Milestones

When there is a new baby in the house, you mark milestones. Whether is it the first time he rolls over or mutters a discernible word, mommies and daddies mark it down. And in today’s world, we post it online, on some form of social media, for the whole world to enjoy with us.

 

We have a new baby. She’s 15 weeks old and already potty trained. Ornery and feisty in the morning, she is the perfect lap dog in the evening when we’re all on the sofa ready to read and relax. Yes, she’s a fur baby, another goldendoodle, and she is the perfect compliment to our 4 ½ year doodle Winston. Maggie is her name and we are smitten. We are marking her milestones, her shot schedule, waiting impatiently for the day we can safely take her for a walk around the neighborhood, tracking her weight gain, and teaching her manners. It’s fun marking those milestones!

 

As I mentioned, Maggie has a big brother, Winston. While Maggie is very much her own dog, she looks up to her older and wiser doodle. While they play together something fierce and while I love watching them romp, I most enjoy watching Winston guide Maggie, showing her the ropes, minding his manners so that she learns hers. I caught this photo of them together the other day. You get the idea.12510461_10208182632501642_3559157654668221333_n

 

I wanted to share this photo with you for two other reasons.

 

  1. When Compassion Tea started on February 26, 2011, (Do you note the date? Do you see the milestone?) we began much like this photo, looking up to our God for guidance and direction. We founded our company on these 5 Bible verses:
    1. Proverbs 19:21 “You can make plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
    2. Psalm 37:5 “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.”
    3. Psalm 16: 1-3 “Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.’ The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”
    4. Psalm 90:17 “And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!”
    5. Isaiah 46:9-11 “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. I will call a swift bird of prey from the east – a leader from a distant land to come and do my bidding. I have said what I would do and I will do it.”

Over the past 5 years, we’ve held approximately 250 prayer calls to pray over our tea, over our business, over our customers, over the people we are serving in Africa, over the people in Africa who are providing medical and spiritual care at our partner clinics, over each other. We have consistently held up the company before the Lord and asked him to heal, redeem, direct, guide, provide wisdom, to multiply efforts and monies and supplies, to give us strength to keep walking forward, faith to take the next step, and hope for an even bolder, broader, and beautiful future wherein we are able to serve more and more people. 250 calls. Yes, we’re like puppies looking up to the big dog to see what’s next!

IMG_6520

2012-10-13_14-10-53_91tea rounds ready to goTea pouches for Christmas Tea bazaarAnd he has rewarded that faithfulness on our part, offering the next steps when the time was right, bringing new customers and directions, and multiplying the funding we are able to provide to CompassioNow. And the number of prayers He has answered in those 5 years is astonishing. With God as our CEO, we have built a thriving business, we have changed lives here in the US and in Africa, and we have brought Him continual glory. That’s not to mention the new connections and the healing and the stronger relationships and the safe travel and the beneficial exchange rates and shipping costs. The list of success and answered prayer goes on and on!

12646959_1023048841085966_4559845413675958138_nunnamedebenezers-front_311_222

IMG_4933

 

Reason 2:

On February 4, 2006, CompassioNow was awarded its non-profit tax status, making it a legal and legit organization. Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom recently tabulated what they have been able to provide monetarily to the clinics in Africa over the last 10 years. They discovered that it was over $1 million! Another milestone… $1 million and a 10 year anniversary! Woo hoo! But that hardly shows the full impact of those 10 years. It doesn’t tell the stories of the lives changed, the clinics that have been built, the new buildings and medical wings, the staff and supplies, the men, women, and children who have turned to one of our partner clinics as a last resort, after the witch doctor didn’t work, after the government hospital sent them away without proper treatment, after they’ve come to the end of their ropes, desperate for relief and healing.

It doesn’t tell the stories of the people tested early for AIDS and who began early medical intervention, the lives saved from parasites, which could have been lost had it not been for a basic antibiotic; the children who have been given life through urgent medical care and/or pre and perinatal care of their mothers; the home-bound who have community health care providers making regular visits; and the children who have been granted eyesight from a donated pair of eyeglasses.

10730920_758595184211972_8498419272600274584_nBuffalo Bicycle Ambulanceunnamed-9unnamed-6

This doesn’t tell the story of medical training and supplies, of medicine shelves stocked, and birthing beds delivered, of bicycle ambulances, and fixed airplanes to transport medical staff and those who need more urgent medical care.

image-2image-1unnamed-10 copy 2unnamed-6 copy 2

 

0-55

We can put a number on the money raised for Africa but we can’t put a number to the people who have been touched by CompassioNow and its mission to bring “life-saving medical care to the world’s least served.”

