Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Blessings of Real Life

"And all of my todays seem like they're rushing by so fast
And every time I look around, I pray that it will last." ~Lincoln Brewster
As I was driving home tonight from band practice, I was listening to a song called “Real Life”, by Lincoln Brewster. I’ve loved this song ever since I heard it almost three years ago; but tonight, maybe because I had just spent an hour and a half hanging out with some of my best friends, it put me in a nostalgic mood. Have a listen and see what I mean.

So as I was driving home, with my high beams cutting through the darkness and raindrops pecking at my windshield, I thought about my life so far. I’m not old, although sometimes I feel like I’ve seen more than my share of both joys and sorrows, and had experiences that some people twice my age haven’t had. I’ve had my share of ups and downs, good times and bad. I’ve known sickness, health, friendship, betrayal, doubt, comfort, insecurity, and confidence. Maybe I’m an ordinary person; somehow, though, I wonder what I did for God to give me an awesome life like this. I’m living in a province that I never wanted to move to in the first place, attending a church that I ran from almost two years ago and that God brought me back to after the worst eight months of my life (maybe someday I will feel free enough to share about some of those valleys), and I’m loving every minute of it. I’m not that great of a singer (at least, in my opinion) and yet, I have the privilege of being in Driftwood Cross. I’m not a great speaker; but yet, I’ve been invited to speak as a guest in my church. I’m not a great leader; and yet, leadership opportunities are opening to me daily (I’m not free to share about some of them yet; that will come in the future).

The weird thing about me is, I’m not a “fitting in” kind of person. I’m not like anybody I know. But yet, I “fit in” better at Open Door than I do anywhere else. Maybe because we’re a church of “misfits.” Maybe, being different is how we fit; all of us. Maybe we’re like puzzle pieces; each of us has one particular place that we fit in, and nowhere else. Maybe.

Tonight, I sat in a living room with three men who are about as different from each other as different can be. We played music and sang, laughed and shared. Even just four short months ago, I never would have dreamed of this. I have a wild imagination, and anyone that knows me well will tell you so. But I never could have imagined this: listening to Bob solo on his guitar, watching Jim shuffle through a stack of papers and say, “How about if we play it like this?”, laughing at Larry making up song lyrics on the spot or rolling my eyes at his teasing, and feeling so overwhelmingly blessed. Maybe, to someone on the outside looking in, we would look like just any ordinary worship band holding a practice. But they would be wrong. This, is an ordinary miracle. The simple kind of ones that God randomly drops from heaven just because He loves His kids.

And, to someone like me, it’s the biggest privilege of my life. Being involved. Being a part of something. “Fitting.” Belonging.  Somehow. Someway. In a place that I thought I had left behind me forever, with people I thought I would never see again. But God moved mountains (and one very reluctant 21-year-old) and brought me home again. And now I sit back and sigh with contentment, and let these lyrics by Lincoln Brewster drift through my mind:

"This is Real Life, and it’s real good; it’s a place I took for granted, ‘cause I just never understood. And there is real pain, and there are real tears. But the way my Father loves me, is the reason I am here. This is real life.”

And every time I walk into Open Door, I’m reminded once again; life is short. We never know what twists and turns it’s going to make. We need to appreciate what we have before us, because tomorrow it could be gone. I’ve experienced that very thing too many times to ever forget it.

But that’s real life.

And it’s pretty good.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

15 Signs That You Might Be a Crazy Sponsor Parent

So you think you might have the makings of a crazy sponsor Mom or Dad? Here are some sure-fire signs!

1.       You have pictures of your sponsored child(ren) hanging on your wall or displayed on your desk at work, and their artwork is on your fridge.

2.       You find yourself looking at stickers, postcards, etc. and exclaiming, “Oh, my kids would love this!”

3.       You visit places for the express purpose of taking photos for your kids.

4.       The postal workers recognize you on sight.

5.       You have a panic attack if a regularly writing child suddenly stops writing.

6.       When someone asks you to name a place you’d love to visit, your sponsored child(ren)’s country/countries are the first thing you list.

7.       You are seriously considering visiting or have visited your child(ren).

8.       You dream about your child(ren) on a regular basis.

9.       You wish you could adopt your child(ren) if ever given the chance.

10.   When you get a new child, you run around screaming for joy.

11.   You brag about your kids and show their pictures to people at home, at work, at church, at school, and to random strangers.

12.   You constantly re-think your budget to justify fitting in another child.

13.   When your child mentions losing a parent or family member or being hurt in some way, you are ready to buy a plane ticket and head out there to find your child.

14.   You keep all of your children’s letters in a special place so you don’t lose them.

15.   You never stop praying for and looking for your child, even after they’ve been gone for years.
Have I left out something important? Comment below and tell me... I might create a "Part 2"! And feel free to share with anyone you think fits the label "crazy sponsor parent"!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Fur-ever and Ever

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." ~The Velveteen Rabbit

As I type up this blog post, the most curious figure is sitting on my bed. A small, worn, almost threadbare toy. Or perhaps I should say friend. This shabby once-playmate of mine hardly resembles a cat anymore, having been so mauled and loved over the years that she’s nearly entirely lost her shape. But perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh. She’s looking at me rather accusingly at the moment, as if to say, “And whose fault is it that I look this way?” I always did say she had the saddest expression of any stuffed toy I’ve ever seen. It’s as easy as anything to imagine her stalking to the end of the bed, curling her tail around her haunches, and purring; perhaps because I’ve been doing it for over eighteen years.

Fur-Ears (please remember I was only four at the time) has a couple of interesting features. She has what I think is a ball-bearing inside her head, so whenever you move her, she makes a realistic purring sound. He body was filled with water or gel at one time, so she was squishy and cuddly, although she’s rather limp after all these years.

