Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year's End

I started to write about the high lights and low lights of 2013 for I have seen many fellow bloggers post such entries.  But, as I sat on the couch on the last night of 2013 I thought it would be way too hard for my 43 year old memory to remember all that happened this year.  Sadly, this was a year that saw a huge decline to my blogging.  I am not sure why...maybe I just got really busy?  Maybe I just got tired of writing the same old same old of my life?  Maybe I just got out of the habit?

I actually think the habit reason is the most likely.  Seriously, I simply moved my computer upstairs, which led to me being upstairs in order to be on my computer, which meant I was closer to all the dirty laundry and the washing machine..

On the bright side, I got all my laundry done in a very timely fashion this year!

Looking back, this year saw us settling into our home in South Carolina.  It is really starting to feel like home.  We love our neighbors...and have the most wonderful conversations standing around outside.  (But I still long to live in the country again),  The kids settled into their schools.  Joe settled into his job.  And I returned to the career I love the most...being a mom.

I had a very rough spring with George...again...I even thought of the "D" word, which I promised I would never bring up.  But, in God's FAITHFULNESS, He brought me through once again.

But instead of looking back, I want to look forward and share the things God has put on my heart for 2014:

  • Prayer.  I have really failed in this area the past year.  I need...and want to return to a real disciplined prayer life.
  • Connecting:  I want to connect more with my children...especially George.  I am going to read some books I should have read long ago and I am going to watch videos I should have watched long ago.  And, I am going to remember that God loves me...even when I am ugly and hateful and spiteful and pouting.  THAT is reason alone for me to work hard at loving George into a place of heart healing.
  • Service:  In the fall, I stepped away from Safe Families.  I still love what the ministry stands for, I just simply could not do the work AND be a wife to Joe and a mom to these 7 amazing kids.  I do not have time for a full time ministry...but God has put specific ideas in both Joe's and my mind.  We are not settling for a life of Christian mediocrity that is, in reality, nothing different than the average American family pursuing comfort.  We refuse.  And God continues to challenge us to be authentic in our faith...and that means stepping out in faith in crazy ways.  This past year, we THOUGHT God was calling us to Colombia...we said "yes" and God surprised us with "No..but, instead here is Salome."  If we are not willing to say "yes" to whatever crazy adventure God is leading us on, we will miss great blessing.
This year, I want to love my husband more.  I want to love my kids more.  But most of all, I want to love God more this year.  

And..I will try to blog more :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Long Awaited Story


This is Salome.  You pronounce it Sal' - oh - may.

You may have seen our new family picture on FB...or if you are here in Greenville, you might have seen her with me and hear her calling me Mom.  I know many have asked, "Did I miss something?  What is going on?"

So, here is the long awaited story of how God brought Salome into our family.




This is probably where it all began....Salome was with us this summer.  Wait..it goes past that!


I guess the story goes back to this point...the point where Eleanor and I visited friends in Medellin, Colombia to volunteer at their ministry.



It is here where we met Salome for the first time.  Salome, despite her environment, despite her family life would spend hours a week pouring into the lives of the children at Viento Fresco.  She had a huge passion for learning English and any time she would meet a missionary, she would quickly go introduce herself and talk to them.  Salome, Beth (another missionary from the US who was on  long term trip) and Eleanor quickly became best friends.  In one week, they grew so close!



I don't know what "it" was,  but we knew immediately that we had a unique, special relationship.  We all knew that Salome was, in some way, meant to be part of our family. So, we helped her visit the US this past summer.  That is where the picture from the beach comes in.  We had a great 10 days in the summer with Salome.  We took her to the ocean for the first time, kept her busy with swimming, long walks, and volunteering at the Frazee Center.





It was during this trip that we all had a dream that someday Salome could come live with us.  But, it seemed a huge obstacle to overcome.  How does a very poor girl from Colombia just move to the US?

I don't feel comfortable telling all of Salome's story...for it is hers to tell someday.  But I can tell you that when Joe and I went back to Colombia this fall, we met with Salome's mother (no -Salome is NOT an orphan) who asked Joe and I if we would be willing to take guardianship of Salome in order to give her the opportunity to go to school and live in the US.  Joe didn't skip a beat and said, "Yes!"

Salome has since told us much of her life in Colombia.  It is hard to listen to at times.  I told Joe the other day that yet again...God has put us into His plan of RESCUE.  Sometimes when we say "yes" to God's plan, we don't know the details...and we don't know the whys...but God seems to always have a plan to RESCUE his hurting children and put them into places of safety and love and security.  I am humbled that God chose our family...again...to be part of that plan.

