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September is Blog Month at Compassion International. As a Compassion Blogger, my goal is to share my heart for children in poverty and encourage others to change lives through child sponsorship. This is week number two of Blog Month. Last week, 837 children were sponsored! 2,271 sponsorships are left to meet Compassion’s goal of 3,108 children sponsored in just 30 days. Together, we can change the lives of children.

If you feel called to sponsor a child through Compassion International, click here for more information.


Dear God, Heavenly Father:

All of humankind is reflected in your beautiful creation.

Every single one imperfect, but all together perfect in you.

You work one at a time, delicate lives hanging in your promise.

The wild, it comes, but your plans are already underway.

We are blown by the wind, this way and that.

Dead and alive among us.

Old remnants of beauty wait for your joyful return.

We can’t help but hear your whisper.

We need our dried up days, our dried up hearts to be softened by you.

Our hands reach out, you are the roots, we are the branches.

There are pricks, there are pokes, yet all is so beautiful. Sometimes we don’t know what we need, Lord.

You cover all wrong.

We lie, broken nothingness from the battle, awaiting your glory.

Borders and boundaries restrict, fire destroys and ash remains. You know no borders and promise beauty for ashes.

Some push and pull and grow up in spite of earthly limitations, only because of you.

Sometimes as one, standing alone for what’s right, knowing your light is needed.

Even the rugged, the worn down bend in the way of your light and grace.

The colorful, unafraid to stand alone, hope amidst chameleon green and brown.

The quiet ones, bowed down waiting on you.

The straight and narrow ones, all in a row, working to fill the cracks in your name.

The ones full of fruit, bearing witness to your Spirit.

The little ones, delicate dancing beauty freed in your presence.

The nails, bent down this way and that way, remind us of your sacrifice.

Arms lifted high, our lives sing a song of surrender to you.

All filled with imperfection, we gather others imperfect, surrogates for you, and you bundle us up tight in your perfect grace. The imperfect are perfected in you.

In all of this, we await your glory, loving in your name.

Lord, come and be in the middle of our brokenness, our ruggedness, our worn down lives. The pricks and pokes and weeds, the imperfections everywhere, the wildness and brokenness, the loneliness and all these remnants.

Take our hearts and mold us to be like you.

Show us the way.

Lead us to the precious little ones, delicate buds lifting high, reaching across all hopeful, waiting.

All connected, all one in you.

Sponsor a child through Compassion International, and change a life.

To find out more about child sponsorship, click here.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10


Today, it is my duty and delight to introduce you to precious children who are so patiently waiting for a sponsor through Compassion International.

A few weeks ago, I shared with you my journey to child sponsorship through Compassion International. I believe God placed in me a heart for child sponsorship since I was a child. Now that I have finally taken the leap of faith and answered that call on my life, I am no longer willing to stand by silently, just hoping, just assuming the rest of the children will be taken care of by someone else.

The care of children in need should not be assumed. The health and well being of children is not something we should leave in the hands of that nebulous, unnamed someone else. The care of children around the world is my duty, my delight. Our duty, our delight. Deep in my heart, deep in my soul I know I can do something, I want to do something, I must do something. In fact, I believe God calls each one of us to do something.

The children of Compassion did not choose where they were born, nor the set of circumstances they face every day. They are hungry and need clean water, they love and want to be loved, care and want to be cared for, they have desires and longings and will thrive given the right opportunities, and were created in God’s image just like you and me.

I will no longer sit back and let these children go unnoticed. I commit to acting as an advocate for the children, so they have hope of a future beyond their circumstances.

As a Compassion Blogger, I stand up on behalf of the children, revealing their faces, telling their stories, humbly but boldly voicing their needs.

I challenge you not to get lost in the sea of photographs, feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, but to look into the face of each precious child and simply ask yourself if you feel called to sponsorship.

There are thousands of children waiting for a sponsor. It is my prayer that if you feel a call on your heart to sponsor a child, you will take that leap of faith sooner than I did. There are parents hoping and praying, children who have been waiting months for a sponsor, children whose life line is child sponsorship.



Children waiting for a sponsor, like beautiful little Fatoumata Cisse. Fatoumata lives in Burkina Faso. She is five-years-old and has been waiting for a sponsor for 403 days. She lives in an AIDS-affected area and lives in an area with higher risk of exploitation and abuse. Fatoumata is not presently attending school.

If you feel called to sponsor Fatoumata Cisse or prefer to search Compassion’s database of children waiting for a sponsor, click here.






