . . I have been challenged to choose a word for 2012.  Well, not for ME to choose the word, but to listen to the Holy Spirit for the word God has that will be the theme of my year.

Actually, that wasn't hard.  I had already been given my word when I received this assignment.  I wanted be sure, so I prayed, and the word stayed in my mind and kept appearing in many different places.  So I knew.

My word is PEACE.

Sounds nice, right? Peace . . . a sweet, peaceful 2012.  Yeah.  Well, there's a lot more involved in that word than just a nice feeling.  The reason I was first given that word is that I face a good bit of turmoil at work.  Actually, it depends on what day it is.  You see, I work for a principal who compliments me over and over for my good work, and then suddenly can fly into a rage for no reason.  Many people think he's bipolar.  Many people at my school are praying for him.  

God told me I need to find peace in the midst of that turmoil, that when I am being mistreated (and I'm not the only one--everyone in the school deals with the same problem), I need to find peace in Him, to be peaceful with who He has made me, with who I am in Him.

I know that's not the end of the significance of the word "peace."  It's a dangerous word.  To learn to be peaceful, what must I do?  Face difficult circumstances in which I must remain peaceful.  Do I look forward to that?  No.  But until now, my life has been filled with feelings of anxiety and inferiority.  And that is not living a victorious life.  I need peace.  

So, I begin my journey toward peace, with the hand of God on me.  I know that it will go far beyond just my work situation.  I'm excited, but know it will not be easy.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  ~Romans 12:18

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  ~John 14:27

Where I find the peace of God, even on a windy New Year's Day

"The God of peace be with you all.  Amen."  ~Romans 15:33