Nothing Wasted

On the way to school this morning, Jason Gray’s song “Nothing is Wasted” came on the radio. I happen to adore this song for it’s lyrical sounds. The cadences of the song remind me of ocean waves… the repetitive lull of the ebb and flow of water over sand… tumbling, crashing, raking, and sieving. And the words… “in the hands of our Redeemer, nothing is wasted”… strike a resounding chord in my heart. Heartache, pain, disappointment, and the bleeding for others’ pain and heartache that I experience even in the midst of my extremely blessed life… none of that goes unnoticed and unredeemed in my Father’s hands. Consequently, great joy awaits!

Well, I was enjoying this gentle reminder this morning … a welcome reminder as the kids and I are struggling through colds, my dad is in the hospital with heart troubles, people in Oklahoma are walking around in a tornado-induced nightmare of loss and pain, daily news reports shake loose any remaining confidence in our government, and the good people of Africa, especially in the rural parts, remain without so much. We need this reminder!

And then, my daughter says, “Mom! This is the perfect song for my field trip today!” Her class is heading to a recycling center to see how it operates. And yes, she is absolutely correct! Through recycling, we can prevent the waste of precious resources, turning yesterday’s garbage into tomorrow’s containers, energy, products, even art. Nothing is wasted!

Which reminded me of a project I did recently. My daughter recently celebrated her birthday. I have to laugh because we’ve run the gamut of birthday parties… everything from Gymboree parties to hired character parties in the backyard, from pool parties and gymnastics parties to slumber parties and Barbie parties. This year marks her maturing… her party request was for a tea party at the local tea room with a few of her bestest friends. Hey, I can do TEA! But what should the favors be? I’m tired of cheap party favors and goody bags that overflow… especially for her age group. After perusing Etsy and Pinterest, I decided teacup candles would be perfect. I posted on Facebook, “Does anyone know where I can find used, old-fashioned tea cups?” And I received a number of replies directing me to American Cancer Society shops and thrift stores. So, the next day, I headed to the Discovery Shop in town (ACS). I was thrilled and amazed to find a set of 6 matching teacups and saucers… demitasse sized with sweet little pink flowers. PERFECT!Image

Making the candles was easy. I tied the wicks to bamboo skewers balanced across the tops of the cups. IMG_1388Then, in a pan I have just for wax, I melted some old candles. The house smelled beautifully! I poured the wax into the cups, making sure to keep the wicks centered and upright. When the wax had hardened, I untied the wicks and hot-glued the cups to the saucers. I thought they turned out brilliantly.IMG_1392

I recycled teacups and candles! Nothing was wasted! And a pretty little reminder of my daughter went home with her growing-up friends. I wonder where those candles will go in the years ahead!IMG_1401

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For the Birds

ImageLast night, Joseph and I decided to mother/son bond with an after-dinner dip in the pool. Before we got in however, we discovered a very dead, very small, barely feathered baby bird floating in the pool. Of course, all kinds of thoughts went through my head about the meaning of life and the fragility of it and the delicate balance between nature and humanity and… then I jumped in the pool and forgot about it.

 

This morning, I was working on T-ball stuff on my computer and was occasionally glancing up to watch the squirrels scamper about outside the window. Something larger caught my eye and when I focused I realized it was a turkey hen. She was immediately followed by a sister, and when a very large tom strutted past, I got very excited. In total, there were 3 toms and 2 hens and they were very intent on investigating our new landscaping. Winston, the dog, got a whiff through the open windows and his barking chased the 2 hens over the fence into the neighbor’s yard. I believe 2 of the toms followed at some point. But one tom made it all the way to the top of the garden… within sight of the garden boxes. With a mighty leap, he cleared the pool fence, flopped up over the garden boxes, nearly soared for a millisecond over the chicken coop and then crashed somewhere behind the shed in another neighbor’s yard. It was astonishing. This was a prize tom with a very long beard and a beautiful red head. His feathers shown iridescent when he rose above the house shadows into the morning sunlight and had for a striking moment a sheer glory I would never have associated with a turkey.

