Off of the Paper and into my Heart

Two years ago, on Thanksgiving 2016, I had the opportunity to meet one of my sponsored children. It was a life changing experience. These are my thoughts from shortly after meeting her: 

I have been sponsoring children for quite a few years now and I really like what Compassion International is doing. But for the most part the children that I sponsored were a picture that I looked at and a letter that I received a few times a year and prayed for sometimes, and then went back to my everyday life. I’m guessing that’s the way it is for a lot of people who sponsor a child. 

Recently I have gotten more passionate and involved with Compassion so I jumped at the chance to have the opportunity to meet my child, Ruzeya, from Ethiopia, to see what the Compassion Projects actually looks like, and to see what difference my sponsorship is making. With the current situation in Ethiopia I was not sure if I would have the opportunity to meet her. But by the grace of God, I found myself traveling to meet her on Thursday.

It’s honestly hard to put into words what I experienced, but I will do my best. We first arrived to the Compassion Project where Ruzeya attends. Obviously not all projects are the same, but this project is blessed to have a lot of land with offices, the church, the project classrooms, and a school located on the grounds. There was also playground equipment and this project has a school for KG1 and 2 (prek and kindergarten), this is for children who are both Compassion Children and other children who live in the community to get a head start on their education and have better opportunities. 

I had a tour of the office, the church, and learned more about what the children do at the project and how all Compassion children attend Sunday school on Sundays, as well. After the tour, they took me back to the multi-purpose room where a group of students were gathered to sing to me a Welcome song. Ruzeya was at the front holding some pretty red flowers. At the end of the song she brought them to me and then hugged me. It was hard for me not to cry. 

Then the other children left and Ruzeya’s grandmother arrived to meet me. She hugged me for so long with tears in her eyes and I began to realize how much I mean to her whole family. The Compassion workers who weren’t with the children, the Pastor, and his family joined us for coffee and popcorn. Even though they have so little, I felt like I was treated like royalty. The told me a lot about the project and Ruzeya would sit shyly smiling at me. But she didn’t say a word.

Eventually I asked to go outside and they warned me that all of the children would rush over to me; which if you know me at all, you know that is something I would totally be fine with. Hand and hand Ruzeya and I walked outside, and sure enough the majority of the children rushed off the playground and surrounded us (probably 60-80 children). They hugged me, shook my hand, touched my hair, and some of them even fought over me. Not once did they push Ruzeya though, they knew that we belonged together. I was overwhelmed and wished I could take every single one of them into my arms. 

After a little while the Compassion workers, Abraham, myself, and Ruzeya and her grandmother headed off towards her home. The area where she lives is not currently being effected by the drought, especially thanks to rainy season and it actually rained the night before I arrived. We took the little taxis that are typical to the area but because of the rain the ground was muddy and we kept getting stuck. We walked part of the way and I learned that Ruzeya made the 25/30 minute walk to the project each day with just the other young children who attend school with her. 

Upon arriving to her home I met her mother, two little sisters, and her grandfather. She lives in a mud hut with her father, mother, and sisters, while her Grandmother and Grandfather live in the hut next door with her four aunts and Uncles who are still in school. They invited me into the little hut which had mud walls covered by newspaper, a grass floor, and two mattresses covered in thin blankets. They told me about how her father works a patch of land and her mother walks into town each day to clean. Ruzeya’s grandmother looks after Ruzeya’s little sisters and takes care of the family. 

As I talked to them and saw them interacting together I could feel my love for this family grow as if they were my own. blood family. Even though Ruzeya had hardly said a word, her mother told us that the previous day all day long she kept saying, “Do you know who is coming to visit me tomorrow?” I began to see just how important I was to this beautiful little girl and her family. I had the opportunity to bring her gifts and I brought her a backpack with some things including a blanket and a stuffed animal. The happiest moment of my life may be the smile that the little stuffed elephant brought to Ruzeya’s face. They even gave ME a gift of a traditional bone spoon with beads on the end!

