More Than Words

By: Jenni Taylor

I in no way have a gift for learning languages. Heck, I minored in Spanish in college, lived in Peru for two years, and was still being corrected on my grammar the day of my flight home.

After my time in South America, I was suddenly given the opportunity to live and work in Shanghai last April.The decision was quick, and the extent of my research was looking China up on Wikipedia. My Mandarin? I learned “ni hao” in the airport.

The first three months flew by, in a flurry of re-learning the basics that come with moving to a new country: how to buy groceries, how to take taxis, how to say “wrong number” to a misplaced telephone call. My Chinese classes were limited to once a week due to my work situation, and I spent much of my time hiding behind the other foreigners when I couldn’t communicate. Soon, I found myself faced with summer break, no job, and no Chinese. I made the leap to take a job at a two week long summer camp in a nearby city called Yangzhou. Not the best gig, to be sure, but it was money, experience and a free tan, right? My job was to teach young students English-speaking skills they would use in the fall when they returned to school.

The kids LOVED when I tried to learn Chinese. One particular day, I spent about two hours going over the same two lines of a song. Couldn’t get it if my life depended on it. But just as I was about to bang my head against the wall, the third graders I worked with surrounded my teacher’s desk and started to help me. First they laughed, of course. But then they said the words slowly and carefully, with the patience of saints.

My Chinese is never going to be perfect. I will be happy if it is even close to conversationally functional one day. But the connection between my students and me that day was totally worth all the pain and flashcards. Their eyes lit up when they heard me trying. They were only ten years old or so, struggling over their own English workbooks, and there was some sort of recognition when they saw me struggling just as hard at my own desk. It’s about seven months later now, and while I still struggle, their help that day helped me to keep going. I even have the whole song memorized now, and catch myself singing it when no one is looking.

There is beauty in learning a language, in being able to communicate with others. But there’s something even better, when you can share a smile, a laugh, a hug- -even pain. It goes beyond where words can reach. My kids reached me that day when the frustration was driving me crazy. I just hope I was able to reach back, just a bit, and let them know how truly fantastic they are.

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Heartbreak, Marriage, and Divorce–Love Embraces It All

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By: Autumn Elizabeth

I’ve been thinking a lot about the life I would have now, if I were still married. I’ve been thinking about all the things in this life I have now I would have missed, and all the things I would have gained. Life isn’t always as simple as we’d like it to be. There isn’t just married and divorced, now and then. Everything bleeds together, and a little bit of the past always seeps out of a broken heart.

I’ve watched people lose everything when partnerships break, and I’ve seen people gain unbelievable freedom, I’ve seen divorce law work against everyone, and marriage inequality leave people without a legal leg to stand on.  I’ve seen the end of a marriage strip people of dignity and faith, and I’ve seen it restore belief.  I’ve seen all this in the lives of others, and in my own life.

I’ve also thought a lot about what it means to move on, to start over, and if that’s even possible. I think for some people moving on involves taking down pictures, and throwing away old love letters. But my elopement celebration pictures are still buried somewhere on Facebook, beneath almost two years of photos from my new life living abroad, but they’re still there. For me, the past doesn’t go away, life just steps in, putting ever more distance between the now and the used to be.

I haven’t forgotten how the refusal of my church to bless my same-sex union tested my faith in religion, but I also remember how the end of that union brought me closer to understanding the ways divine loves works through us all.  Where there is love, there is God, and my life, before and after my divorce, has been filled with love. Heartbreak just made me look at that love differently. Our hearts may be fragile and easy to break, the love of the universe is far sturdier.

Love flows through broken hearts, and wedding vows, it continues whether we erase our past or relish it, whether governments and churches sanctify or vilify it. Love continues even when we doubt its very existence. Love is there, in the smile of a stranger, and the hug of a friend, in the blessings and the break-ups.  Love lives, today and every day, and even the whole world’s collective heartaches can’t break it.

