A Note From the World’s Worst Friend

friends2I have this theory: my friends are absolutely the best friends that a girl could encounter. No, really, they truly are. Of course the second part of my theory is that I am the worst friend a girl could ask for. My friends are the kind of friends who somehow sense that you’re down and show up at your house with ice cream on your birthday, totally lifting your spirits like angels sent from heaven. The kind of friends who drop the most thoughtful (and allergy friendly) treats on my side porch. My friends are the kind who img_4205seem to, despite loads of evidence to the contrary, think that I am somehow a sane-worthwhile-put-together-person. These are women to whom I texted a picture displaying the mismatched shoes I’d accidently worn to work and they come back with a list of plausible excuses as to why it isn’t my fault that I put my right foot into a shoe that clearly did not match the shoe into which I put my left foot before striding off to work for the day. Not only that, but none of them brought up the time that I forgot to even put on shoes at all before flying from Raleigh to Seattle. Changing terminals in Detroit, in the snow, was a bit chilly in my slippers and yet not one of them brought that up. I’m telling you, I have the most amazing friends.

I sometimes imagine my thoughts as dandelion seeds, blown by the wind to the North, South, East and West. Many of those thoughts are insignificant observations and are carried away by the wind of life without a second observation. Others find fertile ground, take root and over time grow into ‘something’. Some of the harvests of my thoughts are wonderful! Other thoughts, not so much. These thoughts remind me of the time that a friend, who happened by be an avid gardener, came over for dinner and stood in puzzlement wondering why we’d taken so much care to grow a giant weed in the middle of our garden. I had no idea what that plant was and truthfully, until his assessment, I was super proud of my gardening prowess – growing a plant was nearly as tall as I and as wide as the garden from which it has sprouted! Sure, it had pretty much ensured that no other plant had survived my gardening attempts, but I was certain that this giant plant was going to yield something fantastic. It did not. And it was horrible to try to dig out what should have been removed months earlier.

If you’re anything like me, it can be so easy to spend time watering and caring for those bitter harvests and neglecting the fruitful ones. Why is that? We’re so inclined to fuss about how much we believe someone doesn’t like us, but neglect sending a quick text to someone who has made every effort to show us how much we are valued. I harbor the memory of how she made me feel so devastated when she didn’t return the friendship I tried to extend and yet forget to pen a thank you note to the friend who brought ice cream on my birthday. Is it time to call in the professionals yet?

If this friendship were a plant, it would have died long ago.

A friend recently shared that the Holy Spirit had put on her heart that if a particular relationship in her life were a plant, it would have died long ago. Except it didn’t die – it jumped right up out of it’s pot and smacked me on the forehead. I am doing nothing to water my friendships! Nothing. Zip. Zlich. I show up to supper club, book club, potlucks and socials looking for friends to water me, and yet I come without a watering can in hand. It’s a wonder I have any friends at all, the way I neglect these relationship. I give myself the excuse that it’s hard: I am so busy, I have littles, I work (a lot, I such a hot mess that I NEED my Jesus time in the morning to ensure there is even a shred of sanity left in me by 10am. Not only that, but I am the Queen of Grand Gestures. When a simple card would do, I must organize an entire themed event. And when I’m too busy or too tired or too stressed or too homesick or just plain too empty to organize an entire gala to chat with a girlfriend, I do nothing at all.

Friends, let me tell you right now that while I seem to somehow be blessed by angels who continue to show up for me when I am unworthy of such friendship, it is only because they have watered the friendship that is has survived. An unwatered friendship will shrivel up and die. So now, I must take stock of my life: It is busy. I do have littles. I do work (a lot). I am a hot mess. Everyone else is in the same boat. It is time for me to see challenges not as tall building that must be gracefully leapt in order to pour into meaningful friendships, but rather as obstacles that are worth being navigated around.