Before I left they took me outside to show me the goat that they were able to buy through my sponsorship. There were many hugs and kisses and I struggled not to cry as I said goodbye to each one of them. Ruzeya and her little sister held my hands and walked me down to the entrance of their land. As I walked away the tears began to flow and even though I already had loved Ruzeya, she was no longer a picture on a piece of paper, but a piece of my heart. In fact, every single member of her family has now stolen a piece of my heart. 

 

I was really impressed by what I saw through my visit . I am only one person, but the 260 children who are being sponsored in that project each have one person behind them that God is using to change lives. A lot of the families in that community are Muslim (including Ruzeya’s), so for some of them, Compassion is the one opportunity they have to learn about God. The opportunity that I had to provide Ruzeya’s family with a goat can help to positively impact their financial future not just now, but also longterm. The tutoring, medical care, and other basic needs that Compassion provides on top discipleship aren’t just meeting short term needs, but impacting the future and the ETERNITIES of those children. 

I have now seen with my own eyes that Compassion is not an organization that merely gives a child a fish (feed them for a day), but it teaches them how to fish (feed them for a lifetime). What is happening cannot only transform the life of the child in the program, but also of the family, generations, of that family to come, entire communities, and the future of that community. By giving these families and children hope, Compassion is allowing the “least of these” to come into the Kingdom of God. And when that child (Ruzeya and others), is no longer just a picture on a piece of paper, but a part of my or your heart, thats when the possibilities become endless! 
Jesus said, “Let the little Children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” -Matthew 19:14

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Thy Will

As I am writing this, my heart is hurting. Sometimes I make mistakes and know that the consequence is a result of the mistake, but there are other times where I’m belwildered. I know I’m in the center of God’s will-It doesn’t make any sense. As I fall to my knees I’m at a loss for my own words and these lyrics come to mind…..
“I’m so confused
I know I hear you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t want to think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words.
Thy will be done.”
This is the beginning of the song Thy Will Be Done by Hillary Scott. This is a song that my heart often cries out when I can’t put it into my own words. The song goes on to repeat “Thy will be done” over and over and I find myself clinging to these four words.

No one ever said that life was going to be easy, and God especially never told me that following him would make my life easier. But sometimes as Christians we put off the message that accepting Jesus as your savior will make your life easier- Sometimes people even think that if something bad happens it must be because you are not in God’s will. But in reality “picking up our cross and following Jesus” might be the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. There are going to be times when you are in the center of God’s will when everything made sense and then suddenly it falls apart. The song goes on to say…
“I know you’re good
But this doesn’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not”


The song goes onto express exactly what my heart is thinking…and sometimes the part I forget. Yes, it doesn’t feel good. Yes, it makes absolutely no sense. But God has the bigger picture and He is God, I AM NOT. Ultimately He has allowed this to happen even if it doesn’t make sense to me. And Yes I am hurting, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care and it doesn’t mean that He isn’t hurting with me. So whether it is a relationship, a job opportunity, or something I have been been praying about I cling to Him and..
“like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
And I choose to trust in His promises even though I might not understand right now. Someday I will and now I choose to accept His will in my life.

Hillary Scott-Thy Will Be Done

The Heart of Giving

DAAE246B-5DDA-485B-AEE6-B6FCD7A186B5Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about giving and the heart behind why we give. Probably because right now I am in a season where I don’t have very much to give. At least I feel like I don’t. But I desire to give…I would give away every cent I owned, if that weren’t (usually) irresponsible. When I think of generosity and giving I mostly think of time and money (but obviously there are other ways to give). Over the last year with the wedding, moving, and related expenses I felt pretty dry in both areas. Phil and I are both in a place where we have more flexibility with our time, but things are still pretty tight on the financial end. 

When you look around at the world, you can see that there is so much need…I think of orphans in other countries and parents who work hard but can’t even afford to send their kids to school. There is a lack of medicine, food, and clean water in parts of the world. There are churches and missionaries on each continent short of funds and volunteers. There are also many needs and hurting people in the United States. The injustice and corporation in the world seems to be never ending. Personally, I often get overwhelmed by all the need and become upset that I cannot currently do more .

So how does someone who does not have many resources, still have a heart of giving? There are three words (focuses) that come to mind, when I think about giving and those are attitude, priorities, and trust. And with each of those words we need to ask ourselves a question. 

