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Friday, 26 August 2016

News From My Kids!

I haven't been updating this blog very frequently lately, so it is with joy that I share THREE new letters from my beloved kids!

Since Compassion implemented some of their new letter-writing policies, there was a bit of a backup with letters stemming from some glitches with the new system. Things are getting back on track though, and I am finally starting to hear from my kiddos again!

First up is a letter from Mbula! 

He starts every letter with "Hi! My dear sister in Christ." He says he hopes that I enjoyed the Christmas holidays well. His was "really wonderful" and he really enjoyed it. He responded to a letter I had written quite a while back about my job situation, and adds that he is praying for me and knows that God will answer his prayers. He also asked for prayers since this is his last year in secondary classes. One more reminder that he will be graduating Compassion's program next year! (Cue teary sponsor moment).

I had written about Richard Turere, the Maasai boy who invented a way to protect his family's cows from lions, and Mbula responded, "I also appreciate the story of the Maasai boy. Actually, I have never heard it but it was interesting to go through it." He also says he is keenly and actively participating in church.

Mbula closed his letter with, "Remember, if you believe, all things are possible to him who believes as it is stated in the Scripture Mark 9:23." Thank you for that reminder my dear brother!

He also drew me this beautiful picture, the first drawing I have ever received from him!

Next up is a letter from my beautiful Basomingera! 

This was a "first letter" template, since I recently became her financial sponsor. I was excited to learn some details that I hadn't known before, such as her mother's name and her siblings' ages (I knew their names). I learned that her favorite color is yellow, her favorite food is meat, her favorite game is football (soccer), her favorite toy is a doll, her favorite subject is math (good girl!), and her favorite Bible verse is Job 28:28. She then said, "I appreciate your letter and the photos that were many! And it was so nice. I wonder when did God give you such a love that you show me? (cue sponsor tears... again.) I wish you God's peace and blessings. Pray for me to perform well in school the National exams, November 2016."

She also drew me her first picture ever, an adorable cow!

Lastly, a letter from Miriam! 

This was written on the "My House" template. In this letter, I learned that she sleeps with her siblings, she gets water from the river, her house is made of mud with an iron sheet roof, she does not have electricity in her house, and she washes her clothes in a basin. I also learned her parents' and siblings' names.

Miriam's tutor wrote some exciting news on Miriam's behalf, "Miriam greets you in Jesus' name. She says she is fine and doing well at home and at school. She loves you and thus informs you that her mother has a new-born baby boy (Mbulu) who is 2 months of age. (Cue excited sponsor dancing up and down moment!) She is looking forward to meet you one day of her life. (Heart-melt!) She says that she loves going to Sunday school and prays for you and your family members. Wishes you a happy life."

And she drew this awesome, colorful picture!

I'm so glad to be hearing from my kids again! Now I'm just waiting on long-overdue letters from Isimbi and Papi, and of course Shakira, whom I don't hear from as frequently since she is through a different organization.

Have you gotten any fun letters lately? 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

One Less Broken Heart

If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you'll know my Basomingera Ada from Rwanda. My sweet girl that I've been writing to for almost four years now.

Four years. That's a long time.

So when I logged in to my Compassion account and noticed that her precious face was missing, alarm bells went off in my head. I immediately contacted Compassion, and learned the news that makes every correspondent sponsor's heart sink. Ada's financial sponsor had dropped her.

Logically, I tried to look at my finances. But thankfully for all of us, your heart doesn't always follow the dictates of your bank account.

Because I remembered the first time I saw this precious face.

I remembered the overwhelming joy that flooded my soul when I looked into those melting chocolate eyes and felt like I'd found a piece of myself. I remembered that night, lying awake and loving this child that I didn't know, but yet felt like I had known forever. The words of a song by Christina Perri rang through my mind that night... they played over and over. I have come to call this song "Ada's Song", and whenever I hear it, I think of her.

And as I stared at the blank spot on my account, where my darling girl's face used to look back at me, I remembered her words.

"I thank you for your previous letter you wrote to me and many more other letters you keep sending me and tell me that Jesus is a Friend Who can never forsake me. I thank you for the nice pictures. Please continue writing me."