So, I know this is pretty vague - maybe someday when I have permission from Salo I can fill in all the gaps.  For now, we are moving forward with legal guardianship of Salome.  But, while this guardianship does things like pave the way for insurance, tax deductions and public education - the REAL joy of taking guardianship is that Salome is no longer just a visitor or a guest in our home..she is becoming one of us.

Joe and I pulled her aside yesterday and talked about the significance of this. We wanted her to know how serious this idea of guardianship is to us.  It is no longer just about a piece of paper that helps her go to school.  No, this means Joe and I have earned the right to be her parent.  We want to teach her, to guide her, to help her make decisions.  We want to love her as if she were one of our own.  We wanted her to know that we were committing to her...committing for a lifetime!  She smiled ear to ear.

We held hands at the kitchen counter and prayed.

What started as a long-distance friendship between two teenage girls....has turned into a FAMILY.



Monday, September 23, 2013

A Beautiful Noise

The noise began about a week before Joe and I left for Colombia.  Yes...we went to Colombia to make some pretty big life-decisions.  Once we finish processing, I will share what's going on with us.  Joe and I have been feeling God pull at our hearts over mission.  We are simply in the stage of listening to His voice and praying for the courage to be obedient.

Back to the noise.

The noise started in the car, specifically in the middle row between the hour of 2:30 - 3:30.  I have nailed the exact time because this noise happened every single day.  When I was in Colombia, I wondered if the noise would continue.  I don't think it did.  I was sad that the noise might be gone.

But it came back yesterday!

LAUGHTER between brothers.

I have been waiting and waiting and praying and praying for this day.  I have seen glimpses, but the laughter never lasted long.  In fact, there has often been a complete void of laughter in one particular boy...George.
The only times George would laugh would be at the expense of others.  I am sure that habit began in the environments he was raised in, where it was tolerated, or even acceptable to laugh at others.  We have worked so hard to teach George that laughing at his siblings when they get hurt, or when they make a mistake, or when they get in trouble is NOT ok.

While teaching him that...we just didn't hear him laugh at all.  For FOUR years.

Until recently.

Now..I hear laughter on a daily basis.  Right now, the laughter is between Lincoln and George.  It is in THIS relationship that some healing is beginning.  I am grateful this is happening between Lincoln and George because Lincoln has always been the most affected by George's negative behavior. Lincoln is the one who cries when George causes chaos in the house; Lincoln is the one who stares out the window keeping an ever-watchful eye on George when he "runs away" (yes...he still threatens to run away on a weekly basis); and Lincoln is the one who prays to God that George would finally understand his family loves him.

Just last week, George and Lincoln would just look at each other and bust out laughing! And I simply sat back and took it all in...listening to the genuine, belly laughs that were echoing through the car.  The subject of their laughter?  Well...unfortunately, it is usually farts.

Yes...they giggle....holding their hands up to their mouths trying to keep their giggle quiet.  Then, someone bursts out a loud laugh....and then...all breaks free and before I know it they are rolling around the middle seat of the car laughing with all their might.  When I ask, "What is so funny?", the reply is, "Lincoln just farted!!!"

Sigh.

Last night, our devotional was centered around Adam and Even in the garden after they had taken a bit of the forbidden fruit.  And, if you know the story, the word NAKED is in the scripture several times.  I could see it coming...and sure enough, the two boys went through the same routine...covering their mouths trying SO hard not to bust out laughing.  But before we knew it, George and Lincoln are looking at each other, saying, 'Naked!" and then rolling on the floor laughing.

That laughter followed them all the way to bed and as I tucked them in for the night, kissed their heads and wished them a good night's sleep, George said, "It's fun being a boy, Mom...we get to laugh at things like farts and naked."

I am just so grateful that he IS laughing...even if it is about farts.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This is WAR!

I am declaring war!!

I have put up with the HORRIBLE thing called CAR-LINE for TWO years.

No more!

And for those of you who do not live in Greenville, South Carolina..I am not sure how to even begin to explain car line.  For those who DO live here...no words are necessary.  It is AWFUL.

For the past two years, I had six children in three schools - what that means is 4 hours...YES...4 hours in the car sitting in a LINE, crawling along at a snails pace waiting to pick up my kids.  For this momma who is obsessed with time management, this is completely unacceptable.  In addition, for the past two years, I was working and so I literally was running all around all day long doing ministry work and then would rush to the school to then...SIT...in the car line.

That's it!  I have declared WAR on CAR LINE.

Car line will no longer get the best of me.  Car line will no longer be a monumental waste of precious time.  Car line will now be USED by ME to get things done!

