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.