Thursday, December 30, 2010

I Am Taking The Challenge


I am taking the challenge.

George is from a hard place. This means that many times, we struggle. He struggles to trust me. I struggle to love him.

I have heard about a rocking theory. The idea is to take your child back to a infancy, where babies are rocked and cuddled. So much love and nurturing is poured into their lives during those moments. I don't think George ever got that.

So, I have been challenged to rock my child from a hard place for 15 minutes every day.

I read the challenge and laughed. I knew about this idea before we brought George home. As we settled into our home in Ethiopia, I noticed a rocking chair and I was so excited to rock my child from a hard place. We brought George to our home and that evening I tried to pull him onto my lap to join me for some rocking time. He screamed and spit on me. He squirmed and fought until he finally got loose and ran to another chair, content to sit alone. I tried a few more times, same scenario.

By the time we got home to America, I was exhausted and thought I would never bond with my child from a hard place. I gave up on the rocking theory. Defeated.

So, read the challenge and laughed. "Yeah, right!" I thought. It's too late for us.

Two days ago, I rearranged some furniture and put our rocking chair in the "den" near the computer. Joe sat down to look up a guitar (he really, really wants to start rocking again!) and I plopped down in the rocking chair. Guess who walked over?

George.

"Can I sit on your lap?"

Of course!

Georgie climbed into my lap and then took my arms and wrapped them around his skinny little waist. And we rocked.

For a little more than 15 minutes.

This morning, George asked, "Can we sit in this chair again tonight, Momma?"

You can read more about the challenge here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Two Movies and an Adoption

This afternoon, I took the kids to a local church for an adoption fundraiser. It probably wasn't your typical fundraiser, but it WAS fun. Oakwood Church in Hartland, WI hosted two Veggie Tales movies and a free lunch! A great way to spend the middle of winter break, wouldn't you say?

I say everything was free - but they did ask for a donation. The money collected was going to a single mom who is adopting a 16 year old boy from Latvia. I was more than happy to spend what I would have normally spent at a fast food restaurant to help a mom bring home her son!

Oakwood has an orphan ministry that is just lights out! Mission:Hope has done some amazing work over the past two years. On Orphan Sunday each year, they are able to "take over" the entire day - everything from what is taught from the pulpit, to the worship songs, to the lessons in Sunday School. One year, they created an interactive display about the typical life of an orphan.

Over the past two years, they have sent short term mission teams to an orphanage in Latvia. And the result? Several families are now adopting kids they ministered to over the summer! Praise God!!!

Now, Mission:Hope is working hard to bring orphans to Wisconsin for visiting tours. They want to provide these kids from Latvia with a few weeks of fun in the Wisconsin summer - and maybe, just maybe give them some love and hope that will last a lifetime! We find ourselves working a similar battle front - the Wisconsin legislation. Again, the ugly bureaucracy has reared it's ugly head, preventing Christians from being the hands and feet of Christ. So, as I brace for whats to come in January, I feel the added responsibility to help Mission:Hope do what they have been called to do.


What I particularly loved is being The Body of Christ - not this church or that church, or this denomination or that denomination - but believers who are all united to care for orphans. I support this ministry completely and was thrilled to take my kids. And, for the record, they ALL had a good time (even the teenager and the tweens!) proving Veggie Tales still rocks!

Christmas in Chicago





Sunday, December 26, 2010

Some Children See Him



Some children see Him lily white,
The baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see Him lily white,
With tresses soft and fair.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of heav'n to earth come down.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
With dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed,
This Savior whom we kneel beside.
Some children see Him almond-eyed,
With skin of yellow hue.
Some children see Him dark as they,
Sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they,
And, ah! they love Him, too!

The children in each different place
Will see the baby Jesus' face
Like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
And filled with holy light.
O lay aside each earthly thing
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the infant King.
'Tis love that's born tonight!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rebelling Against The American Dream

Awesome article! David Platt's works have become a great inspiration to me - I am encouraged and challenged by what he has to say about turning the American dream upside down. Take a small look at what he has to say here.

More Questions Than Answers

I took some time yesterday to do my own investigative work. What I read made my stomach turn and then my blood boil. Sometimes, I am so discouraged and disgusted with this world we live in. I am so sad we live in a world where a man form Georgia moves up to Wisconsin and opens up a "barber shop", but in reality it is a whore house filled with teenage girls he has kidnapped on his way up north.

So, my mind is racing to figure out how I can help. What could Safe Families - Milwaukee possibly do?

Statistics show that most girls rescued from human trafficking will try to return - they have been tricked into believing their abuser is actually looking out for them. For this reason, it is suggested that the girls be moved many hours away. And even then, the real solution is getting these girls into a place of safety and love and healing....and to learn about that in the arms of Jesus.

Statistics also show that about 50% of girls in the sex trafficking horror are run aways from a foster home. How can this be? How can we, in America, where we have beautiful homes with extra bedrooms, multiple cars, closets full of clothes still turn our backs on children who need a home? And so many children go to foster homes where there is not enough love or healing and they feel they have no other choice than to run away!

I believe that Safe Families can transform the foster care system in America! And if children can be kept out of the foster care system through the loving, long-term committed support of a church, then fewer and fewer teen girls will be vulnerable to sexual trafficking.

So, as I get ready for a second meeting with the FBI and the MPD, I have so many questions. But, I believe that God is putting these questions in my heart so that I think about and seek the answer. Maybe there is a home out there in the country that will take in the girls rescued from trafficking and love them to no end. Maybe there are people right here in Milwaukee who are willing to open up their homes for the first 48 hours of a girl's life of freedom. And maybe, God has a plan for His church to start caring less about a new plasma TV and more about a girl.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Human Traffic

God has peaked my interest to something. It happened at the Orphan Summit. I listened to Tom Davis talk for an hour of rescuing girls from sex slavery. Humbly, I admitted that I had never really thought about this. It is happening.

It is happening around the world.

It is happening in YOUR state. It is happening in YOUR city.

Then, I was at a prayer meeting with BASICS. We were praying for South Division High School. Someone from the back of the room mentioned the horrible sexual slavery going on in Milwaukee. I thought, "No way. Not here."

And God continued to gently nudge me toward the truth.

It is happening HERE. And those are MY girls.

Today, I got a phone call from my pastor. Come in and meet with some people.

A police detective and an FBI agent.

They cried. "Help us. We have heard of Safe Families. We rescue girls out of sexual slavery and then have no where, no place to take them. Can you help?"

Will you pray for me? I need wisdom from God. My heart says, "Of course!" But I have learned that I need to be in prayer before making big decisions.

T-Shirt Give-away

Buy a cool t-shirt = help a young woman serve in Ethiopia. Check it out here.. If you click on the word "here", you will be taken to the site ;)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Different Christmas

I know I wrote a few times early in December about having a different Christmas this year. So far, it really does feel different...more simple and more meaningful. The past week has been filled with Christmas concerts. 5 kids in school means 5 different concerts! And I am about to tell you a big secret...the school district my kids are in sings Christ-centered songs at Christmas time! The choir directors still believe that it is OK to sing "Away in a Manger" or "Go Tell it on the Mountain" and this year's middle school finale was a Michael W. Smith song! The director has asked us to pray for protection, so that each year he can introduce great choral pieces that also share the message about Christmas. Every year there are letters to the editor in the newspaper, and every year, he still sprinkles in the songs among the seasonal cheer.

We don't have our live tree. Instead, a precious family from H2Otown has lent us their tree to enjoy this year. I let the kids take over the decorating and they actually did a fantastic job. I haven't even moved a single ornament (despite the fact there are about 24 clustered right on the same 2 branches)! And under our tree...two cards that remind us of the gifts of ducks and chickens instead of the live tree.

