Notes From Nica: The Widow’s Sunglasses

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When I traveled to Nicaragua in October, everyone said, “Take several pairs of sunglasses, and cheap ones, in case you lose them or give them away.”

So I went to Kohls. I bought a pair of $3 clearance aviators, and I promptly put them on and never took them off because I loved them. I did wear them in Nicaragua. Every. Day. I never even took the other pair I brought out of my suitcase. When I got home, I wore them all winter, so of course I packed them again in March.

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On our first visit to the orphanage, I was looking for the little girl who had been my heart since October. She was funny, and sassy, and a little stand-offish, but she had been my fast companion. I’d spent the months leading up to our trip telling myself that I couldn’t build up expectations, but when I made eye contact with her, and I could see that she recognized me, I grinned. She was her funny, stand-offish self, but she immediately noticed the bracelet I was wearing, because I’d given her a matching one our last day together. Her friend recognized me as the one who’d sent her a note and some small gifts at Christmas. Although our visit was brief before the girls had to go to school, I wasn’t disappointed, because I was excited that she remembered me. And I’d seen her. Hugged her. After thinking and praying for her for the previous five months.

Fast forward to our last day at the orphanage. Though we’d visited a couple times through the week, I still didn’t have a lot of time with my friend. It just…never happened. So when we started saying goodbyes, I almost didn’t go searching for her. I told myself that I must have built it up too much in my head. However, I knew I’d regret it if 1) I didn’t say goodbye to her anyway, and 2) I didn’t take a picture with her.

So I walked through the halls and called for her. I finally found her and gave her a hug, telling her we were getting ready to go and telling her how happy I was to have seen her again on my visit. I promised to pray for her, and asked if there was anything I could be praying for when I was back home. As she talked, she reached for my sunglasses and was playing with them.

I had been wishing I’d brought something with me to give her, a token for her to keep, so that when she saw it, she’d remember that I was praying, so I told her to keep the sunglasses. She flashed a big smile.

I was proud of myself this trip–I made it all the way to the bus before tearing up after saying goodbye. Sitting in my seat waiting for the rest of the trip, I dug around in my backpack, and pulled out my sunglasses case, for I’d brought a spare pair.

I hesitated and started thinking.

Would I have given away my sunglasses if they’d been my only pair? For that particular girl, I think yes. But what if it had been someone else? Would I have given if I hadn’t known that I had a spare pair on the bus, and a couple more at home? What if I knew I could never have another pair of sunglasses again…would I be willing to gDSC_0029ive them up then?

Would I give out of want, not just out of my excess?

In the two weeks following my trip, I read the story of the widow’s mite in my daily Scripture readings and heard it mentioned in two separate sermons by two separate pastors. In the passage, Jesus and His disciples observed wealthy men giving opulent gifts in the temple, followed by a destitute widow giving of her coins that were worth mere pennies. Jesus told the disciples that the widow gave more than the rich rulers, for they gave out of wealth, but she gave everything she had to live on (Mark 12:41-44).  Each time, I thought about those silly sunglasses, and how I gave mine away, but I gave one of many, not all I had.

Not that giving them away was wrong, or that I gave out of the wrong motives, but I am challenged to look for ways to be obedient to the point of sacrifice, not simply when it’s easy.

Sunglasses are a silly example. Yes, I’d survive without sunglasses if I gave away the only pair I would ever have in my life. But I believe I am called to be faithful in the small things, to prove my faithfulness in the larger things (Luke 16:10).

photos taken by this friend in October

all photos taken by this friend in October

I pray that my heart will continue to grow closer and closer to the Lord that in each moment, I am more and more aware that from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things. I want to grow into the place that, from sunglasses to my life, I am willing to open my grasp and say, “Here, Lord, take it, for it is not mine to hold.”

A daily surrender.

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Notes from Nica: The Best Hug Ever

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On our last night in Nicaragua this past March, we attended an evening church service. The room was hot as we sat in plastic chairs, our group near the front. We sang—or they sang and we listened to their Spanish worship songs—we clapped. They danced and smiled and worshiped.

