Monthly Archives

May 2009

Compassion International, India

Five Fingers

I have been in tears since I got a message from Shaun Groves yesterday. A large cyclone hit East India, and it has affected the area we were in just a few weeks ago.  I see things like this on the news constantly and while my heart is always moved, it feels so different to see pictures from Kolkata and imagine the people’s desperation as they are left homeless. When I woke up this morning I saw a post from Pete (if you are new to my blog, Pete and his family are friends of ours and he was on the Compassion trip with me), and I honestly froze in panic when I saw the images. We have very little information at this point, and I hesitated to even post about it, but my heart is breaking and I feel like I am so blessed to be able to come on here and type a few words and request the prayers of all my “blog-friends.” When I read through your comments and your emails, I am honored that you let me be a part of your lives-sometimes even the shadowed parts that you haven’t shared before. It feels safe to write to someone you don’t know from behind a computer, and it means so much to me…

I awoke this morning with a deep, deep sense of gratitude for what I have been given. I carry many wounds, but above everything, I serve a Father who is faithful to my cries and has given me more than I will ever deserve.  Out of one of the most desperate times in my life came this beautiful trip, to a place where I fell in love with the people and the culture. I also fell in love with two little children whom I miss already, Sangita and Mohit. As far as I know, Sangita’s area was not affected, but it looks like the storm hit right where Mohit lives. 
I cannot let go of those big brown eyes, and I am asking you to please pray for his safety and all of the other precious people who have been affected by this. The East India Compassion office (where we went) is closed for a bit and it sounds like there is no electricity in much of the area. I will definitely keep you all updated as soon as I hear anything else. Here is the link to Pete’s blog where you can see some of the pictures.
In the photo above, I have just met Mohit for the first time. I asked him (through a translator) to show me how old he is with his fingers, and he made a fist and sat still.  He is brand new to the Compassion program, and although he understood the question, he didn’t know the answer. I opened his hand to show him that he is five years old. As I counted each finger out loud while I opened it from the tiny fist, I thought about the fact that he has probably never celebrated a birthday. I want to assure you that if you are a Compassion sponsor, you have the same opportunity-to constantly remind children through your words and your financial contributions that they have worth.  When you write to your children there, remember that you are doing more than putting words on paper. The check does so much more than you can imagine.  
We have the opportunity to be hand-openers. Reminding them that they are loved and that God has designed them for a purpose. 
Thank you so much for walking with me, and if you feel led to sponsor one of these children, please click here
With love and hope,
Book Recommendation, Family


Hello sweet friends!!!! We are back from the beach, and so grateful to have had a chance to get away for a little while.  Sad to say, it literally rained non-stop, so we didn’t actually get much beach time in, but we did do a whole lot of sitting around and talking (every year we go to Hilton Head and rent a condo with Todd’s best friend Dan, and we could pretty much do nothing with him every day and still have a blast).  
We did puzzles, played games, watched some good movies, and took an occasional bike ride when the storm eased up for a few minutes.  It was so great to be able to catch up on some reading (I finished “The Hole in Our Gospel,” and must say it is now in my top 20, which is huge. I also read “The Noticer,” which was great, and I finished a couple that I had been halfway through for ages. Those were not so great, so I won’t bother to mention them….can you say ADDICTION? I probably read a book every week!!!). I got about halfway through “Three Cups of Tea” on the way home from the beach and am going to pick it up as soon as I finish this post, which explains why it may have typos.  I can’t put the thing down, it is so inspiring.
One (kind of funny, kind of not funny) story from the beach…
We were riding our bikes down the pathway that leads to our condo, and I saw this enormous fake alligator sitting with his head basically on the path. I turned around to Todd and yelled, “Was that thing here before?”  I heard a loud noise as Todd and Dan steered their bikes around it. It was so hideous and huge…not really the kind of decor I was expecting.
Which explained why it stood up and walked across the path.
Umm, yeah. A ten-foot-long alligator. 
So of course, with my newfound bravery (which came to me at about 26,000 feet in the air on the way home from India), I decided that the most intelligent thing to do would be to hop off my bike and take pictures. I mean, how often do you get that close to an alligator? 
Don’t answer that.
So, for your viewing pleasure (Dad, close your eyes…)

