Dignity


"The presence of dignity doesn't mean poverty is absent". 
 
I read and reread that sentence about twenty times before the word popped in my head.  Dignity.  What did that mean?  I was puzzled by it's use and even more so by the stigma that was surrounding.  So I looked it up.  Online no less.  First definition gave a standard enough answer, "a state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect".  Sufficient, yet expected, and somehow not enough for me.  I dug deeper.  Praying that God would speak.  And He did.  Well the Internet did.  The second definition listed form the Free Online Dictionary, was "inherent nobility and worth". 
Ah yes, there it is. 
 
That in turn lead me to this passage,
1 Peter 2:9, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light".
 
We are noble.  Peter tells us that we are a "chosen race".  He isn't referring just to the people that were dispersed throughout the lands, no, he was speaking to each and everyone of us that believe and have faith through Christ Jesus.  We are the "royal priesthood".  Thus our "inherent nobility and worth", being proclaimed as believers.  How we proclaim the praises of the One who called us out of darkness is our choice.  And there are many options my friends.
 
Being a servant of those that don't know.  That don't have.  That haven't yet heard the calling of the royalty bestowed upon them.  That is how we can proclaim His marvelous light.  Shouting it high from the rooftops and if that isn't an option, how about from behind our computer screens as we read these words?  By simply clicking here and making the choice to embrace the poverty stricken, not because there is no dignity there.  No, because there is.  So much of it.  Because that is where Jesus stands.  With the poor.  The impoverished.  Those crying out in need.  The ones hiding behind the shack.  He is next to the children asking for food.  The widows struggling to provide.  All of the orphans hoping against hope to be chosen.  He has made his choice.  All of them.  Not only that but they are filled with dignity for it.  Full of nobility and worth from a God that is bigger than their poverty. 
 
So let us be present.  Boldly choosing to make a claim for Him.  To share the power of the One who called us out of darkness and into the Light.  Because it is there that our dignity is found.

15th Birthday Celebration In Pictures Mostly

We survived another birthday celebration here in this house.  Thing 3 began the festivities by placing candles in Thing 2's blueberry birthday muffins, so very sweet.  What a start to a day that was sure to be full! Her friends at school surprised her by decorating her locker with post it notes and leaving birthday messages, her family decorated the house with our traditional birthday banner and message board and her friends and family alike filled her phone with text messages and instagram pictures in hopes to make this day one to remember! 
 
Birthday breakfast
 
Thing 2 in true fashion mixed up the menu and decided that we should dine out for the birthday dinner.  No cooking for this Mama!  Wings, pizza, fried zucchini and Caesar salad was what the birthday girl requested.  Well OK then.  Old Chicago was the place of choice.  After school and homework and an impromptu interview for Thing 1 at DQ we all sat around the table and shared what we love about Thing 2, our highs and lows and lots of laughter.  The best kind of meal. Our sweet waitress was aware of Thing 2's status that night and she surprised her with dessert.  She was forced to share with her siblings since there was still a homemade
chocolate pie at home waiting for her.
 
Love that smiley face!
 
And here is the labor of my love.  I've made a few pies in my day but never had I made a chocolate silk pie or chocolate curls that adorn such a pie.  Nonetheless, the birthday girl had made her request and this Mama did not want to disappoint.  I mean, it sounded simple enough, right?  Thanks to the Pioneer Woman it was! 
 
Yum!
 
After a bite
 
We filled the table once again, only this time for singing to our birthday girl, present opening and pie eating and not to steal the limelight away from Thing 2 but we also celebrated Thing 1's newly acquired job at Dairy Queen!  Upon completing her interview she was offered the job on the spot!  Way to go Thing 1!(she requested that I not post the picture of her in the work uniform, but I do have one and she looks so cute!)
 The perfect way to end Thing 2's birthday day. 
 
Time to blow out the candles!
 
Present opening
 


 


Traveling Shoes

 
Shoes. They cover the feet.  Protect against the elements.  Provide insulation, possibly warmth, or maybe a layer between the scorching ground beneath.  I imagine these shoes above.  Where they've been, what they've seen, more over the feet they covered. 
 