I haven't stressed out about baking or decorating and instead have sat down more with the kids to watch some of the classic TV specials. We also are committed to our advent readings each night at dinner. I am humbled and amazed that my children are now asking, "What are you going to read tonight?" We have had wonderful discussions about the shepherds and how radical it was that a host of angels decided to tell THEM about the birth of Christ. We also talked about King Herod and why he felt so threatened by the birth of a child in Bethlehem. Then, we debated where exactly the wise men were from and when did they finally get to see Jesus. George was especially excited about thinking one of the wise men being from Africa. We even have talked about how Jesus probably was not fair skinned and blue eyed coming from the region of the world in which he was born. We purposefully picked up a nativity set full of dark skinned shepherds, wise men, Mary, Joseph and Jesus! This set has become our favorite.

We went simple on the Christmas presents. And I picked up chocolate bars and other goodies for their stockings. For the first year in a long time, I actually believe the kids will be excited about having a few chocolate treats in their stockings! We have come to a place in our lives where an extra candy bar is something our kids truly treasure.

We have taken all the kids to the Dollar Tree to pick up presents for their family. This has become a favorite part of our Christmas. We open these gifts on Christmas eve...and I have a feeling I will end up with 5 new coffee mugs again this year! (Love that!!)

I made a Prophecy Present this year. We will open that Christmas Eve as well, leading the kids in scripture readings about the numerous amount of prophecy that Jesus' birth fulfilled.

We are volunteering in the 2 year old room on Christmas Eve - we all love cuddling with the toddlers that night!

The biggest difference this year is probably in my heart. For the first time in my life, I am not pining away for some special gift or something I have seen on TV. I see the commercials for the diamond earrings and cry out! "Do you know what you could DO with the money being spent on frivolous jewelry?" For one diamond necklace, you could buy a well for a village in Ethiopia! You could buy a cow through World Vision and give a family food and milk for years! I used to say to Joe, "I can't wait for the day when there will be a little box under the tree for me." That was my way of telling him that I really wanted some diamond earrings. Are you kidding me? I can't even wear earrings 364 days out of the year!!!

I am reminded of a verse that God brought to my attention about 5 years ago, that still resonates daily in my heart. "And the earth has nothing I desire, besides You." I prayed that God would lead me to a place where I could say that honestly...that there is NOTHING here that pulls my heart or my attention away from Him. I think I am starting to move closer toward that. And for that, I am thankful.

Eleanor wrote me a note a few weeks ago that I cherish. She wrote, "Mom, I am thankful for you because you are teaching me how to be compassionate and to love justice." THAT alone is the greatest gift anyone could get me this year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Most Significant Challenge Facing Adoption in America

The Most Significant Challenge Facing Adoption in America

A Message from an Ethiopian Missionary


A day in my life with some of my thoughts and explanations woven inside, a few reflections at the end

SIM employee = Ethiopian, usually one who lives in Addis Ababa

SIM colleague = missionary from US, UK/Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Korea or Canada

I woke up a bit early so I could stitch up Esther’s Ethiopian dress as it’s a bit long. Today at Bingham is Ethiopian day, meaning that anyone who dresses up Ethiopian gets points for their “house team” (the school- teachers and students- is divided into 3 teams who have friendly competitions through the year for points). Daniel does not have an Ethiopian shirt, but he will wear some of the Gumuz beaded male-jewelry I bought in Geses (he will wear more clothes than the average Gumuz boy in order to meet the dress code for Bingham). Eventually, after going out to the taxi to go to school, Jarena decides to participate, comes back to the house and puts on her Ethiopian shirt.

Drove to work with the two Bingham assistant teachers and the maintenance guy for the headquarters compound (all Ethiopian). Doing this provides me with free language and culture lessons. It provides them with free transport at a busy time of day. Had a few phone calls and then had my devotional time. I’m reading through Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. An associated verse, Romans 15:13 was really great for me and I wrote it down for a patient. WM, an SIM colleague is at the end of her pregnancy, and whom I’d originally required to leave November 24th. But, in order to have her husband accompany her and her two small children back to the US, I allowed them to stay a bit longer. Now she's not feeling right and I’m questioning if she’s “threatening” preterm labor… However, another missionary who’s been a high risk OB nurse, is already planning to go to the US soon anyway. I call her and she’s willing to change her own plans to accompany this family on the next flight they can get on. Thanks, Lord!

I also have to call the mom of two small kids, CT. She called me a couple nights ago from Arba Minch (one full days’ drive away), after her daughter got upset, had a “breath holding spell” and then seemed to have convulsions. An email consultant and friend has offered additional and very helpful reassurance that this was not a real seizure than requires more medical testing. Great since they live a full 2 days’ drive away. Nice to offer such reassurance! I also make sure the team leader person is aware of this significant family stress on their teammates.

Another mom of 3 girls with an early pregnancy, just learned two days ago that her baby has died. I did not reach her to check in and see if she has miscarried yet.

My Ethiopian nurse, Meseret, arrived and said her nephew is sick with severe congestion and other problems. She was also aware of an SIM employee who was getting a bone plate removed today, one year after he shattered his arm. We stopped and prayed for these various things going on. Then my American nurse called to say she was sick and not planning to come in.

I gathered up the chart information on the pregnant lady who will fly soon, and I wrote a letter for the airlines, stating her pregnancy dates, health and ability to fly. I ask the Lord to help me know if she can really get on an airplane with what I think is going on.

I also wrote up a letter to request rabies vaccine for the missionaries who work in the far south by the Omo River. There have been many people bitten by rabid dogs lately and none of the “clinics” in the area choose to stock this treatment.

Then a mom from our mission called to say she knew her son had an open sore on his hand when he killed and dissected a cat several days ago. I had just sent out an email asking parents to not allow their kids from dissecting the pests their kids sometimes kill, due to potential rabies exposure. Since we do not know if the cat was rabid, we have to assume it was and treat this boy ASAP. However, dad is out of town, the boy is at school, and mom has two infants at home. Despite these obstacles, he must get the rabies vaccine today. Thankfully, some neighbors help her out with transport and baby-holding, as she was quite upset.

Started seeing patients. An SIM employee who was pregnant came in to say she had resigned her job because she was afraid the hard physical work would hurt her pregnancy. We had already written a letter asking for some reduction in what she did, but apparently this letter did not give the results she hoped for. Her situation is hard to argue with since she miscarried at 28 weeks (7months) last February. We offered what prenatal care we could (vitamins, appropriate labs), since this would be her last visit with us (she will lose the privilege of coming to our clinic if she is not employed by SIM). Saw other patients with a cold that is going around.

Took a letter to another employee with a chronic medical problem, to seek a biopsy to determine the treatment she needs. She’d also asked me to look at the report her relative got about a chronic leukemia. I gave her some information about the treatment (there isn’t much). After a couple other quick conversations, I saw another employee. He is originally from a neighboring country and thus is quite different from the prevailing Ethiopian culture. Two days earlier I’d seen him with his wife. They thought she was pregnant. She wasn’t (anymore, she probably miscarried after some difficulties a few months ago. At that time they sought emergency medical care, but ended up not following through with the recommendations by their own choosing. However, it was great they came in because she has diabetes and they didn’t know it. Anyway, we had a fair bit of discussion about her losing the pregnancy and why (theological and medical reasons). We also set up an appointment for tomorrow to start her on diabetes medications.

