Bitter about Birthdays

(( FYI:  I struggle a lot with knowing what to say on my blog that anyone could skim through. It is my utmost desire to keep these children's stories private for the most part but paint an accurate picture of what my experience is. If I only blog about my weekend activites and the good in the day, you will get a completely wrong picture of my experience. However I never know how much to say and I wrestle with this in every blog entery))

Birthdays =  a time to celebrate you. From what I'm use to this follows with a few presents, cake, family and friends getting to celebrate another year of my life. Last night through tears I was reflecting at my past birthdays. I took the time to try and remember each one and realizing very quickly the mood on each one of those birthdays: happiness. I was happy. It was about me that day and people came to see me, sent me a card or told me they were thinking about me on my birthday. I was recognized. I wasn't being forgotten.

Since living at the boarding house birthdays have been the opposite (not always, but most). I buy the child sweets (gummies) and write them a birthday letter. That's really all I can afford to get them to make it fair for each child, whatever gender. Coming into this I assumed (stupidly) that birthdays would be a happy time to celebrate another year of their life and also have a present to go along with it. I never thought my present would be the only present they got. I didn't know that for some of these children their birthdays aren't really recongized- the child isn't acknowledged. I'm frustrated with this and it often leads me to tears and venting to God trying to find his inner peace. (which He always provides might I add)
The past 3 birthdays I've experienced at the boarding house have always been linked with tears and sadness. These 3 girls each had their individual reasons to cry on their birthdays but the general theme was missing something. They missed their families. They missed feeling loved. They wanted someone to care.

 I watched as one  mother promised for 4 weeks that she would come and bring her daughter a birthday cake- she never came. I texted this mother twice asking her to be honest and say if she would actually come because I watched this girl wait and wait and wait and wait... this mother promised me she was coming on two different occasions and never showed. I had to watch this precious young girl realize after a month that her mom wasn't coming and whatever reason she had linked with it wasn't good enough.

I got to talk to her last night again about her birthday and she told me that most of her immediate family had died and that birthday's are so hard for her as it is. It broke me. I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit was speaking through me because last night was all a blur. I feel terrible sometimes asking God for strength because there are so many people who need that strength more than I do, but I am blessed that God is WAY more than enough for the 7 billion people living on this earth. God gave me strength to get through 3 very difficult conversations yesterady- ending in this one with this girl about her lost family and forgotten birthday. As I tucked her into bed I grabbed both of her hands and prayed that she would feel God's love- that she would feel part of His family- knowing He is her heavenly Father and His desire is to take care of her.

(Pause with me for a sec). Why am I talking about birthdays? because I've realized that they aren't always the happiest time of the year- but one of the low points because they are forced to reflect on their life, who is taking care of them and what they have. I am also talking about birthdays because it was another beauitful girl's birthday at the hostile yesterday- she turned 8. 

She came running to me telling me it was her birthday yesterday and I pulled her into a huge hug and sang happy birthday to her! Her face lit up at the beginning of the day trusting that it was going to be a good birthday. I was excited for her. 8 is a big deal for a little girl like herself. Her Auntie brought her cake at the school and she celebrated with her class and teacher. This little girl cherished this 5 minute birthday party so much that she took all the used cake plates  (paper plates) from the kids and took them back to the boarding with her. I asked her why she wasn't throwing them out and looked at me and said happily "Auntie Maddie, they are my presents!! I have presents!!" 

I didn't have the heart to tell her that these weren't presents but belonged in the garbaged and prayed that I would see used paper plates as presents. They were memories to this girl, that she had that many friends at her birthday party. She wanted a memory of her 8th birthday.

However after a few hours passed the excitment she once was carrying slipped away. Her face was sad. I was watching her trying to figure out what was going on in this precious girls heart and mind. Finally once dinner was over and we were semi alone I turned her to face me, looked into her eyes and asked her "whats wrong?" Without one word said between us tears started falling on her beautiful cheeks. I could tell she was embarassed at the fact of how easily she was crying and looked down at the floor. When I told her it was alright and that it was a good thing to cry and tell me how she felt the tears came harder. She hadn't said a word yet but she climbed into my lap on the kitchen chair and rested her head in my neck, sobbing. I didn't know what was wrong but this was one of my short prayers to God reminding Him that I can't handle this and that I'm not strong enough and God replying right away that He is more than enough.