For me, the evening was special as we worshiped with the friends we’d met After the service, we were sweaty and joyful but sad: at 5 a.m. the next morning, we’d be leaving our mission house to board a plane and head home. We hugged everyone at the church service goodbye, whether or not we’d really spoken with the person during the week. I said bittersweet goodbyes to the friends I’d met in October and reunited with in March. I hugged the kids who wanted to hug each of us.

One boy stood out. He grinned and reached out his arms for a hug, so I knelt and hugged him, expecting the quick squeeze-and-go that I’d gotten from the other little ones. But he held on, so I held on. The lingering hug touched me, exemplifying the warmth of the people I’d grown to love so much as I spent time in the country.

The little boy who gives the best hugs with one of my team members.

The little boy who gives the best hugs with one of my team members.

He finally stepped back and grinned before waving and darting off. As I stood, I looked at my friend and said, “That kids gives the best hugs.”

Then I saw a woman approaching to give me a hug, and when she wrapped her arms around me in the warmest hug I’ve ever experienced, I knew without asking that this woman must be the little boy’s mother (a fact that I confirmed later). I couldn’t mistake a hug that conveys so much affection and love, a hug that keeps you in that moment. I think I remember her murmuring something, and I don’t know if she was saying something to me, or if she was saying a prayer, but I know that I felt an overwhelming sense of the Lord’s presence in that moment. Her hug there in that sweltering church building remains a highlight of my trip.

As I have thought and prayed about that moment, I was struck with a thought. That little boy learned how to give fantastic hugs from his mother. He’s spent time with her. He’s learned from her. Because I met this boy, I recognized his mother.

Isn’t that why it’s so important that I spend time with my God? I want my love to be remarkable, noticeable. I want to love in a way that people remark about it and are then drawn to my God, whose love goes above and beyond anything they can see in me. I want them to recognize God in my actions, as I recognized a mother in her son. I think of the line from Les Miserables, “To love another person is the see the face of God.”

The closer I draw to the Lord, the easier His love will flow through me.

The closer you draw to the Lord, the easier His love will flow through you.

Love like Jesus.

If I can spend, I can give.

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This past weekend, Americans spent. We spent a lot. Did you get any good deals?

I’m all about a bargain, but I didn’t end up out shopping, but I have begun my Christmas shopping. Want to hear a confession? I may have succumbed to “one for you, one for me” a time or two…

Today has been decreed Giving Tuesday, a chance for that “one for you, one for me” to turn into a whole lot more as we look at how our money can be used as a tool for blessing people across the globe. I’m partnering with Compassion International, who has an exciting goal for today:

“On December 2nd, we want to help fund and launch a brand new Child Survival Program in Gujarat, India – ALL IN ONE DAY, #GivingTuesday!

What is Giving Tuesday?

#givingtuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back.

It falls on the Tuesday after Black Friday and was created in response to the consumerism that happens after Thanksgiving.

Basanti ARI with daughter In Gujarat, India, motherhood and childhood look different from here in The States.

  • The average woman is just 18 when she becomes a mother here.
  • She has four children.
  • More than 70 percent of the mothers here give birth in their homes.
  • Their children are malnourished.
  • And they are surrounded by illiteracy, alcoholism, child labor, child marriage and abuse.

Beyond that, one in three infant deaths worldwide occur in India, and every year, over 2 million children under the age of five die in India.

Baby boy Melbin Thomas plays with a blue toy in a close-up portr

But Compassion’s Child Survival Program will offer Hope. The center will:

  • prepare moms with training to help care for their babies
  • help mothers learn to read and write
  • give children a safe place to learn and grow
  • ensure lifesaving medical care for babies and moms
  • proclaim the hope of God to families living in poverty

IN C44 CSP Activity Report - October 2014In light of how easy it is to prevent the deaths of these precious children, somehow giving of my resources and my time to spread the word isn’t even a question. Today, I gave toward this program. I couldn’t give what sounds like a lot, but I offered something to help Compassion reach its goal of $25,000 today to reach the mothers of Gujarat, India, with medical assistance to protect their children, but also reach them with the love of Jesus, offering eternal salvation for an entire community.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m given the ability to spend my Sundays like this…

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Caramel Brulée Latte…Mmmm….