Not only are the obstacles in my life worth being navigated around, they aren’t really that big when I reset my expectations. And let’s face it friends, who wants gala anymore? I shy away from galaesque friendships with every fiber of my being – give me yoga pant friendships any day! So if yoga pant friendships are what I crave, surely it isn’t too hard to find small bits of yoga pants friendship time throughout my month. Surely I can find time to have lunch with a friend who literally works across the street from my office. I really do mean literally. We park in the same parking garage and before this week had managed a single lunch together. In almost three years. I told you people: I am a pathetic friend. But, following my logic that this friendship is both worth making an effort for and that it needs to be watered to thrive, couldn’t I invest one lunch hour a month into this friendship? Can’t I find one evening a month to get together with another dear friend after our kids are in bed? We could even fold laundry together in our yoga pants and sweatshirts and talk about how glamorous our lives used to be. I can notice that the meal we’re making is too huge to be consumed by my family and I can try to find another family to share our table for the evening. All of the sudden, I begin to see the obstacles take a back seat to the opportunities to pour into relationships.

In our selfie-obsessed culture, it may be easy to wonder, ‘what’s in it for me’? Or even to be motivated to pour into relationships seeking to be poured back into by the other person. But is this what life is really about? Doing for another so that you will reap the benefits? I love the way Karen Ehman confronts this in her book, Listen, Love, Repeat:

If our perspective each day can be “I am in it for you” instead of “What is in it for me?” we will discover the joy of serving Jesus—without expecting anything in return and done only for an audience of One. We may show this kind of love to family or friends. Or we might demonstrate it in a random encounter with a stranger. Either way, the stage is set for us to showcase God’s love to a watching world.

For me, I think the moral of this story is that those who have what look like fun, effortless friendships are those who are willing to put forth the effort of prioritizing their relationships. This is my declaration to you, friends: I treasure you and I value our friendship. I vow to try harder to water our friendship. I want you to know that you have carried me through so much and I appreciate your every action. You are important and wanted in my life. I think you are amazing and I’m so glad God brought us together.

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A Better Feeling Than Nothing

IMG_2092I don’t really remember the feeling I felt when Mr. M and I sponsored our first two children back in 2009. We sponsored a Roy, a young boy from Lebanon with the most vibrant blue eyes and Emelisa, a girl from Albania whose favorite subject was French. After Miss C was born I felt that it would be a good idea to sponsor, Adriana, a child her same age to help her learn about privilege and social responsibility.  When I met a woman in 2014 who talked about her sponsored children in such intimate detail, when I knew so little about the girls we sponsored, I felt ashamed and endevored to get to applologize for my inattentiveness and strive to get to know them better. In 2015, when Emelisa referred to us as her second parents, I felt humbled. When, after 5 years of sponsorship, I received a picture of Ariana smiling, I felt joy. When Alice, who we sponsor in Burundi, told me that the entire village gathers together to hear the social worker read the letters I send her, I felt shocked and inadequate in writing letters worthy an audience.

With all the feelings I’ve felt about sponsorship, I’d been curious about how it felt to be sponsored. While visiting a small, rural medical clinic surrounded by what felt like vacant space as far as the eye could see, I asked this question of mothers, who now grown are World Vision volunteers. They told me it made them feel happy to be sponsored, that someone who didn’t even know them would care enough to help them. They felt proud to have been chosen. They told me that they felt a desire to try harder.World Vision Nicaragua-3

We met with a teacher in a rural school who shared that having been sponsored as a child help him to gain confidence and fueled him to try to help others achieve their dreams. He spoke to us wearing a broad smile on his face and a small child on his hip. His evident care for the young boy led us all to believe him to be the boy’s father, but after further discussion we learned that he was a caring teacher, looking after a young student whose parents hadn’t yet arrived to take him home.World Vision Nicaragua-162

We met a civil engineer who, along with his sister, had been sponsored by a woman from New Zealand. She wrote to tell them that she felt that the best way to help the siblings have a better future was to fund the older brother’s college education so that he could get a job that would support them both. Now, he puts his skills to work as a World Vision staff member, helping to build a brighter future for all children in Nicaragua.