Precious feet.  Feet belonging to a child of Compassion.  One that is running.  Hoping against all hope to be rescued.  Waiting.  Looking for a way out.  These shoes only a catalyst in that journey. 
 
Just maybe these shoes reside on the feet of a child who has been abandoned.  Left to fend the enemies on their own.  These shoes their only covering against the elements.  Alone in their village.  Searching high and low for the One that will come.  Someone to lift their eyes, nurture the spirit and be hope. 
 
Or possibly these shoes are on the feet of a wee one sitting in a church.  The shoes two sizes too big.  No matter.  They carried her to Compassion.  Helped her arrive to hear the Gospel.  Hope within four walls and brought by a team of servants to the Almighty. 
 
Most likely these shoes have been passed along.  Some one's left overs given away and then shared by many.  What they have seen and heard, no one really knows.  The little feet and maybe some big feet too.  The beginning of the shoes may have been on the feet of servant.  One who teaches.  Whose voice can be heard from the villages.  Worshipping and praying.  Calling the children in once they have been claimed and sponsored

So, these shoes that seem so insignificant to us, they are the metaphor for which we are able to travel through.  To be inspired by.  The vehicle to sponsorship.  The light these children are hoping for.

So what do you say?  Will you be the shoes for a child, the means of Compassion?

 

To My Thing 2

 
* photo creds: Thing 1
 
Um yes, another daughter turning fifteen.  Thing 2.  Today is the day.  Most certainly the day the Lord has made.  We are going to rejoice and be glad because on this day fifteen years ago our spirited Laney Lu made her grand appearance.  An early morning arrival and our world has not been the same since. 
 
Now on this the celebration of her fifteenth year of life I want her to know just how special she is.  How unique and wonderfully made she truly is.  With all her spunk and enthusiasm.  Her joyous raucous and innocent questions.  With her servant's heart and longing to make the world a better place.  Even if at times a bit idyllic.  Her passion for dancing and music.  With her love of the Word and her talent for sharing that.  Her desire to share justice and peace.  With her gift of spreading her joy and laughter everywhere she goes.  Her fierce loyalty and contagious empathetic heart.  With her fearlessness and courage leading the way. 
 
Yes, that is her.  The second daughter that was knit and known before she was born.
 
Sweet Delaney Lucille happy fifteenth birthday to you.  May you continue on the narrow road with the confidence that He alone has made all things beautiful and He alone knows the plans which are set aside for you.  Be ready to learn this next year, willing to grow and longing for a deeper relationship with the Heavenly Father. 
 
Thank you for the gift that you are to this family.  For all that you bring to our table, night after night, day after day.  I love your hugs and cuddles, your playfulness and I so appreciate the conversations we share over the Truth.  I love that you still watch Disney movies and listen to Radio Disney. I'm grateful that you will have dance competitions with me and then laugh with me until we're rolling on the floor! Thank  you for lighting up each and every room you walk into with that bright smile of yours.  That is a gift.  Today is for you.  I love you to the moon and back.
 

This photo captivates me, it is her, possibly in ten years from now. 
 A glimpse into the "adult" Thing 2.


One and Three For Compassion

One word.  Three thoughts.  And now where to begin?  Choosing the word came easily. I saw the list of suggestions and immediately knew.  The thoughts.  Not so much.  Our goal is child sponsorship.  Urge people to look through a different lens at the faces of the children waiting.  The faces of Compassion.  Pray that God pricks their, your heart for those with less than.  So that they come to know the love of Jesus because someone made a choice.  A choice to help, to serve, to cling tightly to the words of Jesus and help the poor. 

So the word is poverty.  It came upon me as I was out for a run.  Not just poverty as in no wealth.  Poverty can be relative, at least I believe.  You could be the richest person according to your bank account and yet be living in poverty.  The poverty I'm referring to is actual poverty, as in not enough to provide for oneself and/or one's family.  And here's what I've been contemplating.