Children waiting for a sponsor, like sweet Makendy Terasmon from Haiti. Makendy is seven-years-old and has been waiting for a sponsor for 281 days. Makendy’s duties at home include carrying water and gathering firewood. The Compassion website states “He is also in primary school where his performance is above average.”

If you feel called to sponsor Makendy Terasmon or would like to search Compassion’s database of children waiting for a sponsor, click here.






Children waiting for a sponsor, like little Jenelleden Daylosan from the Philippines. Jenelleden is four-years-old and has been waiting for a sponsor for 310 days. She lives with her aunt and uncle and there are four children in the family.

If you feel called to sponsor Jenelleden Daylosan or would prefer to search Compassion’s database of children waiting for a sponsor, click here.







Children waiting for a sponsor, like Sachin Vital Kodape from India. Sachin is nine-years-old and has been waiting for a sponsor for 241 days. According to the Compassion website, Sachin’s duties include carrying water, cleaning, and buying or selling in the market.

If you feel called to sponsor Sachin Vital Kodape or prefer to search Compassion’s database of children waiting for a sponsor, click here. 







Children waiting for a sponsor, like precious Vivian Asamoah from Ghana. Vivian is four-years-old and has been waiting for a sponsor for 371 days. There are six children in Vivian’s family. She helps by running errands, and running is her favorite activity.

If you feel called to sponsor Vivian Asamoah or would like to search Compassion’s database of children waiting for a sponsor, click here.




For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-40. 


*Photographs and information about the children used with permission from Compassion International.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to my friend and former colleague, Nicole. I met Nicole in 2005 when she joined our early intervention team; I served as a speech-language pathologist and Nicole an occupational therapist. I felt a very natural and special connection with Nicole from the moment we met; she has such a sweet and kind soul. Today I am beyond honored to be able to share with you my very first guest post, written by dear Nicole about her precious infant son, Benjamin, who passed away in June 2011 from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a neuromuscular disease that is the leading genetic killer of children under two. Through Ben’s story, Nicole so beautifully reminds us that “though God can not stop all hard things, He can foresee all and interweave everything into His Divine plan to make good come of the hard stuff.”  

On September 30, 2010, my husband, Mike, and I were blessed with the birth of our fourth child, a big baby (8 lb 14 oz and 22” long) with red hair, our precious son Benjamin Michael. What an amazing moment! We had waited to find out the gender as we had with our three older girls, loving that wonderful surprise at birth, and we sure were surprised to see a big beautiful boy!

Our early days with Baby Ben were busy of course with four little ones. At the time the girls were six, almost four, and 21-months. Ben joined along in rides to school, was an audience member at dance and school programs, and observed all the antics of his sisters. A little before two months, we noticed that Ben had low muscle tone. He was not lifting his head when lying on his tummy and in fact had done better with this in the first few weeks of his life. I consulted my friend and co-worker who is a physical therapist and she provided some activities which we incorporated many times per day. At three months, I realized that Ben’s tone issues were not improving and seemed more concerning. I called to make two neurology appointments, to rule out any “scary stuff.” I called our local early intervention team to schedule an evaluation for him. I felt so strange making those phone calls, desperate for answers. I thought he might have extremely low tone (hypotonia) or cerebral palsy. I tried to prepare Mike that I thought there would be lots of therapies ahead, that he may not walk until at least 18 months. I talked with co-workers, saying I just hoped it was nothing regressive. The wait for the neurology appointments to come ticked on, and meanwhile Ben had a cold which never seemed to go away. He had noisy breathing. He had more leakage from the corners of his mouth when feeding. He also seemed to use his tummy a lot for breathing. All of these things we attributed to the low muscle tone. Our worry built as he approached four months.

A few days after he turned four months old, on Wednesday, February 2, 2011, the day began as normal. In the afternoon, Ben suddenly refused to take his bottle and was breathing with more effort then usual. We had been suspecting reflux and I heard gulps like he was refluxing. I thought I would call the doctor in the morning and talk about medicine. Mike tried to take him for a drive to calm him to sleep as we assumed the reflux was bothering him and that maybe he was getting the respiratory virus the girls had dealt with the week before. When they got back from the drive Ben had never fallen asleep and in that time he had developed a fever of 102. Mike took him to the emergency room at Children’s St. Paul while I stayed home with the girls. His breathing got more out of control and they had to put him on a ventilator. Mike called and told me about the ventilator and that the doctors were thinking there was some underlying condition going on. That is when the terror struck. As Mike’s dad stayed with the girls, Mike’s mom drove me to the hospital in the wee hours of Thursday morning, February 3. I saw my baby lying sedated on the bed, the ventilator breathing for him, so helpless. In desperation and fear, I asked the doctor, “Is there any way this is just low muscle tone?” She slowly said that she worried about a disease called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