Worked through lunch with paperwork and phoning. Had to try and test a couple glucometers to find one that our cleaning lady Atsede could use for testing her mom’s sugars (her mom has diabetes and high blood pressure and just had a stroke that left her right arm lame). I sure am thankful we have these glucometers because this woman is housebound. We really need to know if her sugars are under control. Thanks to those who donated diabetic supplies this past summer! I just went to the house yesterday to check Atsede’s mom’s blood pressure… they barely live better than people who live on the street. On her own initiative, Atsede went outside and bought tomatoes for me from a wheelbarrow for 4 birr a kilo (a good price – about 10 cents [US] per pound) – but weighed the tomatoes when she returned and found they’d not given her full kilos. She returned to demand the rest but the guys had moved away… Still, it was a better price than I, as a white-skinned person, could get. Time to make spaghetti sauce!

It’d been busy like this at the clinic for several days, so I left work in time to swim… it was cloudy and sprinkling as I swam, but so what! Glad to have the opportunity. Got home just in time to go to a high school classmate’s home for an American Thanksgiving. His wife works for the CDC (Center for Disease Control), so they have connections to get real turkey J. We took pumpkin-cranberry bread and applesauce. Nice to see people there who work in very different, but important, capacities here in Ethiopia.

The mom who might be in early pre-term labor called a couple times – wants more certainty about her own status than I can offer. She wants more reassurance than even good technology could offer. So, after we get home, Fred puts the kids to bed and I go up to talk face to face with her and her husband about their situation. They need to leave as soon as it can be arranged. (SIM does not allow women to deliver in Ethiopia mainly because of the lack of a secure/clean blood supply AND because of the lack of care for an infant with breathing difficulties.) I’m thankful for the support that other SIM colleagues offer this family, too. One had just spoken to them before I came and others came as I was leaving. All this seemed to help, but the sudden change in plans and need to leave AND not feeling well takes a toll.

And so goes a day. Thanksgiving Day in the US.

Follow up – the lady with threatened preterm labor arrived in the US just fine and had her baby 4 days later (which was about 4 weeks early). It’s great she was in the US for delivery!

The lady whose baby died has now miscarried and is doing well, considering.

The boy who had to have rabies shots never showed any signs of rabies and received the booster dose treatments needed.

Atsede’s mom died Monday, Dec. 6th. I attended her burial (this is usually done within 12 hrs of death, or at the most 24 hrs) Tuesday and will go to Atsede’s home for a lukso tomorrow. The lukso is a 3 day event where people just come to be with the grieving family. No private grieving here – you want as many people with you as possible – all the time. (this is only one example of how “personal space” is a non-entity in this culture.)

I feel privileged to do this work, but pushed often to the end of my own strength and knowledge. While I enjoy helping people tremendously, I am often quite somber in mood because of the seriousness of the problems I encounter. I’m so thankful for those who pray for us, for those who give money to support us so we can do this, and for those who help in other ways – like those who gathered diabetic supplies that I brought back with us AND the pediatrician who faithfully responds to my pleas for help. I’m quite aware of how I am able to help people here, but I feel like I am only part of the help – I represent help given to us in many ways by many people literally all over the world. We are the conduit and God keeps choosing to use us in this way.

The needs here always exceed my time, and I must give time to my own husband and children, too. That balance is a continuous struggle. While some of my days are very focused on medical work, other days are family time. Like many of you, we have to guard and make time for family and for time as a couple or it just does not come.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Heart Treasures


"Mary treasured these things in her heart."

I have read this verse for years and wondered what she treasured. Then Eleanor asked me this weekend, "How did Luke know she treasured things in her heart? He wasn't there!" Maybe her question is what really got me thinking about what things Mary was treasuring...and what exactly that means.

We got hit with a blizzard this weekend. Rain that turned into ice that turned into snow. Top that with wind gusts of 50 mph and wind chills well below zero and that equals a blizzard. We tried to go to church Sunday morning, even made it about 10 miles down the road before Joe admitted he could no longer feel safe driving his family to church. So, we turned the car around and went home.

Once home, Joe announced, "Time for home church!"

I was amazed how no one grumbled or complained, but instead grabbed their Bibles and headed for the kitchen table. We turned on a beautiful Chris Tomlin song and started our home church with worship. Then Lincoln said, "Time for me to go to the play area." Right on cue, he left the kitchen and went into our "dinning room turned into a den", and picked up his pirate sword and quietly began playing.

Joe asked that we start our service in prayer, so we all folded our hands and closed our eyes...and we prayed. I don't remember all that was said, exactly, or who even prayed...but I treasured that moment so dearly! Someone prayed for the chickens we had donated through World Vision. Then someone remembered that there were ducks as well, so we prayed that the ducks would be fruitful and multiply (that garnered a few giggles around the table).

I looked around my kitchen table and saw most of my children deep in prayer (Lincoln was still quietly playing). I saw a family that is close enough that we are comfortable having home church in our own kitchen. I heard my children pray for each other, proving that they really do listen. And I saw my husband, leading his family to know and love the Lord.

Heart treasures!

Could I possibly even ask for more? Isn't this something little girls dream of? Marrying a man who can announce, "It's time for home church" and gather his children around a table and lead them in a time of prayer, worship and Bible study?

Joe and I have spent countless hours lately lamenting and worrying about our situation. Can we even make it through the winter? Joe dropped Isabel off at a party on Saturday and noticed the gorgeous house she was entering. He talked to the mom for while and then came home dejected. He said, "I am failing as a husband. I can't give you that beautiful house. I can't give you the money to get the expensive haircut or the new clothes for every season. I am such a failure."

I cried. "You are NOT a failure!"

This world tells a man that his worth in in his job, his car, and providing THINGS for his family. I say my husband is worth so much more because he calls his family to home church when we can't make it in. My husband makes coffee and sits with his entire family every morning and reads the Bible out loud. My husband challenges us to pray our way through tough circumstances and situations.

And I so deeply treasure my husband.

I didn't start out thinking I would write about my husband..but I guess he is what I am treasuring most these days. Despite all our uncertainties and challenges, I wouldn't trade my $10 haircuts and Goodwill jeans and my husband for a day at the spa and a shopping spree and a man who just goes through the motions.

I know God has big plans for my husband...I am just waiting for him to take the plunge. It WILL happen and we WILL go somewhere and we WILL be serving the Lord until we die. I am certain! With a man like Joe leading me, I can't wait to see what is in store for us!

Friday, December 10, 2010

We're Not Done

Beautifully said....read this.

Tough Week




It's been a tough week. My heart breaks for my son, who is starting to hear the mean words spoken to him and about him because of his skin color. It is too painful for me to even write about.

In the midst of that, we had two Christmas concerts this week where I was able to see my children shine! Because my camera is incredibly pathetic, I can't take any pictures while the kids are actually on stage. Here are two pictures of the three kids who performed this week. I happen to think my twins are beautiful - even if their skin is different!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Although I Also Wrote a Word-Filled Post :)

The Blind Boys of Watertown - we have had two eye exams recently, so we have two very cool sunglasses from the eye doctor!

Yes, Isabel has joined a gang...


I have no idea how Harry did this...he has surpassed my computer knowledge and abilities!


First snow fall.


Making snow angels...


George making sure baby Jesus didn't have any snow on him.

The Catalog


Ever since the World Vision catalog arrived in our mailbox, most of the kids have snuck away into their rooms to pour over it. First was Isabel. I can clearly remember seeing her sitting on a beach towel in the front yard (we had a very warm fall for Wisconsin), slowly going over each and every page. Then, Eleanor took it for a while only to return it back to the kitchen where it waited for the next child. Next was Harry, who read it while he ate a couple of bowls of cereal. Lincoln brought it to me a couple of times, asking me what different pages represented.

Lastly, George started looking at it.

As he turned the pages, he suddenly gasped and squealed as he stared at a page talking about clean water in Africa. The photograph is of a young African boy splashing clean water through his hands.

