Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Safe Families Update

On Wednesday last week, I testified in front of a Senate Committee (I keep forgetting which one - but it had to do with revenue and human services). What a difference a legislative body makes! While the Assembly was argumentative and down right rude, the entire Senate Committee was respectful and conscientious. They listened. They asked great questions - none of the hypotheticals that filled the Assembly chamber, but rather intelligent, well-thought out questions.

A representative from the Governor's office was there, watching the hearing. At the conclusion, we were told the Governor will sign the bill without hesitation. A woman from the bar association met with us after the hearing and again stressed how this is a great bill for Wisconsin!

Senator Terry Moulton, who picked up the bill in the Senate and authored it there, impressed me greatly. He had obviously done his homework and answered questions about Safe Families and what they are doing in other states. Then, during a heart-felt testimony by a birth mom who's daughter is currently in a Safe Family, this Senator removed his glasses and wiped away tears that were flowing freely. Late that week, he sent a note to his constituents that expressed how strongly he feels about the Safe Families Bill.

Press conferences are being scheduled. And I was told to start planning the signing ceremony!

I am having a hard time believing this chapter of the work is almost over! And I have to just point everyone to the power of prayer and how God works! If we would have tried to get this bill through even one year ago...it would have died in committee. And who knows how our legislation will change a year from now (several recall elections)? But for such a time as this, Safe Families was able to get a law written and passed through the legislation that will allow churches to minister to families in need!

So, here is a glimpse of all the advice I have been given by the "experts":
  • Put it in the Budget Repair Bill - it will pass easily and you'll be up and running!
  • Don't get your hopes up until next year - then try to get it through
  • A freshman Assemblyman will not be able to get this through - you need veterans taking this up
  • You can't get this through without a Senator
  • With all the fighting in the legislation, they won't take up this good-news-piece.
  • It won't pass the Assembly until the fall
  • It won't pass the Senate until the fall
  • OK - it passed the Assembly, the Senate won't take it up until the fall
  • OK - the Senate took it up, but it won't get the floor because the Senate only deals with fiscal legislation in June.
  • OK - looks like the Senate is making as exception...
If I would have believed the experts at any point along the way, I would have given up long ago! But, instead I would hear God saying, "Keep fighting! I am in this with you!" So, I bugged all my friends and begged everyone I knew to make phone calls and send emails. The legislators started asking, "What's this thing called Safe Families?" And soon, we will be LEGAL!

Praise God!

But, I know this is just the beginning of the battleground in Wisconsin. We are about to meet face-on with the one who holds Milwaukee in a stronghold of evil and darkness. We are about to punch a hole of light into the dark. Milwaukee is in such horrible states - I write about it often. They have an infant mortality rate equal to or worse than several 3rd world countries! The average 17 year old girl has a baby with a man over the age of 22 - statutory rape. More people live in poverty in Milwaukee than 99% of all major cities in the US. Dads are absent. Moms are tired, disengaged and depressed. There is no family in Milwaukee. There is no hope...YET!

Safe Families, with the Lord's mighty arm, will begin to show Milwaukee what it means to be a family. We have generations of brokenness to combat...but we are going to start somewhere.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Family Portraits


We finally have some great pictures of the family!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Napping

I have a theory...not sure if it is accurate or not. Anna naps...a lot.

I asked her if she napped in her CO home. She said no. And I have remember she was in two schools in a day, a morning school and an afternoon school. Not much time for a 5 year old to nap in that schedule.

Here...Anna naps almost every day. And, she naps when she curls up against me during reading time or during some quiet time. Like clock-work, she is snoring away within 5 minutes of some close contact with Momma.

So, here is my theory. She is like a baby. I have such fond memories of napping with ALL of my home-made kiddos. I relished the afternoons when the house would be quiet and I would curl a snuggle-bug baby onto my chest, close the shades and snuggle in for a nap. There is something so bonding in those moments of sleeping together - and I have encouraged this time with all of my kids.

And Anna is catching up. She has missed so many baby-naps on her momma's chest! And she has missed out listening to my heart beat and learning my rhythms and my smells. But, I believe she is catching up! She will snuggle in every chance she gets - breathing in deeply my scent and finding a spot of skin to put her face against or lay her hand on. She is longing for that skin-on-skin contact that all my home made kids had in abundance.

I am back to what life was like with newborns - taking a quiet time each afternoon to just let my baby fall asleep on me. It is a sweet time bonding with Miss Anna.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lincoln Loves Anna


Joe picks up Lincoln and Anna from Sunday School each Sunday morning. This is what Lincoln worked on a few days ago. He ran up to Joe and said, "Daddy! I drew Anna because I want her to know about Jesus!"

