Friday, December 31, 2010

When it's meant to be

I believe in things that are meant to be. Sometimes, we can try so hard to have things our way or try to manipulate situations to be in our favor because we know best.

We lost our dog Sasha 5 1/2 years ago. Olivia has been begging for a dog ever since. Steve and I have thought of every excuse under the sun to not get a dog, everything from the dog would ruin our new carpet to we don't have time to take care of a dog.

The biggest reason has been that we didn't think our girls were old enough to take on the responsibility of caring for a dog.

This Christmas, the ONLY thing Olivia wanted for Christmas was a dog. She even mailed a letter to Santa, telling him that he was her last hope for a dog.

It's winter, we have had several inches of snow and we live in a cold climate. Steve and I said we would keep an open mind and think about possibly getting a dog in the spring or summer. Our excuse this time was that a new puppy would be too hard to train in the winter.

Still, Olivia was relentless in her asking.

Two weeks before Christmas, Steve and I went shopping for the kids' Christmas presents. We set out hoping to discover something really cool and fun that would satisfy Olivia and take her mind off a dog for a while.

But we were having no such luck. Anything that was really cool was also really expensive.

During this particular day of shopping, I left Steve in the electronics department and headed to another part of the store. I ran into a friend that I had not seen for several weeks. I told her about our predicament with Olivia only wanting a dog for Christmas and that it was not going to happen.

My friend told me that if we ever consider a dog at some point, we should look into a local poodle breeder, which is where they got their female pup. She explained how this particular breeder breeds poodles that are not yippy, smart and easy to train.

At that moment, my friend's cell phone rang, so we said a quick good bye and I was off to find Steve. Just as I found Steve (still in the electronics department), my friend came running with her cell phone in her hand and pushing her cart.

She said, "you would not believe this!" Then she proceeded to tell us that that was her husband on the phone and he wanted her to know that he just talked to the poodle breeder and she had one puppy for sale - just 4 weeks old. The breeder asked if they knew anyone that wanted a poodle. After breeding poodles for 20 years, this was going to be her last puppy.

After a series of phone calls and conversations, Steve and I miraculously ended up at the breeder's home that same afternoon to look at the puppy.

We agreed that we were just going to look - not fall in love - just look.

We both left there smitten. We told the breeder we would think about it and call her with our decision.

We waited five days, did our research and Steve and I both decided that this was the one. The one thing that sealed the deal for us more than anything is that poodles are the most hypoallergenic breed of dogs. Steve is highly allergic to cats and dogs, so this was very important for us.

On Christmas day, we wanted to surprise the kids. We arranged with the breeder to bring the kids over that morning. We got up, ate breakfast, opened a couple gifts and Steve said he wanted to go for a drive. The kids thought this was a great idea! It was a beautiful day, snow clinging to the evergreens and a light snow fall in the air.

We drove to the breeder's home on the other side of town and Steve turned in the driveway. The kids freaked out! They asked their dad what the heck he was doing just pulling into a stranger's driveway. Steve got out of the truck and said he was going to go ask for some cookies.

The girls got unbuckled and went to the floor because they were embarrassed that their father would walk to a stranger's house and ask for cookies on Christmas day.

Then Steve came back to the car and said that we could all go inside. We practically had to drag our kids out of the truck.

The new puppy was running around on the floor and I said, "Olivia, Merry Christmas!"

There are no words to describe this moment. It was all worth taking the plunge and buying a dog.

Days following, Olivia named our new puppy, "Coco". She is black with a little white on her chest and on a couple paws.

We were not able to take her home with us that day because she still needed to be weened from her mother.

So, today, New Year's Ever, Steve traveled to the other side of town in the truck, through a snow storm, with the three youngest kids to pick up Coco.

She is the most adorable, cuddly dog ever! Our whole family is in love!

Introducing.....Coco!!! It was meant to be!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

One little girl could use your prayers

I have been home from Haiti for 2 months now and still feel just as messed up as I was when I first arrived home. I was only there for a week but experienced enough to impact me the rest of my life.

For the past several years, I have been reading a lot about human trafficking and I have been following organizations advocating against human trafficking. Each time I read another story of a tragedy involving trafficking or a rescue, God gets my attention over any other injustice in the world.

One part of my experience that I will never forget, are the beautiful children of Haiti. There was one little girl in particular that stole the hearts of many in our group. In fact, members of our team left money to buy her a school uniform so she could go to school. She had been wandering the streets on her own until she entered school.