We met mothers who felt grateful that someone would be willing to invest in their child’s future. One felt thankful that she were able to give her children clean water to drink, that there was a stable roof over the one room home and that there was a stable latrine behind the home. Another felt happy for the education World Vision had done around breast feeding that had led to much healthier children in the area.World Vision Nicaragua-11

After personally meeting Valeria, the little girl we sponsor in Nicaragua, I felt grief at bidding her farewell. We both had tears in our eyes and quivering lips as I told her through out translator that I felt so very proud to be her friend. I also felt so very thankful for the opportunity to have gained such an up close look at the hope and possibility that World Vision weaves through all their projects. I feel know that Nicaragua has a brighter future as a result of ordinary people making the choice to share about $1 a day with someone they may never meet, may never hug, may never speak to face-to-face. BUT, I also know that child and that child’s mother will feel the love in that simple act and it may just be the spark that ignites something really big in that child’s life. I invite you to experience the feeling of changing a life today: cause.worldvision.org/salina If there’s one thing I’ve learned – doing something to try to make a difference sure feels a lot better than doing nothing.

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It Takes a Village

World Vision Nicaragua-47.jpgEach time World Vision enters a new community, they do so with the mindset of stabilizing that community in order to break the cycle of extreme poverty holding that community from reaching their full, God-given potential. Entrance always comes with an exit strategy, but it doesn’t come with an end to problems.  Today, I would like to tell you the story of the 582 World Vision volunteers in one of the three regions in which World Vision operates in Nicaragua. I met several of these volunteers last week when I was given an up close look at World Vision’s work in Nicaragua. Their selfless dedication to improving the lives of children allows World Vision to scale their work far beyond what other organizations can do.

Imagine if you were to transform a community and help it become self-sustaining for generations. On one hand, you could do all this for the community in a year or two: build wells, schools, clinics, and stores.  You could use sponsorship dollars to pay for books, uniforms and school fees to attract children to attend school. When you step away, some of this work will remain, but much will return back to the way things were before – the way people are accustomed to and equipped to handle things.

World Vision Nicaragua-8Alternatively, you could partner with community leaders, civic groups, local & national government, other NGOs, parents and youth, taking the time to train those who will remain, long after you have gone.  You could help to build schools, train teachers and help change the culture around education. When parents and civic leaders see the value in children attending school past elementary, when students become mentors who help struggling students learn to read and write, when sponsored children grow up and become teachers: we all win.

The later approach is that taken by World Vision and has been proven to be more effective in the long run because the community is vested in the decision process, they understand the why and they are passionate about helping to create change.  When you take time to develop a community and create opportunity, educated children they will grow to become parents, teachers and civic leaders who will help the next World Vision Nicaragua-162generation achieve even more.  I met some of these people while in Nicaragua who had been sponsored children in their younger years and now are creating a brighter future for the next generation.  They spoke with pride and dignity about the experience of having someone outside their community care about them; it spurred them on to work hard and now to give back to a program they felt gave them so much. Some of the volunteers are mothers of sponsored children and see the benefit of giving their children a better tomorrow. Others, with great gusto, told us that this was their community and they were there to do the hard work to make it better than ever.
Development work is hard work, costly World Vision Nicaragua-6work, slow work, but it pays dividends in transformed communities. By using a network of highly trained volunteers and teaming with other organizations, World Vision can scale their work far beyond what any NGO could do alone.  Volunteers, who have several years training and experience, meet with families and help monitor children for signs of preventable disease & malnutrition, to ensure they are in school and that they have access to needed social services.  When volunteers identify a gap, they work with World Vision to solve for the root cause of the problem. Examples range from providing bikes to children who are not in school because it is too far to walk, or engaging with the Ministry of Health to provide services if a child is ill.  When you sponsor a child, you join hands with thousands of others around the world to create a network of transformation, a network of greatness in the lives of those touched by this work.  Today, I reach my hand out to you and invite you to join this network for good. Will you be bold enough to reach back? cause.worldvision.org/salina And better yet, in addition to supporting this great work, will we allow these people to teach us about the power in working together to create positive outcomes in our own home communities?