 The other girls were around and realized how sad she was on her birthday. After a few mintues had passed I asked her what was wrong. It took another 5 minutes before a response but she had said kids teased her and made fun of her on her birthday. ( I wanted to punch those kids - don't they know birthday's are hard enough as it is.. why do stupid children have to ruin it more for this girl.. urg... i was mad! but don't worry.. those were just some of the thoughts running through my mind- they never were vocalized or showed in my emotions)

The girls and I decided to put on a concert for her to help make her birthday a good memory, rather than a memory that led to tears. Since we were in the kitchen the spoons and forks became our micraphones and was started dancing around the kitchen singing justin bieber on the top of our lungs dancing around the table. Her smile started to appear- we stood her on the kitchen chair dancing around her singing happy bithday. The other girls got it. They understood far more than I ever can. They were doing everything they could to make her feel loved. I had to sit back and make a mental picture in my mind promising that I wouldn't forget the atmosphere of last night. The tears went away and turned into laughter. After about an hour I declared it was time for bed. As soon as some of the girls left the birthday girl stayed back tears once again falling on her cheeks. "O Lord, please give me your eyes, show me what you're seeing" - this is a simple prayer I pray ALOT. God knows what is in each one of these children's hearts and I so want to be on His team - seeing what He sees to know how to approach each situation.

As I grabbed her hand and led her upstairs to bed the tears turned into sobs and by the time we reached bed with all the other girls she had reached the point of crying that is just all pain. I asked her if she needed a moment and with a shake of her head yes- I carried her into my room and sat on the bed. Another girl came with. I put a pillow on my lap and told her to snuggle up! With lots of tears, filled with pain and exhaustation she told me how much she missed her mom. How much she just wanted her mom to see her. (Her parents both died when she was younger, 2 years apart, both of a sickness) Anytime these girls talk about how much they wish they had parents or about missing their mom I cry. Usually I would excuse myself go into my room and let the tears sob, chatting with God about how thankful I am for my mom and how hard taking the burden of these girls lives onto mine is. But she was already in my room and there was no where to go. I tried to be strong but the tears still came. As I rubbed her back, I started praying outloud over this girl asking God for strength and to realize that she was part of a family. I told her it was ok to miss her mom and to know that her mom was so proud of her along with other things. I don't know the whole story but this little 8 year old has been through a lot. ALOT.. more than I can write on blog.

I let her fall asleep in my bed the whole time just praying over her. I know God heard me and I know He is in control. After tucking her back into bed last night I realized that I hate birthdays here. Yes, a bitter thought but I'm being honest with you. I am thankful there are no more birthdays for a little while and I'm determined that when the next birthday comes up I will do everything I can to make it specail, but God reminded me that I can't fix that pain- only He can. Even if I throw the greatest party, all she wanted was a hug from her mom and I can't make that happen.

It's been a really emotional time and I'm sure it will only continue into next week. Most of the kids are leaving the boarding house and moving on. (some to highschool, one to Capetown and four children are transfering schools) This means a new batch of children are coming through but I think it will be less than 17. The dyanmaic is changing in the house as the mood starts to swing into "good-byes." Coming into this week I told God that there was no way I could handle this and He reminded me that "He always can!"

I am so blessed to have this experience to be used- to serve a living and Holy God. Even though these nights are hard I am so greatful to have this opportunity to live in the moment, to learn and to love on these children. God is always in control and I trust in Him for that. 


Still Processing

What a crazy few weeks its been!

I went back to the boarding house and to my job at the school and found out that the school has different plans than what I had expected. Long story short- seems like my job is being re-evaluated at the school and for the rest of this year I am no longer working at the school but in other areas of the NGO that I work for called Project Gateway... it's been an interesting week processing all of this and I'm happy to have left the country for a week and had the chance to visit Lesotho. In these next few weeks I will try to figure out my job and don't worry- I will keep you updated on all of that when I know more.. my position of living at the boarding house with the kids remains the same however:)

As mentioned above I travelled to Lesotho last week- it was great to get away from the city and from South Africa and spend time in a completely new culture but it was hard to see.  Have you heard of this country? Do you know that most of the country still doesn't have access to running water or electricity? This country is in the top 3 highest countries of HIV/AIDS in the world? Seeing this all up close was hard. It broke me and it takes a while to process these things. Trying to balance what to do about seeing this and meeting the children and hanging out with the locals and accepting the fact that they know nothing different and are happy with certain things..

so basically i'm processing and will write more when I've had time to let my thoughts sink in a bit more!