 

Oh the milestones! Biblically, when people wanted to celebrate and remember what the Lord had done for them, they built an altar or raised a rock on end. They made a physical mark on the landscape to say, “Here, God answered us.” That is no longer tradition. But here, we raise our Ebenezer, we make our mark on cyberspace, we count the successes and mark the milestones. And we look forward to the future, knowing that with God as our CEO there is more goodness to come. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him and he will help you.”

 

 

Advertisements

Margin

Margin is a hot word in my house these days.

There’s the margin of business, of getting the most buck for your bang. It’s the fine line between squeezing the most money out of clients and the most work out of your employees – without tipping either side of the equation. And big margins are good, sought after, applauded. Margin.

Then there’s the margin of life, the blank space, the whitespace that circles the words of our chaotic lives. Margin is space to breathe, to create, to still and listen, to put down the phone, the TV remote, the computer, the calendar, the to-do list 3 feet long and just… be. Margin is time for the kids to play and be kids. Margin is time for mommy to soak in a tub or for daddy to unwind from the day and connect with someone in his family… or vice versa.

This kind of margin keeps perspective, holds the balance, allows for God to be heard, for healing and health and reconciliation and emotional stability.unnamed-23

unnamed-40But is this margin applauded? Don’t we prefer to applaud the family that can pile the schedule with sports and arts and homework and busyness? Don’t we marvel at the mom juggling all 10 balls marginally well and wonder skeptically at the efficiency of the mom who only juggles 3 very well? Or the husband who works all day, serves on boards, and coaches little league… don’t we marvel at his dedication? But we don’t ask where his margin is, do we?

Is there an assumption that the more margin we have financially, the more margin we’ll have time wise? That the striving and squeezing and pinching stops when the bottom line looks good? Or does the striving and squeezing and pinching just pick up in other areas, cluttering our lives with the trappings of affluence?

And I’m wondering this morning, as I’m flailing in the struggle of creating margin in a world that demands we keep running without margin, what margin looks like in Africa.

Like in Zomba, Malawi, where Passion Center for Children is located. Where is the margin in life when floods have destroyed your house and your crops? Is there rest, blank space, stillness when there aren’t mosquito nets and pots and pans and food and when children are sleeping in the open because there are no beds, no walls, no roof? When there is no monetary margin, no buck for the bang, when life is hand to mouth, where is the margin?10378274_812999028771587_6202102954853020024_n

10923281_812999078771582_747795061580541710_n10917445_812999052104918_3699448331697225328_nOr in Uganda where Village of Hope is located, where 9 new sponsors for children this week is celebrated! And the bottom line says that there are 200 more that need sponsors. And the bottom line reads like this: “Dear friends… this is Cindy. We really need your help. As you know the last couple of years have been hard on me physically. So I have not been able to go out and ‘friend’ raise. Because of that… we are running $20K short each month. We have added a Skill Training Center and another 50 kids to our Villages. Those things add up. So we, our 340 children, need your help. Every dollar helps!”

How do you build margin into your finances, into your life, when there are 340 kiddos who depend on you for life – food, education, healthcare, nurturing, shelter – because the alternative to this is child-run families, sleeping in the open, abuse, days without food, a tentative survival, and no upward mobility. Where is the margin?10299080_10152398008179763_3795027765915466660_n 11015953_10153109834269763_317411810080949687_n 10352939_10152674151649763_6536344923481152464_n

Or in the Valley of 1000 Hills, South Africa, where 1000 Hills Community Helpers is located, where some 5000 people this month will attend a medical clinic of some sort and will be treated effectively and well for the unimaginable cost of $1 per person. Where that same number of people or more will gather for meals, where children will meet daily for schooling and care, where mommies and daddies will learn skills and grannies will meet and sit under the canopy or gather around a table and sew. Where the safe house had to close because there wasn’t funding to keep it open. And where the bottom line says we’re running this amazing operation on nickels and dimes, we are doing great good, but we’ve got no margin and we’re not meeting our financial needs to keep all these balls in the air.1011836_10151711910730854_1547028917_n 10628167_10152865178225854_4632364125688208242_n 1800479_10152895399445854_1985007257085480745_n 10628268_10152895404295854_8499036510535850559_n

Where is the margin when it all sounds so dire?

The margin is in the whitespace. The margin is in being still and listening for God to speak, being still and knowing that He is God, being still and knowing that He is at work, that He has built up these relief centers, that He has begun a good work, and He will fulfill His promises to His people, and He will finish those good works.

And margin is in the whitespace created when we take a moment to savor a cup of tea. Whether we’re members of Compassion Tea and we amble into a pantry well-stocked with a multitude of tea flavors or whether we buy our favorite flavor every other month online or whether we shuffle into our favorite coffee shop, favorite because it carries tea with a cause, how ever we come to our cup of tea and with whomever we share it, when we create this pause in our day, we are creating margin in Africa.IMG_7536

And that’s the bottom line!