I spent a few hours this morning getting my battle plan lined up.  Here are the results:


These are MY books.  In order to make this plan work, I need to be one of the first moms in the car line each day.  If I can pick up George, Lincoln and Anna right when they get out, we can make it across Woodruff Road (pray for me) to Isabel's school in order to get a good spot in THAT car line.  So, while I wait for the youngest three, I will take advantage of that time and read.



This is our Homework Helps.  The kids have homework pretty much every day.  I have filled the box with books (for all the Reading Logs that need to be filled out), loose leaf paper, crayons and colored pencils.  The pencil case has pencils, highlighters and erasers.  The two (very cool) plastic clip-boards open up to store some extra paper and a pencil.  These will all stay in the car and be used by George, Lincoln and Anna after we leave their school and sit in the car line (for about one hour) at Isabel's school.  We should now be able to finish all our homework during that hour.


Of course, you can't pick up kids after school without them being hungry.  So, I have put together an After School Snack Bag.  This will be filled each Sunday night.  The kids can eat their snacks in the car while we are driving or during our homework time.




Each one has a small bag with their name on it with snacks.  There are also other snacks that are free to anyone who wants them.  If they finish their bag of snacks, they will have to refill it and replace the bag on their own..or they do without a snack.



I also decided to use my afternoons while I am preparing MY lunch, to get the kids' lunches ready.  Simply put, I am just running out of time when I wait until the night before.  I found that getting their lunches ready while my leftovers are warming up to be a pretty stress-free experience.  I put aside all their food on the counter - and when they get home from school, they grab one of each....



and then grab their sandwich (they have their names on them because they all like different things) and any other cold item and then put them into their lunchboxes.  The lunchbox then goes in the fridge ready for them to grab the next morning.



Doing all of this has resulted in two things:

1.  Peaceful evenings.  We are CRAZY busy from 5:00pm - 8:30pm.  Band practice, drama rehearsal, football practice and volleyball practice are EVERY night.  For those not practicing, they are with me at a practice - so that needs to be a time where all our work is done and we can just do our things.  Once we get home, there are quick showers, pajamas are put on and we sit as a family in our living room to end our day in God's Word.  We do a daily devotional called Family Devotions by Josh McDowell which has proven to be a timeless treasure for our family.  We end in prayer and then the kids head off to bed tired...and peaceful.

2.  Organized, stress-free mornings.  One thing I can not put up with is chaos in the morning.  Maybe because I tend to be very quiet in the morning, I want all the family to be quiet.  If everything has been completed, if all the shoes are where they are supposed to be (in a basket in our front closet), and if all the socks are in the neighboring basket, mornings seem to run so much more smoother.  When the kids have their homework completed and in their backpacks, which are lined up neatly in the den, we tend to get out the door without any drama or chaos.

So, car-line will no longer be a waste of time.  We will use that time I/we are capture in a car to get things done!




Monday, August 19, 2013

Taking a Break...Wondering What is Next

I am taking a break.

I officially have gone on sabbatical from S*fe F*amilies for the remainder of the year.  So many have asked over the past two years, "How do you do it all?"

The answer is clearly...I can't.

And this is not a pity party - this is harsh reality.  I can not be a wife, mom to 6 (two with special needs), and run a full time ministry that serves the broken hearted.  I wish I could do it all.  Unfortunately, I can't and I was fearing that my CHILDREN were going to be the ones who would pay the price for ministry.  I am positive God does not want that to happen, for He has blessed me beyond measure with these six amazing souls!

My children are only with me for a short time - that has become so clear to me as my oldest is entering her junior year of high school, driving, working and slowly but surely spending more time OUT of the house than IN the house.

I refuse to wax eloquent about where is the little girl in pigtails who used to snuggle up with me on a rainy day to read Little House on the Prairie?  But honestly, the time HAS flown by.

So, I have decided that I have done exactly what God gave me the ability and the strength to do...start the ministry here in SC.  He clearly called me to do that in WI as well.  I remember after we found out the bill would pass and would eventually be signed into law by Governor Sc*tt W*alker, I felt this sense of completion..that I had done the work God prepared in advance for me to do.  At that same time, we had lost our business and were crying out to God about where He would lead us next.  He lead us here...and then I had the opportunity to do something here.

I can't fight the feeling again of completion - and that it is time to pass this on.  THAT is not as easy this time...so I am still praying through that.  I am planning on keeping a finger in the ministry even on my sabbatical - and I am planning on stepping back in the first of the year- UNLESS God provides someone and tells me that I am done.

And..in a weird way...God is leading our whole family into a "What's next?" type of attitude.

