Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Single Mom at Christmas

My 20-month-old daughter woke up from her nap, sobbing. For nearly five minutes, she refused to be comforted. I combed her silky hair with my fingers, whispering, "What's wrong, sweet girl? What's wrong?

Avinly took a jagged whisper and finally croaked out, "Daddy's working! Daddy's working!"

And for 17th time that morning, my heart broke. My military husband was gone again, this time on an anti-terror mission, and apparently our youngest had had enough of it.

Avinly with her daddy just a few minutes after he returned from his latest multi-week absence
Just a few days earlier, I had received a letter from Albertina, Wilmer's mom. Wilmer is our youngest son Jude's Compassion International birthday buddy and, I'm guessing, the cutest boy Bolivia has ever produced.

I mean, seriously.

Wilmer, like our Jude, just turned four. He loves his black kitty named Simon and playing toy cars with his cousin Jhessenia. So even though he's a world away from us both geographically, culturally and financially, raising Wilmer is a lot like raising Jude, I'm thinking.

Albertina is doing so, by the way, alone. I don't know how old she is, if she was ever married to Wilmer's dad, or even if the dad is in the picture. And obviously, having a loving husband (even if he can be gone for up to six months at a time) is a far cry from being a true single mom.

Still, I felt such a connection with Albertina when she wrote, "Jude is also as beautiful as Wilmer. I think they would be very good friends. We are very happy and glad to know you through the picture. I will stick the photo on the wall of my room to see you every day."

In the midst of one child screaming for a marker, another using the glass door as batting practice and the last climbing up my leg, I quieted inside.

We're raising these sons, sometimes alone. I'm pretty sure that like me, Albertina feels overwhelmed at the prospect of raising her little December dude, wondering if she can pull it off. Then realizing that without Christ's help, she can't.

So we follow the example of another mom who raised an amazing son, sometimes afraid, sometimes alone, but always with guidance from the ultimate Father.

Will you take a moment and pray for the Compassion parents the world over who are going it alone? For the beautiful moms like Albertina who are raising the next generation of South American, African and Asian boys?

Albertina has our photo on her wall -- a fact that humbles me every time I remember. I, in turn, won't forget what ties us together: a compassionate love for our babies and the desire to raise them into God- and people-loving men.

Kind of like another single mother on another Christmas so very long ago.


Along with being a Compassion advocate, Crystal is an American military wife, freelance writer and mom to three littles currently stationed in the UK. Her highest hope at the moment is that her beloved Oregon Ducks win the Rose Bowl and then the National Championship this January. Prayers would be appreciated. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How We Love at Christmas

Over the past few weeks we've heard from Yvonne, Aimee and Hannah about how they incorporate the ministry of Compassion into their Christmas celebrations. And now it's my turn. 

I have to be honest with you. I don't have a long-standing tradition that we come back to year after year. What we do each year it seems to be a little different and I'm ok with that. When my girls were very young I was very intentional about them knowing whose birthday we were celebrating and what it means to give gifts to the greatest gift of all...Jesus. 
"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40
Every year we come back to of the best ways to love Jesus is to love others. How we love each other, how we love our extended family members, how we love our literal neighbors, how we love our church family and how we love those around the world. Our Christmas celebrations include showing love in all the above ways. 

We buy each other gifts. We make or buy gifts and cards for our extended family. We share our violin music with our neighbors and church family, and invite them into our home for food and fellowship. And we use the blessings God has given our family to bless children and their families around the world.

One of the biggest ways we've done that is by using Compassion's Gift Catalog. The ministry of Compassion and child sponsorship is part of our family culture. Making Christmas cards for both our sponsored children and unsponsored children is normal for my girls. Going through the catalog and choosing items we'd like to gift to others is also normal. This year, my girls each chose a gift and intend to buy it with their own money - at their own initiative.

Also normal at our house is to decorate our Christmas tree with ornaments from Compassion countries and photos of our sponsored children. We've been blessed to travel to several countries now, and have a nice little collection. I love turning souvenir keychains into ornaments. 

My kids have also enjoyed reading and learning about how other cultures and countries celebrate Christmas. To read more of my Christmas posts from past years, here is a list with links:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Compassion ABCs: C is for

C is for....