What is your attitude? I would like to say, that every time I consider helping someone and want to give I think of Jesus. But even as a Christian, it is easy to get caught up in a cause or the work that you are doing and forget why you are doing it. I have caught myself having a ‘save the world’ complex and I just want to fix it all. When I have this attitude about giving I am not only setting myself up for failure, but I am also not giving Jesus room to work through me. The foundation of why we give shouldn’t be about us or even about the end results, but about who. When our desire to give comes from what Jesus has done for us and He gave UP for us..then our attitude is shaped upon who He is and Not who we are. 

What are your priorities? We live in a society that is very individualistic and is always striving for MORE or BETTER. However, as Christians we are called to serve and to care for others. While it is not wrong to have nice things, we are also commanded to look out for the needs of others and care for not only the church body, but the widowed, poor, strangers, and orphans of the worlds. When your priority is to to live like Jesus in EVERY area of your life, you begin to see that more money frees up. When you once bought coffee a few times a week or have a closet full of clothing, you now first think of way God would desire you to use the money and then some of those funds begin to help others. But when our priority is ME or what I need, then it will become hard to find satisfaction and giving will always take the back burner. 

And finally, who or what do I put my trust in? In an individualistic society, even as a Christian it is easy to begin depending on ourselves. We try to better ourselves and to lives as better Christians (individually), and sometimes forget that we can’t do it on our own. Do I believe that God loves me? Do I believe that He knows the desires of my heart? If I truly trust Him with my life, then I need to be content with where I am. He knows my desire to serve Him and to give to others…and right now He is allowing me to be in this place in my life. In the same way when we look at our priorities and attitude and see that they are not quite aligned with Christ, we need to once again put our trust in Him and allow Him to change our hearts. 

God desires for us to be able to give. Not only does He desire it, He commands it. Some of us may be in a place where we can only give a little, while others of us may have the capacity to give a lot. It comes down  to our heart of giving…what our attitude is, where our priorities lie, and who we put our trust in. I would like to end with a passage that is often used in regard to giving, but often overlooked because it has almost become cliche. Nonetheless, it is very important and sums up where God desires our hearts to be. 

Mark 12:41-44“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd put their money into the temple treasury. Many people through in large amounts. But a poor widow came in and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put into the treasury more than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.” 

 
 
 

An (extra)ordinary Life

A4F20BA7-2A67-48D7-87C5-73A1E7A53BD5Over the past few years, I’ve struggled a lot with the comparison of an ‘ordinary’ lifestyle and living RADICALLY. I have often felt that if I wasn’t in ministry or abroad doing missions (living a radical lifestyle) that I wasn’t living up to my potential as a follower of Christ. Luckily, God has really been working on my heart in that area, or I might be missing out on this wonderful phase of my life and the sweet babies that I get to nanny for each day.

After leaving YWAM and going to university back here in the States, I began to form the idea in my head that my lifestyle had to look radical in order to live more passionately for Jesus. The more radical your lifestyle looked, the more ‘spiritual’ or closer to God you must be. While you might tell me this isn’t true or you’ve read books or heard people speak on ordinary life, most of you have thought about it one time or another. I’ve heard and seen Christians putting missionaries, pastors, and other people in ministry on pedestals…Our Christian cultures sometimes seems to view these people as ‘more spiritual’.

And the reality is that they aren’t…necessarily. They still struggle with sin, emotions, and conflict with others. But what I am learning is that a life that looks seemingly ordinary on the outside, does not mean that a person cannot live radically FOR Jesus. As I was beginning to grapple with this, Phil and I joined a small group that happened to be reading a book called “The Liturgy of the Ordinary” by Tish Harrison Warren. I hope to write about the book more later, but this book goes through the process of an everyday life and how ordinary moments and routines can become sacred moments and habits in our relationship with God.

