Your Story Campaign

Ok, first of all, I know it’s been 527 days since my last post. I haven’t let writing be a priority. Whew! It’s out in the open. Ok, now let’s move on.

As most of you know I travel, a lot, with my job. We are in a different city every week bringing people the opportunity to invest in the life of a child around the globe. Every week hundreds of stories are changed when people choose to sponsor a child. As I hear stories from the field about how much this choice has changed the lives of so many, I am encouraged by how one person can make a difference in the life of another, even if we may never know just how much.

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I love my job and the work that I am privileged to be a part of, however I do feel that there is an opportunity to make a difference right here in our own backyards that I have been missing these last two years. For years the homeless population has been on my heart. I mean, weighing heavily. So often we look at these men and women as simply empty faces, if we even choose to look at them at all. Sometimes we roll down our windows and give them spare change or a bill or two, maybe we ask them their name, too often we keep looking forward and never make eye contact. These folks are people, with hearts, and souls, feelings, and a story. A story. We all have one. Each person we see on the street has a story. Each one got to where they are somehow. It could have been a job loss or a divorce that pushed them over the edge. Maybe it was an addiction that got out of control. Too many homeless suffer from some sort of mental instability that goes unchecked, unhelped, and they end up alone and on the streets. We pass by them too often.

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So here is what my coworker and I are desiring to do, and we invite you to be a part of it.

Each person matters and each has a story. We want to connect with individuals on the street and let them know they are seen as well as to give them an opportunity to share their story. Since we are on the road all the time, we will keep “Road Kits” in our truck to hand out to folks we see on the street. In them will be trial size toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, and comb), a granola bar or other snack, a gift card to McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts and a handwritten note. In each note we will provide words of encouragement and support, letting them know they are seen and important. We will also provide a few sheets of blank paper and a SASE to a PO Box as an invitation to share their story and any prayer requests they may have. The time we have with each individual is brief, but if we can make an impact that lasts a time longer, perhaps a life could be changed.

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We would love to invite you to be a part of this through donating $10 gift cards or helping to write out notes and envelopes. We believe that handwriting each note could make an even deeper imprint than simply photocopying one. We also need a PO Box! If you have one you can lend for a time please let us know. Lastly, we will need folks who are willing to pray for those who choose to share.

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Our desire is to live out 1 John 3:17

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

We believe that together we can bring hope to a few individuals along the way.

If you are interested in being a part of this in any way, please comment below with your email address. Thank you!

An Unspoken Message Shared

Last year San Pedro Sula was listed as the most dangerous city in the world. We were visiting project 324 (Iglesia Monte Santo) just outside of San Pedro Sula in Honduras last month. When we arrived we climbed out of the bus and stood facing the mountainside with a river and rope bridge before us. We swayed as we crossed but yet felt joy and safety as we crossed over with the river running beneath us. Once across the river we were greeted by 100 children standing on the hillside carrying the Honduran flag with sweet smiles on their faces. Never in my life have I seen such beauty in one view. The mountains, the river, the children, the joy. The children then walked with us as they guided us to the church where their project resides. Compassion’s model is like no other, all projects around the globe are run through the local church.

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We spent the morning at this project serving the kids lunch and playing with them. There were art projects, countless photos taken, and a makeshift Frisbee game. One of our staff starting spinning kids round and round in a circle and the moment he stopped spinning a swarm of kids would surround him asking for a turn themselves.

Brad taking turns making the kids dizzy!

Brad taking turns making the kids dizzy!

On the way to the soccer field.

On the way to the soccer field.

Late in the morning half of the kids and staff headed down the hill about a mile to the soccer field. Futbol, you see, is a global language. Seeing there were just a few kids left I pulled out a coloring book and crayons and set down on the concrete floor to color. Before too long I had a few of the younger children surrounding me as we all colored pictures of animals together and attempted to say the names of the animals in each other’s languages. Soon a mother came to pick up her children and two of the children got up to leave. The younger girl, maybe three or four walked over to her mama, then back to me. She stood above me with a smile on her face then she practically jumped into my arms to give me the biggest bear hug ever! So sweet. So smiley. By far the highlight of my day.