…I can afford to give something so that a mother has the ability to raise her child protected from preventable diseases and malnutrition.

Take a moment to join us as we raise up a Compassion Center today.

GivingTuesday_shareimg_2As a quick side note, I’m also advocating for a three-year-old girl in India! Dibyashree is not from Gujarat, but she is precious and she is still vulnerable. I’m in love with her sweet face. If you’re interested in sponsoring her, please be in touch before December 12!

-3What can you give today?

xo, Breanne

Check out some other Compassion Bloggers writing about #GivingTuesday:

Me and Mr. Jones: For God Loves a Cheerful Giver

A Story by Me: Will You Take the First Step?

Holly Barrett: #GivingTuesday

Gift with Purpose: Amazima

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Coming home from Nicaragua to walk into the Christmas shopping season has been…a bit jarring. Since my involvement with Compassion, my perspective on need versus want has been changing anyway, so this Christmas, I’m pretty focused on 1) being thrifty and 2) finding gifts that are more than just stuff.

Enter some of my favorite places to shop, which I’m going to share with you. These places support ministry, support offering Hope and Truth. I’ll share a shop or two a week between now and Christmas.

Read to the end for promos!

First up, Amazima.

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(all photos from Amazima’s website!)

Amazima began when God called Katie Davis, American teenager, to move to and teach in Uganda. She eventually began an Educational Sponsorship Outreach when she noticed the children unable to afford basic education. Her story is amazing, so check out the rest here, or look into her book, Kisses from Katie, but let’s talk about the jewelry!

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Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 8.13.47 AM Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 8.12.57 AMThe necklaces in Amazima’s store are handmade paper beads, created by women in Masese, Uganda. They are beautiful, and the quality is spot on. I own the red, LOVE, necklace, and the grey, GRACE, necklace. I have been so impressed with their quality, and they’re so versatile! I wear them dressed up, with t-shirt and jeans. I’ve also given them as gifts, and they come in a sweet burlap bag with a card about Amazima’s ministry for easy gift-giving.

I love their commitment to their customer, posted on their website:

“Our commitment to you:

  • When you buy from Amazima, you help employ Ugandan woman, feed hungry children, and receive a beautiful piece of jewelry to show your solidarity with Uganda wherever you go. 
  • Each piece of jewelry is made by a hard-working woman in Amazima’s vocational program.  We know these women and their stories, and we love them deeply.
  • The women in our vocational program are paid a fair wage and given financial training by Amazima’s social workers.
  • All pieces are handcrafted from start to finish.  Watch this video to see how the magazine bead jewelry is made.
  • All proceeds from Amazima’s jewelry sales are applied toward the feeding of 1,200 children Monday through Friday in the slum community of Masese. The women in Amazima’s vocational program are proud that their dedication and work ethic helps feed hungry children in their neighborhood.
  • All women in Amazima’s jewelry vocational program receive spiritual discipleship. Katie personally meets with the women each week for a time of prayer and a Bible study.
  • Please remember that these pieces are handcrafted and may vary from the photographs on this website. We accept exchanges and returns from any customer who is not fully satisfied.”

Sign up for Amazima’s emails to receive promotional offers–they’re offering “Cyber Monday” deals each Monday in November. I got GRACE for 45% off, and it shipped in three days!

This Christmas, I challenge you to think about where your money is going and how you can bless more than the gift receiver, you can bless the gift creator! Your gift can give more.

xo, Breanne

Do you have a favorite shop that supports “giving more”? Please share!

