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Why is it that we sometimes don't realize how much we really have until we see how little others have?

Jarod here...First of all, I want to say I have had an amazing Thanksgiving and oddly enough, I didn't eat so much that I felt like hibernating this year. Nonetheless, the food was amazing (thanks Mom) as usual and the company even that much better.

For most of us, Thanksgiving involves a little football, some nice long naps, having some good laughs with our family and yes, a lot of food. But, so many times I think we forget the reason behind the season. Well, I was reminded again this year of how much I have to be thankful for. I titled the entry to this post what it is because it is so true in my life and I think if we were all honest, many others would say the same. Over the past couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people...people who aren't quite as fortunate as many of you reading this journal entry. I have had the chance to sit down and talk with these fascinating people and to learn just a little about their lives. One lady I spoke with had recently lost almost everyone in her immediate family in a matter of the past few months. Many others had been let go from their jobs and are struggling just to provide food for their family. One couple mentioned to me they had been sleeping on the floor for the past several months because they can't afford a bed and the list could go on and on.

If there is one thing I don't understand in life, it is the question of why some people seem to be so much more blessed or "favored" than others. No doubt, we have all made bad decisions and mistakes that we wish we could take back and those decisions can and do have a major impact on our lives. But, why do some have so much more than others and did they really work that much harder to get all they have...or where they just dealt a better hand in life? One thing I do know is that I am one of those people who have been very blessed. I have been blessed with an amazing family that loves me, a beautiful wife that could have only stepped right out of a dream, a pantry full of food, closet full of clothes, warm sheets to sleep in, nice car to drive, friends who would do anything for me and a job that pays the bills. I am not saying any of this to brag because truth be told, I don't deserve any of this. I have done nothing more to deserve the things I have any more than the man standing on the corner asking for some food money. I can't credit myself for anything I have but, I can credit the big Man upstairs for everything I have. He has provided for me from the start and I know He will never stop.

One of the main reasons that Sarah and I have decided to join the Peace Corps is because of the things you see written above. Like I said, I don't know why I have been so fortunate to have such a good life. But, I know that it is the least that we can do to spend 2 years of our lives trying to help others that haven't been as fortunate as us.

Yesterday on Thanksgiving day, one of the businesses in our home town of Alma hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the less fortunate in the community. Sarah and I volunteered to help and were able to serve food to those who came in to eat. There was one man in particular who came in to eat, pulled up a chair at the far end of the tent 20 seats away from anyone else and quietly began to eat his Thanksgiving dinner. After a little encouragement from Sarah who said something like, "Jarod, go sit down with and talk to that man who is by himself", I grabbed a big fluffy role and made my way to the end of the tent to sit with this man.

The next few seconds involved me getting a few weird stares as to why I was sitting there followed by the words from this man "I am not a social person". This didn't slow me down a bit. I proceeded to tell him my name and then ironically started up a long conversation with this "unsocial" man named Travis. Travis wasn't the most clean cut looking man. He was in his late 40's or early 50's and had a scraggly beard, was missing a few teeth and was wearing a t-shirt in the somewhat cold 45 degree weather. However, little did I know that just by lending an ear I would get a fairly detailed narration of his life. I soon found out that Travis had no family to spend Thanksgiving parents, kids or a wife. He was divorced around a year ago after some not so good incidents occurred and said he would never marry again. I continued to listen to his life story all the while thinking to myself, man I have it good.

After Travis finished eating, I told him I wanted to send some take home food with him and boxed it all up for him. He asked for a sack to put it in because he rode his bike there and couldn't carry the food on the bike. Well, sadly enough, we could not find a sack so I told him we could just throw his bike in the back of my Dad's truck and I would take him and his food home. After I put his bike in the back of the truck, Travis went on and on about how nice of a truck it was and that he didn't want to mess it up by having his bike in the back. He said that I could just follow him home with the food so that he wouldn't mess up the truck. Finally, after some brief arguing about what a truck bed liner is for, I convinced him to get in the truck and let me take him, his bike and food home. Travis only lived around 300 yards away in a tiny house that couldn't have been more than 500 sq feet and looked as if it were abandoned years ago. But after the short ride home, he was so thankful for my help. He told me that I could come by anytime I wanted and just talk with him. Travis is a good man who has just made some bad decisions and caught some bad breaks. Who hasn't made some bad decisions?

