Monday, January 31, 2011
I shared how George was angry. I would say this weekend, his anger turned to sadness. We talked so much with him about how to properly vent his anger - not to yell at his teacher or hit his classmates. But honestly, we don't see that behavior much at home. He HAS learned how to get along with his family - and that is good to report!
We got George's report card on Friday. Again, my heart sank as I read over and over again how below grade level he is performing. Of course, I know this in my head! But, as I was looking over the grades, I couldn't help but feeling very sad. And then the comments came, 'Does not get along with others", "Quick to perceive a slight", "Does not handle conflict well"..on and on negative comments came flying at me, hitting me squarely in the face. I know these things about George, but maybe I could deny them if no one else saw them. Now, these words are out there describing MY son.
Thankfully, George's teacher caught me on Friday and said, "I realized all I wrote on the report card were negative comments. I want you to know that I think he has great potential."
To me, all that says is that we have so much more work to do. So far to go, still!
All weekend, the words of "does not get along well with others" resonated through my brain. I see that in George. When he is uncomfortable, he hangs his head low and won't talk to anyone. When he is angry, he lashes out in harsh sounding words. If he thinks he is getting jilted, he will let you know. I see at church how his Sunday School teacher says goodbye each morning, and how George ignores him. So often, I boil over with anger as he does these things.
Until I remember a few things: this child has experienced the most important relationship in his life betraying him, leaving him behind; this child has buried his father and a baby sister; this child has been so hungry that when he finally had food in front of him, he ate until he threw up and then went right back to eating. And then this child was taken from everything he knows, sights, sounds, smells, culture, music, language, clothing, weather...on and on and on, and placed into a white, English-speaking, middle class family living in a cold, snowy environment.
ONLY TWO YEARS AGO!
Oh, Lord, I need more grace, I need YOUR love to pour into this little boys' life again and again! Forgive me for getting angry at what I perceive to be how slowly he is "coming around to our way of life". Forgive me for forgetting what this child has been through. Forgive me for being selfish - not understanding why he doesn't totally love me yet. Forgive me, Father, for not being the mom to George that YOU are asking me to be. I am here, on my knees to say once again, that I am going to trust YOU. I am going to believe that YOU can make all things new, that YOU will do a mighty work in George's life to bring back the smiles and the giggles and the joy that he once knew. YOU make beautiful things out of us.
Beautiful....last night, I heard beautiful laughter as we had a tickle fest in our kitchen after dinner. Beautiful...yesterday, as George, Lincoln and Harry ran around the house playing hide-n-go seek. Beautiful...watching Eleanor go into George's room to say goodnight to him.
There is such beauty around us, right here in my family. And I am happy to once again remember how much God desires to make all things new, to take the ashes and make them beautiful. That goes for George....and me.
Friday, January 28, 2011
George is having a really, really tough week. Three days (out of four so far), I have received word from school that he has threatened to hit, actually hit, been disobedient and than actually called his beloved teacher stupid in front of the whole class. At home, he is angry at everyone, telling us that we should find another boy to love, and even said horrible things about wanting to hurt himself.
All of these things have caught us off guard.
But, instead of being angry at him, we are heart broken.
This time of year coincides with his abandonment. It was only three years ago that him Africa mommy put a clean denim suit on George and made a long walk to the Soddo Orphanage. It was only three years ago that the woman who had nurtured him, loved him, fed him, sang to him, caressed his face walked away....forever...never to return. It was only three years ago that George suddenly found himself living with a dozen other boys in a cramped room lined with bunk beds where he was fed 2 times a day. Only three years ago.
Last year at this time, George was sad. He cried a lot.
This year, he is angry. And I believe he is testing us. He is asking, "Do you REALLY mean it when you say you will love me forever? How about if I do this? Are you still going to keep me?" And when we talk to him about his behavior, he is quick this week to say, "You need to go have a new boy, not me, right?"
I can't even begin to imagine the heartbreak he is reliving.
He has become very close to his teacher this year. And she is getting the same testing. It's not fun. But she told me today that she sees it as a privilege to be part of his life this tough year.
