Friday, July 15, 2011

Taking that first step.

I'VE BEEN THINKING about the day I jumped (crawled hesitatingly, really) onto the sponsorship wagon. And, to be trite and cliche-ish, my life changed forever.

Those of us who are Sponsorship Fiends often try to convince others by touting what we know: You will feel differently about yourself and your life, and even the world around us, when you are intimately connected with a little stranger in another country.

There's even research supporting this now: neuroscientists are discovering that the human brain is wired to make you feel good when you help someone else.

That's really amazing to me! Not only did God tell us to care for one another, he fixed it so that we'd feel really good when we did so!

I knew none of that when I signed on to sponsor Estefani. My focus was mostly on how my family was barely getting by, living as we are in an area of the country that is far too expensive for our income. I thought that people who went on mission trips were crazy people, and giving money for any sort of charity was only for people with "extra" money, whatever that was.

But I had been praying for God to "use me." That is a very dangerous prayer! It occurred to me that God often calls us out of our weakness: Moses the stutterer asked to speak for a nation; David the little kid asked to defeat the giant--over and over God shows that he is not intimidated by our lack. "So," I thought, "if I have a lack, it is financial. God must want me to give!"

The "little voice in my head" said to do it, and I knew better than to ignore it.

Estefani's information was there on the table. She was the same age as my youngest daughter, with almost the same name as my oldest daughter. I picked her card up, and was instantly in love. The compassion part of my brain must have started firing on all cylinders!

Looking back, a series of miracles occurred that kept us afloat and able to keep sponsoring. God was clearly involved in this mission of ours.

My Darlings!
We still struggle to pay the bills some months. We are paying off some debts much more slowly than I'd like. But we are rich beyond measure with our "extended family" of sponsored kids/women. If I get depressed or anxious, I've learned to simply think about them and pray for them--the best mood-enhancing activity I know!

To read more about the neurology of compassion, read The Compassion Instinct by Dacher Keltner. It's a series of papers about the human brain and compassion, forgiveness, kindness, empathy, and so forth. Easy reading, and exciting stuff!

If you have not sponsored a child, I urge you to take the leap. Listen to that little voice in your head (or in this blog), and click on the Compassion banner here... If you are already a sponsor, tell people how it makes you feel! (It's science!)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Paper Bracelets!

SO MAYBE YOU READ the last post and are thinking, "But I sponsor older kids. My teenaged kids wouldn't want finger puppets!" Most of my sponsored kids are in the 14-15 age group as well, and it did feel a lot easier to send things when they were younger!
I don't think I ever made one THIS long...
So I went searching, and, as it turns out, on a walk down memory lane! Anyone remember making chains from gum wrappers? This was a Big Deal in about 6th grade (OK, maybe even later than that.). I remember my friends and me trying to see how long we could make our chains. The boys in class would donate gum wrappers to whichever girl they liked at the time (in 6th grade, everything is a popularity contest.). When I could talk my mom into buying me a giant pack of Wrigley's Doublemint, it was like Christmas!--a treasure trove of materials for my chain! (Remember when they stopped including colored paper wrappers in the big packs of gum and used plain white ones instead? Boo!)

This site will show you how to make the good ol' gum wrapper type bracelet....

But I found this website, with instructions for slightly more complicated chains, made with paper of your choice. I won't repeat the instructions here, because they are very good on the website, but I think these made a great option for sending to my sponsored teenagers!

First, the paper. We found this beautiful tiny origami paper at Michael's:

Michaels has all kinds of amazing papers... Wrapping paper would also be an option--I'm imagining some really cute Christmas bracelets!

Cut the paper into strips (they need to be in a 1:4 ratio):

Follow the instructions at "Inna's Creations" and start creating!

Lilia has now been inducted into the Secret Society of Gum-Wrapper Folders. It's quite an honor.

The finished bracelets are really quite pretty!
We started with the more muted papers.
And then progressed to the brighter colors!
The finished bracelets seem quite forgiving (ie, you could squash them flat to mail to Compassion, and they won't be worse for the wear). Voila! It's flat... it's paper... but it's a way to send jewelry to your sponsored kids!

Try it: Click on this picture to get to Inna's blog, and create away!
Now... What to send to sponsored BOYS?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Things to make for sponsored kids!

IT WAS TIME to write to my sponsored kids again (with 10 sponsored and one correspondent child, I've decided I need to take two weekends for letter-writing!).

With Agartha and Maria, I have little girls to write to for the first time in a while. It is always frustrating looking at the lists of things we can't send--when I really want to send dresses, and dolls, and art supplies, and books, and hair bows, and...

So, anyway, I found this GREAT site, where you can print out toys that you make out of paper! They are so cute! This weekend I went with ... finger puppets (As anyone who knows me will attest to, I am a sucker for puppets.).

Lilia helped, of course. Here's what we did:
The finger puppets are printed out on a sheet with instructions. Since I didn't know whether Agartha or Maria would have access to scissors and glue (and Agartha is only in Kindergarten and probably not all that skilled with scissors yet!), I decided to do most of the "assembly" for them.

These scrapbooking glue thingies were perfect, since I could leave the little non-sticky paper on them, and it even has a little tab the girls can peel off.

I decided to package the finger puppets in the plastic envelope that a set of notecards came in; that way, the girls had something to keep them in, and I included simple instructions (with pictures of Lilia) in the plastic pouch. It even has a little sticky seal to keep it closed!

I added a card with a handwritten note, and -- voila!

So... if you want to check out some really really neat printable toys for your sponsored children (or your own children), check out The Toymaker site! I'm thinking paper dolls next...