Hope your week was amazing:)

The Invitation

I was read this poem last week and it hit home- thought I would pass it on!

The Inviation- by Oriah
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.
It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.


"We were meant to live for so much more
 have we lost ourselves?"


failed video blog!

Hey All!

I have tried three times to upload a video to you! I realized you haven't seen me since settling in and I wanted to say THANK YOU FOR YOUR PRAYERS!

I am just on a inhaler now for my breathing- God is so good. I will try to upload it again but I am frustrated with it.. but I want you to know I am doing great.
This week consists of me being back at the boarding house and being back at the school - a full week!

On Saturday I am heading to Durban to see a pre school graduation that my dear friend and fellow Shawnti is helping run. (that's where she works)

& on Sunday I am leaving nice and early to travel to Lesotho for a week (different country) and I get to visit 2 of the SALTers there and also do some manual labour.. .awe yea.

I hope you had a restful weekend. Mine was very busy but great to be social again:)



Against the Grain.

It's the little things in life that matter. Time and time again I am reminded of this because I so often forget.

The kids at the boarding house have an option to go home on weekends if they like. If their parents or guardians or whoever takes care of them wants them to leave they are more than welcome too. This often leaves half of the boarding children there on the weekends. I don't stay at the boarding house on the weekends but I have a pretty good idea that it can get very boring being there all the time.

It has so been on my heart to take the kids to church with me on the weekend. When I brought up this idea at the bible study I attend I was reminded of November 6 - make you famous day. This church service was going to be designed for the children - it was perfect! Dani, Kelly + Nathan (the coolest people ever!) all volunteered to pick up the kids from the boarding house and take them to church. It makes me so emotional typing this because I was so overwhelmed at how excited these kids were. When we got into the church they were amazed at how big the powerpoint screen was and how many people were at church. They were also so thankful. I have never seen these kids behave better. It was such a precious moment that I will forever cherish and hold with me.

Instead of taking the kids home after church Kelly and Nathan had a surprise for them. MCDONALDS!!!! Again, its the little things that make life so enjoyable - so valuable. Kelly and Nathan with the help of Dani's family bought the kids a happy meal! It was soooooo cute- we sat the kids down at a long table right outside the jungle gym area.. and they looked at me with a face that said "are you kidding me- you're going to make us sit when there is a jungle gym 5 meters away!" Silly me! Within seconds the giggles started as all 9 kids raced towards to jungle gym. They could have played in that thing for hours.

A simple outing like church and McDonalds has changed me. 

We live in a society that is "go go go" "want want want" "consume.. there is always more we need" "it's all about me and my gain" and I'm sick of it. I refuse to live like that any more. There is so much more to life than this way of living.

It's not all about me. It never was intended that way nor will it ever become that way in the future  no matter what society tries to say.

We are all made equal. Christ loves us each the same and has a Kingdom calling over each one of our lives. Why do we continue to sell ourselves short?

Why do I continue to look past the hurt and suffering in this world? On Sunday I got to see 9 beautiful children light up. I got to see their hearts filled with joy. I got to watch these kids feel loved. Is that not what life is about? Is life really about climbing the social ladder... getting the most expensive car and being accepted in society?

I know going against the grain is hard and I'm not saying it will be easy. What I am saying is that I will fight with everything that I have to continue to go against the grain. I refuse to be quiet any longer. People are hurting. People need to know that their is a God who is crazy about them and accepts them right where they are at. People need to know their is hope - there is a reason worth living.

My heart is heavy and my passion is strong. I can get so overwhelmed with the problems in this world. 7 billion people live on this earth - unreal. But for those 9 kids on a Sunday morning it made a difference. It made a huge difference to them.