I can't tell you how much of a reality check Thanksgiving day was for me. Just when I think I may have it bad or I need just one more thing to make me happy, I meet someone like Travis. Isn't it interesting how the unfortunate lives of others remind us of how blessed we are?  And, isn't it sad that so many times it takes something like that to remind us?  I hope that everyone who reads this entry will step back and take a moment to realize how fortunate they are...regardless of how much or little they have. I can assure you there are many, many others with much, much less. Let us not forget to give thanks in everything.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.   James 1:17


"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Winston Churchill

"I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love." Mother Teresa

Jarod and I are so excited. 90 days. I feel like we're crawling towards February.

Yesterday our Pastor talked about a giving heart. I hope that when I die, people will say that I had a generous and giving heart. So often I hold so tightly to the things that Jarod and I have worked for because we have worked very hard for what we have. No debt AND a savings account. It comes naturally to Jarod. He could give everything we have away and probably not think twice about it. I however, love my stuff. I'm selfish I guess. But I'm working on it.

So on that note, I think we're giving our mattress and box springs away. Possibly our couch and love seat too. If you're interested or know someone who truly needs these...let us know.

We met the "Bishop to Rwanda" several weeks ago. He said that Rwanda is the safest place in Africa right now. He should know, his family was the ethnic group targeted in the genocide. He lost pretty much everyone. He has hope like I've never witnessed. It's pretty amazing.

I'm still totally nervous about this packing stuff. 80 lbs. Not cool.

We saw the Watoto children's choir perform last Thursday night. It was incredible! There were 18 children aged 5-13 and everyone of them are orphans. They told their stories of how they came to Watoto. One kid, Godfrey, was 8 when his parents died. He was left to take care of his 2 young toddler brothers. They sat on the streets begging for food until a "Christian lady" took them to Watoto. Now they have a bed, food and family. We are so blessed! We, Americans, do not realize what we have. We're all, for the most part, so selfish. Not everyone, but mostly everyone. It's sad. I don't want to be selfish. Once again, I'm working on it.

I'm very sad about not seeing my Laila, Caden, and Deagan...they just left last week but it just doesn't seem enough to see them only one more time. They are too wonderful to go without for 2 years. I told Caden I was going to miss him when he went back to California...and he said "well I'm going to miss you when you go to Africa." Pretty much broke my heart. Someday-he'll understand and hopefully respect what we're doing. It's a big thing giving up two years. It's not my life to give but I feel like it is sometimes. That's when I forget who I belong too. Africa needs help. And we're just the couple to do it.

"I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." Mother Teresa


Let the games begin!

As many of you already know, Jarod and I have decided to join the Peace Corps. We applied last October (08) and were invited to Rwanda in October (09). We will be heading out February 22nd, 2010 for 27 months and will return May 2012 pending everything goes smoothly. We were told we would be working in the Health field primarily with HIV/AIDS education. This is our first blog so hopefully we'll be good at this thing! Every emotion you can have is probably going through our minds. We're excited, anxious, nervous, a little scared, but definitely ready.

We have been through extensive medical screenings including very "thorough" physicals, blood work and some vaccinations that will soon be followed by many more. All in all this whole process has been very long and frustrating but we know that it will soon all pay off. We were told that the application process for married couples would take longer. They weren't kidding.

We have been told we can only bring 80 lbs. of luggage per person. That seems like very little considering we are moving for over two years. However, I am not as worried about that aspect as much as my wife. She is stressing to say the least. I've got a feeling she is going to somehow add several of her extra pounds into my baggage limit. Oh well, what are husbands for...give and take right? None the less, we are so excited and you can bet we are counting down...111 days, 10 hours and 45 minutes until we go for a long, very long plane ride to our new home away from home. From everyone we have spoken to and from everything we have read, Rwanda is a beautiful place filled with amazing people and breathtaking, lush scenery. We really feel this is going to be an amazing adventure and a big stepping stone in our life for whatever is to come next. There is no doubt that this Peace Corps thing will be very stressful and challenging at times. However, we have every bit of faith that our heavenly Father will continue to provide and protect us in whatever life throws at us.

We are going to try and write as frequently as possible...however, we can not make any promises as we do not know what the internet situation will be in Rwanda. We're hoping for a couple of times per month. We love you all (our future groupies) and hope you will enjoy learning and sharing our adventure will us!!

Blessed to be a blessing
Jarod and Sarah