"Momma! I had one of those in Africa!" (He rarely refers to his life before us as living in Ethiopia - it's always Africa).

We were all at the breakfast table, finishing up our morning routine. He then demonstrated for all the kids how he would go to the well and wash his face and drink some water using his hands as a cup. He was so happy as he talked about all the kids going to the well in the morning.

And then he saw a child in the catalog with a swollen belly, and around the boy were graphics of different diseases people die from drinking contaminated water. Flatworms, giardia, cholera. Water-borne diseases give children debilitating cramps and painful diarrhea. Worms alone contribute to about 200,000 needless deaths every year.

George asked a lot of questions. Where those worms in my belly? Did this worms kill my Africa-daddy? Why is there still "yellow" water in Africa?

Why is there still "yellow" water in Africa! Good question, son.

Why?

I have been stumped with a question swirling around my head for days now...why do we think it is ok to raise an entire generation of children who are materialistic? Why do we ask our children what MORE they want? Why does America spend billions of dollars on Christmas gifts? What are we teaching our children by surrounding the bottom of a tree with presents? Are we really teaching them the joy of giving? Or are we teaching them the joy of getting...what they want....?

And, yet, in Africa, children still drink "yellow" water and get sick and die...every day. I remember when George first saw the swimming pool we regularly visit. He looked at me with huge eyes, wanting to ask me questions, but not knowing the words to ask. Is this water clean? Look at how much water there is! And we just swim in it? We play in it? Should I clean myself in this? Can I drink it? I can't believe how much water there is here...and it's not yellow!

I wish we could provide a well for a village in Africa. We are going to purchase a few chickens and ducks. We have talked about what this will mean for a family - not only eggs, but chickens and duck will reproduce which leads to meat and more chickens and ducks for family or neighbors.

I have a dream that someday, my friends and I will come together and say, 'This year, we are all going to give up birthday and Christmas presents and pull our money together and buy a well in our children's names."

Until then...we keep trudging along trying to listen to God's voice. We have something up our sleeve....

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Snug In Their Beds


I got an email from the pastor up in Oshkosh who partnered with Safe Families to care for the mom. Saturday went wonderfully! The mom ended up with....ready for the list?
  • 4 beds
  • linens for each bed, including new comforters
  • two desk
  • three dressers
  • three bookshelves
  • brand new kitchen table with chairs
  • pack-n-play
  • several end tables
  • pots and pans galore
  • microwave
  • toaster
  • dishes
  • glasses
  • pot holders and kitchen towells
  • cleaning supplies to last 1/2 a year
  • a stocked pantry
  • gift cards for Christmas gifts
  • wrapping paper and tape - so mom can wrap her kids' presents
The furniture was set up Saturday - but the water had been turned off due to an accident that happened Friday night. But Pastor Mike got a call from the mom who said, "We just don't want to leave our new home. Can we stay even without the water?"

Pastor Mike drove over to officially give mom the keys and found all 4 kiddos sung in their beds. Fast asleep. Warm, comfortable, content. Even without water, this family wanted to stay here...in their new home.

How often do I fall onto my bed and not even think once how grateful I should be for having a comfortable bed with clean sheets and multiple blankets! How often do I send grumpy kids to bed, whining and complaining that they HAVE to go to their beds! A bed. Seems so insignificant to most of us. When was the last time you actually got on your knees and thanked God for your bed?

I guess we would if we had to go without one.

Saturday night, 4 kiddos and a mom were "snug in their beds". Praise God!

Monday, December 6, 2010

To Tree or Not To Tree?


I LOVE my Christmas tree! Each year, I make Joe get a bigger and better one than last year's. I LOVE my ornaments. I LOVE the home-made garland the girls make with me. I LOVE the hundreds of white lights we put on the tree. I LOVE sitting in the family room late at night after the kids have gone to bed, just staring at the tree. I LOVE the new ornaments my kids get each year and watching them put their special ornaments in special spots. I LOVE hiding the pickle, and anxiously waiting to find out which child will spot it first (it's always Eleanor - the one with enough patience).

So, why in the world would I even think about not putting up a tree this year?

God is asking me.

Last night, as we slurped up hot bowls of chili, I mustered up enough courage to quietly ask the family this question. "So, what would you think if we took the money we usually spend on a Christmas tree and instead buy a couple of chickens and a goat for a family in Africa through World Vision?"

Silence.

A few more slurps.


Finally, Isabel (the brave one) cried out, "But I LOVE our Christmas tree! Can't we do both?"

"No. That's not the point. Can we give up our much beloved tree and ornaments for one year? We could always bring home the little fake tree that is at Daddy's work."

"But it is so...tiny....and fake!"

"I know. Will you just pray about it?"

So, we finished dinner asking the kids to pray about this decision. I never knew how much it would affect my children to ask them to give up a Christmas tree. Harry moped about for an hour or so (that was absolutely shocking to Joe and I!) until we remembered that he is the one who struggles the most fighting the desires of the THINGS of this world. Isabel had made it clear what she was thinking. George and Lincoln - well, they are easily appeased with the knowledge that yes, they will get presents even if there is no tree. Eleanor was contemplative and said she would let us know what she was thinking tomorrow.

We'll talk about this at dinner tonight. I pulled out the World Vision catalog so the kids can see exactly what we are talking about. They each studied it a few weeks ago, but now it is real. And I am asking them to sacrifice.

I'll let you know what they decide.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wrapping Up


The first SF placement is coming to an end today. Both boys are back with mom. I checked in last night and they are doing great. Homelessness had led this mom to reach out for help. She loves her kids and there was NO REASON for her to lose her boys to the foster care system. She just needed support.

This is what I learned about how SF works: the local church HAS to step in! And in this case, they did. A pastor from a small church provided a duplex to this mom; working together (church and SF), the duplex has fresh paint and new carpet through out the entire place. Because the boys were in safe homes, mom was able to work on rent assistance. She is moving in today!

Then, a good friend of mine called last week and asked if there was anything she could do to help. Of course, I said yes! Shout out to Sarah Enwald - who stepped up big time! She organized her small group and called in favors from her friends and family. Right now, she is heading to the duplex with 4 beds, pots, pans, linens, pillows, comforters, strollers....the list is unbelievable! This mom will have EVERYTHING she needs for a new start.

What I learned from this first experience is how the church is willing to do something - they want to help! Sometimes when you hear statistics like 147 million orphans, the number causes Christians to freeze - what can I possibly do? Or when you hear that millions of children are going to bed hungry tonight, Christians say - how can I get food to a child? And the result is that many times Christians simply do nothing. They go back to their warm homes and look in their relatively full pantry, sigh and say "There's nothing to eat," and then order some pizzas. Conveniently, they forget about those huge numbers.

Safe Families puts a name a face and real story to those numbers. And when I ask a pastor or a friend to help this one mom and her children, the response was, "Of course I can help this one mom!". And I look at my mega-church of thousands and thousands of people and I think - we could help hundreds and hundreds of "this one mom and her kids"!!

In the middle of this story, the government of Wisconsin decided to give me a slap on the wrist for doing this. So many legal woes and for a while I was seriously afraid that I might end up in jail. I could feel the gray hair growing in - ha! That state of Wisconsin is saying that I don't have the right or the expertise to make decisions like this - putting two boys into safe homes and then coordinating care for the mom. I have wrestled with my thoughts all week about how I am finding loopholes in the law and squeezing through them praying God will protect me and the families involved. When does being a Christian and following God allow one to bend the law? Someone has told me I am just pointing out to Wisconsin how ridiculous their law is in this particular instance and that I am going to force them to change it.

