Friday, February 26, 2010

A Little Is Much


I loved every season as a little girl, but especially summer. My mom was a school teacher, and every summer, I looked forward to shadowing her as she went about her daily routine.

My mom was always up at the crack of dawn. To this day, she isn't capable of sleeping in. In order to make the best of the sunshine, she would set out to hang a load of clothes up on the clothesline early in the morning. The sun rose on the front side of the house, and as the clothes were hung one by one, the backyard seemed to stay suspended in shaded slumber, waiting for the second sunrise. The laundry would be ready and waiting when the sun peeked over the roof line and warmed up the world that stood waiting behind our house.

I'd wander outside with her, usually wearing my threadbare nightgown. If she was late getting the laundry out, you'd usually find me in my beloved blue jean overalls with the Pink Panther patch, and a pale butter cream yellow zip up hoodie. Barefoot, always. Sometimes, I'd tiptoe in the grass still heavy with dew, and crouch down to closely examine the patterns of the spiderwebs and the way the dew would highlight the silk threads with tiny dots. The rest of the time, I would perch myself on the deck and hand my mom the clothespins while she hung the clothes.

I remember the smell of the clean, wet laundry as it was lifted out of the basket and onto the clothesline. Tide. She always used Tide, and still does. I preferred the way it smelled once the sun had finished drying it au naturel... I can close my eyes right now and hear the sound of the crisp sheets flapping in the breeze and the rusty squeak of the clothesline reel as it bore the weight of the clothes. In my mind, I can still feel the stiffness of the clothes and towels as they were dropped back into the waiting basket. I loved that even though I was too small to carry the basket of wet laundry out to the clothesline, I could always help carry it back into the house once it was dry.

It always seemed neat to me that the original pile was heavier and smaller, but the final outcome was lighter and seemed to take up more room.

I used to imagine that it was the volume of the sunlight and love pouring into the laundry that made it expand that way.

Kind of like when the Son pours into us, we feel lighter, and life becomes more full.

Nothing from these memories compares to snuggling up to my mom on the clothesline deck and inhaling the scent of her flannel pajamas... the smell of fabric softener on her pajamas was intoxicating. I couldn't get enough, and I couldn't resist sinking my face into her pajamas as I hugged her for as long as I could. Sometimes, I'd just hug her leg as she hung laundry. I remember hugging her leg as she tried to walk around the house and do her chores. If I could have, I would have breathed her in so that I could carry her around within me all day long.

I don't think I could have possibly loved my mom more.

Although we don't use fabric softener now because I've grown an intolerance to scented products, I can perfectly describe the scent to you. It has a Hug scent to it. I'll never grow an intolerance to that. The hug scent is permanently engraved in the memory of my heart.

It might be the little things, but in the math of life, it's the little things that aren't so little.

A little is much.

It was my love for her that modeled my love for God. It is now my love for God that models my love for my mother.

My love for her even then, pales in comparison to my love for God today. In my childhood, she was the center of my world, even though I had an awareness of God. Now, He is the center of my world even though I have an awareness of her.

Let's rewind back to my childhood, and adapt that memory to how I feel today...

I loved every season as a little girl, but especially summer. God was always there, but in the summers, He would provided me with some of my favorite ways to spend time with Him. The sun would rise early, and He'd be there, waiting for me to shadow Him as He led me through my day.

God was always there to greet me every morning. Even though sometimes I didn't want to sleep for fear that I will miss some time with Him, He would stand guard at night and there was never a lapse of time without Him present. God never slept in order to make the best of every opportunity. Our faith should also never sleep.

As I followed my mother outside as she prepared to hang the laundry, I was greeted with another glorious sunrise that warmed my face as I wondered how He felt when He painted the skies with hues of pinks and blues in various intensities... never making the same morning sky twice. Every work of His was an original.

The backyard seemed to stay suspended in shaded slumber, slowly unfolding as the earth warmed up in worship to the Creator. I would look over the backyard and imagine it breaking out into praise as the Son rose to shine upon it.