I also had a great birthday and have already used up my gift-card from Todd and the kids to (shocker) Barnes and Noble…I will let you all know if my purchases are worth picking up for yourself.  I really want to thank each of you who left a comment on my (hijacked!) blog that day, and although I haven’t quite made it through your words, I plan to, and I am so grateful that you took the time to celebrate with me 🙂 Have I mentioned how much I appreciate you all? Well, I certainly do.
I’ll try and post some more pictures from the beach, but for now, here’s one of my favorites.  It was so great because on our very last day there it was scheduled to storm from morning until night, so when we awoke to semi-blue skies, we jumped into our suits and ran to the beach to see if we could make a sandcastle or two. On the way there, the sky just opened up and it turned into the most gorgeous day you have ever seen. We didn’t take a moment of it for granted, and it reminded me once again that we don’t know everything that God is up to. 
I thought about Audrey and how much I wished she was with us. I took her blanket and kept it near me because I missed her so much. While we biked I couldn’t help but remember that the weather channel was still calling for rain while we were enjoying the sunshine.  You never know what the Lord has in store, regardless of what the world is telling you. 
So many people have asked me why I carried her as long as I did, and the truth is that I guess I was hoping the newscasters were wrong.
So, here is my sweet Kate enjoying the blessing of unexpected weather.
And in honor of MckMama’s brilliant photography post, I will tell you that it was shot with a Canon 40D and a 17-50 mm lens with the Av set to 4.0 🙂 If you click on it, you will be able to see the blurry background that she describes so well…
I’m going to try and get a few more chapters in before I hit the sack, but I just wanted to pop in and say hello…
Before I sign off, I do want to ask you to pray for one of my favorite aunts (we’re Italian, so trust me, we are related even though “aunt” isn’t exactly accurate)…she was diagnosed with cancer several months ago and is bravely battling to get her health back on track. We stopped in Georgia on the way there and the way back hoping to see her, but she was feeling pretty rough after her recent treatments so we didn’t get the chance.  I am asking the Lord to heal her body and to be her constant Companion as she walks through this difficult time. She is amazing, and is taking the whole thing in stride.
I guess you could say she isn’t the kind of woman who gets too caught up in the forecast 🙂 
Would you please join me in praying for her and her family? I so appreciate it.   
As always, know I welcome your prayer requests as well…what a gift that we are given to be able to pray for one another.
Love to you all,

Happy Birthday Angie

Hello friends. Angie’s friend Jessica here. Today is our beloved Angie’s birthday, so I am hijacking her blog to wish her a happy birthday.

And I thought you might want to too.

So, take a minute and leave her a birthday wish. She is enjoying some much needed time at the beach (follow her adventures on twitter) with her family, so it may be a few days before she reads your comments, but I know she will be grateful for every one.

I’ll start.

Happy birthday, Angie. Meeting you was one of the biggest blessings of moving to Nashville. You have been a dear, true friend these past few years. We have walked through some incredible highs and incredible lows together. And we have come out stronger, more faith-filled and closer. You have been a wonderful teacher – as a follower of Christ, a mother and a friend. Thank you for being the woman you are.

Here’s to your best year ever. I know God has incredible things in store.

I am so thankful for you.