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Broken Children



Thursday night we were all gathered in the living room...we have a guilty family pleasure...American Idol. So, we sat around our tiny living room when we all realized just how broken our children from Africa are.

George was very upset about his Africa Mommy. He had been talking about heaven all day. I am not sure why or what prompted the conversations...maybe it was because earlier that morning he announced that he hated God. He did this for my "benefit". He was angry at me - I think because I told him to put his glasses on. When he started pouting and whining about having to do the extremely difficult task of putting his glasses on, I sent him to his bed to "think about how he responded". He thinks he will hit me where it hurts to tell me that he hates God. My answer?

"George, do you remember what God did for you?"

I then talk to him about how much God loved him that he allowed his son to die a painful death on a tree in order to save George (we talk a lot about John 3:16 these days because he has finally memorized it!). He was quiet for a long time. Then he asked me if he would still go to heaven even though he said something he didn't mean (hating God).

Maybe that is what prompted an entire day of thinking and talking about heaven. Whatever the case, he suddenly burst out into sobs asking, "Who is going to be my mommy in heaven? You or my Africa mommy? I don't want to have to chose who to live with."

Then, he cried, "I don't think my Africa mommy knows Jesus! She needs someone to tell her about Jesus."

Oh, how his heart ached for his Africa mommy. We talked for quite a long time as the entire family listened. My older children suddenly were faced with a hurting brother who has to live with such a dilemma like not knowing if his mom is going to heaven. He also opened up and talked about the struggles of life in Ethiopia. He talked about being hungry all the time. He talked about drinking dirty water and having stomach aches. He talked about how he can't remember what his Africa daddy looks like, and how that hurts his heart.

All of our hearts broke knowing how broken George is.

Anna then shared how she watched when her Africa mommy slipped and banged her head "against a rock". She said there was so much blood and her mommy never woke up. Anna talked about an auntie taking her and then before she knew it, she was living in the orphanage. Then, her first adopted mommy didn't want her anymore.

Then Anna, who was sitting in my lap looked up and me and asked, "Where am I going, Mommy?"

"What do you mean, sweetie?"

"Am I going to heaven? I want to go wherever you are going. I don't want to be alone anymore."

We ended our family time not cheering on a favorite singer on AI or arguing over who is sitting on which couch, but instead we formed a circle and prayed over our broken children knowing that God is in the business of restoration and healing.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

No...We are In a Smaller House


A few days ago I had the chance to catch up with a woman I knew about 8 years ago. We were in a church membership class for 8 weeks, so over that time, we shared some laughs, some tears and a lot of scripture. The final "step" in the class is for everyone to share their testimony. Joe and I decided to host this event and asked everyone over to our house for dessert and sharing.

We lived in an urban area - old 1920s bungalows with hard wood floors, leaded glass windows and small rooms. We loved it, although we know it is not everyone's "cup of tea". We had 4 bedrooms, 2 full baths, and a finished basement on top of a living room, dining room and kitchen. It was really good for our family of 5.....or so I thought....

This woman was amazed at how much our family had changed over the past 8 years. Lincoln was born and we adopted not one..but two...African orphans.

That's when she blurted out, "You're not still living in the tiny house, are you?"

I wasn't sure how to answer that because I was stunned that she called our house in the city "tiny".

"Um...actually we moved out to the country."

"Oh good! I just can't imagine raising that many children in that small place."

"Well...to tell you the truth...our house in the country is smaller."

"What?" She gasped.

"Yes. Our rooms are smaller, we don't have a finished basement and we added a 100 pound dog to the mix. We have three kids sharing a room, two in another and our son is in a tiny (and it is TINY) room."

She walked away flabbergasted. I can't blame her. She comes from the "other side of the tracks". She lives in a area where 3000 sq. feet homes are considered average. She lives in an area where 2 kids is average and if someone dares to have 3 you better have a maid. She's nice...don't get me wrong...she is just out of touch with my reality.

Here is my reality. This life is NOT supposed to be about comfort - comfort tells you that you're doing enough and you don't need to sacrifice more. Once you are out of your comfort zone, you realize all that you can sacrifice. My reality is that I have seen orphans living in Ethiopia...hungry, sparse clothing, sick. Once you see that...live that...a big house and a new car just don't compare. I am NOT judging YOU - or anyone - I am just saying that my reality is different now.

Here is more reality.
How many minutes did it take you to read this post? One minute? 18 children just died.

My house was big enough to adopt again. So what that my kids share bedrooms? They are learning to be good sharers, to be patient with others, to work out differences. They are learning about loving the unlovable. They have learned that their siblings really were "starving to death." They are learning that love is colorblind.