Upon returning home a few days later I read a blog post by one of the Compassion Bloggers (@thenester) who was with Wess Stafford in Uganda this past week. In the article Wess gives a brief message to the children at the project where they were saying they were there greeting them on behalf of each of their sponsors. Reading this completely changed my perspective on that hug from just a few days prior. You see, I realized, perhaps remembered, that this sweet girl is someone’s sponsored child. Somewhere in this world her sponsor lives, and prays for her, and writes her letters, and loves her from afar. This week I had the joy of hugging her for them. Or rather, in her hugging me she showed her joy, hope, love and gratitude for her sponsors. She knows she is loved and thought about and remembered. What a gift it is to receive all of this, on behalf of her sponsor, in that one sweet hug. Wow. Before it was just a hug. Now, it’s a moment, a memory that will stay with me, and a message.

The sweet girl with the ponytail on top of her head was the one who attacked me with a bear hug. Photo by  Vocal Photography

The sweet girl with the ponytail on top of her head was the one who attacked me with a bear hug.
Photo by Vocal Photography

To anyone who may travel abroad to meet their sponsored children, hug those children. All of them. On behalf of their sponsors. Let them hug you because of their joy. Pass the message along that they are loved and remembered and receive the message in return. And if you happen upon my sweet Youdka, Daniel and Edward Mutugi please hug them and play with them, make memories with them. Each moment is a gift both to give and receive.

Unexpected Gain

With my job I see the faces of hundreds of children waiting for a sponsor each week. Each week I peruse the child packets on the display wall where they sit quietly staring out into the room, into our souls, into our hearts. I often take a moment and hold onto a few packets a little longer looking deep into the child’s eyes hoping to catch a glimpse of hope within them.  These children live in the most dire of circumstances, they are in fact, the poorest of the poor.

I currently sponsor two children, Edward Mutugi-a 13 year old boy in Kenya and Youdka-a 4 year old girl in Haiti. A few months ago I had a realization. I’ve always wanted three kids (two boys and a girl as the youngest) and a multi-cultural family. Since I haven’t started a family of my own quite yet I thought “What if I sponsor three children from different areas of the world?” And so it was decided, although I honestly thought it would be quite some time before the third came into my life.  Silly me.

Last week I was in our sponsorship room talking with a coworker about life and sponsoring. Honestly not sure how we even got on the topic. My coworker’s oldest daughter, Jenny, passed away this past Spring and she and her husband have been paying off the funeral a little at a time. As we were talking, my coworker shared that once they were finished paying off their daughter’s funeral they wanted to use that money to sponsor additional children. To give life out of what was once death.  As we wrapped up our conversation I took one small step back and out of the corner of my eye spotted a little boy looking out. I picked up his packet and said aloud “I think I’m supposed to sponsor him. I don’t know why, but I’m sure of it.” My coworker peeked over my shoulder at the packet I held in my hand and drew her hand to her mouth as tears filled her eyes. “You have to.” She said. “He has Jenny’s birthday.”

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Wow. “OK God. I get it. He’s my third.” I wasn’t expecting him. You could even say I didn’t choose him, he chose me. There’s more to this story though. Not only does he have Jenny’s birthday, but he is older than Youdka and younger than Edward Mutugi, he is from Central America, Honduras actually, and now all three of my kids birthdays are within 5 days of each other (without even planning it). I’m headed to Honduras on Tuesday and there is a strong chance that I will get to meet Daniel and tell him I’m his sponsor. It’s surreal actually. I’m overwhelmed, in a good way. I’m sure I’ll be adding to this story upon my return.

2013-A Year in Review

I know, I know. This is the cliché New Years’ post.

2013 was quite a year. I don’t think there is one word that could possibly describe it. Honestly, I don’t know that words in general could. Sometimes life is just that way. Included here are just a few photos that describe this incredible year.

These people are great.

These people are great.

This past year was full of joy, wrestling, adventures, mundane, trials, fun, and many “news” (job, church, friends, small group, home, car, etc). The first half of my year started with a new church and a new small group. Something that I had been praying for and they were exactly what I was looking for, and even more so, what I needed. I absolutely adore the church I am a part of. They seek Jesus, share life together and love their city in a way that is incredibly beautiful. Because of how they love their city, I too have come to love Chicago. Seriously, I absolutely adore it. Every time I see its skyline it brings me joy and a smile to my heart. The first half of the year was also one of wrestling to figure out what I was supposed to be doing and constantly asking myself, “Is this how it’s supposed to be?”. Working two jobs just to make ends meet (as well as a leadership volunteer position that was like another part time job, though I loved it), working incredibly hard at job one, giving so much but not getting anywhere. And finally to a point of feeling utterly defeated. It took me awhile to realize that is the word I needed to use to describe how I felt. Defeated.