I keep forging on - talking with all the politicians I can possibly get in touch with, begging them to change the laws as soon as they get to Madison in January so the church can start being the church. I also keep praying that God would continue showing me His will for Safe Families in Wisconsin.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Am Begging You!


A friend reminded me of a much over-looked part of the "Proverbs 31 Woman". You know who I am talking about...that "perfect woman" who makes her kids' clothes, stocks the pantry, rises before dark to prepare food...that woman who most of us cringe about thinking there is NO WAY we can ever become THAT woman.

Comments on that another day. For today, I want to point out there are nine verses in Proverbs 31 that often get skipped, or ignored. And I have no idea why - because THOSE verses have become incredibly important to me. They are the words of a mother teaching her son. Part of that teaching are the words of what to look for in a wife (thus the Proverbs 31 Woman), but the first nine verses instruct this son on avoiding two major temptations (sexual promiscuity and drunkeness). Then, this mother points out what he SHOULD be doing...

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and the needy." (v. 8 - 9)
I have scribbled some notes in my Bible - maybe some past sermon about these verses, but next to the words "speak up for", I have written "Plead! Beg! Defend!" These words have such emotion. Speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves is more than a casual mention at a dinner party, or nodding in agreement when a pastor talks about serving the poor. Plead! Beg! They have no voice...and they need someone to defend them! Immediately, I think of all the orphans in the world. Who is speaking up for them? Who is BEGGING more people to adopt? Who is pleading with Christians to start doing something? Orphans have no voice.

I have asked this before and I will ask again...will you commit to praying for 5 orphans today? How about praying for these 5 orphans every day in December? Is that too much to ask for?

Go to one of these websites as a family...tonight...and chose 5 orphans you will pray for. Please! I beg you! I am pleading with you!

http://reecesrainbow.org/sponsorship/angeltree2010/angeltreesponsorpage
http://photolisting.adoption.com/foster-adoption/search-results/
http://www.rainbowkids.com/WC/

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

James 1:27

Couldn't have said it any better. Read this.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Realities of Poverty

I have come face to face with poverty. I am now part of a family who lives much differently then most of us do..in fact, if you are reading this, I know for sure you live differently than they do. Safe Families has brought me to this.

I have read about poverty in the newspaper and through statistics. But, I have never sat in their home, talked to them, touched them...I am ashamed to even write that. I am close to 40 years old and I have never really done life with someone ravaged by poverty.

Do you know what poverty does? Poverty prevents a mom from getting her child into the doctor. She has no insurance. Why? Because she has no home. No address. She can't fill out the paperwork. She has no phone to conduct the necessary phone interview. She has no car...so even if she does get the health care figured out, getting to the doctor is going to be a huge challenge.

Poverty tells her education is not important. Her kids get treated poorly at school because they wear the same clothes over and over again. Teachers generally don't give them the benefit of the doubt. As a former teacher, I can tell you that teachers DO have favorites - and they are usually the clean, well behaved, conscientious children...not ones who live in poverty.

Poverty leaves this mom uneducated. No computer. I think of all the times I run to the computer to look up something and have access to great (and admittedly, sometimes not so great) information. We communicate through email - we stay in touch - we do reports. This mom can't look up the guidelines for qualifying for Badgercare. This mom can't quickly access the school's phone number to report an absence.

Poverty keeps her stuck in the house. No car. How can she possibly look for a job without a car?

And poverty perpetuates poverty. Her mom lives in poverty. She grew up in poverty. Her kids only know poverty.

And yet, so many of us sit in our warm homes today, going to a pantry filled with food, choosing from multiple outfits what we want to wear. I know, this mom has made some very, very bad choices in her life that contribute to the bleak picture. But, she her teacher has been poverty.

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered." Proverbs 21:13

Do you think God really means this?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter Snow Song - Audrey Assad with Chris Tomlin

First time I heard this song, my breath was literally taken away. Absolutely beautiful...quiet...exactly what I needed to start this Christmas season. Maybe you need it too?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread

Every year, the girls and I work on a project for our neighbors. We make pumpkin-cranberry bread and deliver it to our neighbors. This year we made 12 loaves. We attached this scripture to each loaf.







Sunday, November 21, 2010

What a Weekend!

Safe Families had hit a wall.

But, God showed me that He is much bigger and mightier than any government wall!

First, I studied the statutes that were given to me as "the wall". I read them. I re-read them. I still didn't see it. So, I asked a few people - people who should know, "Where is the wall?" They answered quite embarrassed, "Um...I...don't...quite....know....how....to...answer...that."

Excuse me? Are we putting this entire mission on hold because of some body quoting numbers at us? Do we just take those numbers as magic numbers that mean we can't move forward?

Then, I got the phone call.

Saturday morning. "I am a mom and I need help."

Joe and I hopped in the car, "We'll be right there!"

We walked into a world that I don't see often. I don't live this way. My friends don't live that way. My family doesn't live that way. But this family lives this way in order to SURVIVE. Generations of women living under one roof trying to survive the best they can. They are jobless. They are close to being homeless. Children everywhere...a little dirty and unkempt, but all with beautiful smiles. One little boy walked right up to me, shook my hand and said, "Nice to meet you." Charming.

The mom is homeless. Her children are living in this home with her sister and all her kids. Grandma is over with some of her 12 children. No man to be found anywhere. Mom is scared, depressed, lonely and loves her children desperately.

We filled out the paperwork for one of her sons to go to a safe family for a few weeks. When it came time to say goodbye, she burst into sobs. Oh, the love this momma has for her son!

We walked to the car...then suddenly mom and sister call me back inside. "Can you take my other son as well? Can you find a safe home for him?"

Of course I will.

Mom cries again. I hug her tell her that she is so brave and I can see how much she loves her boys. She just needs help. I tell her that I want to know what she needs to get back on her feet. She nods. She's still crying.

Joe and I spend the rest of the afternoon taking these precious boys to their safe family. Two families said "yes" without hesitation. This week is Thanksgiving - no problem! These boys have nothing - no problem! Joe and I prayed for these families - all three!

Mom has talked to her boys. She is relieved, encouraged...and motivated! She called me tonight and said she spent the whole afternoon and evening yesterday cleaning an apartment she found. She was happy that she has talked to her boys and that both safe family mom's are kind and not judging her. Then she said, "You know how you said you would help me get on my feet? Well, I need some help." The courage it took for her to reach out to me and ask for help humbles me.

The pastor at her church has let her move into a duplex the church owns. She still needs to pay rent and she needs to get it ready on her own. Apparently, it's a mess. Carpet and paint have been purchased, but she has to install and paint it herself. She needs help.

Joe looks at me and says, "I'll put together a team."

Then, there is some silence on the phone.

"I can't even begin to put into words how thankful I am for you guys. What you are doing for me...well...I will never forget. But, I have one more thing to ask. Can you help me find a way to get some help for Christmas presents?"

Now, I am crying.

"Of course."

Oh, there is so much more to tell, but I am praising God tonight for how he brought me back to the beautiful part of Safe Families! A mom who cried out for help. A body of believers who said yes without hesitating. A relationship built on trust is developing. And lives will be changed forever.

This is not a political battle! I am sad that it has become that in Wisconsin...because this weekend, I had the pure joy of working with "real deal" Christ followers. Now, I will be looking for a few more..and a few more...and a few more.

And I know that my God is much stronger than the state of Wisconsin!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Friends

George longs to have friends. And they just don't seem to be coming. This makes us all sad. George spends many dinner hours in tears asking us why he doesn't have any friends. And my heart breaks each and every time.