Why the American Should Cross the Road

This last week, I had the extreme pleasure of accompanying a group of seven other World Vision volunteers to Nicaragua to get a better look at how World Vision conducts their development work.  What an experience! Today, I would like to tell you the story of one family we met along the way.

World Vision Nicaragua-61We had driven quite a ways down a bumpy, dusty dirt road surrounded by unfamiliar vegetation and homes that could easily fit onto my screened porch. Chickens, a scrawny dog and a pig greeted our arrival when the van finally stopped at our destination.  The grandparents, their seven sons and the son’s families, occupied smalls homes set in a row on the dusty property.  Between the seven sons were thirteen children and more, obviously on the way.

World Vision Nicaragua-91The family occupation is basket weaving, which consists of purchasing long sticks of bamboo from a local grower.  The sticks are transported back to the family’s home where they use a machete to separate the bamboo into the three layers needed to weave baskets. This step takes half of the day, but once it’s complete the weaving process, which takes about 20 minutes per basket, can begin. The finished product is loaded onto the same horse-drawn cart that delivered the bamboo sticks and finished baskets are carted to the market in Granada, a 45 minute drive by car.  The raw bamboo costs the family just over $7, from which they craft 7 baskets that they hope to sell, yielding $50 for their day’s labor. I don’t know about your family, but my family of four can easily spend $50 at lunch; this $50 must cover the expenses for the family of 29 people.

World Vision Nicaragua-85The children absolutely stole my heart. There was one boy in particular who was especially outgoing and soon held my attention in a great peek-a-boo game.  Within minutes, this game had turned into playing soccer and then tag.  Most of the children were barefoot and dust covered.  They thought our sunglasses strange and even more so, the Bandaid I applied the toe of my new friend, who received a cut chasing me across the separated bamboo.

World Vision Nicaragua-73For my part, the sight of the children taking a rest from our game to dip their cups into the large drums of clean water behind the house, the outdoor latrine and the chickens following the children into their homes were all foreign sights. When I’d guessed one of the older girls to be 7, I’d adjusting my expectations to account for the smaller statue of the Nicaraguan people. She was 10.

I asked one of our World Vision hosts if this was a typical living situation for sponsored children in Nicaragua and emphatically nodding, he stated that yes, living conditions in the area where we had visited were very good – as we had seen.  In the north, where the development work was in a much earlier phase and food scarcity was a bigger issue, living conditions would not be as good.World Vision Nicaragua-22 World Vision has helped establish community wells so that families can fill their water drums and cart those drums back to their homes without having to travel more than 1-2 kilometers. They have helped build and support schools so that all children, even those in rural areas, can have access to education.  When these children became malnourished, they worked with the mothers to help train them in nutrition and helped them get necessary staples. It was evident that sponsorship dollars were going far in Nicaragua – far in brining basic necessities, safety, security and opportunity. I appreciated the contentment the people we met with felt over having access to these necessities and felt a pang in envisioning my own life of abundance.

So, why should the American cross the road? To help someone to the other side. To help someone have access to BASIC necessities: water, enough food to keep from malnutrition, access to education, etc.  Sponsorship through World Vision is a partnership: we as sponsors work in partnership with governments, other NGOs, the teachers, parents, volunteers and World Vision staff to bring a better tomorrow to places that will never feel the burden of the abundance so many of us live in today. If you’re ready to join this network of good, click here: cause.worldvision.org/Salina

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A Roof Made of Tacky Christmas Cards

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This year, our family went the ‘tacky’ route and emailed our Christmas card.  I created a card in PhotoShop rather than purchasing it, exported it as a PDF rather than having it printed and emailed it rather than paying for postage, which resulted in a savings of several hundred dollars.  So what made us decide to buck tradition this year?  I wanted to see if we could use that money to bring the Christmas spirit to even more people this year, so we sent our Christmas card money around the world as gifts to the girls we sponsor through World Vision.  I was so excited to receive a thank you note from Burundi, Africa with a picture of three year old Alice, wearing a new dress and holding the pieces of steel that will be used to replace her thatched roof.  I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of the new sound her roof makes when it rains in her village!