The teacher has relayed glowing reports through a mutual friend to our team back in the US. We have enjoyed seeing pictures of her in her new uniform, smiling and very happy.

Earlier this week, I received a very disturbing email from our contact in Haiti. This girl is in danger of being trafficked.

I can't share details of this story. But I will say that they have haunted me all week. Up until this point, I have read some horrible stories of children being sold into the slave trade. Nothing has shaken me more than this story.

Our contact is doing everything in his power to intervene and to rescue this beautiful child.

In Haiti, there are currently 300,000 children working in the slave industry. 1 out of 10 children in Haiti are working as slaves. Since the earthquake in January, sex trafficking in Haiti has been rampant. Just google any of this and you will find several stories on the Internet to back this up.

These statistics shake me even more now that I can put a name and face to a potential innocent victim to this horrendous crime.

Please pray for little 'B' and her future. Pray that my friend will be able to work through red tape fast enough to rescue her. It's all very complicated. Thank you!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas 2010

Grandpa and Grandma and their grandchildren.

Beautiful Olivia

Avery and crazy hair
Great Grandma, great grandchildren and one miniature Santa

Avery opening gifts
Lauren opening something she has wanted for a LONG time.
Remember the Duct Tape bags? My nieces are now proud owners of them.

Samson and his new guitar!
Avery sporting her new classy bag!

My little Shepard boy

My sweet little angel! (Avery on far left)
Baby Jesus!
Christmas Eve cookie baking and decorating!

Dressed our best
My handsome, photogenic boy
Reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas begins with Christ


Merry Christmas!



Celebrating the true meaning of Christmas...

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2:8 - 14

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Duct Tape

The girls and I have been creating duck tape purses in recent days. It's fun and simple! You can create just about anything with duct tape..even a PROM dress!





Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bianca's Story

A few days ago, I wrote about Rudy and how malnutrition took his life. He is in a better place now - much more comfortable - no longer hungry - no longer struggling to breath - no longer in pain.

Today, I want to share a miracle story about a baby who has survived her battle despite her grim prognosis.

I learned about Bianca when I first arrived in Haiti. There is a young woman from my community who serves in an orphanage in the city of Leogane, just a 30 minute drive from where we were staying in Haiti. Her name is Rhyan. I also have friends who are in the process of adopting 2 girls from the same orphanage.

I tried every effort to go to this orphanage to bring donations and to see my friend's girls but it just wasn't meant to happen.

However, I was able to connect with Rhyan by phone. At the time, she was at the hospital in Carrfour (the same city we were staying) with baby Bianca. She asked if we would pray for her because her health was failing fast. I learned from Rhyan in our brief conversation that she was not expected to live.

To call Rhyan, I had to walk across the street from where we were staying and through our translator, used the neighbor's personal cell phone. I spoke with Rhyan briefly, just enough time to give her the address of where I was staying and Pastor Amos' cell phone number. We were staying at Pastor Amos' home at the time.

That was the last I heard from Rhyan until we arrived home from Haiti.

Once home I learned that Rhyan indeed did call Pastor Amos the very same day. Rhyan asked him to come meet her at the hospital, assuming he would bring me with him.

What I learned is that Pastor Amos walked to the hospital on his own, met Rhyan, prayed over Bianca and baptized her. Bianca was expected to pass away any day.

Rhyan left Haiti that week for a scheduled trip back to the US. She had to leave Bianca behind in the care of the hospital. She was uncertain whether she would see Bianca again.

Bianca was very weak and was going in and out of consciousness when Rhyan left her.

However, instead of passing away, Bianca regained strength. When Rhyan returned back to the orphanage, Bianca had returned to the orphanage!

Since then Bianca has been back in the hospital once but again regained her strength and now is back at the orphanage. The last report is that "she is going to make it." She is a fighter!

In the midst of much suffering and pain in Haiti and around the world, there are stories like Bianca's, stories of miracles and hope. No doubt God has big plans for this precious little one.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bale's Story

For those of you who are following Drawn From Water and their story of rescuing children from mandatory infanticide, you may be interested in learning more about Bale, the first child rescued. Go to My Crazy Adoption and read the Wahlberg's adoption story of this beautiful girl.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Broken

I thought I was broken before my trip to Haiti. I thought I was broken enough when I returned from my trip to Haiti. But God keeps breaking me more and more as weeks pass by.