I'd wander outside with my mother, eagerly anticipating to discover the world in a whole new way. My clothing would still be plain, familiar, well worn and threadbare, but it still wouldn't matter to me. Barefoot, always. I'd walk softly through the grass still heavy with dew, and I'd lean closer to examine the way God used His imagination to create a creature so small that could weave such masterpieces so intricately... each one unique and special. I would smile as I imagined God creating dew each night as jewels to decorate the webs with... each drop perched perfectly on the thinnest of silk threads. I would struggle to keep from exploring more of His creations, eventually perching myself on the deck and marveling with my mother that the same God who invented everything around us, loves us even more than a mother loves her child, or a child loves her mother.

I'd watch her hang clothes on the clothesline, remarking the differences between the wet, limp clothes, heavy with weight, smelling strongly of something man-made... and the end process, something so light, fresh, clean, full of joyful sounds and textures, the traces of man-made cleanliness replaced with something pure and natural to the senses... In my mind, I'd compare it to our Christian walk... heavy and clumsy at first, so full of our human thoughts and human nature... but as our journey progresses, the more we soak in the Son's Light, the better the harvest He reaps. Faith in Him carries our burdens so lightly, the entire world is seen through fresh eyes, sounds of prayer and worship to Him can be heard and felt, our hearts cleansed and purified by a process no man could ever have orchestrated, and our senses are overwhelmed by it all.

What I would have tried to carry at the beginning, I now give over to God and place it in His hands. "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light", says the Lord.

He has indeed increased my faith to where it can no longer be contained... faith, once stretched, can never return to it's original size.

It is in the process of emptying ourselves that we can let God pour Himself into our empty vessels that changes the weight and fullness of our lives.

Nothing I experienced that day, or any day, compares to spending time in His presence and inhaling Him deeply. It's an intoxicating love, a real, relentless and relevant love. I can't get enough of Him, and I can't resist spending time in His presence. If I could, I'd breathe Him in so that I could carry Him with me all day long, because although He is with me with every breath I take, I still want more of Him, want to know Him more, want to crawl into His lap and hang on to His every Word.

Just when I think I couldn't possibly love Him more... I do.

Although I still love my mom very much and always will, life around me has lost the feeling it had long ago. The things of the world are passing away in my heart, I am growing an intolerance to them over time, as God becomes the center of the focus. I'll never grow an intolerance to Him. His presence is permanently etched into my heart.

It may not make sense, but it makes perfect sense just the same... such a contrast between our love in this world and our love of God, that human love can fade into an illusion of hate when compared to the ultimate Love (Luke 14:25-27)

A little is much, but God is much more.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Compassion Economics


Last night, we received our information packages for Lizbeth and Suwanna, our two new Compassion girls. As supper was cooking, I read through the information out loud to my husband and the children. The following is the basics of our discussion.

Lizbeth will be five next month, her birthday is March 25th.

She lives in the jungles of Bolivia, in the heart of South America. She also lives in my heart...

In Bolivia, 23% of people live on less than a dollar a day. The same statistics weren't available for the United States or Canada, perhaps because there are so few of us living on less than $30/month...

Imagine one in every five of us living on less than $30/month?

In our family alone, one of us would live in severe, devastating poverty. Which one of our children would not be able to go to school? Which one of our children would not have access to health care? Which one of our children wouldn't have enough to eat today? Which one would go to bed hungry? None, because we'd give up all that for our children.

When all four family members live in severe poverty, though, they all go without.

Lizbeth's parents both work as much as they can, when work is available... We took that opportunity to explain to the children that their father and I have both been blessed with salary jobs that provide a very stable, reliable, steady income, month in, month out. We are blessed beyond comprehension.

Lizbeth's parents each make approximately $50/month under the best case scenario. That's $100/month in a good month. Not every month is a "good" month.

Could we raise two children on $100/month?

We are committing $35 a month to help deliver Lizbeth from the effects of severe poverty. It may not seem like much... what can $35 a month do for us?

To them, it's a third of their income.

A THIRD of their income.

The kids were all sitting around the table, silenced, thinking... you could see the wheels turning... "How much is a third of our income? How much does that feel like to them?"

We asked them to estimate our monthly 'take home' income... and then we helped them see a "third of our income" from that perspective.

As a basic, hypothetical example, if we were making $5000/month, to us, it would feel as though we're given $1650 to help provide for one of our children.

Imagine if someone provided $1650/month to help provide for your child?

Not only does it help the child overcome poverty, but it gives the family relief in their own meager budget, which helps them feel a bit more hope.