So, friends, thank you for accepting our tacky Christmas card this year, which in turn allowed us to shine Christ’s love all the way to Albania, Burundi, Peru and Guatemala.

Tell Everyone: We’ve Found the Secret to Happiness!

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Tell everyone you know – the secret to happiness has been found!   Though it’s not really much of a secret if you think about it: when was the last time you felt like your glass was filled to the brim and perhaps even overflowing?  It probably wasn’t sitting on your couch watching yet another fabulous episode of “Scandal” or when you finally found those amazing boots you’d been scouting for over the last several weeks.  It probably wasn’t even watching the game – though I do love my Seahawks!  I’d be willing to bet it was when you gave something of yourself away.  I have found this to be true in my life – I feel like my life has the most purpose and fulfillment when I am giving time or resources to others, so it should be no surprise to me that Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith found that over and over again, those who gave of their time and money were actually happier, healthier and feel more fulfilled.  Let that sink in for a minute: giving of yourself can improve your overall health and sense of well being.  Wow!

Dr. Smith’s findings, as summarized in Richard Stearn’s recent Huffington Post article and recently published in Dr. Smith’s book “The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose” are quite compelling:

  • People who give away 10 percent of their income are 10 percent more likely to say they are very happy and 5 percent less likely to say they are unhappy.
  • The more you volunteer, the happier you are: People who say they are very happy also tend to volunteer almost six hours per month. People who are neither happy nor unhappy volunteer less than three hours per month, while people who are very unhappy spend less than 0.6 hours per month volunteering.
  • People who volunteer report feeling better and enjoying better mental health than people who don’t volunteer, even though they have the same number of doctor visits and hospitalizations.
  • People who give or volunteer are more interested in pursuing personal growth.

It kind of makes you want to make this a question you ask anyone you might potentially date, befriend, hire or allow to watch your children, huh?  “So, we seem to have a great connection here, but I really want to ensure that you are volunteering at least 6 hours per month before we move on in this relationship . . . ”

In my own life, I tend to generally think of myself as a glass half full kind of girl, but something really changes when I am regularly engaging in giving of myself to issues I’m passionate about.  I transform from glass half full girl into my cup runneth over girl: I am so much happier, more energetic, more positive, feeling like my life has a true purpose and knowing that I am doing something to make a positive impact on this world.  If you don’t know what that feels like, you are missing out and I encourage you to find your passion. For me, my passion has always been kids; I am also passionate about veterans and military families.

The truth is that some people on this earth CANNOT make their circumstances better without help: those who spend every waking hour in search of filthy water to drink cannot attend school and become the engineer who will build wells in the remote villages of Africa, the small boy in Pakistan who must labor long hours under dangerous conditions so that his brothers and sisters can have a small meal each day cannot become the police man he dreams of being, the young girl who is kidnapped and spends her days trying to survive her life as a sex slave cannot teach the next generation of girls in her village in Bangladesh that they are just as valuable as boys.