Joe can NOT continue working like this...always away from the family.  So, not sure what is around the corner, but both Joe and I have felt God press upon our hearts that a season is about to change and we MUST lean into the vine more intently now than ever.  So, we are studying I Peter together - spending Saturday or Sunday nights diving into God's word and praying with another couple who finds themselves in a similar place.

I don't think I could hear from God if I kept at the pace I was running.  Now, I am quieting my soul and waiting upon the Lord wondering what is next.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What Football is Teaching George

I NEVER...and I mean NEVER thought George would get into football.  I am guilty of buying into all the stereotypes that have said my son is from Ethiopia so that means he should run or play soccer.  For the record, George CAN run.  And...he CAN play soccer.  But...neither of those sports have taught him what it means to be part of a team.

Before all the soccer lovers out there bash me for saying soccer is not a team sport - please just save your time and energy.  I have never enjoyed soccer and had my kids play soccer because that is what good moms do for their kids.  I watched Eleanor, Harry, George and Lincoln as they ran up and down a field - touching the ball with their feet maybe a dozen times - and have never become a fan of the sport.  I can appreciate it - but am not a fan.  Don't hate me.

What I LOVE is football!  I grew up with football all around me - dad coaching, brothers playing..and yes...I was even a pee-wee cheerleader!  I know - almost impossible to imagine!  That was before I picked up ball and realized how great it is to play and not just cheer.  OK  - don't hate me for that comment either.

(Disclaimer - I DO receive "hate" comments - and it usually has to do with "adopting dogs", but I am afraid my dislike of soccer and cheer leading might bring a whole new set of haters.)

Back to the point of this blog post!

George is experiencing a TEAM for the first time...and it is so, so good for him.  Like I said, I grew up around the game and often pride myself for being a pretty awesome color commentator for the NFL.  It is uncanny how I will say something to Joe after a play and within seconds, the color commentator is saying the exact same thing.  Hmmm - maybe a 3rd career change for me is in the future?

Anyway - man, I am distracted this morning!  George has definitely fallen into the whole USC/Clemson rivalry thing going on in Greenville.  If someone is a USC fan, he will shout, "Go Gamecocks!"  But...10 minutes later, if he sees a Clemson fan he will say, "I love Clemson!"  I think he just loves seeing everyone in their purple and orange (barf!) or their dark red (not sure what their official colors are).  All I know is I bleed scarlet and gray - so he comes by it naturally.  Because of the love of college football here, he has started watching a lot more football with us and has asked for a football for Christmas.  You can now often find him in the backyard punting his football - or running slot patterns as Joe throws him a pass.

We took a big leap and signed him up for rec football.  Full pads and helmets, 100% tackle football.  And man...it is INTENSE!  I have been an athlete all my life - and I had no idea how INTENSE football was.  I guess when I was around it as a child, I didn't realize what was really going on on the field.  I knew my brothers were both pretty talented at the sport and that my dad knew everything about every position and play, but I didn't realize how hard they worked.

I was not sure how George would react to this intensity - or to coaches yelling in his face to hustle - or to being hit and laid flat on his back.  So, I hit my knees.  I know God doesn't really care about football or outcomes to particular games - but I know he cares about George.  And so God blessed George!

George has the most amazing coach - and this coach encourages his players, he teaches them, he slaps them on the back - and yes - he expects a lot out of them.  Finally, someone has been brought into George's life who is going to expect him to behave - expect him to give 100% - expect him to think of others - and reinforce the things we are teaching him at home.  And at the end of every practice, they gather in a circle, on one knee and pray to God.

I love the south.

George may not be the biggest or the strongest and he certainly is years behind his team mates who have been playing for up to 4 years of this full padded tackle football - but he is pretty quick and he has good hands and we have some hope.  Three times a week, George is out there with a group of boys who do everything as a team...and three times a week he is being lifted up by a team mate or patted on the back by the guy who just cleaned his clock or high-fived by a coach after making a good catch.  And each practice finds him tired...and sore...and really, really happy.

Should be a fun fall.  I have been praying for health and physical safety as he runs around with much bigger boys all around him.  But I am also praying for the life lessons that George will learn from playing football.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Love is a Battlefield...Love is War...

I sat in a youth building listening to a church worship band rehearse for this Sunday's service.  Every song had the word "love" in it.  I have to admit that I cringed when I heard the guy on the keyboard say, "This week, so and so is going to preach on the love of God."  Not that I don't believe in, feel, or experience the love of God.  But because I know there is HUGE potential for MASSIVE conviction if I dare listen to a sermon on love.