The beautiful Pacific Northwest. This is Crater Lake.

The beautiful Pacific Northwest. This is Crater Lake.

Oregon Coast.

Oregon Coast.

About this time I offered up a prayer at church one Sunday. Our pastor challenged us to write down something that we had been holding so tightly onto and to let it go, offering it up to God. I did. I hesitated as I began to write. In essence I lifted up to Him a job. Not just a job though, one that would combine my gifts, passion and experience. One that would allow me to invest in just one thing instead of being spread so incredibly thin. One that would allow me not only to not live paycheck to paycheck but to be able to actually pay off debt. One that would challenge me professionally, in relationships, and spiritually.  I laughed a little in my heart as I layed that prayer down and picked up a small stone as a remembrance. Not two weeks later I began interviewing for the job I have now. The job that answered every single one of those areas I listed on that sheet of paper. And then some. And now? I’m living that prayer. It continues to blow me away how every job I’ve had, every volunteer role I’ve filled has prepared me for this new career. It is absolutely crazy. And even still, six months later, I have wow moments. The down side of this life now is that that church and small group I adore, I rarely get to see. But when I do, man, how incredibly grateful I am for them. It often moves me to tears (no joking).

LOVE this city!

LOVE this city!

Baptisms in Lake Michigan, Soul City Church.

Baptisms in Lake Michigan, Soul City Church.

Looking back I see how hard I was on myself at times. But I also see how beautifully God orchestrated everything. All of it. We don’t have growth without pain or discipline. We can’t move forward until we let go.

Each year for the last few years I’ve gotten on board with the “Word of the Year” plan. Last year my word was “Live”. It’s funny looking back how that word had different meanings throughout the year. At times it literally meant life, getting by and getting through, to live fully in each moment, and it ended with living fully with risks and adventure. For 2014 my word is grace. I want to live a life of grace, for myself and for others. To be a recipient of God’s grace and to allow it to overflow to those around me. Please hold me accountable to this. Feel free to share lessons you’ve learned throughout the past year and what goals and hope you have for the new year!

Compassion's Change Tour. This is our caravan.

Compassion’s Change Tour. This is our caravan.

Stories being changed...

Stories being changed…

For such a time as this…

I’m reading through an Advent book this season. Something I’ve honestly never done.

One thing I’ve come to realize and recognize. Advent, the waiting, the anticipation should never end. It should always be there. It’s not meant to be just four weeks out of the year. It’s to be always. Every day. The waiting. The anticipating. The thankfulness in knowing our waiting is no longer on the arrival, but on the coming back. The watching isn’t for a sign that He is coming, but that He is here now, working through His people. The kingdom of God is near. It’s near.

Today’s reading (ok, I admit, it’s technically yesterday’s reading, I’ve fallen behind), spoke on us being where we are at a certain time for a specific reason. We are each here now. Wherever we are, for a purpose. There’s a greater purpose that is often unseen. And there is a more general purpose that becomes focused when it’s brought to sight. There are needs all around us if only we open our eyes and stretch our vision beyond ourselves. If we care to look we’ll see the frazzled mom who might need a hand, or the homeless guy who could use a hot meal, hand warmer, and smile. Even a conversation. The family whose home burnt down and the little boy whose wheel broke off his remote control truck. The businessman whose flight is delayed and he just wants to get home. Everyone has a need. And everyone can meet someone else’s need. Take time this holiday season to look beyond the parties, the cookies, the gifts, and hearty meal to the needs that are all around you. When you see one, stop. Take a breath. And meet that need, however that may be. You just never know when you may make someone’s day, or even change their life.

Happy Advent. It’s always such a time as this…

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(Please feel free to share below stories of how you have made someone’s day and if someone made yours, by all means, please let us know!)

The good stuff of pain

I suffer from migraines.

