Sunday, September 25, 2011

Choosing Joy

Last night the world lost a bright light. God welcomed home one of His warriors. I want to share the story of Sara Frankl aka Gitz or Gitzen Girl. Sara had not been able to leave her condo in Iowa for the last 3 years. She had an immune disease Ankolosing Spondylitis. Her immune system became so weak that even the air that came in on visitors could make her ill. When her father died unexpectedly a year ago she could not leave her condo to attend his funeral, but was there via webcam. Sara tells her story in her own words so much better than I can, but take some time and some tissues and click on over and read about this amazing woman. She named her blog Choose Joy, which is what she has taught literally thousands of us to do, no matter what our circumstances. You will come away a better person. 
I love what blogger Dan McMonagle said about Sara in his post Stunned By Beauty:
I am completely blown away….
I was caught off guard today, derailed when I least expected it. A blogger is dying, and her online community of friends is loving on her in  such a way that I couldn’t ignore it. And when I took a little time to double-take, to pause and consider… well, like I said above, I’m blown away.
Occasionally, we see a person who has touched a great many lives of those around them, but I’ve never witnessed such an outpouring of love surrounding someone who was basically a shut-in, forced to live within restricted physical confines for well over a decade.
Sara may have been limited to a confined space physically, but that did not keep her from impacting the world around her through her online connections to the outside world.  Her soul ran the race marked before her with relentless abandon, loving all that she could whenever she could.

And Here in Sara's own words, is her wish for her birthday this past May:

Today is my birthday, and people have been asking what they can get me or do for me. Watching the video below made me realize my answer.
Someone sent it to me the other day and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It’s actually a piece about marketing, but for me it speaks volumes about what I’ve been trying to say to others with my life.
Will you take a moment to watch it before you read on?

I sit in this condo after these years of being homebound and I realize I have forgotten what fresh air smells like. I turn my ceiling fans on high so that my curtains rustle as if there is a breeze flowing through the windows. I watch them and try to imagine that the wind has picked up outside and the fresh air is blowing in.
But it isn’t. I can trick my brain and pretend, but I can’t capture that smell I’d taken for granted the majority of my life.
I don’t have a window that gets direct sunlight streaming in. I sit by a lamp and close my eyes and try to imagine the heat on my skin and the orange behind my eyelids as if the sun is beating down on me, but it’s not. The freckles that used to adorn my face are long since gone with the rays of sunlight that escape me.
I hear the lawn mower roar to life outside my walls as spring begins to bloom and I search back into my archive of memories to try to capture once again the smell of the fresh cut grass… even the pungent smell of blades ripping over unruly crab grass would be welcome to me now. I try so hard to find the smell that escapes me after too many years of having it gone missing.
I’m starting to lose the moments that mattered. The ones everyone rushes about their day not even realizing they exist.
Those are the things I want you to take away from looking at my life. I want you to not miss your own.
I’m not saying any of that so you’ll feel sorry for me. I don’t need that for my birthday. And I don’t need things for my birthday.
What I want is for my NOT getting to experience something to affect you in a way that you see what you might be missing.
For my birthday, I want you to do something for you.
I want you to STOP. I want you to FEEL and SMELL and ACKNOWLEDGEthe gifts that God puts out for you every single day when He makes the sun rise from it’s slumber and beat down on your skin. I want you to look up in the dark of night and see and feel the magnitude of the heavens and the stars and the full moon that I can’t see out my windows.
I want you to be fully awake to the blessings in your life and not miss a moment. Take them in and savor them in your senses as if you might lose them tomorrow.
Savor your life and blessings. And thank our God for the gift of it all.
That’s the best gift I could receive this year. To know that my life taught you something about your own.
Will you come back here and tell me something you savored today that you might have otherwise missed?
I would love to share in those moments with you.

I have a feeling this is only the beginning of Sara's story. Her legacy of joy is spreading like wildfire. We will all take up your mantle Sara, we will choose joy, savor life, and scatter His love in abundance! Well done good and faithful servant!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tuesday's Child 9/10/2011

Every week I try to highlight 7 children on the Compassion International website that are waiting for sponsors.   I can not tell you how profoundly your $38/month and your investment of writing letters, and praying for your child can affect a child's life. Help breathe the truth of love into a life and help defeat the lie of poverty!

Can you be the one to give hope to these kids in need of sponsors? 

Jonas lives with his father and his mother. His father is sometimes employed as a farmer and his mother is sometimes employed as a farmer. Jonas works at home carrying water, running errands and cleaning. There are 4 children in the family.
As part of Compassion's ministry, Jonas participates in church activities and Bible class. He is also in primary school where his performance is average. Soccer and playing group games are his favorite activities.