Obviously, I have a heart for the orphan and with each story of heart ache that I come across I think God can't break me anymore. And then He shows me another story of pain and loss.

Today I want to share one of those stories. It is the story about a little baby boy that I only knew about after returning from Haiti and since has gone to be with Jesus.

First, I have to back up several months when both Olivia and I had a discussion about adopting another child. I had been thinking to myself about a girl. Years ago, our family used to visit a sweet couple at the local nursing home and the woman's name was Ruby. I always liked the name Ruby and thought I would name my daughter Ruby if I ever have another daughter.

Well, during this discussion, Olivia shared with me that she thinks our family should adopt again and she thinks there is a girl named Ruby out there waiting for us.

A couple Sundays ago, Olivia and I had a discussion about Ruby again. Steve has not said 'yes' to another adoption but Olivia and I have been planting seeds for him hoping that some day adopting another child will become 'his' idea. But in the meantime, we talk and dream about a little girl named Ruby.

So, Olivia and I are sitting at the computer on a quest to find Ruby. Recently back from Haiti, we wondered if maybe Ruby is in Haiti. I came across a blog of a family going through their first adoption from Haiti. On there blog was a link to their daughter's orphanage..

We clicked on the link and the first blog post was a post about a little baby boy named "RuDy". Whoa! We were very taken back, especially when we first read it to be "RuBy". We read Rudy's story about his severe malnourishment and that he had just been relinquished to the orphanage.

Then we scrolled down to the next blog post, which was about a little girl named Olivia, a young girl who has a heart for orphans and who rallied her class to raise hundreds of dollars for the orphanage. Double Whoa!!

Baby Rudy has been in my thoughts and prayers. I stumbled upon the same orphanage site again today for the first time since that Sunday. I was struck with great sadness when I learned that Rudy had gone to live with Jesus last Friday. His little body was just too weak. Oh how my heart breaks for God's children who are suffering needlessly.

I don't know what all of this means for our family. But the more God breaks our hearts, the more motivated we are to help in some way. So, we continue to pray for God's guidance and direction. Please pray that our family hears God's specific assignment for us.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Security items

Today school is closed due to the weather. So, Steve and I were having breakfast together downstairs while the kids were sleeping in. Just as we were finishing our breakfast, I heard one of the bedroom doors upstairs open and slam shut. We knew it was Samson because this is his routine each morning. I met him at the bottom of the stairs, saw this and grabbed my camera:



When we were preparing to bring Samson home, we were informed that it's very important for your child to attach to an item, such as a doll, stuffed animal or blanket. I read many stories of families returning with their toddlers, feeding them formula from a bottle.

So, we were prepared. We arrived in Ethiopia with bottles, pacifiers, blankets and other potential "security" items.

We were advised to introduce these items to our new toddler son as a method of regressing him back to the baby stages. We were also told that if he can attach well to an item, this will help his attachment to us.

So, you can imagine our disappointment when he refused the bottle after several offers. Also, at the care center, we watched him gulp down several cups of the toddler age formula they fed to the toddlers. The first sippy of formula I prepared for him on the plane, he refused and never would drink another drop of formula from that point on.

We tried encouraging him to gravitate to a favorite stuffed animal, blanket or a doll. But he met this with great resistance. He pushed away any potential security item we offered.

Then he received his doll Yunnie for Christmas last year. We thought this was going to be the key to his security item. However, after the first night, Yunnie wasn't that important to him anymore.

Fast forward to preschool show and tell one month ago. I suggested he bring his doll Yunnie. He was so dis-attached from Yunnie that he didn't even remember his name, even after we tried several attempts over the past year to introduce Yunnie as a potential security item, he still forgot his name. Oh and Yunnie was Samson's nick name at the care center and he named his doll Yunnie.

The last few nights I have laid Yunnie by Samson's side so that he would wake up with him and just maybe want to hold him. I always wrap Samson in his blanket each time I put him down. However, each morning he wakes up, he sheds the blanket and leaves Yunnie behind.

Last night when I rocked Samson to sleep, he asked me for the first time if I could rock Yunnie to sleep with him. So, this morning when he came down with both a blanket and Yunnie, I cried. I don't know how much more this will carry on, but I like seeing my son care for his doll this way. I do see the value in having a security item.