Notes from Nica: Play Needs No Translation

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Confessions of a kid at heart: bubbles might be the best toy ever invented anywhere in the world. They were a hit everywhere we went in Nicaragua, and I have to admit that I love them too. There’s something magical about their iridescence, their delicate nature, and the way they float just out of reach. IMG_6294Nicaragua accounts are coming to you in snapshots. Snippets of stories and lessons periodically as I continue processing my way through pages and pages of my journal and the four thousand pictures I have from my team. (And on that note, photo cred to my teammates for many of these pictures. We had some awesome photographers traveling together). First up: the kids. IMG_4067Be still my heart. These kids.

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IMG_5827As I prepped for the trip, I was most excited about the kids, and most worried about the language barrier. In college, I was required to take two years of a foreign language. I’m not kidding when I say that nothing made me consider switching majors more than those four semesters of Spanish classes. But I persevered with the help of some patient tutors, then I swore off Spanish forever. (Don’t ever tell God you’re never doing/thinking about something again.) When I signed up for the Nicaragua trip, the application asked what foreign languages I knew, and I wrote down “none.” Two years of Spanish five years before left me with very little to go on. So I downloaded a language app and toyed with Spanish in the weeks preceding my trip, but I still knew I’d be relying upon translators for any real conversation. I prayed that, in an unfamiliar setting, God would show me how to love beyond words. He showed up. It turns out, play needs no translation, and play I can do. IMG_6267IMG_6269 I could have spent all day sitting on that tile floor with Carolina at the orphanage. I didn’t have to know Spanish to take the crayon offered me and lean in close to color with her. I didn’t have to know Spanish to hug her a little tighter when she wrapped her arms around me and pressed her cheek into my neck, her head on my shoulder. DSC_1123 2 DSC_0163 When a little girl wraps her arms around my waist for an entire day, I didn’t have to speak Spanish to hug her, smile at her, swing her around in circles, and give her rides on my back. IMG_0560_2Love and play need no translation. But knowing that burbujas means “bubbles” helped. Knowing arriba and abajo were up and down, and knowing my Spanish colors helped when we played with the parachute. Knowing a few animal names helped when we colored. And knowing family words let me know that these two beautiful girls are hermanas, sisters. IMG_0441My first Sunday back home, I taught the story of David and Goliath to my kindergarten/first grade class at church. We talked about how David knew how to use the sling because he’d taken care of his family’s sheep and used the sling to protect the flock. We discussed how taking care of the sheep was probably a chore that David wasn’t always excited about, but God used that experience in his life for something greater. Then I stopped, struck by my Spanish class experience, how God opened my mind and allowed me to recall words I’d long forgotten to communicate with the people of Nicaragua. I wasn’t fluent, by any terms, but He used me anyway. All the frustration of those classes were worth it if my effort to speak Spanish to someone on that trip told them I loved them and communicated the love of Jesus to them, too. The other thing that needs no translation? Silly faces.

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xo, Breanne

ps: I’d love if you left a comment with a time that God used a difficult experience in your life later. And/or what’s your “child at heart” confession? pps: There aren’t any Nicaraguan kids on the Compassion site right now (and I think that’s God protecting me from myself), but man! this trip made me miss my sponsor kids, made me want to be hugging and playing with them. If you are interested in child sponsorship, check out Compassion’s page or email me at truthnsprinkles@gmail.com!

Meet sweet Jhon

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In the month of October, I’m participating in Compassion International‘s Release3 campaign. Compassion mailed me three child packets in hopes that we can find them sponsors this month. Right now, while I’m in Nicaragua, I wanted you to meet Jhon.

Jhon Alexis Mesa Ortega

Doesn’t he look like a fun kid?

This is Jhon Alexis Mesa Ortega.

He lives in Colombia with his single mother and two siblings. He attends a Compassion project called Semillas de Amor, “Seeds of Love.” In his community, adults earn, on average, about $163 a month.

Jhon’s birthday is on July 26–he just turned 13 years old this summer.