We explained to the children that without this, Lizbeth would not be able to attend school, may be pulled into the work force at a young age, sometimes as young as 8 or 9 years old, out of desperation. Without an education, the cycle of poverty continues.

Where else can you give $35 and feel as though you're giving $1650? If that's NOT the best investment... what is?

Our $35 isn't much... but it's enough to change the future.

And that $35 doesn't just have impact on the immediate, temporary future... but eternally as well. Lizbeth will be provided with spiritual guidance and teaching, Bible study, and a church community. Her parents will also be able to attend classes.

We don't deserve any credit for what we're doing... we're not heroes, Jesus is the true Savior. We're simply following our hearts, and the Biblical teachings of Jesus. Taking care of the widows and orphans, taking care of "the least of these", loving and helping the poor as Jesus did, tithing in a way that really speaks to us.

We're trying to teach our children that it's not about us... it never was. Being here on earth isn't a "what's in it for us" experience... it's "how can we make the world a better place for someone else?" How can we live out the Gospel? In teaching them this, their father is also being exposed to the Gospel, to the notion that this isn't about him either... we're not just changing these Compassion girls' lives, we're changing our lives.

The kids were impacted by our discussion last night... they made the decision right then and there to begin to sponsor their own child as soon as they begin working. They believe in the difference they can make. They believe in the difference we can ALL make.

And then, we introduced them to Suwanna... our sweet Compassion girl from Thailand. She'll be 7 this October, and she lives with two siblings and both her parents.

Severe poverty came to mind when we spoke of Lizbeth to the children. We were just scratching the surface.

Suwanna, that sweet faced girl I am absolutely in love with, lives in Thailand.

When I asked the children to guess how much income Suwanna's family makes, with ONE more child to feed and provide for than Lizbeth's family... even I wasn't prepared for the imminent reality...

Her parents work all month when they can... and if they can work all month, they bring home twelve dollars.



Total family income? $24, best case scenario. PER MONTH.

We are providing this family with more than their monthly income in order to support their child.

Imagine if someone gave you more than $5000/month to support your child?

This left us all speechless.

Supper was ready, the air still heavy with what we had just discussed... as we said grace, I asked them to consider the food in front of them. Just a simple meal... pork chops, baked potatoes, salad, veggies... a meal simple for 5, for roughly $8.

If this were Suwanna's family, their income would provide for 3 such meals in one month.

Our one meal, last night, was worth a third of their income.

A meal worth one third of our income.

It just became a $1650 meal.

Pork chops, baked potatoes, salad, veggies... $1650.

If you look at it again as an $8 meal... 4.5 of those meals would equal one sponsorship.

It was all I could do to choke back the tears.

What can we give up in our lives, that we honestly don't need... our small comforts, the things we're attached to, in order to sponsor another child... What is $35 worth to us, compared to what it's worth to them?

Welcome to the Economics of Compassion. Don't expect to get involved with Compassion and not be moved... not be inspired... not be changed.

Do you feel led to take action?

If you live in Canada, click HERE
If you are in the U.S., click HERE

It will be one of the BEST investments you've ever, ever made.

Friday, February 05, 2010


Saw one today that I couldn't help but share... I don't know who to give credit to for this quote, but it was Tweeted by Mark Batterson, the pastor of a church in DC.

"Temptation isn't a PROBLEM - temptation is an OPPORTUNITY 2 show Christ how much we love Him."

Such truth. As much as it's tempting, I won't point out the paralells that came to mind... "Suffering is not a problem, it's an opportunity..." "Hardships aren't a problem, they're an opportunity..."

For today, I'll stick to temptation. How many temptation opportunities are we given, both bold and subtle, and what is the ratio of opportunities given, and opportunities not taken?


What if...

What if Christ had been tempted to not die on the cross, and refused to take the opportunity to show His love for us?

He was led not into temptation, but He delivered us........

How are our responses to temptation delivering our love to Him?

How are the choices we make when tempted showing Him our appreciation for the opportunity He took...

When we're tempted in our day-to-day life... to download a music file illegally, to say words we know will not glorify Him, to eat more than we should, to tell a white lie, to give in to a habit that does not glorify Him... how does our response to those opportunities reflect our hearts for Him?