The Crossing Coffee Bar — Another Circle of Hope

The Crossing Coffee Bar in Carrollton, Texas, is now serving Compassion Tea! This addition of venue marks an amazing “crossing” of paths and purposes.
I’ve written about the concentric circles that ripple out from the sale and consumption of Compassion Tea.
And I’ve written about the hope those circles bring.

And now, it’s time to introduce another circle of hope.

Back in April of 2013, the CompassioNow Board of Directors voted to begin supporting Cindy Cunningham’s Village of Hope, Uganda. It wasn’t the beginning of a beautiful relationship, but rather a continuation of one, a solidification of that relationship if you will. Wendy Bjurstrom, CompassioNow founder and Compassion Tea Director, recently traveled to Texas to visit Cindy. As she left, she stocked her suitcase with Compassion Tea. Her goal? To share tea and save lives!
While in Texas, Wendy met with Karen Bledsoe and Marguerite Fenton from The Crossing, the coffee shop arm of Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Carrollton, Texas.unnamed

Bent Tree, the church Cindy Cunningham attends, supports many missions, including Village of Hope. According to their website,

“Bent Tree exists to be used by God as He transforms people into disciples of Jesus Christ here and around the world. At Bent Tree, we strategically partner with people and organizations to send financial resources and mobilize the Bent Tree body around the 4 C’s.
Church Multiplication: 
To see Life-giving, grace-based churches established.

City Transformation
: To see cities transformed by the power of the Gospel.

Crisis Response: 
To provide crisis relief and development through timely and strategic mobilization.

Children at Risk: 
To lift women and children out of three key areas: danger, poverty and illiteracy.”

Village of Hope falls under the Children at Risk category. For more information about Village of Hope, go here!

The Crossing donates its profits to these local and global outreach organizations. And now, The Crossing is going to add Compassion Tea to its offerings!

531583_525697764135862_715951706_n 599508_528256447213327_545006191_n
The café is located in the lobby of the church. With a weekly attendance of over 2000 people, The Crossing reaches a broad audience. Recent efforts to improve the ambiance of the café have made The Crossing “a place for great coffee and quiet conversation, veiled from the world.”

“This café hasn’t stopped at the church doors however and increases their efforts at reaching those outside of the congregation. Last Easter, the baristas took time to create baskets for employees working in nearby offices and included a free drink coupon. People who haven’t been involved in the community yet have a chance to do so. ‘We want to invite those outside of the church to partake in the refuge of the café. We’re not just serving the church, we’re called to serve the world at large.’”

The Crossing also serves Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee, a coffee with a cause that is grown and produced by small farmers in Rwanda.
Now, when customers at The Crossing buy a cup of Compassion Tea, they will be supporting Village of Hope Uganda in two ways, through Bent Tree’s support of the orphanage and through CompassioNow’s support of the medical clinic in the village.
We are overjoyed at this addition of another circle of hope!

I-See Update

Back in April, Cindy Cunningham traveled to Uganda to visit her dear kiddos at the Village of Hope villages. She carried with her an I-See Kit donated by CompassioNow. (Click here to read more about the kit!)

To date 19 children have been blessed with the gift of improved eyesight through this kit. And 43 others have been assessed and they need glasses. That’s just one of the two villages!

Lucy is one of the girls given a new perspective on life through this gift of improved eyesight.

unnamed-4 unnamed-3unnamed-8 unnamed-7 unnamed-6 unnamed-9

Won’t you join us at Compassion Tea and CompassioNow in raising the funds to buy the needed eyeglasses for the other children! Go to http://www.compassiontea.com to order tea which supports this effort or go directly to http://www.compassionow.org to donate directly.

Remain…

I asked my daughter yesterday on the way home from school if her friend had been there in school. Yes, why? Well, I had seen her friend’s beautiful face posted on Facebook with a lanyard and Katy Perry ticket dangling from her neck. Sweet little 11 year old so excited to go to her first concert. It would have been a late night for a school night, but if it’s important, than it’s important.

I had asked the question innocently enough but I’m glad I asked it because the yearning that came through my daughter’s next comment blind-sided me. “Lucky!” she muttered.

We don’t listen to Katy Perry. I can’t even name any of her songs, so this isn’t about Katy Perry.

Yes, we choose differently what we fill our ears and hearts with musically. We can sing the lyrics to nearly every Newsboy song and we even play name that artist around the dinner table sometimes, but our artists of choice are people like Laura Story, Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns, Natalie Grant. Because singing scripture, singing praise, singing our prayers grafts us ever more strongly onto the one and only true vine.