George has not been happy. When we were in the car the other day, just the two of us, he suddenly said, "I can't remember what my Africa daddy looks like." Then he cried. "Life is hard here," he said between sobs.
We can easily fall into the thought that life is so much better here in America that we can't ponder how a little boy from Ethiopia would not fall on his knees in gratitude for being adopted into this country. I am here to tell you that is not always the case!
Life was hard in Ethiopia - that is without a doubt true - but there was a simplicity that I actually envy now. Such a simple life. Life in our culture is very complicated. We are stimulated beyond what our minds can take most days. There are subtle nuances that only we understand. And then, we push our children to learn more, achieve more, keep doing more and more. George came from a place where a child played and ran and skipped and then fell asleep, sometimes, under the stars. What a difference!
I talked to George's teacher today and I cried when I thought of how hard life is for him this year. I couldn't fight back the emotion of empathy that was surging out of my heart. As I turned to say goodbye to George this morning, as he stood in the hallway of his school, I opened my arms to hug him. He smiled and gave a heavy sigh - a good sigh - like the kind that says, "She really is there for me. She really does still love me."
And I do...
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Thanks to my friend, Denise, who led me to this verse. All I could do was yell out loud, "Yes!" This is what I have been looking for...
May Safe Families Milwaukee be known as living up to these words.
Monday, January 24, 2011
But, this is what God has to say about that:
John 16:33 In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.
John 6:27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.
Psalm 46:1-2 God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Jeremiah 31:25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.
PS - Thanks Cora, for encouraging me today!
Saturday, January 22, 2011
This is how you walk a dog in January in Wisconsin!
My new hair cut.
Harry played us a song in his sax!
And then Joe used Eleanor's bass to teach Harry a few songs - he really wants someone to jam with!
Harry was not trilled about the pink part - but he sounded pretty good.
While the big boys were upstairs jamming to The Who, the little boys listened to Adventures In Odysse and played with Legos.
Some Daddy-daughter cuddling.
Friday, January 21, 2011
That would be the first time in over 25 years that something like that would happen....
And she is an amazing believer!
Of course, there is some politics going on - and I don't know if the Reps and Senators will "go for this"...but, bottom line, I believe THIS LAW WILL BE CHANGED!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
I don't have a degree in social work...but I know how to recognize a woman in need! I don't have neat, little letters that follow my last name...but I can figure out what a mom needs.
I have been encouraged to keep stories of the moms I am helping...and yes, I am continuing to help moms even though I risk going to jail. There are many people who have told me that they would have no problem telling this mom that Safe Families is not up and running yet in Wisconsin...but that person is not me.
So, I had a mom call me this week. Crying. Desperate.
She had reached out to other shelters, ministries, churches...and came up with no one able to help her. She has 4 little ones and has been a stay at home mom her whole adult life, committed to raising her children. Her husband was the sole income provider. He lost his job. He got sick. He had to stay in the hospital for a long time. They fought over money. Bills piled up. In December, they lost their home. They continued to fight. He moved in with an aunt. They WANT to work it out, but with the stress of no home, no job, no money...they just can't seem to.
The UNITED METHODIST CHURCH (and Yes - I am calling you out!) said they have a ministry that helps single mothers...but she would have to file divorce papers in order to start getting the
She asked me, "Will I have to divorce my husband for you to help me? I love him. I want to work it out."
I was almost speechless. I told her, "Not only do we NOT want you to file divorce papers, we will offer marriage help!" Even if it is Joe and I driving into the city once a week for months - we will work through this with them.
She started sobbing.
And we are helping her. We are placing her children. And I am doing this full well knowing that I am breaking the law.
But, in light of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., sometimes laws need to be broken to put a spotlight on how STUPID the law is! Just like the law that said a person with brown skin had to sit at the back of a bus is STUPID...so is a law that says a mom can not make her own decision about getting help for her own children.
Every corner I turn, I am faced with "important" people telling me that getting the Safe Families Bill passed into law is going to be impossible. I am here to tell you, NOTHING is impossible for MY GOD! His heart is for the poor! His heart is for the broken! Can't you see that He wants us to love and serve and sacrifice for His children? And if we are willing...I am SURE THAT HE WILL MAKE THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
I love those moments when my kids just "get it". Lincoln had one of those moments last week.
