I spent a significant portion of the last month outside of my comfort zone.
Between long road trips on narrow, windy, mountainous roads (hello motion sickness) to sharing a room with 50 (yes fifty!) 8–9 year old girls (I was a camp counselor) to riding up a 60 story building in a tiny capsule that resembled my dryer – comfort was not the overriding definition of this past month of my life.
But these recent minor inconveniences (camp food?) are nothing compared to what a few friends and bloggers are about to face.
My friends Shaun, Keely and Brianne are taking another group of bloggers out of their comfort zone. This time they’ll be in the country of Nicaragua.
I have to say that going to the Philippines on a Compassion blogging trip in 2010 was certainly the farthest I’ve ever stepped out of my comfort. Traveling with (then) strangers to the other side of the world and leaving my family behind…whew, that was hard for this homebody mama.
(RSS and email readers, click here to watch the video.)
But if I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that stories can change people’s hearts and actions. Stories can change the world.
And there are no stories in comfort.
Nobody asks the couch potato about their tales of adventure. No one asks the coward what it was like to let fear win.
We want to follow people who are brave. Those who are terrified…and yet do it anyway.
Will you be brave? Will you follow along? It may be hard. You may learn things or see things that stir things inside of you, but I hope you’ll press in. Not just for the children of a Nicaragua, but for your children too. They want to follow someone brave. They want you.
So, lets be brave, mamas. Lets surrender our cozy bubble so that we can hear stories, share them and be women who bring comfort to children all over the world.
Click here to follow the Nicaragua Compassion bloggers.
What’s Your Story?
When was the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone (in a small or big way)? Click here to share your story.
In the eleven months of my year of motherhood challenge, I never imagined that this one would give me the most trouble. I would have looked ahead to November and thought – EASY. I love our city. I love to serve. This will be a no brainer.
Instead it was super hard. I’m not sure if it was the time of year that made it hard. Are we too busy now? Oh that’s a lame excuse to not serve. Or is it my kids ages? Are they too young to get it? Yeah, even lamer. Kids only know what you teach them. Did I just not see the value in this?
None of my excuses seem to matter. I learned a lot about myself and my kids by looking back on this month. I learned that:
#1 Your kids only know how to serve if you teach them. When I take a meal to someone after they have had a baby I usually don’t bring my kids. It’s just easier that way, y’all know what I mean! But, unfortunately they never see me buy my favorite food for someone else instead of our family.
One thing that we’ve started this year is we have money jars and each of the kids has a spend and a give jar. They kick and scream each time we have them put money in the give jar, but I know that in a few weeks when we get out the Compassion International catalog and all pick out a goat for a family they will LOVE it!
#2 Kids are resilient. My kids threw a screaming fit when my mom and I took them shopping to buy presents for other kids for our Operation Christmas Child boxes. I told them they couldn’t get anything for themselves and you would have though I told them they had to eat broccoli for a month. They were SO distraught. And I was SO frustrated with them! BUT by the end of the shopping trip they were really putting all their heart and soul into picking out gifts for little boys around the world. I went from frustrated mom to very proud mom during that one shopping trip.
#3 Serving takes planning. My mom came up one weekend to visit and we took our kids to fill up her shoeboxes. After that I planned on our family serving with a local business here that serves food to homeless people, and of course I kept forgetting to call and then before you know it, it’s Thanksgiving. Yes, we served by filling up shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, but our family didn’t serve together in the way I imagined. Serving takes planning, it doesn’t just happen.
The Jesse Tree
My goal for December is to actually do the Jesse Tree with my kids. Last year I had big plans to do this, and never did and that is actually what inspired the whole Year of Motherhood challenge. I’m happy to announce that we’ve already started because I have an amazing church that sends home a planner each week on what to read and even the paper to color. They know moms need a little help sometimes!
Bigger than me doing the Jesse Tree with my kids though is how I want to actually enjoy this month. I want my kids to love Jesus more after this month. I want to love Jesus more after this month . My hope and prayer for all of us in December is that we relish the time with our famiies. Cherish the small things and let’s show our kids that Christmas is about Jesus and Jesus only.
Join this discussion. How do you help your kids keep Christmas about Jesus? Click HERE to share all your great ideas with all of us!
Jamie lives in Austin with her husband, Aaron, who is the worship pastor at The Austin Stone Community Church, and their four kids. She’s passionate about loving her husband, following Jesus, talking about adoption, and trying to be the best mom she can be to the four cutest kids in the world. She loves family nights, reading a good book, and could eat Mexican food three times a day. You can find her blogging at DreamingBigDreams.net, or on twitter @jamie_ivey.
If there is one thing I’ve learned on my trip to the Philippines, it’s that we are stronger and braver than we think we are.
I was terrified to go, but I went anyway and guess what? The fears I’d invested in never came to be.
“I’ve experienced many terrible things in my life, a few of which actually happened.” – Mark Twain
I met people just like you and me who endure things I didn’t think I could endure. But their strength reminded me that I’m wrong.