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Shortly thereafter, I drove the kiddos to school… in the rental car I am using while my car is in the shop yet again. As I was pulling up to the drop off lane, I noticed that the car was sputtering and acting funny and otherwise shutting down. I pulled off to the side as much as possible so as not to block traffic too much, sent my very worried daughter into class, and arranged for a friend to take my son to school. The minutes that followed were harried and disappointing, of course, but with some deductive reasoning (i.e. a friend who had something very similar happen to her once upon a time) and the discussion I had had with the rental car guy yesterday I deduced correctly that when this car says it is nearly empty it isn’t being gracious and kind and giving you an early warning. It is going to stop and it won’t go any further until it is fed… um, given more gas. (Insert parallels between children and cars here if you will.) The school principal and the school custodian remembered a gas can used for one of the school’s machines and filled the tank with enough to get me through the rest of the extensive drop-off line and to the closest gas station. I pray a lot out loud while driving and this trip was no different!

 

While filling up the tank, I began to think back over the events of the morning. And I saw very clearly some parallels. 1. Boy, did I feel like a turkey.

 

No seriously. I did feel like a turkey, that part is true. At times this morning, I felt very like the turkeys who heard the barking of the dog and in squawking and squabbling haste jumped pell mell over the fence. But really I had a moment of sheer glory when the sun fell full on my feathers and I didn’t just flap but soared over it all. It was when, with heart racing and knuckles whitening, I prayed out loud for God to get this car to the gas station without further shut downs. And He did. And it was when God made sure that the car shut down in a safe place instead of on a busy road. It was a place where the kids would be safe, could even get on with their days. It was a place where people were there to help. And even though I felt like a turkey, I feel blessed. It would have been very easy to complain and chalk this up to a very bad day. But thanks to friends who are great reminders to look for God’s blessings, and thanks to God who has been working on weeding that attitude of ingratitude out of my standard repertoire, I feel blessed.

 

Here’s where I normally bring it all back to Compassion Tea. The part where I explain what this all has to do with tea, Africa, compassion, or some combination of the three. Obviously, I am very grateful for the compassion of the school staff and the friends who helped me out this morning. Their love and aid made me feel less like a turkey. But, I really want to go back to that baby bird in the pool. Somewhere during the last 18 hours, I paused for a moment and thought about the mama bird. Was she watching her baby when it fell in the pool? Was she cheering it on as it attempted its first flight? Was she frantic at the edge wondering, “Who will help my baby,” wondering how to reach in there and save her baby? Was she out gathering food when a predator came and knocked the infant out of the nest? What was her response when she came home and took roll count? Do mama birds even have these thoughts? How instinctual is mothering and what does instinct dictate when there is loss?

 

And here is where my mind and heart crossed over to Africa and I thought about the mothers who watch their children starve or die of AIDS because there is nothing to be done. I thought of the mothers who die themselves and leave their progeny with little or nothing in the way of shelter and food, safety and security. I thought of the mothers who in fear walk miles to protect their children from men who may rape, abduct, or abuse them and of the mothers who have despaired for their children. In a world so cruel, where survival is the goal of the day, where medicine, food, water, and security are scarce, what is a mother to do? Some turn their backs, some sell their daughters into sexual slavery and their sons into forced labor, some abandon them to an orphanage… but at what cost.

 

I have a friend who, bless her heart, reads my blogs. After my last one, she commented on how some people have a heart for Africa but she doesn’t. She prays for people who work in Africa and appreciates their work, but she just doesn’t have a heart for Africa. Her comment sounded sad to me. There doesn’t need to be sadness in her heart, however, because while her heart may not bleed the same color mine does for Africa, it certainly bleeds for the mothers in our community. This friend will do anything to help another mother… she provides childcare, school drop offs and pick ups, prayer, meals, and endless emotional support. And our community is so blessed because of her.

Do you remember that Bette Midler song… The Wind Beneath My Wings? In the song, Midler sings about friendship being that inspiration, the necessary uplift to get us off the ground. My friend, the one who has a heart for local mothers, is certainly that kind of uplift, the “wind beneath the wings” of so many of us moms. Because of her support, we are able to get beyond the shadows, up into the sunlight, and if it is even just for a millisecond, our feathers shine iridescent and our flight is more soaring than flapping. Faith in God is also that amazing “wind beneath the wings.” I’m learning every day how He provides the winds to help us soar. What a rush!

 

And through the work of Compassion Tea and CompassioNow, we can provide the “wind beneath the wings” of mothers in Africa. By providing health care, education, job training, childcare, and food Dawn Leppan at 1000 Hills in South Africa is turning around an entire community. By educating, feeding, housing, and providing medical care to orphans, places like Lily of the Valley and Village of Hope are able to provide children with the mothering they need and so desperately crave. Mission Medic Air in Zambia, Tanzania Christian Clinic, and Karero Medical Dispensary give mothers a place to turn for medical aid. Person by person, mother by mother, child by child, we are saving lives in Africa thanks to the support of those who drink Compassion Tea or donate to CompassioNow.