I don't know whether his inability to attach to a security item should be a concern or not. But I'm not worried mainly because well, he has attached well to us and us to him. We have made big strides in recent months with attachment, without him being attached to an item.

But what I like about seeing him with a doll and blanket is seeing the gentle, caring side of him. I knew all along that there was this side to him but he has been hiding it up until this point. He has been showing his "I am tough and I can handle life on my own without any comforts" side to us.

He does let us hold him and snuggle with him and we have sweet moments together when I rock him to sleep. But all of these ways that we try to comfort him were also met with resistance up until just a few months ago.

Suppose Samson did show favoritism towards an object for his security when he first joined our family. I admit, I felt like a failure many times at failed attempts to introduce an attachment item. I wondered what we were doing wrong and why it worked for other families and not ours.

But now, I'm starting to wonder if a security item may have gotten in the the way of or delayed his attachment to Steve and I. I am not a psychologist but I also know that when it comes to raising kids, you can't just follow a book. Each child is so different.

This whole blog post is reminding me of our relationship with Christ. We are suppose to put Him first in our lives before anything else. However, how often do we put our security in things and these things get in the way of us trusting Him.

Just maybe Samson has learned to trust us first and put his security in us first. He now is comfortable with us and knows the love of a parent. I'm beginning to think that God wanted our relationship to be the focus. Maybe other security items may have been a distraction?

P.S. Samson just came and informed me that he put Yunnie in a time out. LOL!! Another sign of his love for that doll =)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shirts are on their way!

A HUGE Thank You to all of you who supported our 2010 Drawn From Water Limited Edition T-shirt sales!

We had a shirt packaging party this morning and your shirts are on their way!

We sold over 60 shirts total in the past 3 weeks!
100% of profits from the sales of these T-shirts will go to Drawn From Water.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This time it was the right arm

 Another visit to the ER this past weekend confirmed that he broke his right arm just above the elbow. The doctor placed a splint on his arm. The cast would come later after the swelling goes down.
He was such a trooper. The second time around was easier on dad too! We are now too familiar with the broken arm routine.


Two days later, he picked out orange for his cast.


Ask him if he will ever stack up pillows and jump from them again and he will answer, "NO!"


Somebody recommended bubble wrapping him. We are beginning to think that is not such a bad idea :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Last Day!!!!

To purchase the new T-shirt!


All proceeds go to Drawn From Water!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Relief Efforts

First, a disclaimer: I don't claim to know everything going on in Haiti. All I can testify to is what I saw and what I heard from the people who live there.

One thing for sure and that is, we don't see much about Haiti on the news anymore. It's almost like we have forgotten about them.

The Haitians I spoke with on the ground there also think we have forgotten about them.

The earthquake was in January. Organizations came flooding into the country to help. Make shift homes were set up for those who lost their homes in the earthquake. Some of these homes have been a stick in the ground with a sheet draped over the stick. Many of these homes have been built with tarps.




On some of these tarps, I saw the words, "US AID" or "Samaritan's Purse" or "UN" or "Unicef". This is just a sample of the organizations who helped the Haitians get into temporary housing until they could rebuild again. I also saw a large tent Doctors Without Boarders set up as a makeshift hospital.

We spent our week in a suburb of Port au Prince, called Carrfour. We learned that Carrfour is the most densely populated city in Haiti. Many homes, orphanages, schools, churches were destroyed or damaged by the quake. Most buildings still standing lost their second stories and higher. It was a rare thing to see a second story building and when we did, the second story looked unsafe and had many visible large cracks.


 Looking around, I could not identify one rebuilding project. I confirmed this with our translators as well. People are conducting school in makeshift schools and running orphanages with roof tops missing. For example, the orphanage we visited did not have a roof over their kitchen. I saw many tents that were built for temporary homes, weather worn and tattered. Some 1 million people still remain homeless.

I asked a lot of questions to our English speaking Haitian translators. What they told me is that the money pouring into the country is not getting to the people who need it the most. I was disappointed to also hear from them that some large organizations who mean well have the wrong priorities. Our translators' perspective is that these organization representatives are drive expensive vehicles, eat at the high end restaurants and stay at the 5 star hotels, all while many are starving and homeless.

I emailed one of these organizations expressing my concerns and sharing the perspective of some Haitians and will share their response in another post.