So, this is more about this… “My daughter is choosing the ways of the world over godly ways lately,” a mom told me just the other day. And after little miss’s “lucky” comment, I wonder if I need to be nodding in agreement.

This is a tension I knew would get stronger before it gets weaker. The flash and pomp and allure of the world is going to look ever more appealing… perhaps. And that’s a bad thing? The world? Yes. Because the world says God is dead, that the soul is the omnipotent, that the individual is god, that all is chance and you only live once so you better make the most of it by having as much fun as possible. Are these the voices by which we want to make decisions?

As my conversation continued with my daughter, I shared with her a time in my middle school days when Amy Grant came in concert to a nearby city and I wanted desperately to go. I was too young and therefore I wasn’t allowed. It didn’t leave that big of a scar; it’s just a story to share to suggest that I’m not the only “mean mom” out there. Then, Little Miss asked, “Are you going to be like that? Are you never going to let me go to a concert?”

Never is not a word I use lightly. So, no. Not never. But the conditions and circumstances have to be right. We’ll cross that bridge when the time is right.

On my hike this morning, I went further than normal and ended up at a bench overlooking the valley from a new perspective. Looking down, I saw an old bridge. It took me several seconds to discern that that was the very bridge I cross daily. It looked so old and out-of-place surrounded by our growing city and the modern amenities sprouting all around it. And then I wondered if our way of life, our focus on God looks like that sturdy but old-fashioned steel bridge. Unlike the soaring bridges that span the bay, their masses of concrete seemingly suspended in thin air, this bridge is set, its steel arms surrounding the car. You almost feel like ducking as you go across.

I like that old bridge. It feels stable and secure, like if an earthquake should hit, this one will stand. I don’t have the same faith in the flying concrete that marks so much of the Bay Area highways and byways.

But do my kids? Do they like the less-glitzy, the more stable, the “no” when it comes to things Mom and Dad view as tempting and tantalizing and off God’s path? I think I’m asking the wrong question!

On the one hand, I ask, “How can I make sure my kids aren’t complete outcasts because we shelter them so much?” and on the other I ask, “How can I make sure that my kids make wise decisions as they grow up?”

It’s really simple actually. Pray this verse over them!

John 15: 5-8 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Asking God to hold my children so that they continue to abide in Him? If we can weigh every decision against that framework, we probably won’t go terribly awry!

And then I’m looking at this problem with eyes from Africa and thinking what a first world problem this is. Worrying about my kids living for the world… for Katy Perry and Minecraft and Disney and “your way right away” and “make it a great day or not the CHOICE is yours”… those are worries that are indicative of the first world.

Because there are kids in other parts of the world who are worried about where they are going to find the day’s food and water, who will go to bed tonight on the ground, with an empty belly, and with wailing younger siblings who depend on them. There are child-headed households throughout the world where there is no adult to direct and provide and sustain and hold. The full brunt of holding the family together falls on 11 year old shoulders. There are children around the world for whom the dark isn’t just scary because of a movie they saw or because their imaginations are playing with them. No, these kids have seen with their own eyes things unspeakable, horrors one can’t even imagine. Like the kiddos at Village of Hope, Uganda. For them, the world has proven itself to be the dark mirage that it really is. For them, turning to God feels like living in light. The old bridge is comfort.

Because when we see enough of the world, we recognize that it is all cotton candy… sugary lightness that promises much but that melts and hardens and crusts and doesn’t fulfill.

So, I shared these thoughts with a mommy friend after school and found myself saying., “You know, as they get older, the friends have more influence than Mommy and Daddy.” My friend nearly choked. I nearly sat down and wept. But I’ll keep praying that Little Miss abides in Jesus and He in her.

And when Little Man is scared of the dark and afraid to move into a room by himself and when I’m tired and frustrated and just want to go to bed and to stop singing him to sleep… well. There’s a voice that says someday soon he’s not going to need me for any of this and the bedtime cuddles and the squirming on the lap and the sloppy whispers of “I love you” in my ear… it’s all going to stop.

We spend so much time hurrying our kids toward independence and big-people things. And then they grow up and do what we’ve taught them to do… be independent and self-reliant.

“Remain in me”… just keep praying that the old comfortable bridge will serve them well and that they’ll remember to come back to it when they need it. It’s a much better crutch than anything the world can offer.

Beautiful Things

“I don’t see anyone in here wearing a mini electric chair or needle full of a lethal injection hanging from their neck. That would be the moral equivalent for those of you wearing crosses today,” he said.

Yes, the point was valid. As an instrument of torture, the cross was horrendous, humiliating, inhumane.

Rome had perfected public punishment in this particular instrument.