1. Having less than, the physical definition of poverty from the Merriam Webster dictionary is, "the state of being poor, a lack of something".  In this case, these children meet the definition, they have less than.  They are lacking something.  More than just the necessities that I may take for granted.  Without food, shelter, water and sometimes without love.  Another vacancy in their life is that of a sponsor.  Someone to provide for them.  To help release them from the abject poverty that surrounds and give them the freedom to step into the hope that is Jesus. 
The hope that is offered when they have a sponsor

2. Poverty surrounds.  It must be like a weight.  Strung on the backs of those carrying the burden.  Bringing darkness, shutting out the possibilities and turning backs to redemption.  To opportunity.  To change.  To a different life.  Poverty does not carry with it shiny lights.  It steals and yet it will always be with us.  At least the poor will be.  Let us be poor in spirit so that the kingdom will grow.  How about we stomp on poverty and all the sadness and desperateness that comes with it? 
We can start with one child.

3.  There will be lacking in all of our lives.  That is poverty.  Whether financially, spiritually or maybe even without love, certainly when we don't have Jesus.  And yet there are needs that must be met in order for one to thrive.  Perhaps the biggest vacancy we all have is that for Jesus.  With Compassion sponsorship that is what you are giving these children, Jesus.  Their needs are met through the local church.  Basic needs, that of food.  All done in Jesus' name.  To help quench the poverty.  Alleviate the hunger.  Hunger for both food and spirit. 

So go and do.  I say these words as much for myself as I do to you.  It only takes one.
 

Thankful Thursday

The Things' cooking night creation -
Caesar salad with homemade dressing and croutons, onion strings and maple balsamic pork tenderloin grilled to perfection! 
 
4043. sunshine through the blinds first thing in the morning
4044. journal pages filled with two minutes of stream of consciousness
4045. spontaneous dinner dates
4046. laughter
4047. kiddos filling the table and the desk and everywhere
4048. new book from the library
4049. hearing Thing 4 on his clarinet
4050. two weeks until my trip
4051. that all four are His and I can loosen my grip
4052. for the cross, over and over and over again

Not Yet

 Lake Minnetonka

Well we held onto summer last weekend with our fists clenched tightly around her sunshiny, carefree days.  We did I tell you.  Friday brought with it the relief that it always does.  A big sigh.  Another week conquered.  The eldest Things were in their jammies promptly at 4pm, with no intentions of big plans.  Their high livin' Friday night included some of their favorite TV episodes, popcorn and snuggles.  Sounds sublime.  Thing 3 was off with a friend for a night away at our church's retreat center and Thing 4 headed to footie training with his mates.  Husband Jared and I had a spontaneous dinner date with some friends and it was one of those nights that you just feel good about. 
Joyful if I dare.  And I do.  Do I ever! 
 
Saturday was an early morning, much to our dismay.  With the school year having started and the alarm ringing all too soon we do like slow mornings.  That's alright though we had Thing 4's soccer match in St. Paul and that meant we were on the road by 7:15am.  Needless to say Thing 4 was asleep in the back seat before we were even on the highway.  Their team won and to my surprise we had a pocket of unaccounted time in our afternoon.  Being that we were so close to the farmer's market, how could we not stop?  My sentiments exactly.  We walked straight to our favorite stand, piled high the produce and walked away with a bushel of tomatoes to boot.  I got a wild hair to can tomato sauce.  Man do I love that place.  All the farmers with their produce spread on tables, customer banter, bushels and baskets of berries and tomatoes, cucs and sweet corn.  The best of the summer.  Once again, we held tightly.  Food of summer is the best.  Melon salads, sweet cilantro, corn roasted on the grill, blueberry crisp.  I could go on and on and on some more.  But I won't.  I'll stop right there so I can finish telling you about our Saturday and another attempt to not let summer go. 