Eleanor's 14th birthday was last Sunday and she enjoyed the most delicious marble cake with purple butter cream icing. On Monday, everyone was looking forward to eating another piece of cake after dinner.
I can't remember what I made for dinner on Monday - I think it had to do with rice, chicken, black beans and salsa - but that would account for many meals in our family. (I really think we should have been born in a South American country!) And, as usual, Lincoln was struggling getting through dinner. Remember when I talked about the Personal Growth Plans? For Lincoln, a big part of his personal growth has to do with less snacking and more eating of dinner. He has been doing pretty well, but it is a daily conversation in our house. So, on this night, he had been pushing his food around on his plate most of the dinner time and we noticed he hadn't eaten hardly anything.
When it came time to cut the remainder of the cake and pass it out, I told Lincoln he had to finish his dinner first.
He got obstinate.
So, Joe did something we have always done with our children who struggle eating dinner. We portion off some of the food, making smaller piles and then tell the child to eat just that one pile or two piles, whatever we think is appropriate. Joe made a small pile of a few pieces of chicken, some beans and some rice and instructed Lincoln to simply eat that one small pile and then he could have cake.
So, the rest of us began eating our cake and commenting on how wonderful the butter cream icing was.
Lincoln picked up his fork and ate a small bite. Joe then reached over with his fork and took a piece of chicken off Lincoln's plate (it was too good to let go to waste). Lincoln ate a tiny bit of rice and Joe ate some more of the little pile. Lincoln stalled. And he was so sad. He really, really wanted a piece of cake, but he knew he couldn't have any without finishing his little pile. But, he just couldn't seem to eat any more.
Then Joe showed great MERCY.
He walked over to the last piece of cake, put it on a paper plate and then placed it in front of Lincoln. He told Lincoln to enjoy it.
And Lincoln burst into tears. And a sob rose up from his gut that truly surprised us all! He just sat there with a broken face, crying and putting his hands up to his eyes.
"Oh, Lincoln! What is wrong? You can eat the cake. Daddy decided to show you mercy."
Lincoln sputtered out the words, "But...I...I...I..don't deserve to eat the cake."
As he continued to cry, Joe reached over to him and gently explained that this is exactly like Jesus! Jesus came and showed us great mercy when we didn't deserve it. Lincoln nodded wide-eyed.
I am not sure how much a little 5 year old mind can comprehend the immense mercy that God has shown us. How we are sinful at the core and deserve nothing good. Yet, while we were still sinners, God demonstrated his great love for us in sending His son to die...death even on a cross. THAT is unbelievable mercy!
And at that dinner table, as we all enjoyed purple butter cream icing, we all grew a little closer to Jesus.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
....Lincoln had a Jesus-moment over buttercream icing - I'll need to write more about that one!
.....I cut off most of my hair in an effort to simplify again.
.....We made a big decision about our family...and how it will grow.
More to come when I actually have a chance to write. Until then, I was convicted by a message I heard on the radio between meetings. I was asked, "Is your ministry out pacing your intimacy with Christ?"
May my answer never be no.
Jesus, I need this weekend to just be with YOU!
Friday, January 7, 2011
I have been reminded, very clearly and gently, that nothing is impossible for God. While Safe Families has faced an uphill battle to get up and running in Wisconsin, God has continued to prove that He is in control! The good news is that a proposed bill will soon be introduced to the new legislation in Madison. This bill will be referred to as The Safe Families Bill!
In February, the legislation will have the bill in committee. In March, the bill will be voted on. In April, the governor will have the chance to sign the bill into law.
And I know none of these things will take place with man's efforts only. It is the Lord, who will bring glory to Himself, by making what once seemed impossible, possible in Wisconsin.
I am humbly asking that you would join me in 40 days of prayer and fasting for Safe Families in Wisconsin. Starting Monday, January 10th, we will begin praying daily for Safe Families in Wisconsin. And, would you be willing to fast once a week - one meal a week or maybe for one hour of TV?