Whatever problem you’re facing, you can overcome it. Whatever fear haunts you, you can defeat it.
You are so much stronger than you think you are
That thing that you long to be? It’s right within your grasp. Because you’re not on this journey alone. God goes with you, behind you and before you. And He’s so much stronger than we think He is, too.
Pray big, follow hard.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21
During my jr. high and high school years, I often spent my saturday mornings running around my neighborhood. And then, I’d come home, get my bike and ride around my neighborhood. And then, I’d come home, get my roller blades and skate around my neighborhood.
For fun. Yes, I was weird.
Athletics just came naturally to me.
Some people are writers. They’d write if there was no one to read it. They’d write if they didn’t have a blog. Writing just comes naturally for them.
Last week, in the Philippines, I would have happily traded all my running endurance for some writing endurance. I normally write about 2 posts per week. To write 5 days in a row after very long, hot, tiring days tested my mental capacity.
I’m pretty sure I used all the words I’d ever known by Wednesday.
Finishing my last post on Friday, felt like crossing a finish line. Or perhaps, slowly being pushed across the finish line by the race ambulance.
It was hard, but it was worth it. It stretched me in many ways. I cried more than a few times.
They didn’t just remember me when I told them I was coming, they had always remembered me.
On the other side of the world, even when I was a little girl, I had been talked about, known, wanted.
I can’t even write that without crying.
The Power of a Name
Each day, as I played with the kids, I did my best to remember their names. And when I did, a simple, “Hi Lourdes!” was followed by brilliant smiles and squeals of laughter.
There are children here waiting to be known. Waiting to be remembered.
Today we visited the home of a little 12 year old girl named Margie. She was gorgeous. I’d played with her earlier at the center and loved her smile.
While we sat in that little home where she lived with her father and 2 siblings, we learned that her mother had left them just a year before.
It broke my heart and as Patricia spoke encouragement to her, you could tell it broke Margie’s heart too. To be abandoned, to be forgotten.
The Power of You
But then we asked her about her sponsor, and she beamed again. She proudly said yes when we asked if she received letters from her sponsor (many children don’t).
They remembered her. People she’d never met on the other side of the world cared. She was known. And despite poverty in her home and poverty in her family, she shone.
Inspired to Action?
As Shaun asked us in our debriefing tonight, now that you know, what will you do?
I desperately pray that the stories from this trip have changed you in some way. That you’ll live differently now that you know.
The children we’ve met don’t need pity. Pity is worthless and doesn’t accomplish anything.
People in need…need people of action.
Maybe you’ll write a letter.
Maybe you’ll look at your budget.
Maybe you’ll download the Compassion Magazine and look at it with your family.
Maybe you’ll commit to pray for 5 minutes every day this week for the children.
Maybe you’ll eat rice one night a month and talk about those in need.
And that’s not a rhetorical question. I’m feeling all in-your-face today (like that’s unusual) and I’m asking you to share in the comments what you hope to do differently. May your actions inspire others.
Sometimes I feel inspired and it’s easy to take action. This isn’t one of those times.
Right now I’m supposed to be writing a deep, inspiring blog post. Words should be flowing from me like a fountain.
Instead, I’ve been wandering the halls of the hotel, desperate for focus. Desperate to know how to remove even a drop from the Niagra Falls of experience and emotion that are raging inside me.
But they all seem to be dammed up at my keyboard.
I want to write. I want to inspire, but I am spent and like the sand just beyond the churning sea, I am dry.
So what do when you don’t feel like you can move?
You pray and you crawl until you can run.
I’ve been praying. Reminding God that He organized all the logistics to make my presence on this trip a reality and so, can He PLEASE give me a post to write….now? And soon my pleas turned to thank you’s and my thank you’s turned to worship and my worship turned to writing.
At first my writing more closely resembled staring at a blank screen, but soon I decided to just begin typing.
Because when you’re trying to get water from a dam you simply drill a hole and let it come.
So, even though I’m tired and spent, I’m putting one finger in front of the other. Why?
Because they are worth it.
You may feel like you can’t move. Perhaps all the Compassion posts have left you feeling overwhelmed. So what do you do?
Ask God what He wants your next step to be. Ask He how He wants you to respond.
Normally, you and I travel by planes, trains and automobiles.
Today, we’re traveling via Pedicab, a styrofoam raft, rickety wooden planks and rubber boots.
Are you ready? Let’s go to Emily’s house!
(Song: “I Saw What I Saw” by Sara Groves)
Don’t you just love Emily’s smile?
Do you know what it’s filled with? Hope.
Did you know hope only costs $38 a month. I know, GASP!, I’m talking about money. That’s right I am…. I was at her house, I watched lizards crawl up her walls as we talked, I listened as her mom told me how they used to make soup from the leaves of the trees outside their home…I waded past dozens of children surrounded by trash.
For 10 years Jimmy and I have sponsored children through Compassion. For 3 days I’ve looked at accounting records and asked hard questions. I listened and learned. I witnessed children worship like I’ve never seen before right in the midst of poverty like I’ve never seen before.