No...we are actually living in a smaller house...and we are loving every minute of it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bonding

Bonding IS happening.

On Saturday, Joe and I wanted to go on a breakfast date. We have found that Saturday morning breakfast dates are a great way for us to have some quiet time together and the kids are much more comfortable being home alone during the day (as opposed to a Saturday night date).

They are all used to our dates - but we haven't been on one since Anna came home.

So, we prepared all the kiddos that Saturday we would be going on a date. Around 5am, Anna crept into bed with us and fell peacefully back asleep. Joe and I woke up around 7am and decided to just throw on some baseball hats and go have our date.

Anna shot up out of bed and asked, "Can I go with you?"

We tried to explain the importance of Mommy and Daddy going on a date alone - connecting with each other is crucial to how we are as parents. Of course, she didn't understand.

She cried and cried, begging me not to leave her.

I know this sound cruel that I am writing about this- but this really was a sign that Anna is starting to bond with me. You see, when I picked her up in CO, she didn't even hesitate to leave her home for 4 months and climb into a car with a complete stranger! And even though we kept telling her we would be right back, and that Daddy had bought donuts for the kids, she could NOT bear the thought that we would not be together.

So different...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Safe Families Update

While things have been relatively quiet on the SF front...this week looks to liven things up a bit.

Tomorrow, I will be a featured speaker at the BASICS Pastor's Appreciation Breakfast. I am humbled by God's timing for I have volunteered at this breakfast for the past two years as a greeter. As I stood in the doorway and welcomed over a hundred inner-city pastors, I had no idea that the next year I would be standing before them telling them about Safe Families!

There are over 175 pastors confirmed to be there. That means at least 150+ churches represented who will hear the message of Safe Families and what this ministry can do in Milwaukee!

When I was asked to speak at this event last September, I thought we would surely be legal by now. But no. Politics continues to play an ugly part in this drama. I could rant about how each "side" wants to change a word here or insert a comma there, and how all this is just slowing down a much needed ministry, but I AM trusting that God is ultimately in control. His timing is perfect! I don't know why we have waited over a year - well actually, Safe Families has been trying to get into Milwaukee for over 5 years now - but I trust in a God who sees down the road and knows why we are where we are right now.

Progress. The committee votes on our amended bill on Thursday. That's the big day! Then, the whole Assembly should vote the following week!

Then...on to the Senate to do more of the same.

Again...I have "experts" telling me this will not get done before summer recess (end of June), so we should realistically look to mid-late fall. I refuse to concede this...I serve a BIG GOD! I don't know what His Will is for the timing, but I am still praying that we get this done in June and put the legislative battle behind us.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

In Honor of Judy


Mother's Day is tomorrow. I am horrible at sending cards or buying gifts. I admit it freely. But, even though I may forget the cards or neglect to send a gift, I absolutely love my mother and I want you all to know it!

I was just talking with my neighbor about Mother's Day and I said "I just can't believe I am a mom to six kids!" And she followed up my statement with a question, "Are you like your mother?"

I am not sure why she asked that, probably just wanted to know more about my past and if that would inspire me to be a mom to a large number of kiddos. I wasn't sure how to answer that question.

Yes...I look just like my mom. And every now and then I hear my self say, "Eee-gads" or "Heavens to Betsy" (whatever that means!). I see myself in the side mirror as Joe is driving the car and I see the same face I used to watch as I was a little girl sitting in the back seat intently watching my mother.

But no...my mom is so much more patient than I am. And she listens so much better than I do. And she quietly trust the Lord with everything in her life - she doesn't shout it from the rooftops or stand up in Sunday School class to tell everyone about her life - but trust me, it shows. I believe she is a better mom than I am - I was never yelled at, I was always forgiven, I always knew I was loved. My mom signed me up for things I wanted to do...and then sat in the cold on hard benches watching me play softball in April in Ohio! My mom would drive me to church every Sunday night (a long drive!) so I could be in a youth group and a bell choir. She never complained....ever...never. My mom let me be me...she didn't try to change who I was, but instead she gave me such confidence in whatever I tried to do knowing she would be there to catch my fall.

I want to be my mom when I grow up. I have always wanted to be my mom when I grow up!

Now...I say I want to be a mother-in-law like my mom....and I want to be a grandmother like my mom.

I once lamented to a friend that I didn't have a mentor in my life - a Christian woman who was walking this road with me, but who was ahead of the game to offer advice. She laughed and said, "You have that in your mother! So many women today don't have that in their moms!"

She was right...I do have an amazing mother. She offers advice - but only when I ask for it. She supports all our crazy ideas - even when others don't. She loves unconditionally - even when I don't deserve it.