I have made LOVE my goal...my aim...my aspiration over the past 4 years of my life.  I learned in April of 2009 that my newly adopted son knew nothing about LOVE or how to LOVE a momma.  So, I set about to "love him out of his bad mood."

As most of you know...that didn't work.

Joe and I have attended conferences, read books, watched DVDs ...all in the hopes of teaching us how to parent George - who so obviously and clearly feels the OPOSITE of love toward me. These human techniques and words of human wisdom are not working either.

Again and again, I am reminded gently by God that it truly is all about LOVE when it comes to George.

And our love...this love...is a fight...a battlefield...and some days an out and out war. 

Here is a short story to illustrate the BATTLE that wages inside George...between myself and George...and between myself and God: 

We (our whole family) bless George with his very own MP3 player.  This happens because Eleanor has earned a new iPod.  She passes down her MP3 to her brother, who in turn passes his on to his sister...who in turn rather graciously gives hers to George.  George has no ear buds or headphones.  Said sister, lets George use her very nice (special birthday present) headphones every day.  But...not good enough for George.  He asks to do some extra jobs around the house to earn money.  I happily give him a chore - which he completes - and I give him his earned money right away.  George then asks to go to T*rget with me...I say, "Of course!"

He looks at ear buds for probably 26 minutes while Eleanor and I do other shopping.  He asks "Can I buy these Darth Vadar ear buds?"  I say, "Of course!"

As we walk to the check out line, he decides he doesn't want to spend his money.

We go home.

About 26 minutes later, George comes riding into the garage on his scooter announcing, "Look what I found!  Just lying on the street over there!"

You guessed it...ear buds.

Does the kid think I am stupid?

Obviously he does.

I ask, "Where did you get those?"

"On the street."

He is adamant. 

I press.  I ask more questions.  I tell him I am having a hard time believing him. 

He insists.

I then lay down the law and tell him..."I am SURE someone is going to want their ear buds back.  Please go back to "the street" and put them back exactly how you found them.  Someone may have been running and dropped them...or someone accidentally lost them as they were riding their bike.  That person WILL come back and look for those ear buds."

Instantly, George is a monster.  A green, fuming, steaming monster.  He is SO ANGRY with me.

This is not my first rodeo...in fact, I just start to vacuum so I don't have to hear him yell all the hate-filled words meant for me.

He settles - but this is after ripping apart a book I gave him, telling me he is no longer my son, threatening (AGAIN!!!) to call 911 - seriously - if there is a cop who is reading this and can actually come to my house and teach George a lesson in this area - please talk to me!!!  Then, he tells me he is no longer my son.  He is going to "rip off Anna's head" and "tell Isabel she is a fatso!"

Here is where LOVE becomes WAR for me.  I must FIGHT TO LOVE GEORGE.  Maybe it is because he has done this for 4 years?  Maybe because I simply am tired and want to just throw in the towel with this child?  In that moment - I fight.  Sometimes I don't fight well...and I just give up for an hour or two.  Today...through the leading of the Holy Spirit...I fought.  Now, my fighting is NOT yelling, spanking, threatening or harming George.  I have to FIGHT to show this child the love of Christ.

I have said it often...I have learned that it is not and will never be MY motherly, human love that brings peace and healing to George's life.  It is God using me as a vessel - or a conduit - to pour God's love into George's life.  Frankly, I don't have enough love in me to even fake it with George most days.

But God does.....His love is amazing and powerful and healing....and constantly pursuing us.  And God has asked me to do this part for Him while I am on this earth...pour out that amazing and powerful and healing LOVE into a small, broken child. 

Lately, I have been failing often.  I mean...did you get that George spewed out all kinds of hatred because I made him take the ear buds back? 

Which...for the record...George did finally confess that he asked a friend if he could have them.  So, no...they were not just left on the street - but returned to the rightful owner.  But, the words and the looks and the actions that come from George toward me wear me down.....and God simply tells me....LOVE HIM.

Continue to love him.

Fight for him.

Fight for LOVE.

I am a bit scarred and wounded from being in the battle for so many years now - and when I let myself start pitying myself...I turn my eyes toward Jesus who took it ALL on - to fight for...

me.

Even in my sin.   Even in my disdain and jealousy and selfishness and judgements and laziness. 

He fought for me.

And paid the ultimate price.

Why should I do any different?  I CLAIM to be a disciple....the problem is I can't chose to be a part time-disciple.  Either I am one or I am not.  Part of what God is teaching me is coming through this pain...and I must keep fighting for the love of George.

Friday, July 26, 2013

This Phase of Parenting

As I recently posted on Facebook that we have entered the "joy" of football, marching band and volleyball...also known as All Things Fall In America, a friend welcomed me into this new phase of parenting.