Love you,

Compassion International, India

Mohit the Brave

If it was 120 degrees outside, the museum was approximately, umm, twice that.
We made our way through a series of exhibits that looked like they had been discarded from a 1950’s science fiction movie and by the third one I stopped trying to wipe the sweat dripping down my arms and legs.  My left hand held Sangita’s, and Mohit held the pinky of my right hand.  He wasn’t ready to let me all the way into his world, but I think he was intimidated by the dark, winding exhibit and I loved the opportunity to walk with him.  It was my second time with him, and my heart was desperate to connect with him-the little boy whose teacher told me he hardly spoke or smiled.  In fact, the only way we could get him to smile for the camera was to tell him to show his teeth, hence the hilarious photos of him on my blog.  I was totally intrigued by him from the moment I met him because he had a streak of independence behind these huge, gentle eyes, and I wanted to see him laugh and play like a child. As we walked, I pointed to different displays and smiled, trying to get him to smile back. He didn’t. He looked at me momentarily and then stared straight ahead.  
Sangita immediately took on the role of big sister, despite the fact that they had never met and would probably never see each other again. She understood that I was caring for them both, so we were a little unit traveling around.  They actually spoke different dialects, but that did not prevent her from communicating with him as any big sister would.  As Mohit stared ahead, loosely holding onto me, I looked at Sangita, who had been watching me try to win him over with my dramatic pointing and over-the-top smiling.  I shrugged my shoulders at her and she covered her mouth in a stifled giggle.
He was totally not impressed with me.
And I took it as a personal challenge.
Unfortunately, my funny stories were lost in translation. But I knew that somewhere in there was a real smile, and I was determined to break through to him. At the same time, I wanted him to process the whole thing the way he needed to, because how weird would it be to meet an American woman (when you have never seen an American) who tells you that she is going to help take care of you and then, days later, takes you out to a science museum and proceeds to make goofy faces for six hours straight.
I think he was ready for a new sponsor.
But Sangita was highly amused by the whole thing, so it became a team effort. She would put her arm around him wherever we went, and if he started to wander off, she would give him the look that simply said, “Not a good idea,” and he would drift back to where we were.  When she thought he might be thirsty, she opened up his little bag, unzipped the front pocket and took out the only possession he had with him.  It was an old, dirty coke bottle that looked like it had been refilled for years, but it was his and he took great pride in it. She would unscrew the top gently, hold it to his mouth, and then wipe his face, put the top back on, and put it back into his bag.  He nodded slightly in recognition and then kept moving.  I squeezed her hand and smiled at her, and asked a translator to tell her how special she was.  Her face lit up.  She was so easy to love, and when I would let go of her hand to wipe my sweat for a moment, she would walk a little closer and let her hand graze on mine, not confident enough to take hold, but wanting to let me know she was there.  It made my heart swell to be able to meet these two children, so different from each other and from me, and yet, we made the perfect team.
After the exhibits, we made our way to the planetarium for a movie.  The room was filled with itchy, decades-old chairs that squeaked when anyone made the slightest movement.  It smelled like a combination of dust and smoke, and it was filled with the raucous sound of laughter as people settled in for what was sure to be the experience of a lifetime for some of the viewers. 
Mohit, on the other hand, sat down in his seat like he had been there a million times, and looked at me like I had just pulled a dead bunny out of my magic hat and shouted, “Tah-Dah!!!!”
The seats reclined completely so that you could look up at the giant screen, but he did not like the feeling of that at all. When I heard him whispering in a fearful voice to the translator, I asked if he was okay.  She said he didn’t want to lean back and he was feeling a little afraid.  I asked her to ask Mohit if he wanted to sit on my lap.  She asked him, and he looked at me like I had just shot the bunny in the magic hat.
No such luck.
And with every protest, every grimace, every solemn look, I just fell more and more in love with him because I could see what was hidden deep in his spirit. He was a boy, trying to be a man because that’s what he had learned to do in his world. And here I was, trying to teach him about how to be a kid.
Little did I know that he was about to teach me the lesson of my life.