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why he allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when he could do something about it.”
“Well, why don’t you ask him?”
“Because I’m afraid he would ask me the same question.”
—ANONYMOUS

And so I take care of tiny humans in the church nursery each Sunday, I advocate for children living in extreme poverty and I teach middle and high school girls their strength, worth and value.  We sponsor four girls around the globe and give to other charities that help underprivileged children.  I only make this list because I believe myself to be a very normal person with a very normal schedule of working full-time and raising two young girls, yet I prioritize others as well and yes, it is a sacrifice, but one that pays dividend after dividend after dividend.  If you are not engaged in supporting others with your time, skills and/or money, you are missing out.  Whether it’s been building a program to support veterans in a Fortune 500 company, making blankets to comfort foster kids, writing letters of encouragement to my sponsored girls or changing dirty diapers, I don’t regret a minute of time I’ve given to another.

If this note has inspired you to share of your financial resources with others, I, of course, have to make a plug for one of my favorite charities, World Vision.  They have been transforming lives around the globe for over 56 years by working to alleviate the root causes of poverty in some of the poorest and most forgotten places in existence.  For only $35 per month, you can be a part of the story of a real human being who is experiencing real suffering.  I don’t know about you, but my mom never had to feed me mud so that my hungry belly wouldn’t keep me awake, or fear that my ear infection would be a death sentence to me, or cry as she sent me off to work in a dangerous factory or mine so that my younger siblings could survive.  You can make a difference today – for yourself and for another human being.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve not found myself missing roughly $7 per week.  Click here to find a child just waiting to be a blessing in your life

Confessions From the World’s Worst Huminatarian

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Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision once prayed, “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”  Wow.  As the owner of an incredibly selfish and uncompassionate heart, I thought that the only way I’d ever really be able to be truly used by God was to follow this example.  Here’s a prayer that really needs some kind of consumer warning, folks, because believe me, He gave me a passion for helping hurting children around the world.  Day after day, He has broken my heart for kids starving in Africa, working under dangerous conditions in India and caught in trafficking in Bangladesh.

Stupidly, I thought that if given the opportunity to reach out and save a child, most people would jump at the chance.  I didn’t think that people could actually peer into the eyes of a first grader, starving to death, and say, “I’m good, thanks.”  I wanted to tell him that I kind of figured he was ‘good’ when I saw him pull up in his $70,000 car.  My super judgmental alter ego was furious at me for not sharing with her that with what she’d spent on her manicure, she could save a child from dying or from being sold into slavery or from being made a child bride or worse.

I’d meant to share this opportunity with the people of North Hills until 4pm that day, but at 3:30 I wasn’t hardly able to manage a smile, so I packed it in early.  I cried most of the way home to find M and C just getting ready to come see me and offer encouragement.  Immediately, both of them knew I was deeply sad and asked what had happened.  “I wasn’t able to find sponsors for a lot of these kids,” I said to my 4 1/2 year old in a shaky voice.  “Who are they?  Can you tell me their names?” She knew what this really meant – those kids, kids with names and faces and real stories would continue their struggle for survival.  My husband, always more pragmatic, began counting the remaining folders.  “You’ve made a huge difference in the lives of 13 kids in the last month,” he stated.  “Yeah, but that doesn’t help Ruth or Aimee or Benjamin or any of the others,” I’d said as the tear began flowing down my cheeks once again.

My heart was breaking for the hearts of the 20 kids I’d not found sponsors for.  Logically, I know that the problems in Africa had been festering for a very long time.  I also realized that this problem wasn’t just waiting around for me to come and solve through Child Sponsorship, but I really did think that I could make a difference for these kids at least.  Then, Pollyanna Salina found a table in the corner at which to sit, sulk and update her Facebook status to read: “Pollyanna needs a nap. And a hug. And a Xanax. Maybe not in that order.”  Seeing her opening, Selfish Salina joined the party and started talking about how stupid it was to have spent a day away from the family and a huge to-do list only to end up mentally, physically and emotionally too worn out to enjoy what was left of the Saturday.  Cynical Salina saw us sitting there and decided to add her two cents, “I don’t know why you even bother.  It isn’t like you’ll be able to change any part of this world.  What good can you do?”  Pollyanna Salina, though feeling quite defeated, answered in a small voice, “Isn’t it better to do something than nothing?  What if our child was the one who was hungry, lost or hurting?”  Snarky Salina quickly chimed in, “The one thing you’ll accomplish through all this is feeling like you’ve done nothing other than spending time away from your actual responsibilities and crying in front of your kid.  Are you ready for the award for that?”