Tomatoes from the market that were roasted and then canned for tomato sauce
 
On the summer list this year was windsurfing.  All four Things took classes in Turkey and became licensed windsurfers.  Thus ensuring that they could windsurf wherever they were in the world and not have to take another lesson.  So they were all about it when they first saw windsurfers on the lakes up here.  Then they saw paddle boards.  Being that they had never before tried that I coaxed them into adding that to our summer list this year.  When I was given the go ahead I made reservations and there we were.  Lake Minnetonka was all ours.  Not really, we had to share it with many a sail boats, tour boat and kayaks too.  That's alright, with no other instruction than bend your legs slightly and hold the paddle this way, Things 1, 2 and 4 were off.  Thing 3 missed out on this adventure.  Husband Jared and I watched from the shore, trying to coach them.  Paddle harder.  Move your arms faster.  As if we were some sort of experts.  I was hoping I would somehow be able to finagle a turn on the board but I was just as happy sitting back and watching the three of them navigate this new experience together.  They got it!  More quickly than I thought too.  There they were out in the open water, rocking on the waves, trying not to lose balance and shouting at us about how hard it really is.  Fantastic!

Thing 4

 Thing 1

Thing 2

And here we are, watching from the shore, soaking in the sun.

 
That was a good place to be.  Until Thing 1 came close and said she was done.  To her credit she lasted for a while out there.  Her knee was bothering her and she said it felt as though she had just done an hours worth of PT.  Understood.  I pushed my nervousness to the side and gracefully climbed aboard.  Oh, who are we kidding, there isn't an ounce of gracefulness in me.  I practically fell off in front of a crowd of people before I even left the dock.  No doubt I provided some entertainment for all those watching.  Anyhow, I made my way out to the other Things who were kindly waiting for me and off we went.  Hitting the choppy waters head on, or nose on, whatever it's called.  We raced from one side of the marina to the other and maneuvered around boats trying to get into the dock and sailboats that were anchored.  It was fun and quite the workout.  So much so that when our time was up the Things and I declared it ice cream time.  We couldn't pass up an opportunity to visit Licks.  And we didn't.  Drippy ice cream cones brought just the relief we needed on this hot afternoon.  They also helped buy us some time to browse the street fair and listen to some music on Excelsior St.  A dreamy afternoon.
 
The wonderful weekend didn't end there.  Sunday was still in front of us and when Saturday ended with a late dinner of grilled shrimp quesadillas and sweet corn I wasn't sure I was ready for more.  Then I woke Sunday and remembered it was family fun festival at our church and even better our friends were coming for a visit.  Sweet!  Husband Jared and Thing 2 had early morning runs, we worshipped together and played together at the festival.  We watched the kiddos run from bounce house to bounce house to the ponies and then do it all over again.  The littles tagging along with the bigs.  Their tummies were rumbly after all that excitement and the whole lot of us, thirteen to be exact, ate lunch, watched some football and played some more.  Just the cherry on top for this already full to the brim weekend. 
 
So please summer don't leave us, we really do fancy you.  All your long wistful days and dreamy nights.  Don't go.  Not yet. 
Thing 2 with Jada and Kolbe
 
 
 
 


Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Last weekend fall decided to make an early appearance and squashed our plans for an afternoon of paddle boarding on the lake.  With wind and no sun these six did not want any part of that.  We went to plan B.  A Sunday afternoon excursion, sometimes referred to as "forced family fun" around here, took us to the Minneapolis sculpture garden.  We had long intended to make a trip there and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  Stroll the grounds, take in some culture and art, grab lunch out, and hopefully snap some photos.  That is exactly what we did. 
 
The iconic "cherry on a spoon"

Their attempt at a Spider Man interpretation?

Red

Flowers, flowers and more flowers

The silly reflection

All four together

I love seeing the world through her lens
 
The sculpture garden is conveniently located next to the Walker Art Center, which happened to be closed the day we were there, and covers acres of beautiful green grass right in the middle of the city.  There are sculptures, you guessed it, done by artists and placed throughout.  Some are interactive, others have signs posted, no climbing or touching, etc.  Either way we walked and oohed and aahed and made up stories about the artists and their work.  Husband Jared's least favorite: forty seven wind chimes hanging between a canopy of trees.  Um, no thank you.  My favorite: a long tunnel trellis with vines wrapped around and Alice in Wonderland like flowers lining the pathway.  Yes please.  That was a haven for the photographers in my family.  Things 2 and 3 took turns with my camera and Thing 1 paused every where she could capturing those blooms from her perspective.  Thing 4 raced to each sculpture.  Not sure he ever stopped to read a sign but he did have fun, and he did exert some energy. 
 