"I feel like missing you."

"Thank you so much for your having accepted to be my sponsor. It reminds me of how Jesus loved me and accepted to be my sponsor."

"I am so glad to hear from you and know that I am part of your family."

"I pray for you to be with God all the time."

"I thank God Who connected us. I wish to be a doctor and I wish to see you."

"I thank you for being a good parent and I was happy for the good things you always do to me. I believe to have a better future."

And lastly, I looked at this precious face.

And the rest is, as they say, history. Welcome to the family Basomingera Ada... my fourth sponsored child. My own. My heart, my world. God willing, I will sponsor her until she graduates out of the program.

You've come home, beautiful Basomingera. I will be the last sponsor you ever have. And I will love you for the rest of my life.

And to quote Matthew West's song One Less, "There's one less broken heart in the world tonight."

Saturday, 23 January 2016

I Am Free

Before you begin reading this post, it's important that you realize it's gonna be a long and ramble-y one. (Is that even a word?)

So. Hmmm. Where do I even start. It's been such a crazy long time since I posted anything here on the Path of the Carpenter. Not that I haven't wanted to, it's just been, well, life. I could blame being busy or working a lot or whatever (although those things are all true) but to be honest with you all, that hasn't been the real reason for my prolonged absence.

The truth is, I was getting a little depressed in my blogging life. Not just my blogging life, but my online (social media) life in general. You see, I'm a raw and real person. Unlike some, I don't try to "filter" my life to make it appear more rosy... I've always been pretty brutally honest about myself and my struggles, my dreams, my fears, my emotions. In person, I'm quiet and introverted, but online, I feel more comfortable sharing abut myself.

But as I'm sure you all know, when you put yourself out there on the internet, or anywhere really, it generally leads to attacks. Big ones.

So to be honest, I haven't been on here in a long while because I was tired. Tired of feeling like everything I posted was being criticized, picked-apart, over-analyzed, and over-reacted to. Tired of people praising my blogging one day and then slamming it the next. Tired of people calling me up saying, "Why did you post this, that didn't sound right, people are going to be offended by that, you're this, you're that, you're something else..."

To be honest, I considered shutting the Path of the Carpenter down. Far from being a sanctuary, a safe place for me to be myself, I felt like I had to post everything perfectly and live up to a certain number of expectations and be politically correct and please everyone... and ended up pleasing no one, least of all myself.

So, over the past year really, I haven't posted anything much about my personal life at all; on my Facebook page or here. I haven't posted anything political or controversial. I haven't shared my opinions on much of anything. I just stayed quiet and kept my mouth shut and let the emotions roll off me "like water on a duck's back."

And was I happy?


Not at all.

You know, when the first of January rolled around, I did some serious thinking. I've never really been one for making (or breaking) New Year's resolutions. But a group of people I've come to consider as my friends (all fellow Compassion sponsors like me) have a... well, a tradition, I guess you could call it. To pick one word to focus on for the year. (You can read more about One Word, One Year HERE)

Last year, my "Word for the Year" was "Joy." I was feeling a lot of stress when 2015 came in, and I wasn't feeling much joy... I'd lost my job, lost my grandmother to cancer, and underwent an extreme personal attack all in one month. Plus my Seasonal Affective Disorder was in full swing, and depression was rearing its ugly head again. So I really felt like it was time to go on a prolonged search for JOY in my life. It wasn't easy, but I did, eventually, begin to find a measure of joy in my life again.

So, when 2016 rolled around and my friends began posting their words for the year, I began to think seriously about mine. And it didn't take long for me to find it. Or perhaps I should say, my "word" found ME.


On January the first, I decided that it was time to make a decision. Am I going to live the rest of my life constantly suppressed by others' opinions and expectations of me, or am I going to be myself? Am I going to speak up when I don't feel something is right? Am I going to wear what I want to wear (I've been finding creative expression in hippie/boho/gypsy style lately) , sing what I want to sing, say what I want to say, post what I want to post, and generally follow the leading of the Spirit... or am I going to back into a corner and shut myself off from who I am, because some people don't like me for it?