There are a few boys that have gravitated toward George. One takes notebooks, pencils and now money from George. And George willingly gives it in the hopes of having a friend. The two boys who hang out with George, for lack of better words, are trouble makers. They are the ones always getting in trouble and they are the ones now filling George's head with questionable behaviors.

George has begun shouting out, "I am such an IDIOT!"

We had no idea where this was coming from! At first, Joe and I thought it was another phase of George. Was he crying out for attention? Was someone calling him an idiot?

Then, I got a note from his teacher at school. He yelled it out in class the other day and the teacher informed me that a certain boy at school does the same thing. And now she is worried that George is mimicking him. Isabel then let me know that this boy rides the bus and is in trouble, almost daily, and sits behind the bus driver telling him how stupid he is.

And when I talk to George about making good choices when it comes to friends...he sobs...this boy is THE ONLY boy at school that wants to be with George.

George is loud. George gets very excited. Life still provides many new experiences for him...and he gets really excited. But, sadly, to other 7 year olds...George is weird. He's that unusual kid who talks so loudly and asks questions about everything. George is that kid who still shuts down when he is nervous or scared or if he asked to do something he has never done before. George is that kid who still doesn't quite understand "the rules" that other children are now accustomed to.

And no one is really giving him a chance. This breaks my heart.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How We Usually Do Christmas


So, I thought I would tell you how we usually do Christmas around here. This is a celebration that has been evolving over the years, but about 5 years ago, we made some conscious decisions to do Christmas a little different.

We decorate. We love the decorating part. The girls and I have made home-made garland every year for the past 4 years. We tear strips of remnant cloth and then tie them on to a string to make a very "homey" garland. I know it's not everyone's idea of garland...but...we love it.

The kids get a new ornament each year and they hang their own bag of ornaments. I then fill in the holes (and maybe spread few around - because Lincoln tends to hang all of his in one spot).

We hang a big wreath outside and this year....so excited...we finally got a nativity scene! I spotted a set at yard sale in August and talked the husband down quite a bit. Joe and and the boys started working on a stable this weekend - good wood-working project for the garage!.

We don't do Santa. Although I decorate with quite a few Santas around the house...we don't believe he is some "person" who climbs through the chimney with presents. I always take one night to read the story of Saint Nicholas to the kids and we talk about what Santa represents..but he is not real.

We have an advent wreath and do a devotional each night at dinner. Last year, we watched Rick Warren's series on Advent (a DVD series) on Sunday nights.

We only give our children 3 gifts - resembling the gifts of the wise men. One is a spiritual gift, one is a practical gift, and one is "the gold" gift - something they really want. We try to avoid plastic as much as possible. This year, the four older children are all asking for a new Bible - wow!

So, when I say (or Joe says) he wants this year to be different, we have already scaled down in a huge way from consumerism and over-abundance. We turn the TV off a lot more, read the dozens and dozens of Christmas books we have. We spend a lot of time together (but..that is not really new for us) and we try to keep the focus on Jesus. To most Americans, they would look at our Christmas as already being different or simple. Simple has been our slogan for the past 5 years. But simple is not what God is asking us to do this year....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Advent Conspiracy 2009

Oh my! Joe has been challenging me to make Christmas different this year. Every day he comes home from work and asks if I have decided what we will do to be radical (yes, even more radical this year). Then, I get this video.

Who are we? Why do we feel the need to make Christmas about consumerism? Why? Please watch this video and comment what you think I should do to make Christmas different this year. I could use some great ideas!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Brick Wall


Friday I hit a brick wall...head on.

It took a few days for me to even begin to recover.

And even as I sit down to write, I am not sure how to explain the meeting in Madison. I was so excited to go...couldn't wait to hear from the head of DCFS. Back in August, he had given us his "blessing" to move forward. Challenged us to get families signed up. I did just that.

At one point, a man leaned over to me and whispered, "You know we are having this meeting because of YOU. He heard what you have been doing in Milwaukee."

Shocked. What do you mean? I was just doing what I was told to do.

Now...the head of DCFS sat there and said, "No matter how you try to go around it, you just can't get around statute 48.072. You are going to break the law if you place children in a Safe Family home." He went on with lots of social work talk - "plucking a child out of their home and putting them with strangers...blah, blah, blah...best interest of the child...blah, blah, blah...detrimental for a child to be moved from home...blah, blah,blah." I was still stuck on the "illegal" point.

He has it all wrong!

The executive director of Safe Families was there. Thank God. He said, "I have sat with people in your position in 40 states...and I have never met this type of reaction." 40 states! 40 states have heads of DCFS who are welcoming Safe Families. And our state says, "No. No thank you for wanting to serve...for free...the children most in need."

As the meeting went on, I realized I was outmatched and out of my comfort zone. Everyone in that room is a social worker...or a professor...or a senator...or an appointed head. Me? Stay at home mom here. Terms were used that I didn't understand. Statutes were referenced that I had no clue about. I was out of my league.

I called Joe on the way home. He took it much harder than I did. He said to me, "I have been hanging on because of Safe Families! I have been taking this failing business because I thought God had a bigger plan for our lives...a plan to start Safe Families here!" He was devastated.

We moped all Friday night.

Saturday, I spent the day thinking. We vowed not to talk about it.

Sunday, I woke up ready to fight. But I thought, I have no idea where to go or how to do this. I was frozen with the knowledge that I can't really do this. This fight is too big.

Then, I sat down to read Radical. God spoke to me. "In direct contradiction to the American dream, God actually delights in exalting our inability. He intentionally puts his people in situations where they come face to face with their need for him. In the process he powerfully demonstrates his ability to provide everything his people need in ways they could have never have mustered up or imagined. And in the end, he makes much of his own name."

Is that where you have me, Lord? Do you want me to be in this completely impossible place...but still move forward?

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Skipping


I have been noticing something the last few weeks. Every morning, as the kids wait for the bus, I have been hanging on the front porch. I used to walk all the way down the driveway with them, but for some random reason, I haven't been walking down anymore. Instead, I hang on the front porch and yell down my love and my goodbyes when we see the bus.

From this vantage point, I have been able to witness something so precious.

George is skipping.

The first time I noticed, I thought, "Hmmm...he doesn't do that very often. He must be in a good mood this morning."

Then he did it again...and again. One day, he did this little tip-toe step - his feet moving so fast as he tip-toed his way to the bus. This morning, he skipped again.

While this may not seem significant to the average mom, this is huge to me! Think about it...when do children skip? What do you think of when you picture a child skipping in your mind?

A happy child.

Children skip not because someone tells them its the most efficient way to get from A to B. Children skip because something in their bodies tells them, "Life is so good! Celebrate! Skip!"

To think that we have gotten to a point where George is no longer walking head down...oh...it just breaks my heart to even talk about it. You see, from the first day we brought George home, we have been battling this cultural behavior of putting his head down. At school last year, George would run into people in the hall way because he always walked around looking at the ground. We had so many conversations about looking up, looking straight ahead, looking people in the face and smiling and saying hello.

It's funny how when you are training your child to do something, and when he starts doing it, you somehow don't notice. It's as if I was so in-tune to watching for that head down, running into the things George that I didn't even notice the head up, smiling George.

And now....he is the head up, skipping and laughing George.

Oh, friends....this is what adoption is about. Yes, the journey is tough. But then, you get this glimpse of a little boy who has such peace and joy in his heart that he skips his way to the school bus. So simple and sweet. Skipping.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Please Read This

There are so many people out there who are writing things so much better than anything I could say. Please read this please!
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Monday, November 8, 2010

More?


"You do NOT want to be on the wrong side of God when it comes to orphans—He is fanatical in his passion and love for them!

So much so that how we treat orphans and widows is a litmus test of our spiritual life and our love for God.

