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.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Do I Even Explain?

How do I even begin to explain the place Joe and I find ourselves? Unless you are in our hearts and our minds - or maybe a fly on the wall during our multiple conversations - I realize I can't put to words concise enough to tell what is going on.

We were standing outside, watching another amazing sunset when we realized that in August of 2008, while on a beach in New Jersey, we gave God permission to ruin our lives. I don't mean that in a negative way...I mean we gave God permission to ruin, or change, or deconstruct, or flat out destroy our selfish lives. We suddenly opened up the door for God to take over.

It is amazing how that one step of obedience could do so much!

Now, our lives have been turned upside down.

We now are providing a home for an amazing child who had been living on the streets of Chicago - if you would have told me that adopting George would have lead to this, I seriously would have laughed in your face! And now, we are facing the likely scenario of losing our business. Yet, we don't have fear - if you would have told me THAT, I would probably say you were crazy!

We still believe that all of what we are going through right now is because we gave God permission to rule our hearts and our minds. He obviously is not done with us...I just have no clue where He is leading us now.

Going back to a prayer I often recited when I was in the depths of despair the early days of our adoption...give us this day our daily bread...I am reminded that I need not worry about tomorrow and that God is faithful to give me what I need today. I know some may think we have totally lost our minds! We don't look anything like the world around us ! I was just talking to a man who commented on his 401K - I had to giggle inside because I no longer even know what that kind of life is about. We have stopped thinking of retiring someday, and instead Joe and I giggle over what adventure God will put on us as we grow older. We think of buying a VW camper van and traveling the country doing kingdom work while we visit our children and grandchildren. Or maybe, He'll send us to Africa or South America or the DR? I don't know.

Some days, I wish I had the answers. Today, I am totally content to love my God, my husband, my five amazing children, my one Safe Families addition, and my dog.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Life As A Safe Family

We are really doin' it...finally...we have added our first Safe Family child to the brood! And God has given us a little gift in the process. We are hosting Emery, an absolutely striking boy of 2 years old. Emery's mom is young...so very young. She was a victim of the child welfare system in our country and was never adopted...never shown unconditional love. And, she became pregnant.

She chose life.

That life is a little boy with an infectious laugh and a smile that lights up a room.

And mom just needs some help now. She knows she is not in a healthy situation. She has been homeless for a while. No job. Nothing.

But, she heard about Safe Families and decided to trust them, and me. She was nervous about the distance and she immediately wanted to set up visits. Today, we made our first visit. Mom is so shy and quiet, she couldn't look me in the eye. That made me so sad. I can't imagine the shame she feels. She couldn't take care of her own son. She had to ask a stranger for help. I wanted to hug her tell her how wonderful her son is...that is is obvious she has been a good mom. But, how can we blame her for not knowing how to be a GREAT mom?

She never had one! She never watched a mom and learned how to be a mom by quietly watching every move her mom made. When I think if how I became a mom, the process began decades ago as I watched my mom move around the house, listened to her conversations, and felt safe and cared for. This mom didn't have that - and then we expect her to know how to be one?

That is what this ministry is all about! My prayer is that she begins to trust me and that someday I can see her and give her a big hug and tell her how great of a mom she is.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Saying Yes


I am going to go back to a question I posed earlier this week...are ALL of God's chosen asked to live a radical life of surrender? Does God ask all...or does he only ask some of His children to do this?

If I start to think that He only asks some of us to "sell everything we have" and "love your enemy" and "do to the least of these...", I might become jaded. Why would He ask only some of us to live this way and not the others? Why does He want us to learn what it is like to live with little, while I sit next to a Christian in church who drives a Lexus, lives in a 4000 square foot house, and never wears the same outfit twice to church? Am I wrong to look at that woman and wonder why she is allowed to live a life of comfort while God asked me to sacrifice almost everything?

We thought our TV finally bit the dust this week. We didn't even bat an eye...we said, "Well, it looks like we are one less TV in the house." There was no talk of getting a new one, or upgrading. There were no worries, no tears, no fretting. One less THING in our life is a good thing! I can't even begin to tell you the freedom we feel in this life we are leading...the world has nothing we desire.

Joe and I often talk about what we might be like if suddenly the business really took off, would we really chose to live like this? Or would we fall right back into who we were in California days? Would we have to have the latest and the greatest newest whatever? We have to be honest and say we just don't know. I am afraid of my sinful nature that enjoys new shiny things...I want to slay that nature, and I think this period we are in is working on that, but I just don't know if that work is done yet.

We prayed a few years ago these verses: "Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me: give me neither poverty nor riches, but give m only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, "Who is the Lord? Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." Proverbs 30 7:9

When my husband led me to these verses and asked me to pray this with him, I really wanted to check to see if he was mentally stable! What? Are you kidding me? You really want me to ASK God to keep me from riches?

God has answered that prayer.

And I know He is using this time to purify our hearts...to sanctify us...to challenge us...to teach us how to trust HIM.

Sometimes I moan and groan about how hard it is...and some people wonder, "Why doesn't Traci get a job??" That moaning and groaning is just a selfish child throwing a little temper tantrum. When I start to really reflect on our lives over the past year, I am amazed at how God has taken care of us! There has not been one day that we have been hungry! We have been incredibly healthy! The kids always have something clean to wear each and every day! Our cars are still running! We have no debt! We truly have been living a blessed life this year!

And God has done something amazing in our lives! He has asked us to partner with Him in a missional life, to bring an amazing ministry to Milwaukee! What joy! And, in the midst of saying "yes", He has provided an extra income for us! Praise God! How blessed we are to be doing His work and earn a little income in order to keep keeping on.

So, I think back to the woman driving the Lexus and wondering if God has asked her to live a sacrificial life. And God answers my thought loudly and clearly...

"What is that to you?"

God keeps bringing me to one particular passage. Jesus has just reinstated Peter, asking him "Do you love me?" three times, giving Peter the chance to boldly proclaim his love for Jesus after denying him a few days earlier (what a gracious Lord!). However, Jesus then tells Peter about how he is going to die for the sake of Jesus. But then, Peter being Peter - which is so much like Traci being Traci says this: "Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus answered, ".....What is that to you? You must follow me!" John 21:20-22

Yup, that is me. When God has laid out a plan for my life that includes a small amount (and I truly mean small in the grand picture) of sacrifice, I turn and look at the Lexus driving suburban woman and cry out, "What about HER?" And God answers, "What I want to do with her is MY business! What is that to you?"

YOU MUST FOLLOW ME!

And so...I am saying yes.