In 2010 I visited Rwanda to work alongside friends from The Ndengera Foundation. Those ten days wrote stories on my heart which frequently spill into my daily life. Just the other day I was helping my preschooler get ready for school and we were picking out shoes. Should she wear her bright red boots or the black ones? White patented leather or purple sandals? A memory flashed.
Our mission team was out visiting families and seeing the new field which would soon be planted with apple trees. As we tromped down the path a group of local kids came and joined our parade. One little guy could not keep up because he kept having to stop to reassemble the remnants of his shoe. Ack. We have mountains of shoes at home but none here to hand this little boy. We did have duct tape. So one of the men on our team duct taped the kid's shoe back into one piece and handed it back. He was rewarded with a jubilant smile and the little boy ran down the path to catch up with his friends.
My child has shoes to spare and this kid was happy with duct tape.
In the past seven years it's been a great joy to partner with The Ndengera Foundation as they build hope in their community. Apple trees and Tilapia Farms. Goats and mechanic supplies.A gorgeous new medical clinic and an education center. The photos and stories which come home are so encouraging.In June a team is headed to Gisenyi, Rwanda to celebrate a wedding. I so want to be on that plane but its just not in the cards this year. BUT!!!! One of my friends has agreed to gift me one of their suitcase allotments on the plane to bless some of the kids in the area and I've chosen to donate this space to send shoes! They leave in less than a month so this fundraiser is a speedy race. I've got room to send 50 pairs of shoes. Will you join me?
$15 buys one pair of shoes - I'd like to raise $800 which is 50 pairs of shoes plus one duffle bag to tote the pile overseas. How fun to be able to send shoes to kids I love.
If you are interested in joining in - check out my fundraiser page HERE.
This has been the view from my back window for the last several months. My two beautiful California Lilacs succumbed to the snow and ice this last winter. As spring approached I really hoped they would bounce back. But alas, turns out Californians don't appreciate snow. I was super sad as these two plants were gifts so for a few months I refused to face reality and left the sticks in the dirt. Finally I decided they were beyond saving and my spouse chopped them down. Our yard debris bin was overflowing.
We bought this cheerful banana tree at the home and garden show and hauled it home with this cheerful girl.
Before we could plant the new tree I had to tackle the stump. Let me rephrase. My husband offered to tackle the stump but I wanted to take on the challenge. I was in a funk and I know something about myself - a huge does of hard physical work usually restores my mental cheer.
It was hard.
The roots were intertwined and the dirt had hardened into the clay concrete typical of the Pacific Northwest. Intertwined roots in clay concrete. No wonder it was difficult.
About halfway through the process I figured out I react very similarly when change hits my life. I don't like change. I fight, I don't move, I dig in and hold still. Problem is not being willing to bend or flex is a good way to die. And insisting on keeping things the same never allows for new life.
I got the stump out.
I like our new plant. As I look at this photo I'm noticing we need a new fence....change is inevitable. I'm learning to flex.
Sarah Thebarge's new book Well made me mad. And happy. It made me think and it made me want to take Ms. Thebarge aside and explain a few things. It made me shocked at my own excess. This book frustrated the heck out of me and I loved parts of it enough to reread it again.
The book is tag lined "Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa". It is a retelling of Sarah Thebarge's three month medical mission trip to Hospital of Hope in Togo, West Africa. Sarah is a gifted writer. She is able to describe people and medical prognoses to make the reader understand. Sarah is also a deeply passionate and expressive person. I am quite positive she's a joy to have as a friend.
I loved the book though because Sarah captured perfectly the culture shock and anger at American excess when children in Africa die of preventable diseases. She stated at one point she has quit asking why God allows suffering and now she's asking why WE allow suffering. When I got home from my ten days in Africa (pitiful compared to her 3 months and nothing compared with the people who work and serve and love continuously) I was quite simply ticked. My husband had to haul me out of a Peet's Coffee before I caused a scene in confronting a spoiled mom who was returning her iced mocha because she said it was "icky". Icky is not the luxury of $5 coffee. Icky is water which is full of live parasites and having no other option to bathe your children. This book is a challenge to choose to invest in giving live, hope, love and a future to the most improvised communities. It is easy to look the other way. This book is a gorgeous invitation to look closely and then to get involved.