I finally stood up and said, enough. I am who I am... I am who God created me to be. I am silly. I am strange. I am a fiercely protective sponsor mom/big sister. I am that crazy redhead who sings in a band and wears long flowing skirts and dangly jewelry.

I Am Free. Free to live, to laugh, to love.

The above song is one that I haven't been able to listen to for years. There are a lot of painful memories attached to this song for me... memories that made it impossible to hear it without wanting to weep... or break something (there's honesty for ya).

This year, I can listen to it and believe it. Because I choose to put those memories behind me and say that they do not define who I am... God does.

I am free to run. I am free to dance. I am free to live for Him.

I am free.

Friday, 4 September 2015

A Letter to My Childhood Self

I read this prompt on the Compassion blog and decided to have some fun with it!

Dear Little Hannah,

It's me. No, not that, ya goose. Me. Your older, wiser, more experienced self. Have I got a few words of wisdom for you! No, you're not crazy. Just be quiet and listen, 'kay?

Number 1. Adulting is hard, girl! There's so much stuff that you haven't even thought about! Bills to pay! Cars breaking down! Forms to fill out! And more forms!! And more forms!!!

Not to mention, catching that centipede that you discover in your sink at four in the morning all by yourself.

All I can say is, experiment. No one's gotta know about that batch of cookies you had to dump because you burned them beyond recognition... or the entire container of food that you forgot in the back of the fridge and had to throw away container and all because it grew *GASP* pink mold and everyone knows that PINK MOLD CAN KILL YOU... or the time you dropped an entire pie on the floor... or the time you caught the microwave on fire. (Gosh, kiddo, you sure didn't inherit your mom's cooking genes did ya?)

Just chill, take it easy... it's called growing up. Every adult does stuff like this. I think.

Number 2. Adulting is amazing. That's the part that people don't tell you about. When you go out and purchase a piece of furniture that compliments your decor perfectly... when you dress up and treat yourself to dinner to celebrate life... when you just get in your car and drive and drive with no destination in mind, just because you can... when you host your first party. Being an adult is the toughest thing you'll ever do, but also the most rewarding.

Number 3. You know that African girl you've been wanting to sponsor? The one you dream about every time you see a World Vision commercial on TV? The one whose picture you cut out of a magazine and taped to the fridge? The one you dream about writing letters to?

You're going to have four of them. Yup. Four. And two boys besides. (One in Indonesia.) And it will Change. Your. Life. And it will cause your heart to break in ways you never dreamed of and it will put all the pieces of your life back together again and your friends will call you a single mom and you'll brag about "your kids" to random strangers and it will be the best thing that ever happens in your life. I promise. 

Number 4. Okay, I hate to tell you this part. You're gonna get hurt, babygirl. Adults don't know how to play nice. Be careful who you give your heart away to, all right? Even the sweetest people in the world can let you down and hurt you in ways that no one should have to experience. You're going to learn what depression means. You're going to learn what betrayal means. You're going to learn what sleepless nights feel like, and what crying until you throw up feels like, and what rage feels like.

But you'll make it. (If you didn't, I wouldn't be here writing this letter to you would I?)

You'll make it, you know why? Because you're going to learn that it's not about who you are, it's about Whose you are. Because you'll learn to see everything beautiful in the storm. Because your worth will come from One Who loves you. Because one day, you'll learn to smile and walk away with your heart intact. You may not think that you're going to make it, but you will. Because one day, you'll learn to remove negative people, thoughts, and influences from your life without a second thought.

Number 5. You are who you are. Don't let anybody, and I mean anybody, change that. Be crazy. Be weird. Be awkward. Stick out like a sore thumb. Be the one running around catching snowflakes on your tongue while people look at you like you've lost your mind. Be the one giggling so hard that everyone turns to look. Be you, crazy girl. Don't be anybody else.

Number 6. Remember how you always dreamed of being a singer? You're gonna do it chickie! You're gonna sing on stages and have people cry and come up afterwards to hug you. And what's more, you're going to meet the best friends that you've ever had who are gonna sit back and accept you for who you are. You're going to laugh until you snort and you're going to go on crazy adventures and you're going to sing in parking lots and restaurants and malls, and you're going to go into a recording studio and get a fit of anxious laughter because you can't believe you're making a CD for crying out loud and isn't that unbelievable?!