Right now Phil and I live in an apartment in the suburbs of Philly and both work ‘normal’ day jobs. Two years ago if you would have told me this is where I would be, I would probably scoff and say “Nope…I’ll be on the mission’s field” (I also wouldn’t think I would be married). But God had other plans and since He has been working in my heart, He has made this place so much more enjoyable. Now going to work each day and caring for babies, making dinner, cleaning up the house, going to bed, spending time with friends, and going to church isn’t necessarily radical..

However, it doesn’t mean it can’t be. I happen to have one of those important jobs in the world (in my opinion). Caring for the lives of two beautiful little human beings that will someday grow up to be a part of this crazy world. I not only get to teach kindness, encourage play, and give lots of snuggles, but in the midst of the diaper changes, feedings, and clean up I have the opportunity to pray over those sweet little smiles…over their development, relationships with God, and their future jobs and lives. (Side Note: Thank you to the working Mama’s who have given us nannies the privilege of helping to raise your precious children).

Not only do I have the time to pray for them, but I can spend my days in prayer for their parents, for my own family, for my church, and for my friends. I also have the opportunity to do other cleaning around the house and get to be a blessing to their parents. And with the flexibility of nannying, during some of my free moments, I am able to work on writing and have extra time to spend with God. Outside of work, with both of our (Phil and I) job flexibility we have the opportunities to start getting involved with Young life, mentoring college students, and we are able to be involved with things like mission’s board and the worship team.

Phil and I are praying about going overseas in the future…but in the moment I know I am exactly where God wants me. And not only that, but I can live each moment purposefully. My life can be mundane if I allow it to be, however I’ve come to understand a new foundation behind “radical living”. Jesus is what makes my lifestyle radical. It isn’t about where your house is located or the people that you work with, so much as that it is about seeking after Jesus in every little moment. The more we grow to love Jesus the more passionate we become. And as we transform, that is when our lives begin to be truly radical.  
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Be Kind to Yourself

FB3A0124There are days when I see myself in the mirror and I don’t like what I see. I don’t like how my hair looks or I wish that my ears didn’t stick out as much, or that my stomach was flatter. I wish that my thoughts and words were kinder and that I was better at living for Jesus. I worry that people don’t like me and that my words are frustrating or annoying to them. I’ll be honest…there have been times in my life where I relive every little conversation, look, comment in my head over and over, overthinking how I could have done better or been kinder or wondered if I did something to irritated or bother the person. 
 
Sometimes I feel like everyone around me is confident in who they are and doesn’t struggle with self-esteem issues or putting themselves down. But I know that just isn’t true…we often go to pretty far lengths to hide our insecurities from the rest of the world. I don’t think that hiding those struggles is what is best for us though. Especially in this world of social media, it is so easy to compare ourselves to what others let us see….thinking that other people seem to have it so together, from their looks to relationships, to overall lifestyle. But that isn’t realistic.
 
And I know that. I know that what I see isn’t always the whole story. I know there are other people out there that struggle. I know that while I feel so alone, there are probably way more people than I realize that deal with the same thoughts and struggles as I do. But while I know this in my head…it doesn’t always help. Sometimes it doesn’t even help in the least. I still don’t feel good enough. I still feel like I will never measure up or be good enough. My hubby can tell me a million times that I’m beautiful and wonderful and sometimes it doesn’t seem true to me. 
 
And that’s because I am my own biggest enemy. My mother-in-law recently shared a song with me, “Be Kind to Yourself” by Andrew Peterson. And every time I have heard it since, I have been in tears by the end of the song. “You got all that emotion that’s heaving like an ocean and you’re drowning in a deep, dark well. I can hear it in your voice that if you only had a choice…you would rather be anyone else.”I think there are moments that all of us would rather be someone different. “How does it end when the war that you’re in is just you against you against you. Gotta learn to love, learn to love, learn to love your enemies too.” 
 
And sometimes it’s harder to love myself then anybody else..I feel so broken so inadequate. But…“You can’t expect to be perfect, it’s a fight you’ve gotta forfeit. You belong to me whatever you do. So lay down your weapon, darling. Take a deep breath and believe that I love you.”As a daughter of God, you would think I would know this. You think that I would always be good at accepting myself, since I know my Father loves me no matter what. Sometimes knowing it in my head doesn’t mean I allow it to reach my heart. 
 