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21
From Jesus Calling - 1/6:
I am able to do far beyond all that you ask or imagine. Come to Me with positive expectations, knowing that there is no limit to what I can accomplish. Ask My Spirit to control your mind, so that you can think great thoughts of Me. Do not be discouraged by the fact that many of your prayers are yet unanswered. Time is a trainer, teaching you to wait upon Me, to trust Me in the dark. The more extreme your circumstances, the more likely you are to see My Power and Glory at work in the situation. Instead of letting difficulties draw you into worrying, try to view them as setting the scene for My glorious intervention. Keep your eyes and your mind wide open to all that I am doing in your life.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
I have told God that I know Safe Families Milwaukee is HIS ministry, but He has been reminding over the past six months of this over and over again. It's not easy. In fact, getting Safe Families Milwaukee up and running is proving to be impossible for me.
I can't even tell you how many times I have messed up. I get about 30 seconds to "pitch" Safe Families and many times I screw it all up. Pastors look at me with puzzled looks on their faces. Many say, "Sounds interesting. Send me some information and we'll look at it next year." I get meetings with the Lt. Governor and stumble and fumble my way through my words.
God is simply telling me, "When this gets started...it is because I made it happen."
I am not frustrated or discouraged. In fact, this knowledge brings me peace! It is not going to be up to me...God will make sure this does or doesn't happen. So, I continue to make my appointments and set up meetings and drive into the city to talk.
What I realized yesterday, on one of those crazy busy days in the city, is that convincing a momma to trust me is going to be incredibly difficult! I talked with a woman yesterday whose sister needed someone to watch her 5 month old baby for one week while she was in the hospital having surgery. The woman talked to me, but had a skeptical look on her face the whole time. "So, are you gonna watch the baby?"
"No. I have a great family who would love to help for a week."
"No way. Uh-uh. No how. Never!"
"Can I ask why?'
"Because I was put into a foster home and I was raped. Every day I was in that home! And my sister...she was sodomized by the same 'good father'. There is no way I will trust anyone who just says they are going to do good."
This has become the all-too familiar scenario I hear. So many families in crisis need help, but because they themselves were terribly hurt when they were children and their family was in crisis, they don't trust me. And how do I convince this woman that my safe families are NOT going to harm their child? Are my words enough? Is the sincerity in my eyes enough?
I am so sad that the church, God's people who are called to CARE, left the hurting and the broken to fend for themselves decades ago. The church just opened their hands and said, "It's not my problem." And now, we have generations of hurting, broken people who have NO reason to trust the church at all. How can we possibly claim to be Christians when we are not hearing the cries from the broken?
I thought about this for a while. For years, I never even heard the cries of the poor. Why? Not because they are not crying out! But because I conveniently stopped listening. Moving to the suburbs...attending an all-white, affluent church, cloistering with my believer friends through-out the week...all proved to plug my ears to what has been happening in the cities. I am glad God asked me to pull the plugs out...because now I hear.
And I know, there are many people who take advantage and blah, blah, blah...I can hear all the excuses and rationalizations as to why we don't help the people in the city. And some of these are legitimate excuses...BUT...how will the healing ever begin?
Who will go?
Who will hug this woman and promise her that her children will be loved and cared for?
Who will drive east of Mayfair Mall and realize they don't turn into pumpkins?
Who will sit with those who are broken hearted, poor and sinful?
When did we water down the message of Jesus? When did we decide that following Jesus meant attending Bible studies and listening to K-Love rather than "meeting the woman at the well at noon"?
I am calling for 40 days of prayer and fasting for Safe Families. And for the city to respond to the love of Safe Families. I have met families willing to go! I have met families who are willing to drive east of Mayfair Mall! I have met families that are willing to sit with sinners who need help! I have met families that are living the message of Jesus!
Now, we need God's power and might to make this happen.
Starting Monday, January 10, I am going to ask all my friends, family and even strangers (ha!) to fast and pray for Safe Families Milwaukee! Chose whatever way you will fast....some suggestions would be to fast from TV for one hour (your favorite, have-to-watch show), or fast from lunch, or fast from FB, Twitter or blogs for an hour...and during that hour, pray for Safe Families Milwaukee, pray for the hurting families out there, pray for the legislature which will be voting on a new law allowing SF to minister legally in Wisconsin.