When we arrived at the airport in Port au Prince, we saw this:



This is freight that, from what I understand, has been seized by the Haitian government. The freight includes much needed supplies and food for victims of the earthquake.

There is an election coming up the end of November. There has already been rioting in the capital city. The Haitians are growing tired and weary of waiting. They feel forgotten. They think nobody cares that they are homeless, starving, disease stricken and dieing. When we asked about the elections, the Haitians didn't seem to be hopeful for any candidate. In fact, I did not talk to one person who plans to vote. They don't have any hope in their government.

I left Haiti with a judging heart. Judging the organizations who didn't carry through with their promises; judging the US government for not spending one dime on the relief efforts (check out this link). It seems like we have forgotten them.
Then God told me to look at myself. He asked me what have you done Tammy to help the Haitians? I have done nothing! And I drive an expensive vehicle and I live in a mansion. But now I have seen and God knows my heart, so I cannot pretend that I don't know. God will hold me accountable. I know I can't solve all of Haiti's problems. Any work I do will be insignificant to the overall picture but I still want to do something, even if it makes a difference for one person.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Uncomfortable in Haiti

God definitely brought me outside my comfort zone in many situations during our time in Haiti. I know God caused me to be uncomfortable so that I could have a taste of the injustice that many are facing in our world today.

Some of us slept in tents in the small backyard of our host home. The first night we arrived, the men set up our tents right next to the outdoor restroom. One thing we saw that night as our tents were being assembled were cock roaches (very large ones I might add!!) on the toilet seat. It was already dark by the time we reached our host home the first night. It was hot. We were all sweating. And that night I went to bed in a tent with my very good friend Lisa, her daughter and my daughter Lauren. We each had a thin mattress for our bed and we didn't need anything to cover us because it was so hot.

About 2 hours into our sleepless night, it began to storm. The wind blew hard and it rained hard. There was loud thunder and lightening. It rained so hard in a short amount of time that our tent began to fill up with water. Our personal belongings were getting wet. The four of us made the decision to grab our mattresses and make a mad dash to the house. Inside, most everyone was awake. There was a lot of commotion but eventually we all settled down with a new sleeping arrangement.

The next morning, after a sleepless night for myself, some of my belongings wet from the storm, I just wanted to cry. I wanted to go home. Our family does not camp, so this was not fun for me.

The second night was a repeat of the first except the water didn't leak into our tent near as much. Lisa and I both woke up at the same time startled. Along with the rain, there was loud music playing nearby. On the other side of us, there was a mixture of animal noises all at once. It sounded like ducks quaking and pigs squealing but we couldn't tell for sure. The louder the music, the louder the animal sounds.

Lisa and I both felt like our tent was surrounded by evil spirits. We were frightened, so once again, we woke up our girls, grabbed our mattresses and headed into the house. And once again, I wanted to go home.

The next morning our team visited a nearby Tent City. We split up into 3 teams. One team went around doing tent repairs, one team walked around and prayed for people and our team handed out shoes and clothing.

We visited with a grandma who lost her home in the earthquake. She was so grateful that God gave her another home - a small tent. She was taking care of her granddaughter. She expressed hope and thankfulness to the Lord.



Her request to us was that we would not forget her. She asked us to pray that God will not take her until His work through her is complete. I believe she asked that she be here on earth when Jesus returns.

We took turns praying over each person we connected with. This time, Lauren prayed over this elderly woman. That was my first breaking moment of the trip.

In the Tent City, we saw dirty water running outside the tents. Most likely water ran into each tent during each rainstorm. We saw very small, sick babies. We saw lice eggs on heads as thick and as big as the beads in tapioca pudding.

We heard stories of people losing loved ones in the earthquake. One woman we prayed over lost her husband in the quake. She was pregnant with their second child at the time. Now she is alone, raising two young children under horrific conditions.

After returning to our host home that afternoon, our team had a debriefing. We were all broken. The tent repair team shared that they built a home for a family that did not have a home. It took them just 30 minutes to assemble a tarp tent. Just under 10 months since the earthquake and this family was without a home up until this point. And to think that it took only 30 minutes to build.

That night I went to bed with a greater appreciation for shelter. Rainstorm or not, Lisa and I decided that we were going to stick it out all night. I was reminded that no matter how bad you have it, there is always someone somewhere in the world that has it much worst.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Back from Haiti!