As the lights dimmed, I saw his tiny hand grip deeper into the worn armrest and I looked at him helplessly. He didn’t want my comfort, but as a mother, it was all I could do not to gather him in my arms and explain it all to him.  I asked his translator to explain what he was going to see, and after she did, he nodded again, but he continued to sit straight up with his eyes boring a whole in the screen.
Suddenly it filled with light and instead of watching the movie, I watched him.
His eyes grew wide as images of Mount Everest filled the room, and at one point as the snow tumbled down the screen, he put his hands in front of his face repeatedly to protect himself. As the camera panned out and showed the whole mountain, Mohit jumped out of his seat and started speaking quickly. The translator settled him back into his seat and whispered to him. He seemed to accept whatever she said for a few minutes, but then he jumped up again and I could hear the agitation in his voice as he spoke.  She shook her head, which made him shake his head, and then he sat back down again.
I leaned my chair forward and asked her if he was afraid, volunteering to take him out of the theater if it was too much for him.
She smiled softly and spoke a sentence that I have been processing since that moment.
“Sister, he is not afraid. He just doesn’t understand why he can’t climb the mountain.”
I was speechless.
Despite the fact that he was five years old, he had just given me more to chew on than I thought I could handle.
Because the truth of the matter is that I saw how peculiar it must be for a child who lives in a village of devastating poverty to watch money be exchanged, only to walk into a crowded room and look at something you couldn’t even touch.
And the sad part was that it didn’t strike me as odd at all, because it is how I have lived my entire life.
I’m not a climber, after all.  
I have perfected the art of spectating.
In his economy, it was pointless, and as I took the whole scene in, I made a promise to myself that I pray I will be able to keep.
No more living from the third row.
The fact of the matter is that my kids would have been satiated by the graphics, just as I am in many other aspects of my life.
But it isn’t real.
And as I watched him move constantly as the screen changed, I smiled to myself.  He just wanted to climb it. And why not?
Nobody ever told him he couldn’t.  
I touched his head gently and prayed over him, but his eyes remained fixed on the dancing movements all around him.  I asked the Lord to help him grow into his full potential, and to give him the strength and wisdom to grow into a man who wasn’t intimidated by the climb.  
We shuffled out of the theater and eventually went to a large mall in the area to feed the kids. While Sangita looked around like she was in a dream, Mohit kept one hand on his bag strap, seemingly unfazed.  
He sat in the booth and told his translator that he would like to eat a lot of rice. A tray was brought to him that contained a heap of rice and about ten other kinds of food.  He dug right into the rice and ate some of the bread, but didn’t look real excited about the rest of it.  When Sangita urged him to try a piece of bright red meat (some kind of spicy chicken), he gently put his tongue on it and immediately his face contorted into an image of total disgust.  Sangita’s eyes opened wide, fearful that this may be taken as a sign of disrespect, and she looked to me questioningly.  I burst into laughter, so she did the same.  We giggled our heads off as Mohit smiled slightly and I reassured him that he did not have to eat anything he didn’t like.  I watched as a woman a few tables away tore her child’s bread into little pieces, so I did the same with his.  He nodded. 
Another woman brought over a tray of fresh bottled water and I remembered how Sangita had helped him drink, so I confidently opened one up and motioned to him.  He didn’t move.  He had to be thirsty, so I started to put it up to his mouth and he turned his head away slowly.  It wasn’t an act of defiance, but I couldn’t read the situation and I looked around for someone who could ask him what was wrong.  Before I had the chance, Sangita touched my arm and I watched her open his bag, unzip the zipper, and open his water bottle. He gulped it down and set it in front of him as he went back to his food.  
The next time, I left the fresh bottle alone and lifted his water to his mouth and he kept his eyes on me while he accepting the drink.  There were no words exchanged, just a simple understanding that permeated the silence.

I am not here to change you, or to take from you what is important.
I am here to respect what is yours and to care for you in the way that is comfortable to you.
As Compassion says, “We don’t want to mold children into people they aren’t. Our goal is to love them enough to see what is hidden in them and then work to help that blossom.”
In that moment, I think he understood my heart better, and as we finished our meal, I wiped his messy face while his eyes searched mine.  
As everyone started to leave, I put the top back on his water, gingerly opened his bag while watching for his approval, and slipped it back into the front pocket.  I replaced the front flap and snapped it shut. 
When we stood to leave, I felt his hand brush mine and instead of taking it, I simply extended my fingers to him.
This time, he took two.