Compassion began its ministry in Colombia in 1974, when the Child Sponsorship Program was started. In 2005, the Leadership Development Program began, followed by the Child Survival Program in 2013.

To learn more about Compassion's work in Colombia and see children waiting to be sponsored, go HERE

also....what makes Compassion distinct?

their Committment to Christ, Children and Church

all information for this post was taken from Compassion's website

Monday, December 8, 2014

Jesus' Upcoming Birthday

Juanito, being 2.5, is big into birthdays…cake, candle blowing, singing happy birthday and gifts! We recently created a video of him singing happy birthday for my sister who is away at college. Then we counted down days to his Abuelo's birthday…and then Abuela's! Check out the cake that Juanito decorated for his Abuelo's and Abuela's birthday party (their birthdays are four days apart). Juanito picked out the sprinkles and candles himself!

In sharing the meaning of Christmas in a way that Juanito could understand, I shared that Christmas is the day that Jesus was born. We've been having interesting discussions about God…since Juanito cannot see God, he thinks that God is at work with Papi, all the time! True, but not in the way Juanito thinks. In contemplating that Jesus was born on Christmas, and that it is Jesus' birthday, Juanito asked me if we would have cake for Christmas! That question inspired my advent plan for the kids! First of all, Juanito has this really neat hanging advent calendar where you add character to the nativity scene each day. I took a photo since I have no clue where my mum found it for him! (This photo is courtesy of Amazon, since I have yet to dig out the calendar! I still have a few days, right?)

I was also given the book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. My friend Sarah gave me this book as an early Christmas present! Although Juanito is a little young for the book's text, I love the idea that Ann shares about a Jesse Tree and the book came with the code to print out the ornaments. (If you have never heard of a Jesse Tree, you follow the lineage of Christ through Advent and hang corresponding ornaments on a tree…you can check out the Jesse Tree link to see what Ann Voskamp does.)

I am also going to give Juanito an ornament to color each day and then we will read the corresponding story in his children's Bible. In order to keep me organized, I wrote the day number and the Bible story on the back of each ornament! And then I'll let him hang them on the tree (I am not going to do two trees…I plan on letting Juanito add to our one family tree.)

I also wanted to incorporate the Compassion kids this Christmas and to spend extra time praying for them. In addition to the character and verse, I want to add a little wallet sized photo of one of our kids! And then we will pray for that child during the day. I hole punched the top of each photo and put a string so we could add the photos to our tree as well. I think Juanito will really enjoy this aspect…both praying for a Compassion sibling and hanging something on the tree! I wrote the name and country of each child on the back, just in case our guests want to know!

Also, in light of the fact that Juanito loves candles, I gave in and bought an advent ring and candles on Amazon. I think I will light the candles on Sundays to make them extra special! And then on Christmas Eve, we are going to have a cake with Jesus with my family! Finally, I bought two Christmas books in Spanish to read to my kids and I hope to include reading and singing with our small Advent time each day. One highlight for me, growing up, was the special songs and books we had during Christmas! I hope to pass on Christmas carols and the love of books to my kids! My kids are 2.5 and 8 months, so I am trying to keep Advent very simple, but I still want to prioritize the birth of our Lord while reminding the kids to pray for others! I don't want Christmas to be self-focused, but rather Christ-focused and a holiday of serving others. If you have ideas for little ones, I'd love to hear what you're doing!

About Hannah Hinojosa...Hannah is a long time Compassion sponsor and writes about her sponsorship journey at Because of Shamim. In addition to being a wife and mother, she is a part-time math professor and loves to read.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Book Giveaway - 3 books to choose from

I managed to get my hands on three great books that I'd like to give away....




All three are fantastic and worth your time. To enter, leave a comment telling me which book you'd like to win (you can mention more than one) and then I'll hold a separate drawing for each book. I will announce a winner on Wednesday, December 10th by updating this post. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Compassion ABC's: B is for....

B is for....


Compassion began its ministry in Bangladesh in June 2004, when the Child Sponsorship Program was started. The Child Survival Program began in 2010.