Lauren and I arrived home with our team last night. I have so many stories to share about our adventure but for now, I want to share this story of giving and receiving.

The picture above is of Pastor Amos and his sweet wife Ellie Anna, our hosts during our week long stay in Carrfour, Haiti - a suburb of Port Au Prince. After the earthquake, this couple took in 3 other pastors and their families who lost their homes. Altogether around 30 people live in their compound.

Ellie Anna was up each morning by 4:00 a.m. to begin preparations for the day's meals. She selflessly spent the greater portion of each day preparing 2 meals a day for our team. Each day, she served our team with a very sweet, humble and joyful servant heart.

Later in the week, I learned that the dinners that she prepared for us each evening are meals that are only prepared for VIPs. We ate like Kings and Queens during our stay. The rest of the families living in the compound I'm sure did not eat near as good.

We were blessed beyond words!

Prior to leaving for our trip, I packed clothes that I purchased at the local thrift store and some of my own. I had only found 1 skirt at the thrift store that would work for my trip so decided to pack one I already owned, about the only skirt I own.

One day, Ellie Anna came and greeted me outside my tent. She did not speak English and I of course did not speak Creole. So, we communicated through hand gestures. She appeared to be asking if she could have my tent when we were done with it. We had planned on leaving our tents in Haiti anyway, so I told her I would be happy to leave my tent with her. She asked me something else, which I didn't quite understand but I assumed she was asking about the tent again, just to confirm that we understood each other. I said 'yes' to her again.

The second to the last morning of our stay in Haiti, I gathered up all the clothes I was going to leave behind in one bag and gave the bag to our female translator. She was grateful to receive these clothes and was going to give them to a sister who was in need of them.

That evening, as we were packing to leave, Ellie Anna and her husband approached me and asked for my clothes. Her husband, who knew very little English informed me that I had offered to leave my clothes with Ellie Anna. Whether I did or not doesn't matter. This is what Ellie Anna understood and I did not want to let her down.

While in Haiti, we heard over and over that groups will come into an orphanage, church, school or wherever, make promises and not deliver on their promises.

Ellie Anna and her husband were staring at me waiting for a reply. I stumbled with my words, which caused them to look confused. I knew I had to act quick.

I had packed up all the clothes that I wanted to bring home with me, which included a skirt that I did not want to give up and a shirt that I also wanted to keep. Without waiting a moment longer, I dug for the skirt and the shirt, found them rolled up in my carry on and presented them to Ellie Anna. I have to admit, I felt my stomach lurch as I handed over my favorite skirt and one of my favorite shirts. But I would have felt worse leaving her with nothing. She kindly smiled and accepted my offering.

Then something unexpected happened. No more than 5 minutes after I handed these pieces of clothing over to Ellie Anna, someone from our group came in the house with a bag full of clothes and wanted to know whose they were. It was the bag of clothes I had given to the translator that morning. Our transltor must have forgotten to take it with her when we saw her for the last time.

I feel extremely guilty about this now, but at first I could not help think about how I would still have my skirt and top that were difficult to give away if I knew about my bag of clothes that was so easy for me to give away. I'm especially ashamed of my feelings despite all that Ellie Anna had sacraficed for our team.

I can't help but think about God's perfect timing in this situation. He had planned all along that I would give my best skirt and shirt to Ellie Anna.

To be honest, if I would have known about my bag being left behind, I would have handed this bag over to Ellie Anna instead. God knew this too. Thus, his perfect timing caused me to be obedient.

God does not want us to give only when it is easy.

Earlier in the week a few of us girls from our group volunteered to sing 'Blessed Be Your Name' up front during a church service. This was not a coincidence.

Now I know truly what it means when we sing the lyrics 'I give and take away' and 'There is pain in the offering'.

God wants us to know and feel the sacrifice of giving. If it's too easy to give, it's not a sacrifice.

The morning we boarded our bus for the airport, I looked out the window of the bus one last time before we departed and standing there in the early morning hours, waving good-bye, was Ellie Anna, wearing my shirt.

I am so grateful that God has taught me the lesson of giving until there is pain in the offering. Seeing someone in much greater need than I wearing my 'valued' pocession brought great joy to my heart.

This is just the start of God breaking me down. He tested my obedience. And this was just a small item - a piece of clothing. It now seems ridiculous to even allow pain through this kind of offering. Because no doubt God will test me on much bigger things to come.