They are quite frequent and have become a regular part of my life. For a few years they were completely debilitating.  I’d lose peripheral vision, have vertigo and the vision I had left would go all sorts of wacky. I’d be nauseous and would get sick to my stomach. The worst migraine I ever had came on suddenly while I was hiking alone an hour and a half from home. All of the above symptoms came at once along with the headache that was always a part of it. This headache topped off at a 9. The migraine and residual affects lasted a total of 8 days. At times I would literally have to crawl from room to room because I couldn’t stand, let alone walk, with the room spinning all crazy like. They would come on when I was driving and I would pray I’d make it to where I was going. One time, I had to stop, pull over and take a nap in the parking lot of a grocery store because I couldn’t drive anymore. I went for test after test and finally a neurologist told me the only line of meds he could prescribe would basically slowly kill my liver. I said, no thanks. I’ll deal. Then I went for healing prayer. From that time on I have never lost any vision or had full blown vertigo.  And the pain of the headache part of a migraine rarely tops a 5.

 

Migraines are still a part of my life but I’ve learned a few things.

 

There is power in prayer.

I’m stubborn. Duh, already knew that one.

I really don’t like medicating myself and prefer natural remedies (and Gatorade. Gatorade is a liquid miracle).

Migraines force me to stop. To rest.

 

I’ve noticed that I often get really tight muscles in my neck, shoulders, and scalp when I have a migraine. Because of this I recently signed up to get a monthly massage. Never thought I’d do that. But it helps. So much. Not only with the physical pain, but it forces me to rest for an hour (these massages are usually anything but relaxing!). It forces me to turn my phone to silent and have it out of reach for an hour or an hour and a half. And it’s my favorite hour of the month. Being disconnected is healthy. Resting is necessary. And in today’s world and our culture it is ridiculously difficult to do either, let alone both.

So if I twist my perspective just a little, I could easily say, these migraines are a blessing. A gift. They force me to stop. They force me to rest. They force me to turn off all portable electronics and just simply be.

So, you see, there is a good side to pain.

Stories from the road

So much to be thankful for at this last stop.

Little lizards everywhere.

The sound of the ocean waves crashing down onto the shore.

A full moon reflecting on the sea. The stars shining bright in the sky.

Volunteers who drove 2 hours in one direction to work a 5 hour shift.

Volunteers who took the team out to dinner to show off their town through their generous hearts.

An adorable little 3 year old heart throb named Austin.

One volunteer couple who sponsored 3 children.

A Haitian man who came in to connect as he is starting an orphanage and ministry in Port-au-Paix.

And a man,  presumably Haitian, who came into the experience solely because he wanted to sponsor. Not one child, not even two. He came in saying he wanted to sponsor three kids. It just so happened that we had triplets, from Haiti, available.

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Lessons learned.

I’ve been on the road for work now, three months. Three months of getting to know my coworkers, other staff, living life in hotels, living out of a suitcase, driving, set up, event, tear down, driving, set up, event…. In the first few months alone I’ve been in Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Georgia, Florida and Iowa. Phew. I’m starting to get the hang of it, I think, and now I’m going back through lessons learned.

So here we go…

I too easily get frustrated or disappointed when intentions don’t become actions. Both mine and others.

I used to think I was slightly more of an extrovert than an introvert. I am highly confident I’ve been wrong. I love people, but I find myself craving alone time. I’m learning how to be around people all.the.time. And how to keep a healthy balance.

I’m too judgemental. And it’s fellow Christians I judge the harshest.

Cooking. I love a good challenge and that’s exactly what you get when it comes to cooking on the road. I’m loving being creative with what and how to cook meals! It’s amazing what you can do with a 6-inch electric skillet.

I’m trying to remember to stay connected with folks back home. To send post cards and text messages and phone calls. To make more Skype dates. And I’m thankful for a friend who sends me pictures of her daughters doing cute things so I can still watch them grow. I’m also always having an eye out for an old friend in a new city. This week, I met up with an old high school friend!

I’m learning to let go of lies. Of lies I’ve been told about myself by people who should have believed in me and supported me. Of lies I’ve believed about myself. To grasp onto who God tells me I am. To look at my life, work, and ministry experience over the years and how it has prepared me for where I am now. Seriously, it is ridiculous. And I love it. And it scares me. And that leads me to the last lesson.

One hope for this new life was better discipline in being in the Word and in prayer. I haven’t done well at all in this area. Figuring it out. Making time. Being disciplined. When there is so much to balance, this often doesn’t take priority. It needs to. It’s what holds me together. It’s what draws me nearer to the One who holds it ALL together. To the One who is peace, and rest, and strength.