I love you, Mom!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Home


I love this time of year...I love watching the birds working feverishly to put together their nests. What is interesting about where we live now, is that I get to see so many attempts at nests. This picture is of a grape vine wreath on our front porch. I watched two birds work an entire day to make this. After discovering how busy our front porch can be, they quickly abandoned their efforts. I was happy they changed their mind, because they were not putting together a very secure nest.



Then, I noticed this next nest...on our lamp post next to the our garage door. I wondered how in the world a baby bird would survive in this nest!



But then...I discovered this beauty...on the window sill at the top of our stairs. This nest is tucked neatly into the corner on a large ledge. It is protected from the wind and the rain by the overhang of the roof. And here is where a momma robin has worked so hard to put together this well-built home. At first we noticed the nest. Then there was one egg, followed soon after by another. To our shock, within another 24 hours, the momma had laid 2 more eggs. And now we watch in awe at the brilliant blue eggs and the ever-present momma.



Momma Robin now sits on her nest - feathers ruffled and patiently sitting on her window ledge. I have put a black towel over the window so she feels safe - and doesn't see us all racing up and down the stairs every hour.

Last year, at the Orphan Summit, I listened as Karyn Purvis shared a magnificent story about birds building a nest and how a traumatic event can alter the way a bird builds a nest for years. She likened that to our hurting children - how they are like these birds that can't even seem to do the most basic task that they were made to do. Every time I see the failed attempts at nest building, I am reminded of how much healing my children need to go through. I have watched failed attempts at my home for the past two years. This year, I finally see a bird that managed to build a magnificent nest and lay 4 eggs into it!

Hope.

Monday, May 2, 2011

More Healing


If I would have known what adopting another child would do for George, I would have done it a year ago. But...I do believe in God's perfect timing and I also know that Anna was meant to be our daughter, so now was the time.

As we were getting ready for dinner, most of the kids were outside talking with our neighbors and playing with the dogs. Anna was still inside, so we scooted her out the door telling her to go play before dinner. She hurried to put on her shoes and then ran out the door very excited. That is, until she saw the dogs - racing and running and jumping and flashing across the yard. She froze, not sure how to proceed without the risk of getting trampled by three 100 pound dogs.

Then George started running. Joe asked, "Is he really coming to get Anna?"

Me, the skeptic said, "No. I am sure he wants food or something."

To our surprise, George ran straight to Anna, bent down and said something to her, and then held her hand as he led her across the yard. At one point, Anna froze again, and George put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a reassuring nod, "Trust me. It will be OK."

I wish I would have had my camera ready for that moment. It was so sweet. Both Joe and I broke down into massive tears. Our son, who fights his selfish desires constantly actually thought of someone else and acted upon that. He sensed his sister's fears and he came to her rescue. Character.

The word we use so often to George. Just before dinner, we had a long, long talk about money. George loves money. He has stolen money. He is obsessed with what things cost and how much I spend. If I come home with a new pair of jeans for Harry, George asks, "What did that cost? Do you spend that much on my jeans?" A little boy had given Anna $5 last week. This was driving George crazy. Eventually, he talked Anna out of the $5 and happily put it in his wallet.

Oh no..Joe was furious. So, that led to the long talk about the love of money. We explained to George that Jesus said you can't love money and him. This blew George away. He didn't believe Joe, so he came and asked me if this was true. When I told him yes, he wanted to see it in the Bible. We showed him.

Then he stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him.

He sat in the front yard..obviously thinking about this problem. I know he loves Jesus. These words from Christ stunned George. For the first time in my life, I saw how this mandate from Christ was so radical and so infuriating to the people of his day. Money means life to George - if we have money, we have food and shelter and clothing. If we don't have money, we starve and we could be homeless and we would have no wii or Game Cube (trust me, I am sure he was thinking more along the lines of all the stuff he has!). But, he sat there stunned. This Jesus that he has come to love and trust and pray to now says that one can't love money and him.

I can't remember how long he was outside thinking - I was busy doing house-wife stuff (ha!). Eventually, I heard him talking to Joe and I think he said, "I don't want to love money, Dad."

That led to George telling Joe how much he loved Anna. And then Joe said, "Just think George! When you were a baby in Ethiopia, Anna was a baby in Ghana. And we were living our lives in America. We didn't know each other even existed. But God knew! And God couldn't wait to knit our family together. He knew that a boy in Ethiopia would have a sister from Ghana and would live in Wisconsin. And if this family in Wisconsin had loved money, we might not have obeyed God when he told us to go get our kids. God doesn't want us to love money, He wants us to love His children. Amazing, isn't it?"

Yes...it IS amazing!