James 1:27 (NLT) “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us.”

It’s not an option, folks. Caring for orphans and vulnerable children is not just for a few people; this is not a matter of economics or spiritual gifts or personal interests. This is not for some of us, but for ALL of us. Having a heart that is tender towards children without a family is a test of our love for God. If we say we love God but do nothing on the behalf of the world’s vulnerable children, we are kidding ourselves; we’re ignorant and misinformed. You simply cannot love God without developing a passion for orphans.

Scripture also teaches that what God has done for us spiritually, he desires for us to share physically. God adopted each of us when we were spiritual orphans, without a home, a family, a father. We were vulnerable, unable to earn our way into his family, and had nothing going for us. But, because of his unbelievable, amazing mercy and grace, we are now a part of his forever family, equal heirs with our older brother, Jesus. We have been adopted; we know the joy of belonging. From grateful hearts, we must now look at our vulnerable little brothers and sisters and seek a home and a family for them."

I didn't say this...wish I did...wish I knew who said it so I could thank them. But, now Joe and I are faced with the question...can we do more?
Powerful video that was shown at church yesterday.

Can we really continue to do nothing about this?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Being Radical


What does it mean to be radical? What is a radical life? I am reading Radical by David Platt. I suggest you read it. If you can't...or won't....here is the point:

The Radical Experiment involves five specific challenges to carry out over the span of a year:

  1. To pray for the entire world.
  2. To read through the entire Word.
  3. To sacrifice your money for a specific purpose.
  4. To give your time in another context.
  5. To commit your life to a multiplying community.

And so we invite you to join in a movement. A movement of men and women who don’t want to waste their lives any longer on the pursuits of this world. A movement of men and women who want to spend their lives for the glory of God among all the peoples of the world.

Will you join me in this Radical Experiment? If you will, please reply and share where God is leading you!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Trust

I dedicated the month of November to "getting the word out" to Milwaukee (in particular). Safe Families is here - ready to help. Hip-hip-hooray!

Right?

Not quite.

As I drive into Milwaukee day after day and sit in messy, often run-down offices, I get a blank stare.

You want to do what? How can you do this? We've never heard anything like this before.

I look back and smile. I use all the statistics from other cities. I cite how Safe Families is winning national awards.

The frown I get in return is hard to look at.

So what?

Where has the church been for the past 50 years? Why does the white suburban church not cross Highway 100? Do you really think we can trust you now? And with our children!

Um...all I can say is that I am sorry...on behalf of the suburban church in Milwaukee. And yes, we ran away. And yes, we have turned a deaf ear to the cries of the poor. And yes, our conservative, Republican upbringing says you got yourself into this mess, now get yourself out. But...I have heard God place a call on my life to come to you and humbly ask that you trust us despite the fact that we have done nothing to earn your trust.

The phone has grown silent.

My host families grow impatient and discouraged.

And I have no where else to turn other than God.

This morning, God led me to His words: "The Lord said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." (Exodus 4:11-12)

Now go. Just go.

Oh, will you pray for me? Will you pray for Milwaukee? Will you pray for Safe Families in Milwaukee? God has called me to go. I am terrified.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Saying Goodbye Today

We are saying goodbye to our first Safe Families child today. It is a very bittersweet moment. I have yet to cry, but I feel that I could at any minute. Yes, there is a strange strength present that I did not expect. I know where that strength is coming from and I am praising God for being so faithful!

Fast forward about 7 hours...I wrote that paragraph this morning when I thought I could sneak in a blog post. I couldn't. E was needing something and Lincoln couldn't find his shoes and before I knew it, we were heading down Highway 94 heading to a meeting destination with a social worker. The whole way there, I was fine. I even stopped in at church and chatted with friends who asked if I was ok.

"Oh yea! I'm doing great! This is turning out to be no big deal. I have this peace...weird."

I spent the last few hours with E sharing snacks, lying on the new carpet of the church watching a Veggie Tales movie, and enjoying watching Lincoln and E run back and forth and back and forth across the hallway. They giggled the whole time. Smiles were abundant.

Then, it was time.

E went right into the car seat waiting for him. He was exhausted. After getting up early, and then playing for hours, he was ready for a nap. I transferred over a box of clothes, a bag of toys and books, and then grabbed the sippy cup.

"Oh, here is his sippy cup. It's empty, you might want to fill it up when you stop for gas. Oh, and here is this special blanket. He sleeps with it every night. Someone made it for him and prayed over it especially for him. Oh, and he had oatmeal this morning and them some snacks while we were waiting, but he'll probably need to eat lunch soon. Oh, he likes peanut butter sandwiches, but no jelly. And...well...I guess that's it. Bye buddy."

He looked at me through the closed window, he looked so tired. He didn't cry, he didn't even wave. Earlier in the morning, Lincoln said, "You are going to see your momma today!" And E pointed right at me and said, "Momma." Yet, this momma had to let him go.

I learned so much through this experience. Yes, I am hurting today and I am pretty sure my whole family will be hurting for a while. But, E deserved our love! Just because it will hurt in the end, does not mean it isn't worth doing! I am praying that seeds were sown...it's as simple and as complicated as that.

Wild Olive Tees

I know I have posted about these awesome tees before - but they have redesigned their website and it is BEAUTIFUL!

Very, very cool t-shirts! I love mine!!!

Wild Olive

Now, they are giving away tickets to the Women of Faith conference!!

Check out their tees, you won't be disappointed!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Reality of Being a Safe Family


Our time with E is coming to a close. A little over 5 weeks together and he will be going to live with his dad's auntie. I wanted to share some of what I have learned through this experience:

  • Safe Families is amazing! My family has experienced great joy having E living with us. My children absolutely love him and we have been thrilled to watch E get chubby. E fit right into our "groove" and Joe and I learned that going from 5 to 6 kids was nothing.
  • I learned that it is OK for E to call me "ma" and to call Joe, "Da". I was worried about this and wondered what would happen when we saw his mom. What I have experienced on our weekly visits is that E knows who his momma is...and I am just another "ma" who loves and nurtures him. When we are with E's momma, he runs to her and is attached to her. That made me and E's momma feel so happy about this ministry. She doesn't feel threatened by me, and E still knows who his momma is.
  • I have see the ups and the downs of being a teen mom. E's momma plays with E like a child - like they are playmates. She is very different than me in that, as I am now an almost 40 year old momma who enjoys watching -ha! But, I have also seen the selfishness and the moodiness of a teen mom. If she doesn't like something, we ALL know about it...the pouting is unbelievable. Like her social worker said, "She is 18 going on 13 most times."
  • I have learned how hurting our cities are. E and his momma are growing up in a culture that does not support loving, intact families in any way. Dad's don't stay around. Girls turn to sex to fill a hole in their hearts. Making the best decision is not often done.
  • I have learned that the poor inner-city people don't trust the while, suburban people. Why should they? What have we done to earn trust? We have deserted them...left them to their poverty and their pain....saying things like "They made their bed...now they can lie in it." It is going to take a lot of time before walls are broken down and trust develops.
  • I have learned that even Christians are full of talk and not much follow through. As far as I am concerned, if every Christian family did SOMETHING....we would not see the amount of crime, poverty, helplessness, depression, mental illness that we see now in our cities. Sometimes I am so ashamed of the American church who think they are blessed which means they can go purchase a bigger house, a nicer car, the newest fashions....while people, real life human beings who have so much potential are IGNORED.
  • I have learned that the greatest part of Safe Families is that we are sowing seeds. I have learned that there will not be very many "happy endings", but I have learned that these children are GOD'S children and HE will love them and care for them. Our job is to sow seeds and then trust that God will do the rest.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Benefit of Clearly Seeing


From the first hour we were with George, my momma instinct said "He needs glasses." So, we tried some eye exams, but due to no language and a probable fear of being wrong on the "test", we just couldn't get a good read on his eye issues. This year, I requested another eye exam at school. When he "failed" that one, I immediately looked for an optometrist who would be able to see George right away. We saw a doctor this week and sure enough, he has some issues.