The doctor asked me if I had ever heard of spinal muscular atrophy. I had never heard of it in my whole life, not in college studying to be an occupational therapist, not in years of working with kids with special needs, until the morning before at work. The other occupational therapist in birth-3 had mentioned a new child she was going to be working with who had SMA. I now know there is a reason I heard the word SMA that morning. As I heard it again with my baby lying on that hospital bed, I knew this was a devastating diagnosis. Those hours through the night were the hardest maybe of this whole story. Not knowing for sure,  dealing with the new realization that our baby may not live.

At 9 am that Thursday morning the neurologist came and confirmed that she believed him to have SMA, Type I. The geneticist visited on Friday and came to the same conclusion. SMA is a neuromuscular disease and is the leading genetic killer of children under two. It occurs in 1 out of 6,000 births. It typically occurs when both parents are carriers. 1 in 40 people are a carrier of SMA. When both parents are carriers, each baby they have has a 25% chance of having SMA. Generally the same type of SMA runs in a given family. SMA has 4 types; type I, which makes up 70% of SMA diagnoses, previously known as Werdnig-Hoffman disease, begins in infancy and typically infants with type 1 are not able to roll over, sit, or even hold up their heads. Ben had all the signs, and it was confirmed the next week when the blood test results came back. Ben was fighting pneumonia brought on by the parainfluenza (croup) virus. Babies with SMA are very susceptible to pneumonia. Despite our grief, we grasped onto the gift we hoped we were about to be given, more good time with our baby Ben.

Most of the doctors in the pediatric ICU thought he had a good chance of coming off the ventilator, beating the pneumonia, and going home for some more good days. The nurses in the PICU were my confidantes. They listened for hours as we kept watch over sweet Ben. The chaplain found me almost every day it seemed, talked with me, prayed with me. I asked her what it would be like when Ben went to Heaven. She described it as being a holy time, special, sacred. I began to think of it as being like a birth, something bigger than myself, something I could never do alone but God would be with me. Those days by Ben’s bedside were special to me because they were time I had with him, to hold his little hand, to sing to him, to pray and pray and pray for him.

The child life specialist was such a comfort to me. She helped give us the words for how to explain the disease to the girls, and for how to later explain the shortness of the life Ben would have. A friend connected with the national support group, Families of SMA, and found a mom whose daughter was born with SMA Type 1 and went to Heaven in 2006. She visited me at the hospital; I was so grateful for being able to talk to someone who really knew what I was going through and who had somehow managed to go on. My sister and friend planned a benefit which relieved financial worries. So many people sprung into action to help us with prayers, food, help with the girls, funds. We felt so blessed by everyone’s generosity.

Ben did come home after several weeks of getting better from the pneumonia and having surgery to place a feeding tube in his stomach. Ben had lost some skills in the three weeks he had been dealing with the pneumonia and hospitalization, and with the progression of the disease. He did not move his legs anymore, only his feet. He moved his arms from the elbows but could not use shoulder movement. Unfortunately SMA was one of those regressive diseases I had worried about. Ben came home with medical equipment (feeding pump, pulse oximeter to monitor his oxygen saturation and heart rate, nebulizer for respiratory treatments, vibrating percussor wand and cough assist machine to get mucus out of the lungs, suction machine as he had lost his ability to swallow saliva, and bipap mask which he tolerated during sleep to help with breathing). We had home nursing during the day and they, like the nurses in the PICU, were such blessings to us and to Ben, who loved them and shared many of his precious smiles with them. We had visits from the palliative care team from Children’s, including a nurse, social worker, child life specialist, chaplain, and music therapist. This team ensured comfort for Ben and for our whole family. In May, the palliative care team arranged for me, through the parent to parent program of Children’s, to meet another mom who had a baby with SMA Type 1 in 2003. She visited us, bringing food and gifts, but most importantly understanding.

We were so overjoyed to have the gift of more time with Ben, and he had so many good times! He smiled all the time and would do a silent laugh/chuckle when tickled, during peek-a-boo, or when his sister Ellie would throw his treasured balloons up in the air! He only cried when he was tired. He loved music therapy, especially the guitar. Ben loved to mouth light-weight toys that we placed in his hands, bat at Weebles toys, and knock down block towers with his little fist. He loved books and would pay attention to them for so long. He loved when Mike would take hold of his arm and pretend that Ben was punching him. He loved to play with my hair. He loved to watch the trees blow outside the living room window as he lay on his comfy pillow playing. We took many pictures and videos which are such treasures to us.