I can say without a doubt that Compassion brings hope in Jesus name. And they do it with more integrity and laser focused love for children than I could ever have imagined.
I pray desperate prayers that no one ever says that about my life after I’m gone.
I want to live all out, full on, wholehearted and passionate.
When my time here is done, I don’t want to have anything left. Nothing held back.
That doesn’t mean I need to go be a missionary in the remotest parts of Africa. That doesn’t mean I need to sell all I have and live amongst the poorest of the poor.
No it requires something harder, something more.
It means listening to God and taking measured steps.
I was going to leave this as a nice little post about Rose Ann. I was simply going to gently, in passing, offer that link to the list of children who are awaiting sponsors, but instead I’m going to give you a throw down…
Because my blog isn’t called Inspired to Think About It.
I Dare You To Move…
I dare you to accept the fact that in light of Rose Ann’s situation, if you’re reading this post on a computer, you have resources to help others. Either time or money.
I dare you to believe that God wants to use you in powerful ways. We are not limited by small resources, we are only limited by small faith.
I dare you to trust that God can do more with a willing heart and empty hands than He can with a ambivalent heart and a million dollars.
This has been one of those days so full and so deep that I will likely not be able to process it all until the trip home…when I’ll cry for the entire 27 hours of travel.
If you’re not familiar with my story, a little background might help you appreciate this post.
A Nervous Wreck
It’s been a day I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
But can I be honest with you? I was completely, utterly terrified about this trip. The week before I left, I cried more times than care to admit. I had that “top of the roller coaster” feeling, wondering if it was too late to get off the ride.
Frankly, I should have renamed my blog, Inspired to Wimp Out.
I was nervous. Nervous about the travel. Nervous about all the emotion. Nervous about getting sick. Nervous that the possibility of meeting my mother’s family wouldn’t work out. Nervous about being away from my husband and children.
It was hard to say goodbye to my kids. It was hard to step on the plane.
I even cried going through customs. Who DOES that?!
Everything about this trip is so riddled with emotion for me.
I was probably even nervous about being nervous.
Why Be Nervous?
Today I had the privilege of meeting Maricor, the beautiful girl we sponsor through Compassion. She’s 16 years old and I love that we look so similar! I even bought matching headbands for us (because I’m cheesy like that…)
I just adored being able to talk to her for hours face to face about our lives and the things we love. She mentioned that she performs dances often at church during worship so, I asked if she was ever nervous and her reply will stick with me forever. With complete honesty she said,
“Why would I be nervous when it’s all for God…?
I wish I’d heard her wisdom two days ago as I started on this journey. Why be nervous when it’s all for God?
Profound wisdom for a 16 year old. What are you facing in life that makes you nervous? He is the author of your story, no need to fear…
It was a powerful start to my day, but it didn’t end there…
My Anthem for this Day of a Lifetime
A song by Christa Wells, called Thousand Things, has long been a favorite of mine, but now that this trip to the Philippines is a reality, her song has become my anthem.
The idea behind it is that in every moment a Thousand Things are happening. In every season of pain there are echoes of hope. We often only see one side, but God is weaving an intensely intricate story and each moment of our lives, easy or difficult, plays an important part in that story.
I imagine sharing the song with myself as a little girl saying, “Hold tight, sweetheart. There’s much beauty for your ashes….it’s all coming around.”
Today….It All Came Around
Tonight some of my Mother’s family came to my hotel in Manila to meet me.
Eighteen of them. Some traveled over 20 hours. Some had stayed a week in Manila just to be here to meet me.
And the rest of the family? Called on cell phones while we were at dinner…
All this on Monday…Memorial day. I think God loves to throw in those thoughtful details.
Seeing my face, so much like their beloved sister’s, left them all in a huge pile of tears.
Seeing their faces, so much like my mother’s, left me in a huge pile of tears.
A. Huge. Pile. Of. Tears.
I can’t even tell you the emotions that ran through me.
Brother’s and sister’s who long ago hugged my mother goodbye for the last time, hugged me, her daughter, hello tonight for the first time.
I never dreamed this would happen…
A Word of Thanks
Can I say thank you? Thank you for reading, thank you for being a part of this community.
Because if it weren’t for you? Tears of joy wouldn’t be streaming down as I type this from Manila. If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t have met Maricor and my family today.
Thank you, with all my heart, for being a part of this story!
Here is Christa’s song, Thousand Things. I think you’ll quickly see why it’s become my anthem.
And if, in your life, there are more ashes than beauty right now, I pray it will be your anthem too.
He is good. He redeems. He loves you beyond your wildest imagination. He is NOT finished writing your story.
How to Follow The Compassion Bloggers In the Philippines
We are only one day into this trip and it’s already been amazing. But this is just my take on the day. I have been so honored to be traveling with Tsh, Emily, Lindsey, Stephanie, Keely, Patricia and Shaun. And they all have their own incredible words to share.