The picture of me in the mirror, on my wedding day, is a picture that I actually really like of myself. When I see this picture I remind myself that God sees me as even more beautiful than that (both on the outside and the inside). And yes I am imperfect and broken, but God loves me exactly the way I am so much that He is willing to spend the rest of my human life fighting with me to help me become more like Him. So please, if you struggle with your looks, or personality, or anything about yourself…Be Kind to Yourself. You look down on yourself more than anybody else around you does. Remember, that even if you don’t see it everyone else has their struggles too. And most of all that God loves you and wants you to love yourself. 
 
“I love you just the way that you are. I love the way He made your precious heart.”
 
“Be kind to yourself.
Be kind to yourself.” 

Our First Camping Trip

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This weekend we went camping at French Creek State Park in Elverson, PA. It was our first camping trip together and it didn’t disappoint. I had been eagerly waiting camping since we recieved our tent as a wedding present. We borrowed some other camping gear from my parents and headed out to meet with four of our other friends.
 
Camping is a pretty inexpensive way to vacation…especially for people on an extremely tight budget (like Phil and I). Obviously it can get pricey if you do things like buying a camper and other gear…but if you don’t mind a tent and cooking over the fire there are many places you can camp for less than $30 a night. 
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I grew up camping multiple times a year, but we always had a camper and more recently used a cabin. I was super excited to use our tent and to go camping for the first time as our own little family (with some pretty awesome friends). And I couldn’t wait to make mountain pies for the first time in years!
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The weather was pretty perfect this weekend…not too hot perfect for sitting around by the campfire and walking around with out getting to hot. We spent most of our time hanging out by the campfire, playing card games, and making food. I forgot how messy mountain pies were, but they were delicious! We also had pancakes, s’mores, and hotdogs and hamburgers. It was the perfect weekend-long triple date, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Binding Love

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Sometimes it’s easy to look around the world and feel overwhelmed because there is so much darkness and pain and it feels like you cannot do anything about it. It’s easy to get bogged down by the hopelessness; However we should NOT ignore the pain in the world…and when we as as individuals come together, lives can change. Currently it is estimated that over 45 million people are enslaved (trafficked) around the world. In 2012, when Audra saw a documentary about trafficking, it broke her heart. Audra didn’t put it to the back of her mind to forget about it or wait for someone else to do something. 

She immediately began praying and asking the Lord what she could do. And He led her to start Binding Love Scarves. Audra and the Binding Love volunteer team create one of a kind, upcycled infinity scarves. 50% of every scarf sold are donated to two homes (Eden House and House of Refugee) in Thailand. Audra and her husband (I knew both of them, when I was a child, before they were married) have four boys, homeschool, are involved in YWAM, and still maintain a very active role with Binding Love. 

Proverbs 3:3 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.” -Proverbs 3:3 

The goal of Binding Love is to increase the awareness about the millions in slavery, to restore a heart of mission in volunteers, and to connect and care for the homes in Thailand. Both Eden House and House of Refugee are Christian run homes that are committed to creating a place of refuge and helping young girls. The money from scarves, other purchases, and monetary donations help to provideweeks school lunches, school shoes, or other meals for girls that have been brought out of trafficking and have dealt with abuse, neglect, and other painful situations. 

Binding Love scarves are sold at various locations in Pennsylvania, at events, and online. I am very excited to share with you that, just in time for the Fall Season, I am partnering with Binding Love to give away a free scarf (or two children’s scarves) of the winners choice! Head over to my instagram (laurenadenner) to see how to enter…if you don’t have an instagram you can follow my blog for an entry and will get one bonus entry for each person that you send to my page who follows my blog(let me know in comments)! Entries will close: Friday, September 21st and winner will be contacted. 

Also, please let this be an encouragement to you. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed when you see problems, whether it’s trafficking, refugees, hunger, homelessness, bullying, or another really big problem. You are not alone…I have been there. But don’t give up hope, you are not alone. There are other people that care too…sometimes you just have to go looking for it. You can make a difference, whether it is buying a scarf, or starting an organization, or speaking up or writing about a problem!