His left eye has a pretty significant astigmatism. And, he is far sighted in both eyes.

Can you imagine thinking that is they way things look for your entire life? Can you imagine trying to learn a new language, learn how to read and write and do math with eyes that can't see clearly?

And to think, he is doing so well in school despite this!

The doctor said, "George, you are going to be amazed when you get your glasses how much things make sense at school now!"

George smiled.

We are so grateful to have George here where getting a thorough eye exam is easily done. And then, we can go to the nearest Walmart and purchase glasses just for him - fitted to his face and with lenses that will help his particular issues! Imagine if he was still in Ethiopia? What happens to children who can't see clearly?

Doesn't he look handsome?

Monday, October 25, 2010

So Much to Catch Up On!


I am definitely missing something in my life...a little free time to sit down at the computer and write my daily thoughts. And I am feeling ready to burst - with so many things to sort through. As I write, I find myself working through deep thoughts - or sometimes conflicting thoughts, and God is always so faithful to lead me to an answer. Without the discipline of daily writing (either here or in my journal), I am feeling a bit "cloudy".

So...I am going to try to return :)

But, where do I start?

I will start with something Joe said yesterday. Or should I start with Lincoln, now a big-brother in the family. Or maybe I should tell you about the middle school conferences. Or maybe, how God is silent in some areas of our live and clearly shouting in other areas. Or, I would love to tell you about the ministry and how my amazing husband is feeling the pull to leave business and get into full-time ministry himself (how amazing is that????) I guess I just need to start somewhere. Maybe this will be my list of things to write about this week....now, I just have to make time to do so!

So, driving home from church, Joe looked at me and asked, "Are we ruining our kids?"

He didn't have to explain the question, because I know exactly what he was thinking. This life style we have embraced, this radical way of living looks nothing like the world around us. Are our children suffering because of the choices we have made?

Do your kids miss out when they don't wear designer clothes or shoes? Do our children resent us for not being able to purchase the latest and the greatest whatever is out there? Are we ruining our kids by asking them to care for kids that are not their blood brother or sister?

The world bombards us and tells us we are bad parents. And even those in the Christian church make us feel like we are "going off the deep end." So, it is normal for us to question every now and then if this life we are living is going to ruin our kids.

I have to believe that the answer is a resounding NO! What we are teaching our children is to love others...some who are very hard to love at times. Why is that wrong? What we are teaching our children is to hold loosely to THINGS of this word. Is there something wrong with that? What we are teaching our children is how important their relationship with God is...that He is the giver and provider of life. Are we teaching them the wrong thing?

But because of the world we live in, these lessons are painfully learned. Frankly, it is so hard for a 13 year old girl to believe us when we tell her she is a timeless beauty even though she wears used clothing. It is hard for Harry to believe us when we tell him that we are storing treasures in heaven when all he wants is what all of his friends have. It is hard for Isabel to believe that we are richly blessed when I have to tell her that we can't afford for her to take dance lessons.

Joe and I make hard choices every day involving our kids. We are firm believers that our kids need to be at home...which means we say no to a lot of things. With 5 kids, if they all start doing after school activities, we would never sit down for dinner together. As it is, we take Wednesday night and say this in the one night we will not eat dinner together - AWANA starts before Joe gets home from work, so he takes that chance to have meetings. But, if we let George do cub scouts and Isabel do dance and Harry do football and Eleanor do horseback riding lessons...when would we ever be together? And, frankly...our kids are still so young? Why do they have to be away from home so much? When did it become "better" for kids to enroll in classes and leagues and activities that take them away from home most nights?

We refuse to buy into that. We believe our kids are better off being at home.

But...are we ruining them by believing this? What about high school transcripts? What about getting scholarships? What about making the varsity team?

And then, we buy them clothes from yard sales or thrift shops. And we ask them to make two pairs of shoes last as long as they can. And we buy plain colored folders instead of ones that bear the image of Hannah Montana. And we snuggle on the couch for the latest movie to come out on DVD rather than take them all to the movie theater. And we sit together at a crowded dinner table every night rather than adjust schedules and add stress to our lives.

At this point, I simply have to trust the Lord. God is doing a major work in my and Joe's lives. He is transforming us...and I am confident He is leading us down a narrow path. He has a plan...and He is re-making us in order for us to do the good work He has planned in advance for us to do. But...in that process our children are affected. If that is the case, I HAVE to trust the Lord. The plan can't just be about Joe and I, for we are parents. The plan has to include our children.

So, God...are you really asking me to trust you more? I guess I have no other choice...I have already given you permission to ruin my life...why not my children's as well? Honestly, I just can't wait to see who they grow up to be..because you must have a great plan for their lives as well!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Conferences

Today, Joe and I were back at the grammar school to find out how the "twins" are doing.

We started with George. It was a bounce between high and low with him. His Title 1 teacher came in and talked about how much she just loves George and how amazed she is at how far he has come! His classroom teacher commented on his meticulousness - incredibly neat handwriting, attention to details...but because of this, he will yell out across the room to "correct" one of his classmates if they are out of line. A little of the "Georgie attitude" is coming out at school. It seems he has reached a comfort level there and the teachers are seeing a side to George none of them saw last year. He pouts, he talks back...all things that we encouraged the teachers to deal with swiftly and consistently. We won't allow for that behavior. What I love the most about George's teachers is that they are willing to learn about his past, his Ethiopian upbringing, and then deal with him accordingly. They take the time to really get to know George and are encouraging him to grow into a wonderful young man.

Off to Isabel's class...and we had to laugh when she placed the quarter grading criteria in front of us. She is doing so well...she is a "pleaser" and thrives on being the teacher's pet. And so, she is excelling. We are most proud to hear that she is a good role model and kind to all the students. She was placed right next to a special needs student who is pretty low functioning. Isabel loves sitting next to her...this is what I love the most about my joy-giver. I could give up all the As if I knew she would be a lover of people, a young lady who cares about those hurting around her, and someone who shines with the love of Christ.

While I am at the kids' updates, Lincoln is loving 4K. I mean LOVING it!

Harry is doing great. Skipping 5th grade was a good decision. He is doing very well academically, and he is enjoying playing the saxophone in the band. Harry is quite good - we thought we would hear lots of honks and squeaks, but when he practices, we are always pleasantly surprised. Most shocking to me was when we came home and announced that he has joined the Student Council. Apparently only a few 6th graders can join - and they have to be nominated by their teachers. I guess Harry told one of his teachers he was interested, and next thing I know, he has to be at school early for meetings. I am telling you...that boy will be running a school some day!

Eleanor made show choir again, joined a book club, Beyond the Books and is looking forward to another season of forensics. She is trying out for the yearbook staff (yes, they have to be selected for this honor). Most exciting is that she was one of 20 students selected to go on a trip to Washington DC to attend a middle school week-long seminar on government and history. She is so excited and feels very honored to have been selected. Now...the prayers begin! She needs a lot of money to go (something we have very little extra of these days) and she needs it before Christmas break. Will you join me in praying for this? She is such an amazing girl, and she has steadfastly been there with me through all the ups and downs of the past few years. I want her to go...and enjoy this amazing opportunity.

So...they kids are continuing to do great. Joe and I continue to do our weekly prayer walks where we just take them to the throne room of God...He does the rest.