Number 7. You're gonna grow up, Hannah-Strawberry-Banana-Spitfire-Torment. And it's going to be painfully funny and beautifully impossible. And you're going to laugh and cry and groan and giggle and scream and sigh. And it's going to be fun. And it's going to be tough. And you're gonna do it. And you're not gonna give up, because like I said, if you did, I wouldn't be writing you this letter. And you're gonna come out on top; maybe a little battered, maybe a little broken, but still beautiful, okay?

Because you're not brave enough to be mediocre. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

August Anamneses

Three letters to share this month!! I just adore getting letters from my kids!

First up was a letter from my dearest brother Mbula. I love what a fantastic relationship I have with this young man.

He began his letter, as he does almost every time, with "Hallo my sister!" He told me that he was glad to hear about my parents' recent visit, and that I "took time talking with them." He sent them his greetings and told them that God loves them. He also shared that he was glad to hear that I really appreciated the photos of him with the gift bag I was able to send him through a visiting sponsor! (I had told him that I was so happy to see a picture of him smiling that it made me cry. ) He says that he keeps on "praying to Almighty to encourage you to keep sending these gifts." Mbula shared that he's happy to hear that I'm praying for him and his family, and on their side, they're "keenly" praying for me too!

I recently sent Mbula a letter about my most recent correspondence child, Miriam, since she's also in Kenya. I told him that he had a little Compassion sister and that I was so blessed to be able to write to her. He wrote back and said, "I am grateful to have a small sister in Compassion, since I only have an older biological sister. I am really blessed. When you write to her send my regards to her."
He also shared how he is doing in school and encouraged me to keep praying for him. Lastly, he closed with Isaiah 41:10, which says "Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God."

Next up is a letter from my beautiful Ada!

She is always so sweet and grateful in her letters. She says, "Thank you for taking care of me in my daily life. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers." She also shared that she is in grade five and is preparing for end of term exams. Then she thanked me for the letter I sent to her and said that it pleased her and she was glad to hear from me. Then she thanked me a couple more times!

Lastly, I got my first "real" letter from Papi! His first letter was just a very basic intro, so this one was exciting... it was two pages long!

He greeted me with "shalom." and said that he was happy to receive my letters and photos. He then thanked me for my willingness to sponsor him. He shared a bit about his family and told me that his mother works as a domestic worker. (I guess that's like a maid or house servant?) He told me about the university he goes to and said that he is studying building techniques and said, "Each morning I must struggle to ride on the campus bus because public transportation to campus is not many. It is one of our town cultures." Then he shared his hobbies with me, which are watching animated movies, walking around, and hanging out with friends.

Papi then shared that this month he is hoping to go to Poe Town, which is a community about 175 km away from where he lives. They will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Holy Spirit pouring down. (Google "Indonesian revival 1965" like I did... it's very interesting and I'm so glad he is interested in that sort of thing!)

He then asked, "May I call you Sister?" (Awwww!) When is your birthday? What do you do? How is the culture there?"

He also asked for prayers for his studies, that he'll be able to finish "in the right time." And he drew this illustration of Psalm 91:11 for me!

What letters have you gotten this month?  

Friday, 31 July 2015

July Joys

Well, I thought I wasn’t going to get any letters at all this month, since I heard from all of my Compassion kids last month, but I was very blessed to find a letter from my little Miriam in my post office box today! I’m glad to have at least one letter to blog about!

My little munchkin sent me another cute coloring job and a little drawing. She’s my first Compassion child to draw for me and I think it’s SO precious! It looks like letters are going to be coming from her project quite regularly, and the project staff are making sure that she responds to my letters and questions!

Here’s her letter, which was written on the “My Family” template:

My siblings from oldest to youngest are Mary. In my family I spend the most time with my mother. Extended family that lives with me are grandparents and aunt. My family lives in the rural area. My food is prepared by my mother. My favorite thing to do with my family is dining together. (How cute!) My favorite way to help my family is sweeping the compound. My family’s faith background is Christian. My family’s health and special needs are education.