My initial thought was, "Girl! I have already been doing that whole mom-chauffeur thing for a few years!"

But, then I started to really look around my house and realize...I really have left one stage and have entered into another.

For so many years...I was doing so much work FOR my kids.  I was not only responsible for things like meal preparation, laundry, cleaning, etc.  I was responsible for getting children dressed...actually putting shirts onto children - yanking one arm, then the other into a mini-tee. Then, sweating as I tried to put tights on my daughter.  Yes tights are so cute...but putting them on is like dressing a Barbie!  I had to wipe behinds, faces, noses and hands...constantly...times SIX!  I had to tie shoes and re-tie shoes and then re-tie them again until I realized the  JOY of velcro!  Then..I had to teach a child how to tie...and then how to do it again and again.  I had to hold their hands through the parking lot to get into the grocery store, then lift them into the shopping cart and then tell them "no" 486 times while trying to keep the gross belt buckle out of their mouths.  I would have to break up fights because one "stole" the toy from another or one "looked at me wrong".  You get it..the list could go on and on.

I thought that was it.  I thought THIS was parenting and nothing would ever change.

But slowly, things did change.

I don't have to put tights on my girls anymore...they prefer to do it themselves.

I never wipe a behind anymore...thank you Lord!

My kids usually don't even want to go to the grocery store with me anymore...and I CAN leave them at home!

And they really don't fight over toys or looks anymore.

Now...things have changed and yes, I drive them all over Greenville multiple times a day!  But...I really, really like who my children are turning into.

Now, we have deep, complicated conversations about race and gay marriage and sex and saving money.  Now, we pray together when life gets tough.  Now, my children sometimes minister to ME..offering me great words of comfort of wisdom.  The parenting is different now...the issues are not always so black and white.  Sometimes, I need to listen to their side of the argument and realize I don't know the answer.  And I find that I need to be willing to say I am sorry - a lot more than I used to.

You can now find me hardly ever at home...when about 10 years ago I was begging to get out of the house.  You will find me sitting in the hot sun watching my younger boys playing football in a South Carolina summer.  And you will find me cheering wildly for my freshman son as he marches in his first Friday night high school football game!  And you will find me having long, amazing conversations with my oldest daughter about spiritual gifts and college and what life is all about as I drive her to work every day.  In my spare time I will be coaching one of my daughters - who kicks butt in volleyball.

I love being a mom.  I love having lots of kids!  And I really love this new phase of parenting.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What's Been On My Mind Lately....

I have been pretty consumed lately by books.  Instead of writing in my spare time (as you probably clearly noticed), I have been reading.

Well...that and listening to music.  I fell in love with Pand*ra - until I discovered Sp*tify!  It is with giddy pleasure that I relive my past listening to albums I had long ago parted with.  Usually it was because the cassette tape broke after dozens of times of getting caught in the wheels of the cassette player.  I was pretty handy with a pencil and could re-wind most all of my favorites, but after a while, they just didn't play the way they should.  Now, I can listen away as I do paperwork or catch up on emails.

I have devoured every Relevant Magazine for the past 3 years and take notes on scraps of paper of new bands I need to listen to.  With Sp*tify, I have been delighted by the sounds of new bands with familiar punk riffs or hard rocking guitars or even a catchy hook that gets me dancing in my office.

For some reason, I have needed to pour in a little bit - and not pour out so much.

So, in my times when the house is quiet and the kids are asleep, I have been reading.

I am on my 2nd go-around with Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma.  The first time I was shouting out loud on almost every page, "Amen brother!", or "Yes!  That is exactly how I feel!".  The second time, the old English teacher in me took my pen, my highlighter and went to work dissecting each and every paragraph, gleaning the gems I want to commit to memory or at least meditate on.  The subtitle is "The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things".

You all know that several years ago, God clearly called Joe and I to that life of living and dying for something bigger than ourselves, our bank account, our retirement...wait...what exactly IS retirement?  Sometimes it is really nice to read words reminding me of that call and why God calls ALL of us to live and die for bigger things.

I have been very convicted lately of not pining away for heaven - but instead to do KINGDOM work here on earth in order to participate in "thy kingdom come..thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven".

Zion.

I have decided to write a little here about what I have been reading..and maybe giving you a hint as to what Joe and I are praying through right now.  All I know is that we are not done...Yes, God has done amazing things in our lives - number one being his rescuing us from our sin!  Then, He took some pretty self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish people and taught us to look around at a broken world around us.  Once we looked around, He broke our hearts for that broken world.