I was also frustrated with this book. Ms. Thebarge made it clear she did not agree with the management of the mission or with the approach of many of the life time missionaries in the area. My concern comes from a commitment to striving for unity across the Christian faith. I cringed at how Ms. Thebarge described people who had given their entire lives to this hospital, people she had judged almost immediately. While Ms. Thebarge may very well have some valid points of contention I wondered if she had shared these with her hosts prior to including the sections in her book. I think perhaps Sarah has not yet come to peace with some of her trip and I wish those chapters had been healed a bit before throwing the story to the world. I think we in the faith do better when we work out our differences and are able to show grace and love to each other despite disagreement. I completely understand disagreement. My hope though is there is more to this story - a chapter where Sarah and others wrestled through hard conversations and had relationship at the end.
Well is a book which grapples with deep pain. It faces questions of disparity, of disease, of loss and sacrifice. It also contained clear calls to love deeply and to watch for opportunities to make a difference. I loved scenes where simple songs or staying present made a difference. Most importantly, it paints a picture of a Creator who loves His people. This book made me want to know God better. The book offers no easy answers and acknowledges brokenness but it also taught the lesson of love well. Love isn't trite. But it is powerful. And perhaps powerful is the best word to describe Sarah's book. Messy and painful but powerful. It was not an easy read. But I recognized myself in the pages and it made me want to go back to Africa.
My engine light turned on a few days ago. The yellow haunting you may have a problem light. Not the red doom stop now light. I once ignored a red doom stop now light. I was five miles away from my house which was in the middle of nowhere. It was dark. My baby was in the baskseat. No cell phone coverage. I ignored the red light and the warning blaring sound. Then I ignored the massive amount of smoke billowing from my car. I made it up the hill to my house and the car stopped. It never drove again. A friend bought it for $500 and towed it away.
So this time when the yellow light came on I eyed it suspiciously. I hate car repairs. But I'm a loyal Dave Ramsey girl so we drive our cars forever to avoid having a car payment. We just spent a small fortune last week on my husband's car so the yellow light on my car was not welcome.
The yellow light didn't go away on its own. I was really hoping it would. So I gave in today and dropped the car off at the mechanic and hitched a ride with my dad back to work. All afternoon I was waiting for a phone call to find out what the damage to my checkbook would be to make the yellow light go away.
The mechanic called. He said there was good news. My yellow light was a standard PO562 code. That's great. So happy.
Turns out it means I had too much oxygen in my engine because I had not tightened down the gas cap when I got gas last time. The mechanic closed the gas cap and the yellow engine light turned off. Ah. I see. Further proof I'm a goof.
But here's what happened next.
The mechanic said he was very happy I'd brought my car in today. Turns out the shocks on my car were almost entirely shot. This had caused uneven wear on my tires and two of my tires had worn down to zero with cables showing and were primed for a blowout. A vision of a blowout with my babies in the back seat made my stomach hurt and my heart so very grateful.
See this is what happens to my all the time. God uses my dumb moves for my good. It's why I try to pay attention to Him. He is the light of the world. A light worth not ignoring.
I went to the Bridge the Gap fundraiser today. Oh my goodness. I successfully avoided hauling home an autographed football and signed jersey of Russell Wilson because I thought my husband might be surprised if I had decided to donate our children's college fund to the cause. However - I did bring home a renewed vision for why we decided to use some of the proceeds from The Scramble for the Kids (a charity golf tournament I help with every year) for this amazing organization. Bridge the Gap helps by providing funding for foster kids to do the "extras" in life - they pay for art classes, rent band instruments, pay for tutors, sports fees and even purchase yearbooks and prom tickets. Last year, Bridge the Gap helped 1602 foster kids in Clark and Skamania counties. Today one of the speakers was a stunning student who is about to graduate. When this brave soul shared her story the entire room sat in rapt attention and then gave her a standing ovation. And then the paddle raise. Goodness me. If you need to renew your hope in the world go check out Bridge the Gap and get involved.