Miriam expresses her sincere love to you. She hopes you are okay back in US. (Oops, better write her a letter about Canada!) She says back in Kenya she is doing well with her family. She thanks you for the lovely letter you send her. She was happy to know about your parents and what they do. She asks you to pass her love to them. Miriam says that she also likes singing. She says that she lives with her parents and her sister Mary. She thanks you for the picture of your parents. She says she enjoys going for a trip with her family. Miriam wishes you all the best in what you do.

Isn’t she a little doll? Here’s her lovely drawing and coloring… just my favorite shade of blue! 

Sunday, 5 July 2015

How To Live On Your Own (And Survive)

Since I’ve been living on my own for over a year now, I figure I am the perfect person to give you some tips on how to make the moving-out process a lot easier and less painful. Trust me, I have the experience. Getting ready to live on your own? Headed to college or university? Apartment shopping? This one’s for you!


DO: PAY YOUR BILLS. I cannot stress how important this is. Use a calendar or an app (I use Google calendars) to keep track of when you last paid your bills. Companies are notorious for neglecting to send you bills (and they can also get lost in the mail) so don’t count on them to notify you when you owe money. Even if they send you an e-notification, that can get screwed up too. (I’ve had them mess up my email address before.) Nobody wants their phone/internet service cut off without warning, so keep track of it all! (Hint: ignoring it won’t make it go away, it will only get worse.)

DO: Build good credit. This is the thing that will allow you to get a mortgage (or a car) later on down the road. For example: You need to spend $100 on a vacuum cleaner. Put it on your Visa, and then call the bank (or go there, whatever) and pay it off the next day. Even making small purchases and paying them off promptly shows your credit company that you are trustworthy and that you are responsible enough to handle a big loan.

DON’T: Go in debt. My motto is, “Owe no man nothing.” If you can’t afford it, a good tip is, don’t buy it! I spent a full year with no couch for that reason. I didn’t NEED a couch, so I waited till I could find a cheap used one instead of going in debt for something that really isn’t a necessity.

DO: Pay off debts promptly. Sooner or later, you will have a debt. Whether you decide to buy a car, fix your car if something goes wrong, get a mortgage on a house, or you just need to purchase something big like a washing machine, you will eventually go in debt. Pay it off FAST. If you make only the minimum required payment, you will live with it hanging over your head. Plus the interest will kill you and you’ll end up paying like twice as much as you were originally going to. If you have a $200 debt and the minimum required payment is $18 a month, don’t be afraid to pay $50 or even $100 at a time if you can afford it. The faster you can get rid of that debt, even if you have to pinch pennies, means the less you have to worry about.

DO: Have a backup plan. Always have money in your bank account. One thing I wish I would have known when I first moved out, is that unexpected expenses will crop up everywhere. It’s Murphy’s Law… if something can go wrong, it will. Just when you think you’re getting ahead in life, you’ll either have a flat tire or something will break or go missing or whatever. This is where GOOD credit comes in handy… it’s saved my hide when I had emergency car repairs and a bill that I didn’t know about until it reached $400.

DO: Save money where you can. I am the ultimate Scrooge… I hate spending money on ANYTHING. But being a Scrooge means I’m not constantly broke, which is good. And it means that when you do splurge on a fast-food meal or a new nail polish or that pair of jeans you’ve been eyeing, you’ll feel good about yourself because you know that you don’t have to feel guilty for treating yourself once in a while.


DON’T: Expect your pad to look like something out of Sears catalogue right away. Do expect to sleep on an air mattress and eat off paper plates for a while… all things happen in good time. Just be patient.

DON’T: Buy all new stuff. Go for gently used every time. You can get stuff that’s practically new for a quarter of the price. Coffee table, kitchen table and chairs, bedside stands… go for used.

DO: Buy from people you trust. I’m touchy about couches and mattresses… anything that I’m going to put my face on and that I can’t immerse in soapy water, I want to be clean. These are the two items that I’d recommend buying new if you can afford it… if not, buy from a relative or family friend. At least you’ll know where it came from.

DO: Look for an apartment without carpets, for the same reasons as listed above. Floating floor or hardwood or tile can be cleaned so much more easily, and it doesn’t collect dirt and dampness and bugs and end up stinking like carpets do. Buy area rugs if you want soft flooring.