If you go to the Jonas' page on Compassion, there is an adorable video clip of him!

Edem lives with his uncle. He is responsible for washing clothes. His uncle is sometimes employed. There are 10 children in the family.
Edem is not presently attending school. Soccer and playing group games are his favorite activities. He also attends church activities and Bible class regularly.

This guy really could use someone to breathe hope and love into his young life!

Yma lives with her father and her mother. Her duties at home include helping in the kitchen and cleaning. There are 2 children in the family. Her father is sometimes employed as a laborer and her mother is sometimes employed as a seller in the market.
Playing with dolls and listening to music are Yma's favorite activities. In pre-school her performance is above average and she also regularly attends church activities
This little one is just plain adorable!
Peterson lives with his father and his mother. His duties at home include carrying water and caring for animals. There are 5 children in the family. His father is sometimes employed as a farmer and his mother maintains the home.
As part of Compassion's ministry, Peterson participates in church activities. He is also in pre-school where his performance is average. Soccer, hide-and-seek and playing group games are his favorite activities.

Lwanga lives with his father and his mother. He is responsible for carrying water, buying or selling in the market and washing clothes. His father is sometimes employed and his mother is sometimes employed as a seller in the market. There are 3 children in the family.
As part of Compassion's ministry, Lwanga participates in church activities and youth group. He is also in high school where his performance is average. Soccer, art and walking are his favorite activities.
Lwanga has polio and is crippled in both legs. Please pray for him and be assured that your sponsorship helps him to live a fulfilled life.
Can you imagine how difficult it must be for this young man to carry water for his family? Really praying someone sponsors him before I do!
Martha lives with her aunt. Her duties at home include carrying water and gathering firewood. There are 6 children in the family. Her aunt is sometimes employed as a seller in the market.
For fun, Martha enjoys jumping rope, hide-and-seek and playing group games. She attends church activities regularly and is in primary school where her performance is average.

Something about Martha just speaks to me of an indomitable spirit. Another child without her parents, living with relatives that could use someone to make her feel loved and special! 

Mugabo Ejide lives with his mother. His duties at home include carrying water. There are 8 children in the family. His mother is sometimes employed as a farmer.
As part of Compassion's ministry, Mugabo Ejide participates in church activities. He is also in primary school where his performance is average. Soccer is his favorite activity.

Being a single mom, my heart reaches out to this mother trying to keep her family together in the midst of poverty and hunger.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hiding Places

Wow, it's Labor Day and all I have done is labor! I have gotten so much done in my yard. It finally looks like someone lives here again! I have found over the years that when I am faced with a daunting task (like taming my unmanageable flower beds,) it helps me to break things down into bite-sized tasks. This weekend I have also been devouring Grace For the Good Girl by Emily Freeman of the blog chatting at the sky. What I have been doing is reading a chapter and then going and accomplishing a specific task, for example, pull the weeds by the back deck steps.

This book has been touching such an aching place in my soul that I just have to keep reading, which has meant that I have to keep weeding! That is because this is a rule and an expectation that I have set for myself..... Once you read the book you will understand how laughingly ironic that is.

Emily talks about the masks we Good Girls wear, the masks of nice, bubbly, likable, attractive, strong. We hide behind smiles and laid back personalities. If you ask us how we are doing we say fine or good. We work hard to meet what we perceive is your expectation of us. "I moved through life hiding behind the good and lived out the mess in secret. I taught people around me that I had no needs and then was secretly angry with them for believing me."

I was thinking about all of this as I was working in my yard. On the cover of the book there is a bird cage, with the door open, and the bird sitting free outside.

 As I pondered my yard, I realized my yard was a reflection of my life. Over the years I have grown a living fence around my yard. Indeed it is a beautiful fence, one made of lilacs, forsythia, trees, and flower beds. It is a wall of privacy, making it difficult for others to see more than a glimpse. This summer though I was relieved that it kept others from seeing the reality of the mess it had become.

Isn't this how we Good Girls go about life? Hiding behind our smiles, fearful that if anyone finds out the truth we might be rejected or thought of as needy. "Good girls aren't needy, they are needed. And so instead of living free I live safe." It is also easier, and here are the lines that really convicted me today as I worked and read: "And just like people who struggle with emotional eating or excessive exercise or any other type of addiction, I recognize my addiction to wanting to be left alone, I am addicted to the island of myself. The longer I hide behind fine, the easier it is to convince myself I am fine."

And so today, I began judiciously trimming back some of my wall, letting others see more of the real me, mess and all. Hopefully like the bird on the cover I will find my freedom too. Stay tuned, I will write more next week as I follow my rules and clean out a closet in-between chapters!