And Jhon has a story, just like each child enrolled in Compassion’s program has a story. Just like each of you, my dear readers, has a story. Part of Jhon’s story now is waiting. He is waiting for someone to see his picture and say, “You. I choose you.”

For $38 a month, you can support Jhon, offering him hope and a path out of the cycle of poverty. Your financial support will offer him opportunities educationally, offer him health and wellness care, offer him a chance to grow physically, mentally, and, most importantly, spiritually. In his project, he will hear the Gospel preached, and he can then take the Good News of our precious Jesus home to his mother, to his family members, and to his community.

But it starts with you. Will you be a part of Jhon’s story?

If you’re interested in sponsoring Jhon, I have his packet through the end of October. Email me at truthnsprinkles@gmail.com, and I can send you additional information about Jhon’s community and Compassion’s work. If you decide you want to sponsor Jhon, I’ll email you his packet, which includes a template and envelope for your first letter, and pictures and information about Jhon and his community.

I have two more precious little ones I’ll introduce you all to in the next couple weeks! And guys, Omega’s eyes will capture your heart, and Munyao you will want to squeeze in a big bear hug. But while you’re waiting, take a peek at other kids waiting for sponsors on the Compassion website.

xo, Breanne

*Please note that this is a scheduled post! I am currently away from my computer for a few more days, but I will email you back as soon as possible–there’s a chance I will have internet access in Nicaragua, but I won’t know until I get there, and I’m scheduling this post before I leave! Please go ahead and send an email if you’re interested in Jhon’s sponsorship! I will honor requests as first come, first serve!

Lists and Jesus will take me to Nicaragua

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My mother always tells me to make lists, but I rarely do. True, the act of crossing off a task is therapeutic somehow, but I get fidgety when I have to sit down and take the time to itemize everything that needs done.

Unless I’m planning and preparing for a trip. Then I list everything.

In preparation for Nicaragua, I’ve been making lists on my iPod, my phone, scrap paper at work, on the backs of bulletins. They’re color-coded, scribbled, scratched off, and suddenly now, approximately 36 hours before I am to be at the airport…they’re almost all complete! I do have a few final tasks to check off before I jet off on this adventure (so if you’re waiting on an email from me, I promise you aren’t forgotten–you’re on a list!), but for the most part, my things are gathered, bug-sprayed, and sitting, well, near my suitcase, if not packed.

This is the verse on the front of my travel journal. I’m excited to see where He takes my heart this coming week.

But I wanted to leave you all with one final list, if I may. I know that people have been telling me that you’re praying for me and for my team, and I thank you for that from the very bottom of my heart! I know that prayers and God’s hand are the power behind anything that happens on our trip. So in that theme, I leave you with a few prayer requests:

  • Pray for open hearts
    • Please pray for my heart to be open to the voice of God in my life as I joyfully step into this adventure I feel so guided towards. I like control, I like met expectations, but I don’t want my expectations to blind me to something unexpected God has in store for me–aren’t those the most fun surprises anyway?
  • Pray for graciousness
    • Let the words and actions of me and my team be gracious, loving, and Christlike, both within our team and in each interaction we have along the way. At the airports. In Managua. In the home we’re guests in. With the beautiful Nicaraguan people.
  • Pray for health
    • Honestly, the most anxiety I’ve had about this trip has been about health/pain. I’m prone to migraines and stress-related headaches/pain, so please pray that peace invade my soul and that God will keep that pain from my neck and head. Pray for the health of each team member who is traveling with me, that our bodies will adjust to travel, unfamiliar conditions, and varied diet this week.
  • Pray for joy!
    • “…The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10. Pray that we will seek the Lord’s enduring joy as our strength this week, and that His joy will be unmistakable, that we will be mirrors reflecting the joy of the Lord.

And can’t we always cling to that verse? Cling to the Lord’s joy yourself this week! Tell me how you did in the comments–I want to hear some awesome stories when I return!

I’m hoping to schedule a couple fun posts for while I’m gone. Keep an eye out!

xo, Breanne