I’ve seen a lot for my time on this planet. I’ve been engaged to my high school sweetheart, I’ve eloped to Paris with a brave Midwestern woman , I’ve had an un-blessed, illegal marriage, and a lawless divorce,  and I’ve moved across an ocean for a new love. Everything bleeds together, the good and bad, the past and the present, the wedding vows and the divorce papers, it all runs together and somehow love embraces it all.

For the Love of Elephants

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By: Jenni Taylor

While visiting Thailand, a friend and I signed up for a day tour that seemed to offer it all: history museums, waterfalls, elephants, rafting, and tigers. Can’t get better than that, right?

The museums were informative, the waterfalls were beautiful, and the elephants- well, the elephants were chained, dirty, and beaten. A chain smoking “tour guide” pushed the tourists from the bus into a line to get them on the elephants, take a few circles around while they were directed with hooks, and then shuffle the group off to lunch on time.

We refused.

While standing to the side feeling guilty and unsure of what to do while the rest of the tourists took their pleasure ride, an elephant came right up to the fence and reached out her trunk to me. It was the same feeling you get when a toddler reaches out her little arms to you and you are sure all the love in the world is being directed at you in that moment.

We became friends.elephant 2

When I asked what her name was, another chain smoking worker said they called her “Lady Boy”, and laughed. Lady Boy’s baby and another older “grandpa” elephant soon joined us.

I decided to feed them bananas.

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I’m no elephant expert, but if eyes are windows to the soul, these elephants have spirit. They have life. They are capable of happiness, friendship, and love.

And when grandpa elephant was taken away to be ridden by tourists and smacked with a hook, my new friend turned sadly away and stood by herself.

Her eyes told me they were capable of pain and suffering, too.

Maybe we couldn’t have done much more than we did, refuse to ride and show as much love and care as we could in the few minutes we had. But I can’t get them out of my mind. So, I pray,

May the humans who have lost their kindness rediscover it.
May creatures in pain be given advocates of love.
May we learn to increase our empathy and our loving action,
and may we use the loudness of our voices
to speak out against wrongdoing towards all things, great and small.
May we see the world through the eyes of God and care for it in the same way.

Amen.

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5 Ways to Give More Love This Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is often turned into something commercial, but at its heart, Valentine’s Day is about sharing as much love as you can. So, here is a list of five ways you can give more love this Valentine’s Day:

  1. Attend a V-Day show. V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. Their shows, put on all over the world this month include “The Vagina Monologues” and “A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer” by Eve Ensler. You can find shows near you using their handing V-Spot locator. The shows make great dates, and fun self-love gifts.
  2. When you give your loved ones gifts from Heifer International for Valentine’s day, not only do you get the “aww” factor of looking at the cute faces of cows, sheep, and chicks, but you also get to help end world poverty and hunger. You get to give a gift to someone you know and someone you have never met.  Now that’s a lot of love.
  3. Send someone you love and e-card from Scarleteen this year and you share more than just your feelings. Scarleteen provides young people essential information on sexuality, love and sexual health. A gift to Scarleteen means you are helping young people make better choices about who to love and how to share that love. Plus, you might learn a tip or two for your own love life.
  4. If you want to really share the love this Valentine’s day, then One Family Honduras should be your Valentine. One Family Honduras helps one family at a time in Gracias,  Honduras to get access to excellent education.  You donation helps adorable kids like Karla, Ada, Sergio, and Stefani gain knowledge that will change their futures.
  5. Want a gift that keeps on giving and gives back? Well then Kiva is your way to give more this Valentine’s day. Give your loved ones $25 Kiva cards and they can choose how to share that love with people around the world. When the loan is repaid, you can give it to someone else. Talk about a chain of love!

If you still want more ways to share your love check out our Spare Change page. We all have wisdom and love to share, so go ahead…

 MAKE YOUR LOVE GLOBAL

Love, The Bible, and Childcare

Today’s post comes from David Etim who is writing from Lagos, Nigeria.   David voluntarily retired as a career banker in 1998 to strengthen his commitments to God and to serve humanity better. His post shows the wisdom he gained about love in the Bible and through caring for someone else’s child.

Steve Maraboli once said “The bank of love is never bankrupt.” I believe this is true.