Will you commit to prayer and fasting? We can't do this without God!
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
But...we all eventually do it.
And we meet at the kitchen table.
The coffee is brewing and sleepy kids are silently walking around finding their Bibles and then sitting in their designated place. (Why is it that we sit in the same spot and feel so uncomfortable in another seat?)
We decided a while ago to read Genesis and Exodus. The kids needed a good history lesson. We finished Exodus yesterday and still hadn't decided where we would go next. Joe made the decision as we all sat at the table. "Acts. We are going to read Acts."
So, we all turned to Acts and read the first chapter together. Then, as always, we read our Proverbs chapter of the day.
Then, we prayed. And here is where the little gift came.
Harry prayed, "Lord, you know I didn't want to get out of bed. I wanted to just stay in my room and read my new book on the planets. I came down in a bad mood. But, Lord, I am so grateful I came down here and read Your Word with my family."
Eleanor picked up where Harry left off, "Lord, I feel the same way. I don't want to get out of bed at all! But, I am so glad I did. And thank you for your word in Proverbs, reminding me to stay on the straight path at school. I need those words every morning before going to school."
Little gifts from my kids' mouths and hearts. There are times that I wonder if how we are raising our kids is going to make any difference in their lives? I wonder if they are going to have a solid faith because of this, or if they are going to completely rebel against our family times of reading the Bible? I just can't have those answers now..that part is called FAITH.
Joe and I long to know that our children won't make the same mistakes we did growing up. But, I know some of them are going to, if not all of them. Today, God used Harry and Eleanor to let me know that what we are doing IS making an impact on their lives.
Isabel, on the other hand, used the entire morning to worry about what she was going to wear and if her new boots were going to get snow on them. Sigh.
Monday, January 3, 2011
This verse has been important to Joe and I for the past five years. As our family leader, Joe read this verse and said, "THIS is how we are to raise our children." We have often talked to our children about growing in these four areas...intelligence, physical stature, in their relationship with God and their relationships with others. All four of these areas need attention, nurturing and guidance, and Joe and I believe these are the areas God wants us to concentrate on in raising our children.
This year, I found an amazing chart to help us do this. Focus on the Family has a new magazine called Thriving Family. I have no idea how I get it...is someone paying for a subscription for me? Is it free? Honestly, it just started arriving on my doorstep! On New Year's Eve, the January/February edition showed up and as Joe and I drank our morning coffee, I perused the pages looking at any article I may want to stop on and read. One tiny snippet of an article caught my attention - creating a personal growth plan based upon Luke 2:52.
I immediately jumped on the computer and printing out 5 worksheets, one for each of our children. Then, I printed out the suggested ideas. I showed them to Joe and he agreed, this is good stuff!
We spent New Year's Eve evening working on a personal growth plan for all five of our kids. In the process, we evaluated what they are doing well and identified areas in which we want to see growth in 2011. We set Sunday as our official "Meeting Day" and after church we set up an area in our bedroom that would be our place to meet with our children. One at a time, we called them in and went over the personal growth plan.
And then we prayed with and for each child, praying a blessing upon their life for the year.
I can't even explain how doing this made Joe and I feel. It was so good for us to recognize and celebrate the great areas of change and growth! All five of them! It was so good to sit across from them and tell them how proud we are of them, using specific examples. Then, in love and gentleness, we explained one or two specific things in each area where we expected to see continued growth.
As we prayed, the older children were all moved to tears. And it dawned on me that we have not done this enough! We have not pulled a child into our bedroom and prayed blessings and protection over them where they can hear and participate in the prayer. It is not enough for me to pray in the quiet of my closet these things... my children need to hear my praying for them so they KNOW they are being prayed for!
Each and every child, unprovoked, crossed the bedroom to hug us. Each and every child then expressed their love.
It is a day I will not soon forget.
Go to www.thrivingfamily.com and search "Parenting Goals" if you would like to do this, too! It's not too late to set a personal growth plan for you child!