I spent the afternoon reading one of the books in my stack. The stack has grown to ridiculous levels and I have a goal this month to power through and get caught up. This afternoon's read was a fantastic thoughtful and engrossing book by Christina Baker Kline called The Orphan Train. The book traces the relationship between a modern day foster child and a 92 year old woman who find friendship through sharing their similar childhood experiences. The book made me want to be kinder to everyone I meet. People carry such pain and kindness makes a difference.
My girls and I read books together before bed every night. I love to read. I can't stand reading the same books over and over and over again. I totally understand this is a good thing for kids - it helps with their reading skills and understand text and all that but I go slightly cookoo when I'm into the fifth or sixth review of the same plot line. This is especially true if its "lesser" literature. You know - the books that are really just marketing commercials for random kids toys. My little one made me read Shimmer and Shine's teanie tiny escape from a sparkly bottle one too many times recently. Anyway - I love to read picture books but seriously need new input. So we go to the library a couple times a month to restock.
A couple days ago we were reading Ruth Chan's new book Georgie's Best Bad Day. Its about a group of friends who decide to tackle their rotten day with friendship and activity and end up having a pretty good day in the end. At one point we came to this page. Poor little Sneakers's here forgot his breakfast.
When I read this line out loud my youngest got it right. She said "Pants".
Yes, forget the breakfast. What this little guy forgot was pants. My eldest and I both laughed so hard we cried.
This is why I read every night with my girls. It makes me see things in a new way. I've been thinking about it all weekend. What critical things am I ignoring because I'm too worried about my own grumbles? The sermon today at church was about prayer. The pastor asked "If we believe what we say we believe....why don't we pray?". Good question.
My husband sent me a gift this morning. I love surprise gifts. This one came in the form of a blog domain and blog email renewal. My Quirky Faith domain was set to expire and without asking this sweet spouse of mine signed me up for two more years. I haven't written much in the last few weeks. I've neglected the written word. I appreciated his vote of confidence.
Fact is lately I've been called to smaller things. My sister had a baby - two months early - and in aunty fashion I've been making quilts and embroidering Christmas stockings. My mom and a good friend of our threw a fairly fantastic baby shower.
The last couple of weeks I've also been called to focus in at home. My kids have had some obstacles in health and homework which required attention - time cuddling and reading and being present. So I've been quiet online.
This morning as I dropped my daughter off at preschool she asked me a question which made me pause.
Mom - Do I look like Miss Clavel?
I looked her up and down before I responded.
Ummmmm. Miss Clavel? Like in Madeline? The nun?
Yea! Do I look like Miss Clavel?
I truly tell you I had no words. Miss Clavel is not what comes to mind when I think about my feisty five year old. But her question made me ponder.
Miss Clavel is a wonder. She sacrificed her rights to marriage and her own family in order to take a vow of fidelity to Jesus. Then she spent her life chasing after 12 little girls and one especially spunky little one. Miss Clavel took in puppies and kittens, toured world cities, woke up in the night and rushed to the side of people in pain. Madeline is the hero of the story but truth is I love Miss Clavel. So I hope my kiddo turns out the same.
Mother Theresa once said "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
I'm grateful for Quirky Faith - and for the platforms on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. I love to write and shout out to the masses what is true and holy and right and fun. I so appreciate the opportunity and the privilege. But I'm convicted when any attempt to strive for something "great" makes me too busy to look at my children and understand what they are asking. My daughter wanted to know if she looked like Miss Clavel. I want to be about the same question.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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