Another family field trip in the books. 

Last Friday

Last Friday we hosted my sweet friend's four children for the evening.  It was their tenth wedding anniversary.  There were dinner plans but when I offered to take the children for a sleep over her eyes lit up and honestly so did mine.  The youngest of theirs is a precious one and a half year old girl.  Her squeal and toddling around make me go weak in the knees.  So yes, I said yes, more like insisted.  Even offered to help her make hotel reservations.  Stay out late, don't come home too early, we'll be fine. 

Husband Jared is such a good sport.  He goes along with me all too often.  I remind him what it was like when we had four littles.  He nods and smiles, remembering those years.  Then he laughs and tells me how grateful he is that we are on this side of the parenting pendulum.  Yes and yes.  So when the pack n play arrived and the bags and the two littlest of theirs I was ready.  My kitchen counters didn't say so, but I was.  We had just done a big shop at Costco and Trader Joe's and there was food everywhere. A first world problem for sure.  Nonetheless I scooped those kiddos right up and we went to work.  There were plants to water, groceries to be put away and snacks to be eaten.  After all we were at Mrs. Hanson's house and there is no shortage of fun around here. 

The two eldest boys of their bunch ran off the bus with the Things and the overnight fun began.  Snacks and telling of the school day, backpacks thrown across the floor, shoes everywhere and excited boys.  Those excited boys were sent off to assist Thing 4 with a new haircut.   With the house a little quieter we played and waited for their return so we could splash in the pool before dinner time.  Thing 1 was in charge of changing the kiddos into proper swim attire.  I was assured they were in good hands only to find out when we were at the pool that the littlest one did not have her swim diaper on.  We watched her climb from baby pool to big pool with a sopping wet load.  Thankfully our time was limited and we did not have any blow outs.  Because, oh yeah, when you have littles you're supposed to pack a diaper bag or at the very least an extra diaper and wipes.  Oops.  Forgive me, it's been a few years.  Anyhow, we splashed and ran and swam and showed off our new jumps and techniques and then we quickly realized that said precious girl had a blow out.  Off to the house.  I wrapped her in a towel and carried her up the hill to the  house, no one being the wiser.  Except the Things, whom all thought we were quite the show. 

Jared and Michael

The boys

Laughing it up
 
After pool time and the l-o-n-g walk up the hill back to the house it was dinner time.  Husband Jared grilled chicken and corn and we sat around the table, all eleven of us talking and laughing.  Yes, I said 11, Thing 2 had a friend join us for dinner.  What's one more when there were already eight?  If the door's open than you're welcome here.  Apparently the Things have taken to that motto as well. 
 
All 11 of us, Carter's head is hiding behind Thing 1,
you can see his hands though 
 
It was a rather uneventful evening after that.  Everyone snuggled in together watching Mr. Bean's Holiday, ate some ice-cream and chocolate chip cookies and went to sleep without any issues.  Best of all, I was able to tuck eight sleeping babes in that night.  Love. 
 
Morning came all too early, as it often does after a full day.  Coffee was brewing and chocolate chip pancakes were being made and kiddos were at the counter helping me.  At least the two littlest were.  Did that ever bring back some memories.  So many mornings with all four of my Things on their stools wanting to "help" with breakfast.  Mix the pancakes, pour the milk, cut the fruit.  Oh my, my heart was about to burst out of my chest.  Then they were off to water the plants and play with "Powo", otherwise known as Polo, the most patient, lovable dog ever.  The two older boys were all about Thing 4 and the three of them had Nerf gun wars and remote control car expeditions before we even sat down at the table.  Speaking of table, here we are again.  Only Thing 1 and Thing 2 were not awake yet.  Don't worry, I saved them some chocolaty goodness.  Those Things were sure helpful, they love those kiddos and know them so well after many nights of babysitting this summer. 
 