 

You know, we all have turkey moments, even turkey days. But friends, the good Lord, and even our bleeding hearts can take us to heights we can never imagine. And for a moment, we are less turkey and more glory. May your day be full of glory.

 

The Least of These

Have you ever been exhausted and ramped at the same time? I find myself in this dichotomy this morning! What a weekend… my daughter’s 10th birthday complete with a tea party birthday party with friends and a day of fun with family and horses and Japanese chefs throwing eggs into their pockets and hats… the missions conference at our church which meant making 6 batches of baba ghanoush and 18 gallons of iced tea and speaking in front of lots of people. (Exhausting!) But WHAT A WEEKEND! The chances and opportunities! The big ways God showed up and the little reminders that he actually never leaves! The tugging on my heartstrings… my baby girl growing up and hitting double digits when her birth and the events and people surrounding it are so vivid and fresh in my memory… the different ministries represented at the conference which highlighted ways to help the homeless, the children, the troubled, the lost. WOW.

Forgive me for my jumbled thoughts. I feel a little giddy right now! There are a couple of things that I want to highlight and that I think I can speak about coherently.

First, Compassion Tea Company donated the iced tea to the missions conference and we were able to sell our tea at the conference. We were blessed beyond measure by the response and reception we received. It was the kind of event that leaves us at Compassion Tea euphoric because it means that we will be able to support our parent organization, CompassioNow, even more. An event like this is a huge splash in the pond of aiding Africa with wide concentric circles radiating out. It looks like this:
Circle one: Compassion Tea Company — You recall, of course, that 100% of our after-tax profits are given to CompassioNow. None of our directors takes a salary in order to increase our profit margins. Our members’ support allows us to steadily add to the funding CompassioNow receives.

Circle two: CompassioNow — In turn, CompassioNow has seen a growth in donations, which has allowed several new and/or increased ways to save lives in Africa. In April, the board voted to begin supporting the medical clinic at Village of Hope, Uganda, an orphanage for over 200 children abandoned, abducted, enslaved, orphaned, and abused by the 20+ year war waged by Joseph Kony on the Ugandan people. Being able to save more lives is what we are all about!

Circle three: The clinics CompassioNow supports – Also in April, CompassioNow received a report from the medical clinic at 1000 Hills outside Durban, South Africa. When CompassioNow first began supporting Dawn Leppan and her work at 1000 Hills, the medical clinic was a dream and Dawn was serving food to the community in the basement of an abandoned church. According to this report, the medical clinic now treats an average of 180 patients per day and provides roughly 4000 treatments per month. The clinic serves the gogos (grandmothers) who attend twice a week for hypertension and diabetes monitoring, and for treatment for other illnesses. A well-baby clinic held weekly allows babies to be weighed, assessed, and treated if necessary. The HIV/AIDS support group works with 500 members who are weighed, monitored, and educated about living with their disease. The medical clinic at 1000 Hills runs an ambulance service for emergencies and for community members who need urgent transportation to the nearest hospital. And the clinic has also organized a group of volunteers, the Community Health Care Workers, who visit the families, the elderly, and the bedridden who can’t make it to the clinic. They monitor for rape, abuse, and nutritional needs, as well as providing some medical care.

Circle four: the larger community — The report states that “our figures have increased quite a lot since last year… because the community really is not getting the help they need from the local government clinic, so they are coming to us.” To use CompassioNow founder Wendy Bjurstrom’s words, we are “blown away” by the growth of this clinic and its ability to provide quality healthcare to a growing number of people. As CompassioNow is able to fund more staff and supply more pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to our clinics, more people are reached, treated, and saved, which in turn provides a community with a healthier populace better able to care for themselves and each other. And the circles rippling in the pond of providing aid to Africa continue onward and outward.

The second thing that came out of the missions conference that I want to share is the message. Any good missions conference will remind its attendees of their mission… to go out into the world — to the lost, the hurting, the downtrodden and oppressed – and to bring God’s light into the darkest corners. From heart-pumping renditions of sending songs to the examples of others who have gone forth to “bring the light to the nations” this conference didn’t disappoint! And they showed this video. It really struck me. You see, I live a very blessed life (and I imagine that if you stop and think about it, you do too!). I want for little, lack even less, and have around me beauty and freedom and love that leaves me breathless when I take the time to contemplate it. What do I do with those blessings? God gave me these blessings; He gifted me with talents and skills. What do I do with those blessings, talents, skills? What do I do with my bounty, the beauty around me, the love and freedom in my life? It reminded me of a Facebook conversation I recently had with a friend. This friend was distressed over the factory collapse in Bangladesh and was wondering if she should stop supporting clothing stores that provide cheap clothes by sourcing clothing from companies that treat workers inhumanely. How should this friend use her blessings? With her freedom to speak, in this case through her wallet, what and how could she bless someone else? The answers aren’t always easy because the world complicates and confuses, hides and disguises, befuddles and discourages us from serving others.