Most of all, I’m thankful. Thankful for the staff I get to work with. Thankful for the staff I indirectly work with. Thankful for all the different roles everyone plays and how they all fit perfectly together. Thankful for individuals with a passion for bringing hope to a dark world. Thankful for churches who actually get it. Thankful for volunteers who give of their time. Thankful for families who live generously and invest in something/someone bigger than themselves. Thankful for the challenges. Thankful that I get to see the US and cross states off my list. Thankful for the beauty that is Creation. Thankful for all the little things. Like seashells.

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I Dreamed a Dream of Iowa

Ok, maybe I didn’t actually have a dream of Iowa.

I have a goal, a.k.a. dream, to see all 50 states. Having lived in the Chicago area for 8 years now Iowa was the last state within a one day round trip driving distance that I had to cross off my list.

This brings me to late Spring of this year. Sitting around the table at small group on a Wednesday evening, I casually mentioned that I needed to go to Iowa. Typically at this point people look at me with a wrinkled brow which says, “Why on earth do you want to go to Iowa?!” But this night, was different. This time people starting talking about where to go in Iowa, Field of Dreams of course. Then things started to take shape…

What if we all take a day trip out there?

What if we watched the movie before we go?

Why don’t we go in a few weeks?…

…Wait! We can’t go then, the corn won’t be high enough! That’s right, we have to wait until at least mid-July (sweet Lord this is when I realized I’ve been in the Midwest WAY too long!)

Ok, here are a few dates, let me know when each of you can go.

Hey Katie, can you design a T-shirt?

Um, yeah. So this trip turned epic, or at least as epic as a trip to a cornfield in Iowa can be.

This past Sunday 12 folks from our small group all wearing matching green t-shirts piled into three cars and drove 8 hours (round trip) to spend a little over an hour watching “ghosts” play ball and playing a little ball ourselves.

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The lesson learned through all of this?

Don’t be afraid to share your dreams with those with whom you are in community with, no matter how silly or cornfieldish those dreams may be. You just never know the adventure it may take you on.

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Packing Light- a Review and Giveaway

I was graced with the opportunity to read and review this new release by Allison Vesterfelt.

Crazy to think that this book could not have come at a better time. I recently started a new job that has me on the road 3-5 weeks at a time, I just moved (took an entire car full of stuff to Goodwill), and I’m learning to let go of things and people and what it means to forgive and let go. Not an easy lesson by any means.  And then this book came along.

Ally took a risk in selling nearly all of her personal belongings to fulfill a dream, to see all 50 states and to write a book. The adventurer in me jumped right along with this ride. The triumphs and failures experienced along her way revealed so much more of who she was, who God is, and the way He intended life to be. And that is lived. Ally’s honesty and openness in writing this book, in many ways, is an ever greater risk then when she first got in that car several years ago and headed East. The thoughts and feelings she shares can easily resonate with each of us, no matter where we may be in life. She candidly shares with us how she wrestled with God throughout her journey and the revelations she had. Life isn’t meant to be the picture perfect life so many Christians paint it to be. It’s real. It’s hard. It sucks at time. It means heartache and heartbreak and joy and laughter. It means being welcomed with open arms at times and doors slammed in your face on occasion. It means taking risks to grow and learning when to let go.

Ally shares so vividly her journey to freedom in being who she was created to be. This is one book, you don’t want to pass up!

I believe strongly in 2 things. Supporting independent artists, and pumpkin spice lattes. So here is my unconventional giveaway.

Support Ally by purchasing your own copy of her book. You can find it here.

Be the third person to do so, comment below with your email address and let me know! I’ll then contact you and let you know that you just won a $10 Starbucks Gift Card! There’s nothing better than curling up with this book and a warm drink on a crisp cool Fall day.

I’ll leave you with this quote  from Packing Light…

No, I would think to myself. That’s not it. It’s more like it’s hard to come back from something as challenging as a fifty-state road trip and learn that all of life is that challenging, when we choose to engage it. If we want to be truly alive, truly awake to the reality of the world around us, packing light will be a continued, daily struggle. That was the hard part, if you asked me: waking up to the reality that most of life isn’t glamorous. But when we’re willing to wade through the grit of it, rather than standing on the sidelines hoping not to get hurt, you get to experience Deadwoods, kind words, free sandwiches from those who are moved by what you’re doing, and even luxuries like Grand Waileas.”