Smiley faces!
 
With endless energy Husband Jared and I thought we would take the kiddos and Polo on a hike down to the creek near our house.  Brilliant.  Or so we thought.  I guess it was in the beginning.  The boys ran off exploring, they took turns walking Polo and we made mention of every bug, flower and bird we saw.  Stopping for caterpillars and butterflies, even moths and ants.  We made it to the creek and climbed across some logs, took drinks of water from the spigot and talked to some strangers.  I was attacked by mosquitoes and the kiddos were giddy.  Good times. 
 
This sweetie, the youngest boy, even asked to hold my hand on our way to the creek. 
Why yes, and why don't you just have my heart too?!
 
Brave boy

And then my friends the idyllic morning took a turn for the worst.  And by worst I mean there may have been waling and gnashing of teeth.  Really.  It happened and I won't soon forget it.  I only hope they will.  We had begun the trek back home and the boys and Polo were in front of Husband Jared, myself, Thing 3 and the two littles.  That is when it happened, Polo ran off the trail and we heard the screams.  Running as fast as I could all I saw was Thing 4 holding face telling me he had been stung and the eldest of the other four waving his hands about and not letting me touch him. Forgetting reason I scooped him up, holding his arms tightly and made a run for it.  When we were safely away from the area I could finally make out his words, bees, he had been stung.  Sure enough.  The three boys were attacked by hornets.  And then as Husband Jared and the youngest boy made his way to us they were stung.  I am sure we were quite the spectacle.  Four crying children, trying to catch their breath, two  crazed parents carrying said children and trying desperately to reassure them and make it hurt less and one girl Thing carrying a little all the way up the hill attempting to escape without getting stung.  I can only imagine what we sounded and looked like as we entered our neighborhood.  The boys ended up running all the way back to the house for relief and as soon as I caught up I hosed them down outside, much to their dismay.  We (kid logic) thought the hornets might have followed us home.  They didn't.  Once the mud was washed they were all sat on towels, stings assessed for stingers, ice put on them, then the magic cream and ice lollies given to all.  Young and old.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 were as stunned as we were.  Husband Jared and I wanted to take back that walk.  The only conclusion that made sense was Polo kicked up a hornet's nest when he ran off and then the boys ran right through the mess and us behind them.  The words I will never forget came from Carter's mouth as we were having our recovery time on the towels.  Bless him.  Stung for the first time, Mama not here and only Mr. and Mrs. Hanson to make it better, can't blame him for sure.  He simply said, "this is the worst morning ever".  And friends it might have been. 
At least for those kiddos.  I wish I could share the photo of the aftermath with you.  Sadly, I can't.  There are four boys and one sweet little girl all in their chonies (underwear), looking like they've been through the trenches, popsicles dripping from their chins and tearstained eyes staring at the camera.  What a sight. 
 
Gaining composure after the episode
 
After everyone had been settled and it was clear no one was going to have an allergic reaction we cozied them up and had some down time.  Husband Jared and I may have needed it more.  It is awful to see kiddos in pain and scared.  We tried our best to reassure them.  And then we tried to end the day on a better note by splashing in the pool again.  That did the trick.  Smiles all the way around and their confidence in us restored.  They may even want to come spend the night again, I hope. 
 
What became clear to us was that we are out of practice with littles.  Sure, we thought we remembered the game until the fateful morning of the stings.  That squashed our false pride outright.  Our four seemed so much older and independent after having the extra four with us.  Even if just for a night.  Husband Jared needed a nap that afternoon and I don't blame him.  A much different skill set is required for meeting  younger children's needs.  And  while parenting can be exhausting and draining at all ages the big event sure did tucker us out and bring back the memories.  These four were so much fun and it was pure delight to see our four happily engaged and helping out with them. Whether it was helping with the bedtime routine, cutting food, fetching snacks or even simply playing, the eight of them together was so very sweet.  Until next time...
 