I go to 1 John chapter 4 from the Bible to help me. John wrote, “19We love because he first loved us.” God’s amazing love for us, and our recognition of that, fills us with the desire to share that love. John also said, “7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

It’s the “which came first, the chicken or the egg” kind of thing. Love isn’t that we take the first step and simply love God. We don’t love God and then He blesses us because of our actions. Love is God sending Jesus to love and heal and preach and redeem the world. In response, we love Him and one another… lost or found, worldly or saved. And in loving one another, we help one another.

There’s a song getting a lot of play on the radio lately. Click here to listen. I love the line, “If not us, who will be like Jesus to the least of these?” Who will be the hands and feet of Jesus if not us?

Let me try to wrap up my thoughts here into a neater package. We at Compassion Tea Company have been blessed, saved, and made free by God and His amazing, startling, overflowing love. His love staggers us. He showed it again so visibly this past weekend. This is the kind of love that can’t just be silently meditated on, held close and secret. No. It is the kind that demands a response. And “when we love the least of these,” we are responding. We are sending God’s love in a bandage, an aspirin tablet, a plaster cast, a round of antibiotics, a pair of eyeglasses, a nebulizer, in a vitamin. When we add a nurse or increase a doctor’s hours through increased funding to a clinic, we are adding and increasing God’s love poured out for “the least served.”

So, thank you family, friends, supporters, members, fans, and followers. Thank you for helping us “love the least of these.” And imagine how many more we can love! Share tea! Save Lives!

My Compassion Tea and Your Chocolate

A few weeks ago, one of our directors found a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens for a chocolate bark that incorporates tea. Of course, we were interested! But which tea should we use? The recipe indicated green tea leaves work the best. So, that’s where our testing kitchen began.

IMG_1357Jasmine with Flowers, Sencha Cherry Rose, and Hermes Orange all seemed like winning combinations to be mixed with chocolate. Indeed! However, Sencha Cherry Rose added the most flavoring to the chocolate. Subtle notes of rose floated over the chocolate in a truly enchanting way. Hermes Orange was a bit overpowered by the chocolate. “Ah, but what about Coconut Oolong?” we thought. That proved to be remarkably delightful as the flavor of coconut blended with the chocolate and the lovely curled leaves gave a delightfully subtle crunch to the bark. IMG_1375Feeling bolder now, we went back to our tea supply and looked again. The entire herbal and rooibos line looked interesting. What would happen with Lemon Mint Rooibos, Jasmine Vanilla Rooibos, Provence, Caramel Rooibos or Lemon Ginger Rooibos? Delightful flavors! But, go light because the actual rooibos bark can become a bit chewy. It’s fine for a panda bear but you might not enjoy it as much. The last flavor we gave a try was Lemon Black. IMG_1381Lemon and chocolate are so lovely together! The bites that had a smallish piece of lemon rind in them were delectable! The black tea itself added a heavy richness that counteracted the lemon in an interesting way. Again, remove the larger pieces of fruit from the chocolate as they tend to get rather chewy.

But don’t take our word for it. Try it yourself! Here’s what you need!

Ingredients:
8 oz good quality semisweet chocolate*
8 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup tea leaves
½ tsp sea salt flakes

* Dark chocolate is too heavy for the lighter, floral notes of the tea. We recommend sticking with a regular chocolate.

IMG_1353Directions:
1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
2. Line a half-sheet pan (13×18) with parchment. Pour melted chocolate into pan, spreading to the edges.
3. Sprinkle tea over chocolate and follow with sea salt.
4. Set aside in a cool place until firm (about 2 hours). Cut bark with a chef’s knife and enjoy! (Bark stays best if kept cool.)
(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens recipe, April 2013)IMG_1367

Package up the bark in a sweet little bag and give as a gift to Mom, graduates, or someone who needs a little pick-me-up. And if you discover another Compassion Tea flavor that works well, please pass it on!