To learn more about Compassion's work in Bangladesh and see children waiting to be sponsored, go HERE

Learn even more by visiting Compassion Bangladesh 


Compassion began its ministry in Bolivia in 1975, when the Child Sponsorship Program was started. In 1998, the Leadership Development Program began, followed by the Child Survival Program in 2008.
Compassion Bolivia is now geographically positioned in almost 70 percent of the Bolivian territory and has built a positive reputation both inside and outside of the evangelical community.
To learn more about Compassion's work in Bolivia and see children waiting to be sponsored, go HERE


Compassion began its ministry in Brazil in 1987, when the Child Sponsorship Program was started. The Leadership Development Program began in 2007, followed by the Child Survival Program in 2014.

To learn more about Compassion's work in Brazil and see children waiting to be sponsored, go HERE

Burkina Faso

Compassion began its ministry in Burkina Faso in 2004 when the Child Sponsorship Program was started. The Child Survival Program began later in December 2012.

To learn more about Compassion's work in Burkina Faso and see children waiting to be sponsored, go HERE

all information for this post was taken from Compassion's website

Do you sponsor a child in one of these countries? If so, please tell us a little bit about your precious child.

Monday, December 1, 2014

On Celebrating Christmas and its True Meaning

The month of December always seems to have a life of its own, doesn't it? Our calendars get booked up way too quickly and it seems like there just isn't enough time to accomplish everything that needs to be done.

Everyone is hurried... lost in the hustle and the bustle of the season.

For several years now, our family has intentionally tried to do Christmas counter-culturally... the upside-side way! Doing so isn't always easy... but doing so has reinforced in our hearts and minds what Christmas is really all about.

This video is a bit dated and you might have seen it before, but I think it is worth watching again every year as we prepare to celebrate Christmas...

Christmas Change from Kujilana on Vimeo.

So, how should we give gifts on Christmas?
In my early days of joining Twitter, I came across a tweet that I've favourited and often think about when I start to see all the hustle and the bustle and the commercialization of Christmas starting up each year. Here it is...
Ah, so true. So sad and just so plain wrong! 

When we smother ourselves and our children with over-indulgent gifts, focusing on us rather than those around us who are in need, how are we as Christ-followers living out the true meaning of Christmas?

How should we then, as Christ-followers, celebrate Christmas? 

As we mark Advent and prepare for Christmas... 
Our family is intentionally mindful of how we should be celebrating... focusing on the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas in the first place!

This year, as is our practice for many years now... there will be very little for ourselves under the tree so that we can give more Jesus birthday presents... intentionally making our Christmas simple in order to give generously to those who are in dire need, in want, in poverty... to the least of these... an upside-down Christmas!
Then the King will answer, 'I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.' (Matthew 25:40, NCV)
So... Christmas shopping on your mind?
How about an egg-laying chicken or a rabbit or guinea pig for the least of these in Ecuador... in the Andes Mountains, to help the neediest moms start a small animal breeding business together?
How about the gift of classrooms for the least of these children living in the Peruvian rain-forest... so that they can learn life skills, receive tutoring and discover the Bible?
How about clean water for the least of these in some of the neediest areas of Uganda?
How about homes for war-torn families and orphansthe least of these in Northern Uganda who are affected by the LRA?
Friends, you can turn Christmas upside-down!
Be the gift this Christmas. Many people on our family's Christmas list will be receiving a Gift of Compassion this year... much like the ones I described above. Many on your list can too!

You can check out Gifts of Compassion online. You can even print off a card to give to that special person on your Christmas list to let them know which Gift of Compassion you got them for Christmas!

For my Canadian readers, please click here for the Gift of Compassion catalog on Compassion Canada's website.

If you are visiting this blog from the United States or from another country, please click here for the Christmas Gift Catalog on Compassion International's website.

Merry Christmas, my friends!
May the Christ of Christmas be the focus of our celebration this Christmas season... and may His love compel us to be a blessing to those around us who might need to feel His touch and sense His presence!
I am blessed. I can bless. Imagine! I could let Him make me the gift!
I could be joy!
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

About Aimee Esparaz...Aimee is mother to two teens and is passionate about living out Micah 6:8 with her family. She is a sponsor and advocate through Compassion Canada and works in global marketing. She loves to read and garden, and blogs at A Mom On A Mission.

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