 
 
 


Thankful Thursday


sculpture at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
4033. Compassion
4034. littles in our house
4035. pool days
4036. game nights with friends
4037. the beginning of something new
4038. saying yes
4039. dreaming
4040. blank calendars
4041. books on hold at the library
4042. mini family adventures to new places

To The Little Leanna...And Maybe the Big Leanna Too


Those days don't seem so far behind me.  The ones where I am alone on the playground.  Where I hear taunting words and am ignored.  Yet "those days" are in the past.  Many years ago and not so many heartaches behind me. 
 
I had always been small.  Ever since I can remember.  Always at the front of line in school, the front row for pictures and always the one with the jersey that fell below her knees for sports teams.  Nothing ever fit right.  Jeans, dresses, shirts.  I was short.  Did I mention that my last name was "Stuck"?  I might have shared that before.  If not, there you have it.  Short and Stuck.  The possibilities were endless for mockery.  And everyday when I heard the words they hurt.  The stones they threw I built walls with.  I questioned why I wasn't pretty.  Looked at my body differently in the mirror and made choices that didn't honor the God creation that I am or was. 

Looking back to eighth grade, the year it all felt so different for me.  I suppose the change began in seventh.  A little more distant.  More interested in boys than writing.  Maintaining my grades but having the realization that there were other people to please.  Other than my parents and family that is.  Ones that got me noticed.  Invited me to places.  To parties.  To be their friend, in every warped, manipulative sense of the word.  I fell for it.  Fell hard.  And thus learned that I was pretty.  In some way.  I could use that and so I did.  Dressing differently.  Walking with a bit more swagger than I truly had, or wanted.  Speaking older than I was.  Acting older.  Being surrounded and still feeling lonely.  That was middle school.  That was junior high.  That was high school.  Heck, that was even college.

Don't get me wrong.  I had people around me, family.  We were a unit.  They told me I was beautiful.  Only what I heard was that I would have approval and love when I behaved as they told me I should.  When I did everything right.  When I didn't fail.  A bucket full of good works and Hail Marys could go a long way.  So I hid it.  Tucked it all away, way deep down.  To where the real me was so hidden it took years of unpacking and digging to find it again.  There were brick walls to protect from the short jokes.  From the stuck in the mud jokes.  From the ridicule that came with being a people pleaser and teacher's pet.  All while the struggle continued and no one knew.  The truth became so muddled.  Right and wrong intersected and conscious was cloudy. 

What would I want to say to that girl so many years ago?  Whispers of truth.  Love so loud that there could be no question.  When she felt like turning in and turning off the lights I would turn them on.  Shine them bright in her face.  And then I would hold her.  Steady and long.  Until the tears stopped and her heart slowed.  Share the beauty of unconditional love. 

With no good work being able to earn anything.  No sin big enough to outrun grace. 

I would tell her she really never was alone on that playground.  And when those boys shouted hateful things to her, her Jesus was standing by.  Holding her hand.  He felt it too.  More so.  That she should believe her grandma Ellen who told her that "good things come in small packages", and that God does not make mistakes.  That's one I would have on repeat.

 HE DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES

You are never alone.  Never.  He is always there

My adult self knows these truths.  Believes them and is grateful for them.  It is now my joy to share these truths.  To speak loud the language of love.  His love.  To break down walls and barriers and lies with love.  I have an obligation to do so.  I share these words with my four children and with our sponsored child every opportunity I have.  In hopes that they will pierce their hearts.  Change their perspective and become their reality.  Truth.  Love.  Because He doesn't make mistakes.  He loves and He never leaves us. 

Even those that have no family.  No one to protect them on the playground.  In the slums.  Walking home from the center everyday.  Working to support siblings.  Begging on the streets.  Feeling too short.  Not enough.  Let's speak this love language to them in the form of sponsorship
With truth pervading every letter. 

They are never alone.  He is always there.  He does not make mistakes.