We decided that we would keep Ben at home and out of the hospital. We wanted his last days to be peaceful and at home. We chose not to do a tracheostomy tube with ventilator because we knew that given the progression of the disease for Ben, SMA would quickly take all of Ben’s movement away and we did not want him to have to stay here, stuck in a body that could not move though his mind would be unaffected. As a parent, you will do anything for your child even if it is very, very hard for you. We were willing to be without Ben physically here so that he could be free.

Ben had several respiratory infections in the spring but made it through with just increasing his respiratory treatments and antibiotics. Due to some horribly scary episodes of him turning blue and unresponsive when semi-upright in the swing or being held, he had to use a sidelying position mostly and we carried him in a Moses basket to keep his position very stable.

On June 6, 2011, Ben developed a fever and very high heart rate, with his little tummy working so very hard to breathe. We thought he might be going to Heaven and we lay next to him snuggling, praying, crying softly. That night we started giving him medicines for pain and they worked to make him comfortable. Ben did not pass that night, and slowly improved somewhat throughout that next week. After that night, Ben’s work of breathing was more than before and every few days his heart rate would get high again and he would need a dose of medicine to make it go down. He returned to playing and smiling away, our sweet happy boy.

On June 22, Ben’s heart rate became very high again and his work of breathing was so much. That night his pulse oximeter alarm went off and from then on he needed oxygen and constant medicines for pain with increases in doses. It seemed that Ben’s body just could not go on working so hard anymore. In his last days on earth, Ben slept a lot and when awake he would mostly look upward, above our faces. We feel he was seeing angels and beginning to cross over to the next world.

On June 28, 2011, at 8:45 pm with the sunset, our beautiful Benjamin went to Heaven. I was once again able to hold him in my arms as we told him we loved him, it was okay, and to go to Heaven. We felt such relief for him, to not have to work so hard to breathe and to be able to move effortlessly. It was so peaceful and we had such a distinct sense that he was no longer physically in his body.  His long, fragile body which could not sustain him, which we so loved, was now just the shell from which he had moved on.

Since our Benjamin went to Heaven, we have found comfort in reflecting on his beautiful life. A lot of life can be lived in a short time. We may never on this earth know the power of this one precious life which God saw fit to bless us with. We find comfort in feeling him with us though not physically, in knowing that he sends us strength. After Ben was diagnosed, we read Walter Dudley Cavert’s “Dragonfly Story,” about the transformation to eternal life, which can be found online. We also read Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, and it was very comforting to us. We found healing in making photo albums with his pictures. We created a garden in his memory using blue flowers like his eyes and the sky, white like the clouds, red like his hair and with a red maple tree. We felt good decorating his spot at the cemetery with a red stone with a picture of his precious face on it, butterfly wind chimes, a little boy angel statue, and an angel light. When visiting the cemetery, the girls blow bubbles up to Heaven, and run to collect petals which have fallen to the ground. On his birthday and on the anniversary of the day he went to Heaven, we had a picnic there and sent up balloons.

We have continued to connect with other families who have lost a child. I have connected with other SMA moms I met when Ben was alive, and both Mike and I recently met with other grieving parents at the national Families of SMA conference which was held in Bloomington this year.

We have found healing in talking with a wonderful grief counselor together. We seek out things that bring us comfort, going out for coffee (me) or golf (Mike) with friends. We go on outings with the girls, knowing that Ben is with us too, and we so often see butterflies or dragonflies right by us, which we think of as signs from Ben of his transformation to eternal life. At Christmas time, I bought butterfly hair accessories for the girls and had stuffed them in my sock drawer. One day I stepped on something in our bedroom, and somehow a blue butterfly hair clip had made its way out of the package and onto the floor! At work during my home visits, I so often see butterflies. One day at each house I went to I saw butterflies, on the dishes of a little girl as we worked on feeding, on a light fixture at another house, on wall art at another.

I now look forward to that blessed day when I am born into eternal life, greeted by my precious Benjamin’s face. Until then he will send me strength and I will make him proud as I continue the rest of my journey here.

I challenge and encourage you…

Do you understand that though God can not stop all hard things, He can foresee all and interweave everything into His Divine plan to make good come of the hard stuff? He walks right along with you through anything. He truly gives new strength, each step of the way.

Do you live your life knowing that this world truly is temporary? I have witnessed it with my own eyes. Heaven is the ultimate goal. There my Ben is now strong and healthy, without struggle, in a beautiful eternal life and we can one day join him.