God desires justice...and I have begun to take that call very seriously.  It doesn't mean that I don't often fall flat on my face and lean back on that very selfish woman, but it does mean that I get back up and ask God to use me each morning to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him. 

I hope I can pull myself away from Sp*tify and my books long enough to write my thoughts down.  I think I will want to read them again someday :)

Plus..I think we are just beginning on a new and wild adventure with God!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Heartbreak

Most days, I love the ministry work that God has called me into.  Some days, I go to bed with a broken heart.

Tonight, I will fall asleep yet again wondering if there was something more I could have said, or one more thing I could have done..and yes, a little broken hearted.

Many of you have been following the story of the single dad with two children in a SFFC home.  That single dad was one step away from reunification with his children when, in a moment of tearful confession, he told me that he was an alcoholic and needed help.  One one hand, I was devastated.  I was so sad for his kids who thought they were "going home".  I was angry that he had led us on for months, leading us to believe that he had it all together and was ready to be a man.  But on the other hand...I was praising God.  This man trusted me and the host family enough to tell us the truth.  We promised him, no judgement...only forgiveness.

About 6 weeks ago, he checked into a drug and alcohol addiction recovery center for me.  They have a 7 month program - so we are talking comprehensive!  The host dad and I had the pleasure of visiting with the dad last week.  He looked great - he has gained weight - and there was a sparkle in his eye.  He began our meeting by asking for our forgiveness for all the lies, for all the manipulation, and for all the mistakes.  We promised him again, no judgement...only forgiveness.

This single dad is hanging out hope that one day...his wife...and his children will be all together with him making a happy family.  But, the reason he reached out SFFC in the first place was because his wife was addicted to meth and walked out on the family.  I have been skeptical, but I desperately wanted to be proven wrong.   I wanted God to show up and do a miracle!

So, the mom has been back in the picture ever since the dad went to rehab.  She moved into the trailer that had been so lovingly filled with furniture by families from SFFC.  We thought for sure she would try to get her kids.  We thought for sure she would sell off all the furniture to pay for her drug habit.  We thought for sure the trailer would be trashed.  But, she surprised us.  No, she never tried to talk to her kids, which was sad.  But, no, she didn't sell anything and she kept the trailer in relatively good condition.

As SFFC, we made the decision to take all the donated furniture out of the trailer and put it into storage in order for the dad to have it when he leaves rehab.  We made this decision based upon his kids and what they will need to feel like they are living in a HOME.  We sent word to the mom that the host parents would be coming out to move the furniture.  I have to admit I was nervous for them.  I prayed all week that there would be peace at the trailer that morning.

God showed up.

There was peace...and the mom was packed up and helped the guys move things into the trucks.  And then, after all the furniture was moved, the mom and the SFFC host mom sat and talked for over an hour.  The mom said, "Yes..I am ready to get clean!"

The host family wrote a check for her to enter rehab and called me to see if I could pick her up on Monday morning and take her to rehab.  I said, "Of course!"

Well, I am writing this on Monday morning with a sore hand.  You see, I drove to the trailer out in the country this morning and banged and banged and banged on that door for 30 minutes just praying that she would answer the door.  I called the host mom, "Maybe she is in the shower?  Maybe she is drying her hair?"  I walked all around the trailer.  I helped move furniture in, so I knew right where to stand to listen for  shower or a hair dryer.  Silence.

I called the mom's sister.  "Oh no!  I can't believe this!  She was so ready to go!  Can you stay and bang on the door some more?"

I promised her I would.  I even honked the truck's horn several times. Walked all around banging...not knocking...on all the doors and windows.

She wasn't there.

I don't care about my sore hand..or my wet shoes....or the wasted gas and time.  I can't stop thinking about those kids...and that husband who prayed with tears running down his face that God would restore his family.

There is only so much a person can do.  Right?

I can't make her be there...I can't make a mom want to go to rehab and get clean....and I can't restore a family.

So, why am I even trying?  Why did God call me...just a stay at home mom to get in this line of work?

Because God can...

And God does...

And God loves.....

I am a bit broken hearted today.  I will probably think about this all day long and pray that somehow...some way...that mom calls me and says, "Can you come pick me up?"

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Life as Usual

My life has just become so busy that I simply do not have much time to blog anymore.  There are so many moments in the day that I think to myself, "Oh, I need to blog about this!"

Like our family movie night watching The Life of Pi..and how Georgie exclaimed at the end of the movie, "I didn't understand that at all!  It was like it was in Japanese."  Many of us had to agree.