So you’re ready to move in and spend the first night in your new apartment on your own. First, you’ll want to do some shopping. Pick up toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels, hand soap, dish soap, and sponges. Also, if you don’t have a vacuum cleaner, pick up a mop and mop bucket, broom and dustpan. You want to be able to unpack your stuff without worrying… especially if the apartment wasn’t cleaned before you moved in.

Make sure you buy a shower curtain and a toilet plunger. These are essentials.

Bath towels, facecloths, dish cloths, and dish towels are also a must. And you’ll want to grab a laundry basket, or designate a bag for this purpose. Also buy laundry detergent. And dryer sheets.
If you don’t have blinds and you haven’t had time to buy curtains (or make them, if you’re inclined thataway) a sheet or towel and a few thumbtacks works wonders.

Make sure you have Drano or Liquid Plumber on hand… clogged sinks are nasty.

I’m going to assume you have a fridge and stove, since most apartments have them, so let’s jump right into what you should stock your kitchen with. You can use plastic utensils until you get a set of dishes, and buy paper (not Styrofoam) cups and plates. Styrofoam will melt in the microwave, and you don’t want that, do you?

Unless you’re a big eater, assume that a lot of stuff will spoil when you’re the only person eating. I buy a lot of canned fruit, because it’s healthy and keeps forever in the cupboard. I also buy individual-sized, ready-made salads instead of buying all the separate ingredients. (Unless you want to eat salad three times a day; in that case, go to town.)

Regardless of what you think of canned food, keep at least a few canned soups, stews, tuna or chicken or ham flakes, noodle soup cups, instant oatmeal packets, and Kraft dinner cups in the cupboards for those times that you’re too tired/sick/broke/lazy to cook. Microwave dinners aren’t all that healthy and they’re packed with salt, but they’re better than starving. Do make an effort to eat healthy though!

Keep wieners and hot dog buns, hamburger patties and hamburger buns, chicken fingers/nuggets, pierogis, English muffins and pepperoni (for mini pizzas) and maybe chicken wings or the like, in your freezer. They make great emergency meals.

For starters, you’ll want to stock your fridge with drinks and some condiments. Great starters are ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise (if you like it on sandwiches or burgers), plum sauce (if you like it on chicken fingers), soya sauce (this is good on rice), etc. This will vary according to taste, of course.

Also make sure you have salt and pepper on hand.

I buy butter in sticks (4 to a box) because I find it spoils too quickly otherwise. Store your butter in the freeze and just thaw a stick or however much you need for a week. You can buy a block of butter and cut it up and separate it into containers, but why go through all that trouble?

Other fridge staples for me are cheese, eggs, and milk.

Cupboard staples may include bread, cereal, rice, crackers, and sandwich spreads like peanut butter, honey, molasses, or whatever you prefer.

NOTE that the above lists will vary according to taste and preference; this is just to give you some ideas of what you may not want to be without.

Try to have at least a toaster and kettle on hand. Get a microwave as soon as you can. And please, PLEASE buy a slow cooker. It will change your life. Seriously.

For dirty dishes: If you have a dishwasher, give yourself a high five, a pat on the back, do a dance, get down on your knees, say an Our Father, whatever. You just got lucky.

If you have a double sink: do all of the above. You’re still lucky.

If you have a single sink, buy a dish drying rack and drying mat. You can either run hot water over your soapy dishes to rinse them (although this will fill up your sink quickly) or you can buy a dish pan and fill it with clean hot water to rinse your dishes. Speaking of dishes, make sure that any dirty dishes containing cheese, egg, or oatmeal, are put in the sink to soak, or else they will dry like cement. I kid you not, these are the worst three food items to clean.

Also, NEVER put anything metal, like forks or knives, in the microwave. Just in case you didn’t know ;) And also, never use steel wool or any kind of harsh scrubber on a non-stick pan. Also in case you didn’t know. ;)

Just a tip, I use rubber gloves to wash dishes. Why dry out your skin, ruin your manicure, and touch icky bits of food when you don’t have to?

By all means, this isn’t a complete list, but I think it covers some of the more important areas!