I fingered the cross hanging from my neck, it’s edges so familiar to my fingers as I traced the heart laid over the top. My cross, marked with Isaiah 40: 31, marking my life as Christ’s, the sign of the mark made on my life when Jesus chose me and I chose back, marking a public declaration of where my true love lies. My cross so beautiful, so much a part of me, so much more than jewelry. I’m not the tattooing type. So I wear the jewelry.

And the message on the back: “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Perfect promise perfectly captured.

No, for me the cross is beautiful and as he talked more about the ugliness of the cross, my heart cried no. Jesus died and made the cross beautiful, elegant, a visible emblem of hard work with enormous pay out, of elemental love and sacrifice, of eternal salvation. I can look on the cross now and see nothing but beauty; I can look beyond the instrument of torture to see the instrument of grace. It isn’t even a stretch.

In fact, the beauty of the gift of salvation so far outweighs the ugly, that I often forget the hideous, humiliating, inhumanity of the thing around my neck.

Not long ago, I paused over my cluttered desk and I looked up into the corner at my wall of love. Drawings my kids have offered as tokens of love array the space. It’s good to look these over sometimes. When offered, I adored them, oohhed and ahhhed over them, complimented the work that went into them and the talent showing through each picture. I hung them on the wall to show my appreciation, but I closed a door inwardly, not accepting the words offered as possibly true for me. As if my kids were actually addressing the mother of their dreams, not the flesh and blood person in front of them. Then, I went to the sink and brushed my teeth, hardly glancing in the mirror, and wondered why I have a difficult time accepting these words from my children.IMG_5673 IMG_5672 IMG_5674 IMG_5671

And as I fingered my cross this morning, these musings came back.

The work on the cross was bloody, ugly, horrendous agony. But the result was beautiful. Salvation, death conquered, law reduced, God lifting the veil that separated Him from us and inviting us directly to come to Him.

Repeatedly scripture tells us that through Christ’s death on the cross we are made new. The prophet Isaiah (43:19) announces God’s will,

 

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

 

Romans 6: 3-7 says, “Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.”

 

And in Revelation 21, God proclaims, “Look, I am making everything new!”

 

Me and you, made new.

When we come to Christ, it is as if we are taking off the old, ugly, worn-out clothes of our life and putting on a coat of beauty and grace and forgiveness and freedom. Like when I shed the clothes I’ve been painting in, shower and dress for an evening out… that kind of new. Sort of. That changes the external. But Christ’s changes are from the inside out… eventually. Living free… free from the fear of death, free from the ancient’s law of ceremonial clean and unclean, free from eternal judgment.

Gungor sings it this way:

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

And as we sang these words this morning, I thought of the cross, of Christ’s death making it beautiful. Of how His act took the awful and made it artistic, of how His love took the twisted and the maimed and straightened it and healed it, of how gnarled and blood-soaked became lily-fresh.

But me. God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You too.” Like the cross, Christ takes my life and the ugly and the horrid and the horrendous and the inhumane, all the broken, gnarled, twisted, blood-soaked splinters of my cross-life and turns them toward redemption. He tapped me on the shoulder this morning and said, “I’m doing this to you, too. Taking your dust and growing a garden.”

And I realized that I have to accept that I can be beautiful. That I am already beautiful through Christ. That the words my children picture for me are true. This. Is. Truth. Truth I need to pickle in, not just accept but relish and believe. If Christ can change the most horrific method of torture into a thing of beauty… now worn by millions of people, then what can He do with me?

My dear Prosy, my Ugandan “daughter,” how He has taken the broken bits of that life of horror and redeemed them, saved her, made beauty where there was dust and ash. All the lives now at Village of Hope Uganda… for them all He has made beautiful things.

In the heights of hubris, I’ve closed the doors to this, just as I’ve closed the door to the words of my children, preferring, clinging to, embracing the lies I’ve heard from other parts of the world. As if those lies of “you’re nothing” and “you’re so broken you can’t be fixed” are the final assessment and the final horror of life. If I accept the lies as the final answer, then I am also turning my back on hope, on the greatest gift ever offered.

It’s time to fling wide those doors. Just as Christ flung wide His arms on the cross and took the pain for my gain, it is time to fling wide my arms and embrace His words for me. It’s time for beautiful things.

Perspective

IMG_5256Meet Dragon. You may look at this and think, “Why did she name that walrus Dragon?” That is an appropriate question. First of all, the walrus in question is my son’s… not mine. Secondly, this creature in question… is a dragon… and a walrus. It’s complicated.

Let me explain. We walked into our favorite toy store and Joseph began his usual systematic hunt through the store for the best “I want.” He approached me after awhile and showed me this puppet.IMG_5255

“What is this?” he asked.
“A walrus,” I replied.

He wasn’t happy with my answer. He asked the clerk. “Umm, excuse me. What is this?”
“A walrus,” she replied.