Life is very interesting and fulfilling when you are connected to someone worth loving forever. Once, a young widow visited me to inform me that she has been gainfully employed but she didn’t have a place to keep her son while she would be on shift from 5.00a.m. – 11.00 p.m. Her efforts to find a place to care for him while she was working were all unsuccessful, and what could she do now? She asked me.
I told her to bring the boy to me. He was one year and six months old when I began to care for him. His mother was very happy and expressed her heartfelt gratitude toward me for helping to care for her son.

God gave me special grace to take good care of the young lad as if he were my biological son. The most exciting aspect of it all is that I do not have a biological child and I have never been married.

I found help in the Scriptures, where God unveils a recipe for love:
“Well, where is he?” their father demanded. “Did you just leave him there? Invite him home for supper.”
…Anyone who takes care of a little child like this is caring for me….. Your care for others is the measure of your greatness” ( Luke 9:48 TLB ).
“There is no one like Timothy for having real interest in you, everyone else seems to be worrying about his own plan and not those of Jesus
Christ” ( Philippians 2: 20 TLB).
“but we have always cared for orphans in our home, treating them as our own children” ( Job 31:18 TLB).

When he was of age, I began taking him to school and after school sessions. His performances from play group to kindergarten have always been excellent and remarkable. We are all very happy.

I believe, when God locates someone whose concern is all about helping others, He will direct His grace towards such person. The good thing in life is that what you make happen for others, God will make happen to you.

Through all my experiences, I have found that people do not really care how much we know, but how much we care.
“… I have told you all my feelings; I love you with all my heart. Any coldness still between us is not because of any lack of love on my part, but because your love is too small and does not reach out to me and draw me in” ( 2 Corinthians 6: 11-12 TLB).

Millennials Strike Back with Professions of Love

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By: Jenni Taylor

There has been a barrage of articles the past few years aimed at my particular age-group, you know the 20-somethings often ever-so-kindly referred to as “Millennials”. If you believe these articles, you know that we are considered over-educated, under-paid or jobless, a little lazy, idealistic, media-centric, and we do large amounts of classy wine consumption and have a disinterest in politics. To this constantly over-generalized, under-estimated group of my peers I would like to say:

We need you. Desperately.

You, my dear one, are in the perfect position to change the world right now. You can take all the criticism the media has been throwing at us and use it.

On a recent trip to Cambodia, I visited a married couple who fit the 20-something prototype and worked every bit of it to their advantage.

Cambodia has received a slew of NGO bandage programs in the last few decades to help restore the country after years of violence. I refer to them as bandage programs because while they were desperately needed at the time, a few years later many of them have proven to be unsustainable, disorganized, and sorely lacking solid, informed leadership with long term goals in sight.

These two people I visited are learning the language, building connections with the people, working with existing programs to create change. They are using every aspect of the media’s generalizations about 20-somethings –their “over-education”, their “search for purpose” and their “naïve idealism”– to create professions of love.

As I walked with them, they would greet and chat with their neighbors. I saw faces light up as these two “over-educated” and “lazy” Millennials struggled through their Khamai, with laughter and gestures thrown in for good measure. I saw relationships being created one step at a time.

I saw them study, read, talk and pray, as the navigated the waters to enter into leadership for a new foster care program aimed at education and healing for families. What I saw, more than anything else, were two ordinary 20-somethings searching for meaning by doing their best to make a difference. It was beautiful.

If this speaks to you, if you are a 20-something experiencing the lost feelings and search for purpose that so many articles claim is essential to our identity, please—explore those feelings, ignore the hype, get up and go. Use everything in your brain, everything those large college loans paid for, to make the world a better place. You have skills. You are needed. Use the Millennial stereotypes to your advantage. Strike back and turn your job into profession of love.

If this speaks to you, please don’t hesitate to contact Autumn or Jenni through sophiaspockets@gmail.com. We would love to provide more information about professional NGOs looking for the help of passionate professionals. Also, please send your own stories of how you created a profession of love so we can share it with others!