God has put you right where He wants you. You don't need to solve poverty but you can make a difference in the people that God has put you with. I promise you, it will matter to the person you send a letter of encouragement too... it will matter to the homeless person you invite to Tim Hortons to have coffee with and listen to their story. It will matter that you said a girl looked beautiful and meant it when inside she is struggling with an eating disorder. It will matter to that child who you pick up and put on your lap and read them a story. It will matter- you're actions matter.

I am asking you to stand with me. To look past the constant selfish desires and to seek God's desires. I am asking you to live simply. I am asking you to go against the grain and help empower those who can't. I am asking you to pray for the girl who gets raped 15 times a day. I am asking you to become educated on the atrocities that are constantly being ignored while people talk about Kim Kardashians wedding. You will fail, I will fail but that should not stop us from trying. & if you can't - I'm still going against the grain. One of the biggest lessons I've learnt is that I'm no different from a girl living in poverty around the world- so what makes me think and act like I am?

I changed and when I come back I hope you see a different Madeline.
I thank those 9 children who reminded me what life is about and what matters in life.


Spoken Word.

On March 25 I blogged about attending a slam poetry event . I have been interested in poetry and spoken word poetry for a while now and this past week I stumbled across one that inspired me and had an outstanding message. I read it so much that I decided that people needed to hear this message as well.

I did not write this poem called 21st Century Girl - I was just inspired but the words and really believe in this message.


I linked the original in the description but I want to re link it here just so all the credit goes to this girl and not to me! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UjA6phhqDgA

I believe in change - do you?


A new outlook

I want to share with you what's been on my heart lately. It isn't any crazy story or something that you will laugh at while reading.. its just what's been constantly on my mind this past week.
So as you all know by now I've been sick. Since coming to South Africa there has been a constant feeling in the back of my mind that I am useless while being here. That feeling rises up whenever I loose my patience with the kids or when the school tells me they don't have any work for me to do for that day. It's been extremely discouraging thinking this way and I've tried so hard not to let my thoughts of "uselessness" surface for too long or even verbalize what I've been feeling. However lying in bed for 2 weeks has only increased this feeling making it a constant thought in my mind. I've had so much thinking time that I've almost convinced myself at one point that I wasn't doing any good and I was just acting like a tourist here. I shortly realized how destructive this thinking was over my life and my situation and how Satan could totally take control of these destructive thoughts and run with them.

I gave my thoughts over to God and asked Him to do something awesome with this "down time" in my life. I just adore how God looks over me in His special and unique way. God reminded me ( like He has to do many times when I get side-tracked) that one of the main reasons I'm living is to bring glory to His name. Also that my main purpose is to get to know God- that's one of the reasons that I am meant to live. He reminded me that even if I did nothing but spend time in His word and get to know Him better this year that that would be one of the greatest things I could do.

I was floored! What a foolish young woman I was to forget that profound truth. God used my sickness to remind me to continue to fall more in love with Him. & by getting to know Him better my year could never be useless. This week has been a blessing- I'm not saying I'm happy that I've been sick but I'm happy that I had the opportunity to spend hours on end just falling in love with my Saviour. Our lives can get so busy, so hectic and I loved the fact that I was bed rest in a foreign country with nothing more to do than read my bible for the day. It's been awesome!

A verse that I've been so consumed with is 1 Corinthians 2: 9

"but just as it is written, things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him"

We can't begin to understand the great things that God has for those who love him. Why are we not so excited about this truth!! It goes on to say that we have received the same Spirit that knows God's thoughts. vs 16 goes on to say that

"but we have the mind of Christ"

Un-real. God has such a great plan for each and every one of us and wants to share it with us- but we need to get to know Him and His Spirit in order for us to be used to our full God given potential.

I am stoked to go back to school and see the children again- but I have a new outlook on this year. I am here to serve but I am also here just to fall more in love with Christ.

So yea- that's what has been on my heart!



a little comfort

Since being away from home for (almost) 3 months I have started to miss certain comforts.
The last SALTer who was living with the Pennels brought them Tim Hortons mugs... whenever I need a little lovin' from home I ALWAYS grab this mug... it's one of my comforts.


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