And then he explained the look on his face. “No, this is a dragon. See.”IMG_5258

I still didn’t see really, but I pretended. “Oh, yes… flippers, wings, yes! Very good.” And the walrus came home with us.

It wasn’t until later that day that I really sat down and looked at the walrus, trying to see him with my son’s eyes. Upside down walrus. No, dragon.

And then my eyes glazed over and my heart flip-flopped and I saw what he saw. Tusks became horns. Beard became fluffy-top-of-the-head hair. Tail… still tail… but more dragon-like upside down.IMG_5259

Walrus… dragon… it’s a matter of perspective.

Now, what is this?

Be sure to crush your loose tea leaves before measuring!

You probably answered, “Tea!” And like my walrus answer, it is a correct answer. But let’s reconsider. Let’s turn it upside down and look at it from a different angle.

Because maybe it is this.

Stina and Nurse Susan hug. That's Dr. Mac in the background.

 

Wendy and Scovia

Fred leaves with Beatrice for the 40 mile ride to the closest x-ray machine.

Fred leaves with Beatrice for the 40 mile ride to the closest x-ray machine.

Fred, in blue, being prayed over by his friends.

Fred, in blue, being prayed over by his friends.

 

 

 

 

 

And this.0-43

Sister Dlimani, Community Caregivers, Dawn's daughter Karin, and Stina take time for tea.

Some of the happy faces coming to day care.

I'm a 1000 HIlls Kid -- it is so good to belong!

1045059_10151597323681791_89119693_n

Stina teaches the Community Caregivers how to use their new stethoscopes

Elphus in his tiny room

Where Elphus lives

Wendy and Dawn Leppan get ready to distribute the kits.

Community Caregivers with their new medical kits

 

It could be this also.Day12Meds.162535 Day7nurseJoyceatKareroclinin.160848

I have to ask, then, if tea can be all of these things, why aren’t we looking at tea in this way? Why are you still buying your tea at the grocery store? Why aren’t you buying tea that can be this? Compassion Tea… Share Tea… Save Lives… Tea NOW!

IMG_0257 IMG_8083

Going Under

They’re talking about spending the afternoon in the pool like it’s gonna be the best thing ever and I’m thinking about going under. The heat is settling in and the lines of traffic are suffocating. Better to focus on how I really could use a cute pair of red shoes. Because that is so much easier to face than the chicken feed spilled across the carpet, the chicks escaping from their box, the girls in Nigeria stolen from their school and held as living ransom. Moms at school are dragging, shuffling toward summer, throwing their hands up in despair at projects and events, dreaming of summer. And the realists are saying that summer won’t solve the problem. It will simply reshuffle the issues. It’ll be bliss for 10 minutes and then the kids will start fighting and we’ll all be praying for school to start again. I’ve got piles of laundry, a dishwasher that needs emptied and refilled, and a drought. Somehow I’m to cut 25% of our water use while tending my farm, my pool, the gardens and the children. Perhaps we just bath in the pool going forward. And I’m thinking I’m going under. It’s a hot, red mess out there. And going under sounds about right. But God. He shows up. There’s a surprise donation from old friends for CompassioNow. There’s a letter to Cindy Cunningham that speaks to the hearts of all the children of Uganda who have been rescued, the heart echoed in the letters from my own sponsored child. She’s come from a hot, red mess that I can’t even begin to fathom, that makes my hot, red mess look like a cake walk. She’s 11 and she lost her parents 9 years ago. How and why are up to the imagination. How and where she’s been living since… again, up to the imagination. And she’s thanking God for us, for the part we are playing in giving her a safe home, consistent food and medical care, love and Jesus. It’s so little on our part. So little. And it’s making such a difference. But God. He shows up. And I’m on my knees praying for the friends with cancer, the job interview, the waiting friend, the hurting friend, and He washes me with a stillness. And He says, “I’m God. I’ve got this.” From the beginning, He’s got this. Until the end, He’s got this. In the fiery furnace, He’s got this. In the cold, waiting night, He’s got this. He’s there in the cry of the newborn and in the sigh of relief, in the anguish of disease and the peace of a fulfilled promise, the long, endless hours and the short blink that really is life. He’s got this. I preach this to myself. Because I need it. Like a parched desert wanderer, I chug this truth, this reality instead of mirage. Guzzle, inhale, take it in as fast as possible. I’d rather drown in this truth than in the craze of the world that forces me under.