I remember the first time I saw her, fluffy and new with a pink ribbon around her neck, on a store shelf. “Oh, Mommy, Mommy! I want that! Mom looked at the kitty on the shelf, looked at me, and questioned, “Are you really going to play with it?” “Oh yes, Mommy! I promise I’ll play with it every day!” I begged. I kept my promise, too, right up until I deemed myself too old for stuffed playthings. Fur-Ears went everywhere with me. She slept in my bed, where I would make little burrows for her under the covers until I fell asleep. She traveled from Newfoundland to British Colombia with me, alternately sitting in my lap, “sleeping” on top of the luggage, or sitting in the rear window of the car so she could “see” the view. I never would have subjected her to the indignity of traveling in a suitcase; besides, she might have smothered!

Fur-Ears was also my schoolmate in my younger years and my mascot in later ones. Since I was homeschooled, my treasured pet sat right beside me as I wrestled with math problems, memorized verb endings, and studied science. My mother, who doubled as my homeschool teacher, managed to creatively work Fur Ears into almost every lesson. I believe it helped me learn; or at least, it made learning more fun, which meant I was more receptive to it. (I hated school.) I received many a handmade card or note signed, “Love, Fur-Ears”.

The first time I read the book The Velveteen Rabbit, I identified with it immediately. During the most poignant scene in the book, the little Rabbit asks, “What is ‘Real’? Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” The old, worn-out Skin Horse replies, “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real… but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

I think that’s why I keep Fur-Ears around, even after all these years. Even with her faded pink ribbon, pink paw-pads that have turned gray over the years, thread coming out of her ears and tail, plastic whiskers long gone (clipped off by Mom because they poked my face in the night when I cuddled with her), and floppy brown ears, there’s a certain wisdom in those green eyes that still shine despite the nicks and scratches. When I was a child, Fur-Ears was as real as any real-life playmate. And everyone knows, you don’t discard your friends just because they’re old and lose their beauty.
I think there’s a lesson to be learned here as well, and perhaps two: An old, familiar friend is a wonderful thing to have, and we must always remember that no matter how shabby or worn-out or forgotten we may feel, there is Someone Who makes us Real, and who loves us despite the ugly and tattered parts of our lives.

“When you are Real, shabbiness doesn’t matter.” ~The Velveteen Rabbit.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Isimbi Turns 10!

Today is a really special day! Our youth group’s sponsored child, Isimbi Divine A., hits the double digits today! We’ve sponsored Isimbi since November 2011, when she was eight years old.

This is the first glimpse we had of our precious girl. She was seven years old here. Such a beautiful, serious little face!

This is our most recent picture of Isimbi from Compassion Canada. She almost appears to be standing at attention here. Notice how everything she has on is orange? Even her flip-flops! But let me assure you, this girl can smile, even though it doesn’t show in her official pictures.

See? This is our girl with her little brother, Dilani, and her grandmother, Felicite. This was taken when my friends visited her last November.

Isimbi gave our team a special gift that she picked out herself: a picture of a woman holding a peace basket (also known as a friendship basket). The picture is made of banana leaves. Look at the hearts on the gift bag and the hearts on Isimbi’s dress… this girl is all heart! Isimbi is sitting with my friend Sherry here.

For her birthday, I sent Isimbi some paper goodies to help her celebrate. I also wrote her this letter:

 To our special Isimbi,

I wanted to tell you how excited I am that you will soon be turning 10 years old! I hope this letter arrives in time for your birthday and does not arrive too early or too late! Since it is almost your birthday, I want to tell you a very special story. It is the story of how you became our sponsored child.

Myself, and my two best friends Sherry and he husband David , lead a weekly meeting for young people. Every week, we gather together to learn about the Bible, sing, pray, and play games. The young people that come are from ages 12 to ages 19. We call ourselves, “Open Door youth group.”

One day, we prayed and decided that we wanted to sponsor a child. We knew God would lead us to one very special child. After a while, David and Sherry brought a picture to our meeting, and said that God had led them to a little girl in Rwanda, whose name was “Isimbi.” That little girl was you! Even though we didn’t know you, we loved you already.

After a long time, David and Sherry decided to go to Rwanda to visit you and your family. I was sad because I wanted to go as well, but I was happy for my friends who did go. Sherry and David were so happy to meet you, and your brother Dilani, and your grandma. They enjoyed it so much, and they also liked the gift you gave us, of the picture made with banana leaves. Thank you so much for choosing such a beautiful gift! When David and Sherry came back to Canada, where we live, they told us all about you and brought back some pictures of your family. We were so happy to see the pictures!

So that is the story of how you became our sponsored child. We love you so much! All of the young people from Open Door youth group think of you as their little sister, and me and my friends David and Sherry, we think of you as our daughter. So we are all praying that you have a very happy birthday, and that you know how special you are to us. We pray that God blesses you and your family, and keeps you all safe and healthy. We all wanted to send you a card for your birthday, and all of us wrote our names. I am also sending you some little things and stickers for your birthday. I hope you like them. May Jesus Christ be with you every day! We love you so much.

I want to dedicate a song to my precious girl on her birthday. So here’s “1,000 Miles” by Mark Schultz.

Lastly, in honor of Isimbi, I want to show you two children from Compassion International who need sponsors.

The first picture is Cheni Paulo John. He is a six-year-old boy in Tanzania, and he shares Isimbi’s birthday, August 8. Click here to Sponsor Cheni

The second picture is Nyirahabinshuti Goletti, a 10 year old girl living in Rwanda, just like Isimbi. Click here to sponsor Nyirahabinshuti 

Will you consider sponsoring a needy child today? Isimbi would tell you, “It’s worth it!”