Do you make each day an expression of love to your children? Do you strive to brighten the day for others, even those you don’t know well? Do you spend your time on what is truly important?

He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:29-31


For more information on Spinal Muscular Atrophy visit: Ben’s Caring Bridge Site and  Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy.


  1. […] Charlotte enjoys SMA-free days in heaven with other angel babies like Benjamin. Read Benjamin’s journey through SMA, shared in a guest post on this blog by his mama Nicole in September 2012 here. […]

  2. Carol says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story of Ben. You are an amazing woman and mother! I, unfortunately, wept like a baby through this entire story of your incredible journey. If you knew me, you’d know that I have a big soft heart!! Your faith and strength are unbelievable!! I’m hoping to meet you someday. I am so glad that you shared your story on Amy’s blog. I can see why our Amy thinks so highly of you!! BIG HUGS, prayers, and love from our family to yours. May God always bless your amazing family!! Amy’s mom, Carol

  3. Bridget Colestock Couture says:

    Nicole, reading this really brings me back to those days. I think of Ben all of the time and I love that the girls talk so openly and lovingly about him. I drew strength from you as you showed such a peace and understanding during some of the most difficult days. Your family is such a blessing to me. I too, think of Ben everytime I see a butterfly or do a craft with one. So many of our little daycare children have developed a love for butterfly shirts and accessories too. It is a beautiful way to describe the transformation that one goes through as they go to Heaven. I pray for comfort for you always as you go through each day. Your story is written so wonderfully. I am so touched and moved. Hugs to all of you!

  4. Margaret Florip says:

    Nicole, This was truly a beautiful retelling of your journey with Ben.
    Watching you grow up across the street, I recall that you “just wanted to have lots
    of children”, just wanted to be a “Mom”. God picked the best possible parents for Grace, Ellie, Bryn and Little Ben. You are a Wonderful MOM
    Your faith and understanding has helped many people to accept “things they can not change”.
    Keep up the good work with SMA, talking with other parents, and Congratulations on your 5 K run too.

    Margaret & Dave Florip

  5. Helen Fridgen Kristofitz says:

    Nicole, Thank you for sharing your beautiful loving story about precious Ben. Your faith and love in God is so apparent it makes me smile knowing that God is taking good care of your family and your precious little red headed angel in heaven. He will continue to give you strength as you carry on and especially in your important work caring for other sma families. You Nicole are a blessing!

  6. Michael J. Fridgen says:

    Nicole, As difficult as it is for us to read this story about Ben’s life, we know that it is nothing compared to what you and Mike and the girls have endured. As sad as it has been losing a grandson, we also know that Ben indeed is in Heaven waiting to greet us when our time here is over. We also know that God will continue to give all of us the strength we need to proceed in this world. Thank you for sharing your (Ben’s) story with the world. Love, Dad and Mom.

  7. Wow, this was an amazing story, Nicole. I am so grateful that you put your words on paper to share it with others. I LOVED, too, what you said at the end about heaven, about where strength comes from, about how difficult things do happen to really good people. Thank you for sharing. I am so blessed to work with you.

  8. Nicole Newfield says:

    Thanks, everyone, for sharing in Ben’s story!

  9. Thank you for sharing your story, Nicole. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine how painful it must be. I hope that your story brings comfort to other parents. God bless you and your family.

  10. Kelly Kohlman Madsen says:

    This was said so beautifully. I’m so fortunate to have met you and your family. And one day I look forward to meeting Ben and seeing him walk with Bryce!

  11. Elizabeth Humphrey Foerster says:

    Nicole, what a beautiful and inspirational retelling of Ben’s story. Great pictures too! He is such a smiley little angel. I’m amazed at your strength. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Mike and the kids.

    Elizabeth Humphrey Foerster.

  12. Ann Voskamp says:

    Ah, this.
    So, so powerful…
    So real.
    Having said goodbye for now to two little nephews who had SMA — I am whispering prayers with you right now.
    God is always good — and you are always loved.
    Every blessing in Christ.

    More thanks than thin letters can hold…

    All’s grace,

  13. Amanda Keuseman says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It was so beautiful and inspirational to me. You have a wonderful family. I really needed a reminder in life, and this was perfect.

  14. Jessica Milkes says:

    Dear Nicole,

    What a beautiful story & a beautiful angel!! Keep sharing your thoughts and your family’s inspirational, emotional, and love filled story. Enjoy those 3 special girls. I’m sure they grew up a lot watching you mother your baby boy so filled with love.
    Thank you for sharing,


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