And so Pollyanna Salina, who had had enough of these other voices, headed out to do the weekly grocery shopping with her family, her 4 year old remarking from her pink booster in the backseat that, “Mommy is still sad about the kids who don’t have sponsors”.  Once at Target, feelings of guilt for having ready access to an abundance of high-quality, healthy food wasn’t helping.  At the checkout, Pollyanna Salina listlessly checked her UrbanSpoon app for a nearby restaurant that would cater to a host of food intolerances, still mentally more sitting at her pity party than at Target.

Then, a beautiful French accent broke through the heavy haze of her commiseration, asking, “Do you work for World Vision?”
Somewhat startled, I look up and said, “I volunteer with World Vision,” realizing I was still wearing my bright orange World Vision t shirt.
“I know they do great work back home in Africa, but I didn’t know they were here in North Carolina,” she said excitedly.
“I spent my day trying to find sponsors for kids in Africa today,” I’d replied.
“Since I came here from Kenya, I’ve wanted to get involved with giving back through World Vision because of what they do for my people in Africa,” she said more as a question than a statement.

And right there, I saw the reason to keep letting my heart be broken, to keeping giving the time that I could use to finish my grocery shopping, to give the money that could be spent on a lunch date with a friend, to give my heart to real people with real problems in real places.  I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other because God tells me to, and I’ll pray that God will repair my faith in humanity and help me not to judge others by their reaction to something I’ve become passionate about over many years.

“If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister  in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.” 1 John 3:17-19

If you, like my family and I, have enough to live well and would like to show compassion for a child in need, click here to learn how you can save a child in dire need of your aid.

An American Preschooler’s Understanding of the Congo

One of the things I really want to impress upon my girls, who are now 2 1/2 and 4 3/4, is that we have been born into great privilege as compared to others around the world – we didn’t earn, purchase, or even request our middle class spots in a country with relatively low turmoil.  One tangible way we talk about our blessings is in comparison to the lives of other children around the world.  Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not about to go into the specifics of war, trafficking or slavery with my innocent girls, but I do think they should be aware of hunger, poverty and varying levels of freedom.

Wednesday, I received a package with picture folders of 30 four and seven year olds who are growing up in the Congo – living much different lives than those my girls are living.  By now, the girls have come to understand that there are about four things I can tell them from each picture folder: the child’s gender, birthday, number of siblings and favorite game.  I’d been pulling out the folders one at a time, reading the highlights to the girls who were picking at the bowls of homemade turkey soup in front of each of them, then I’d place each folder in order by birthday.

“This little boy is named ‘Dieumerci’ – that means ‘Thank God’ in French!  He will be 7 on his birthday on January 1st,” I’d said as I held up a picture of a sad looking boy, “He lives with his mom and has no brothers or sisters and he likes to play soccer.”
IMG_4680I’ll confess that I wasn’t actually paying a lot of attention to my words.  My mind had already skipped ahead to to where to file the folder, neatly placed amongst the January birthdays.  I was already thinking about how to arrange the picture folders on the display table, asking you to care about Dieumerci, without really connecting with his pitiful little frown.  But, I’d said a prayer to not let me off the hook that easily.  I’d actually prayed the prayer of World Vision’s founder, Robert Pierce:

“Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”

And so in the rapid-fire conversation that transpired with my almost five year old, He brought me back to the reality of why I’d even asked for the privilege of receiving these folders.

