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?


"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 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.


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 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?"


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!