Be still and know that I am GOD. Psalm 46:10

Asking For A Favor

I don’t know. Being 40 something is an interesting period of life. It’s kinda a mid-way up the mountain, mid-way down the mountain kinda thing. Like, if I look down, over that edge over there, I see the news that another peer/friend/colleague has lost a parent, a spouse, possibly even a child. On that side, there’s a soul harvest going on. And then, overwhelmed by it all, I spin halfway and face the uphill side of the mountain and there along the path to the sun I see the photos of new babies, newlyweds, my former students hitting that “prime-of-life” period of finding a spouse, starting a family, growing a family, becoming the worlds’ busy and crazy, the standard bearers of culture and civilization marching to the front. And I’m just slouching through another day. Someone cue Casting Crowns Thrive right about now!

But if I reach way back into the recesses of my brain, I do remember planning my wedding. I may be whacky, but I remember thinking that I wanted our guests to walk away with something that was unique and different, not just a cup of nuts and candies or a small bottle of bubble solution, but something that might grow and mature into its own constant reminder. We gave out packets of pine tree seeds. You know, grow your own pine tree by which to remember our marriage. Here, my memory is foggy. Did I try to grow a tree from one of those packets? Or did I simply dream it? I’m pretty sure I still have a few packets in a box somewhere. Any bets as to whether or not 19-year-old seeds still have life in them?

IMG_4937 IMG_4938 IMG_4933I think Mike and Alisa are on to something here, however! Mike is wrapping up his MDIV and Alisa is finishing her medical schools studies at UCSD. She will start her residency in July in Santa Rosa. Alisa donated her otoscope to Village of Hope Uganda this summer and she has a big heart for medicine in the least served parts of the world. They will both graduate this summer and then get married and start life together from there. They wanted something unique to give their wedding guests, something that gives immediate pleasure, that is an enjoyable reminder of the day, and that also gives something bigger… in this case, hope for the world’s least served.

We at Compassion Tea are so excited to help Mike and Alisa celebrate their special day. And we’re so grateful to them for trying out our new favor-sized pouches. With our special printer, we can personalize the pouch, and with our over 100 flavors of high-quality tea, we can guarantee a flawless cup of tea. The favor pouches are $2.50 per pouch and they hold 3 tea bags of one flavor. (To place an order, email us at info@compassiontea.com)

How adorable would these be for a baby shower! Or add a photo of a grad and hand them out at graduation parties! They are perfect for bridal showers and wedding favors, as a special thank-you to employees, co-workers, teachers, or anyone whose work or volunteering you wish to recognize. Tis the season of banquets and good-byes and starts to new lives… why not mark it with a gift that gives back, too!

I-See in Uganda

My parents have no recollection of this. But I will probably never forget the day they came home from a parent/teacher conference and accused me of pretending to need glasses. I was in fifth grade and my teacher, Mr. Roth, noticed that I was squinting and having trouble seeing the board. Because I was so fashion-forward in those days (my, how motherhood has changed me), and because so many of my friends were getting glasses, Mr. Roth thought that I was putting on a show of not being able to see in an effort to get glasses. Of all the ludicrous ideas. I couldn’t see and frankly I didn’t know I couldn’t see. Up until that moment of accusation, I didn’t think anything of my squinting and blurry vision. With all of the other changes in my body at that time, this was the least of my worries!

But when I put the glasses on for the first time and I could see individual leaves on the trees and the softball flying toward my nose and the notes I had to copy from the overhead, I realized what I had been missing.

For Steve Saint, the experience was similar. Saint is the founder of I-Tec, an organization that looks at common medical procedures and figures out how to carry those procedures into parts of the world where electricity, clean water, and regular sanitation are considered luxuries. This is his story:

“Oh, I see” my Mom used to say. That is exactly what I thought when I was told that a visiting optometrist from Rockford, Illinois was going to check my eyes along with most of the rest of the missionaries and missionary kids like me. “Oh I see all right” I told my Mom. “I donʼt need to have my eyes checked.”
I always played pick-up basketball after school. If I wasnʼt there when sides were chosen cause I was off having my eyes checked, I would have to sit on the side lines all afternoon. I figured I could see as well as the next kid. But Mom said “You are going to have your eyes checked”. Her tone of voice was clear, “We can do this the easy way or the hard way…”
So Dr. Daniels checked my eyes. Then came the stunning news. I was going to have to wear glasses… all the time; probably for the rest of my life. I was shocked.
A couple of months later the glasses arrived. I tentatively put the awkward contraptions on. They pulled my already sticky out ears even further into lifeʼs slipstream as they slid down my ski-jump nose.
I thought I would just wear these “eye-braces” until Dr. Daniels went back to the States and my Mom forgot I had them. But something happened when I put those lenses in front of my eyes. The world changed. The trees had individual leaves. All I could see before was a green blur. The Andes Mountains had ridges and valleys. The whole world suddenly had texture and I could see it clearly for the first time.
The morning after getting my first glasses I realized why I had to work harder than my friends to shoot baskets. For the first time in my life I could actually see the rim I was shooting at. “Big fat cheaters”, I thought. Anyone can shoot baskets when you can clearly see what you are shooting at. And, I could actually read what the teacher was writing on the black board. Now I could sit in the back of the class without staying after the others left to copy what the teacher had been writing down for us.
Almost half a century later the last thing I do at night is take my glasses off. And one of the first things I do in the morning is put those lenses back on again. These “Eye Sight Enhancers” changed my life.”