C: Wait.  He lives with just his mommy?  What about his dad?
Me: Uh.  Well.  It doesn’t say where his daddy is, just that he only lives with his mommy.
C: So his mommy sleeps all by herself in a great big bed every night?
Me: Well, I’m not sure that people in the Congo actually have great big beds like Mommy and Daddy do.
C: So she sleeps in a small bed?
Me: Well, yes, if she has a bed it is probably small.  But she may not have a bed either.
C: So she has to sleep on the carpet.
Me: Well, people in the Congo probably don’t have carpet.
C: But then she’d have to sleep on the floor.  That would be so dirty!
Me: Yes.  It is probably very dirty in the Congo.
C: So then she has to take a shower when she wakes up every day.
Me: Actually, they probably don’t have showers in the Congo.
C: Oh.  A bath then.
Me: Well, they don’t have bathtubs either I would imagine.
C: So they can’t get clean until they go swimming in the pool?!?
Me: I’m fairly certain there aren’t pools in the Congo.  They probably take their baths in the river.  They would get into the river and splash the water onto themselves to get clean.
C: But the water in the river is dirty.
Me: Yes, but it would be better than nothing.
C: Why can’t they just use the clean water that they drink from their sink?
Me: Because there isn’t clean water for most people in the Congo and they don’t have sinks.  They have to drink the water from the river too.
C: But, Mom, then they would get sick!
Me: And that’s why we are trying to help find sponsors, Kiddo, so that World Vision can help build wells for these people so that they can drink clean water and give them medicine to help them not be sick from the dirty water.

Over the past 36 or so hours, I’ve told this story to a couple parents whose eyes held the same horror I’m sure yours hold as you read these words – are you crazy, Salina?!  Telling a four year old about extreme poverty and social injustice?!  Friends, please don’t miss the message here: I want my daughters to know that we can do something about extreme poverty and social injustice.  I don’t want to raise girls who bury their heads in the sand or turn a blind eye to the suffering of other children; I want my girls to always feel compelled to be a part of the solution.  If you’ve been looking for ways to help raise kids who give and not just share, let me tell you that sponsoring children through World Vision is making a huge impact on how my girls view their responsibility in this world.

We have shrunk Jesus to the size where he can save our soul
but now don’t believe he can change the world”
-ANONYMOUS

 Please don’t turn a blind eye to Dieumerci and the millions of other children who are in dire need of aid.  Of course you can’t change the world today, but you can change the world for at least one child and isn’t that better than nothing at all?  There are so many ways we can help without even sacrificing, but if it is a sacrifice, isn’t the life a child worth something?  A dinner out?  A bottle of wine?  The membership to the gym you haven’t been to in months?  Isn’t the life of a child worth something to you today?  Today, I implore you to consider sharing your table with a child for only $35 per month.  To view children who are truly suffering and are in desperate need your help, please click here or contact me directly.  If you’re not ready to commit to a monthly donation, please consider giving any amount to help buy farm animals for a community that is struggling to survive: click here.  You can honestly choose to be someone a child thanks God for – for saving their life, for allowing them to get an education, for giving them an opportunity to have a future.

A Horse is a Horse Unless of Course That Horse is an Angel in Horsehair

IMG_4645This beauty is named Abby.  She, along with about a dozen other hoofed ‘Angles in Horsehair’, are responsible for healing and providing hope for hundreds to North Carolinian kids each year.  Kids who have literally been discarded, kids who have endured the deepest, more horrific kind of abuse, kids who have suffered unimaginable loss, kids whose parents have divorced, kids who just need love and encouragement.

I would have loved to have had a place like this to run to and heal when, at 14 year old, cancer stole one of my closest childhood friends.  To deal with the pain, the anger, the guilt.  When you’re a child and something ugly comes into your life, it is really hard to cope.  Heck, some days I have a hard time coping with bad traffic!  In North Raleigh, there is a place where families can heal, where children can learn to trust, where horses can literally save someone from the deepest pit of utter despair.  And they need help to continue to minister to children and their families at no charge, to help put right what has gone so terribly wrong, to help create a world changer from one who is weighed down by the world.  Check out Hope Reigns of Raleigh to learn how you can help today.