One of the I-Tec programs near and dear to Saint’s heart is his I-See kit, which is a portable eye care kit. The kit comes with 200 pairs of eye glasses in common prescriptions, 2 lens ladders for determining lens prescription, eye charts, glasses repair kits, and even a tape measure to make sure that whoever is using the kit is following proper protocol. It also includes a non-verbal teaching DVD so that anyone can learn how to perform a quality eye exam.

i-see 200

Saint describes his vision for the program in this way: “Churches and individuals who are motivated by a desire to care for vision handicapped people with both their sight and heart (spiritual) problems can buy the ʻLevel One Kitʼ for $995 dollars. The level two – ʻthere are a pile of people out where Iʼm going so give me more glassesʼ Level Two kit will include all the tools and eye charts and yes, a tape measure, and will include two dozen, dozen pairs (288) of glasses for $1495. And the ʻI want a pile of glasses at the very best priceʼ – Level Three kit will include everything and the tape measure and three and a half dozen pairs of glasses (504) for $1995.
Here is what makes the I-See program so visionary. You donʼt just go to some far off land and fit a bunch of glasses and leave. No, the idea is that we will not only teach you how to determine who needs glasses – people who will otherwise go on struggling with bad eyes – but we will also teach you to teach a local God Follower who lives where you are going, to continue doing what you started – after you leave. Sustainability is the key here.
We teach you the I-See program and then you teach an Indigenous God Follower to do it (See one, Do one, Teach one). You (or your church or group) buy the kit. You take it with you on that short term missions trip you were going to go on (weʼll lead you through the planning and preparations) and you help needy people while you disciple a local believer to take over from you when you return home. You leave the glasses you have not used from your kit with the local ʻVision Enhancement Technicianʼ.
This is a very, very easy and straightforward plan. In most places your biggest problem is going to be to pick your successor. Lots of people will want to take your place, but you donʼt know who will faithfully carry on what you have started. That is why we will recommend that you work through an indigenous church. They know who is faithful and
who is capable of keeping the I-See program going and who will use it as a door opener for sharing the Gospel and starting or building up a local church.
Best of all, in many places the person that takes over from you will be able to support themselves by offering the ʻSight Enhancementʼ services you taught them. This is how that could work.
You turn the I-See kit over to them when you leave, at no cost. But you ask them and the local church to set a fee that the local population can afford – five to eight dollars per pair of glasses or so. The I-See technician agrees to set two dollars per pair of glasses aside to buy new inventory. The rest of the proceeds form a sustaining salary that allows him or her to spend full time distributing glasses and the Gospel Good News.
We will work with you to replace their inventory at the lowest possible cost by buying in bulk, and then assembling the specific inventory each I-See technician needs to fill the vision needs in their particular area. If they set two dollars (this amount will probably increase slowly over time but will remain affordable) aside from each pair of glasses distributed. That should be enough to replace their inventory (they will only rarely need to replace pliers, charts etc.)
In as little as one week and for as little as one to two thousand dollars we can make it possible for Indigenous God Followers to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of people who canʼt meet this need for themselves.”

And the why? Saint says, “Jesus told us that if we see someone in need who isnʼt in that need because they choose to be or are too lazy to get out, then we should help them. And He said that when we help people that canʼt help themselves, He would consider it as though we had done it to Him. I can tell you what now, Jesus needs lots and lots of teeth fixed and he needs lots of Cloroquin to relieve the aches and fever of malaria this year (believe it or not, one million people will die of malaria this year. Most of them and the forty nine million other people who will suffer but survive could be cured with about a dollar of medicine). And Jesus needs childbirth help and wounds closed and He needs lots of antibiotics. And He needs glasses just like I once did.”

When Wendy Bjurstrom visited Village of Hope, Uganda back in August, Dr. Mac and Nurse Susan commented on the number of kiddos at the orphanage who were having trouble seeing. Through donations, CompassioNow was able to purchase one of these I-See kits and Village of Hope founder Cindy Cunningham took the kit with her this week when she went to visit the villages.

1379875_10151891882749763_1340008897_n 319470_10151007116779763_353539821_n 155238_10151427560344763_28218691_n 524080_10151914491344763_968036320_n

I am so excited to see the photos of the kids with their new glasses and their new eyesight! What will they see? How will this sight change their vision and their world? Pause for a moment and think about the layers of meaning in those words!