Or how we have gone through some really rough patches over the past two months.  George is really raging at times - in scary ways and I am realizing that when he is raging like this, I can not physically control him.  I fear for the safety of our family some times.  But then, whenever that fear creeps in, I immediately get into prayer and remind myself (and God, if I am being honest) that He led George into our family and I will trust God completely in this journey.  After the rages are over - George is able to confess his sin, ask for forgiveness and quickly move into a place of restoration.  Joe and I are learning how to react...or actually better to say NOT react.  We have learned how to stay calm, speak truth...and  PRAY.

God has clearly allowed Joe and I to walk this path to teach us...over and over again that we can do NOTHING without God.  I literally have to pray each and every morning for love and patience for George.  And the days that go by without any explosions or outbursts, I thank God at the end of that day.  And those days are more and more frequent.

This is historically our very difficult period with George.  And this April found us celebrating our 4th Anniversary of Gotcha Day.  I pulled George close and said, "George, do you realize you have now been with your family for 4 years?"  We talked about how significant that was.  George was abandoned at 4 years old..so from this moment on, George will be with us longer than he was with his Africa Mommy.

Two nights ago, George had (yet again) caused a huge fight which resulted in Joe and I not being able to go to dinner with some friends.  After all the emotional craziness wore out, and George settled down for several hours, we were able to talk.  This led to George confessing that when he wakes up sometimes he is immediately in a bad mood because we don't "buy him stuff."

OK.  I am glad he was honest, and I do believe he has a HUGE issue with coveting STUFF.  But...seriously?  There are moments when I think....OK, Kid...you came to us with nothing - you had clothes that didn't fit that actually belonged to the orphanage.  You had no shoes.  You had no toothbrush.  You had no toys.  When I say nothing, I don't mean the "I have nothing to wear" type of nothing when in reality there are 47 shirts, 18 pairs of jeans and 15 sweaters in your closet.  I mean nothing.  And now...what we have offered him is simply not enough in his mind.  This is the crux of the battle for his soul:  contentment vs. greed.

So, Joe and I just keep plodding along.

We are making progress academically.  I have finally made enough of a stink that he finally has been tested and evaluated.  I truly believe that if I hadn't, he would continue to be passed along!  This is truly an area of frustration for me - because I am a loud mouthed momma bear, I was able to persuade the school to get moving on the testing for a learning disability.  But, it took me TWO years to get this!  What about the moms that don't feel capable or confident enough to speak up?  There are serious flaws in our school systems in America - but - I digress.

We should be getting the results of the testing this week and start making an educational plan.  Yes..there are only 4 weeks of school left this year, but I am thankful to have the IEP in place THIS year so we don't waste any time next year.  The district psychologist told me over the phone that George clearly has a learning disability and easily qualifies for extra services.  There was a part of me that said, "Ummm....you think so?  I have been telling every teacher and every school this for 4 years now!"  I have hope that he will start really making progress with what he needs to be independent some day.

I also think that if we can get his RAD healed - and yes - I believe that with God, RAD can be healed - his brain will finally relax and be able to LEARN.  Right now, he can't learn because he spends most of his brain power in "fight, flight or freeze mode".  He still fears that I am going to leave him.

This was so evident a few weeks ago when I was speaking at a church in Columbia.  I asked George and Eleanor to go with me - I always try to take some kids with me because my ministry work truly is a family affair.  So George typically talks...constantly....in the car.  It is enough to drive me crazy most days.  I realized half was to Columbia that George had been strangely SILENT.  I looked in my rear view mirror and saw him nervously shifting his eyes out every window, with this very stressed look on his face.  I asked him how he was doing, and he answered, "Where are we going?"

I had told George for days where we were going and why. He should have clearly known that we were going to a church in Columbia because mommy was going to talk to a bunch of people.  Apparently, he didn't believe me.   Then God gives me a vision of George at 4 years old being taking to get something sweet to drink by his mom - who he trusted completely - and then left at the door of an orphanage.  Could George be thinking that I am actually taking him somewhere and then leaving him?

The answer to that question is clearly YES.

He still has that fear.  That fear is controlling every aspect of his life...still.

And so my heart breaks...again..and I realize how selfish I am most days.  I get so annoyed by George, or downright angry with him...and so often I fail to remember how broken he still is.

I pray every day...God heal George!  And so far, God keeps telling me that I have to play a role in that healing.  God so far has not chosen to touch that broken heart and mind and take away all the pain and the fear.  God is asking ME to love him and forgive him and continue to show mercy to him in order to slowly, over time, bring healing to that broken heart and mind.

Some days, that is simply too much for me to do.  And I think that is exactly where God wants me.  God wants me dependent...on my knees...sometimes flat on my face...acknowledging that this is a marathon and I must continue to run the race.

So..life goes on as usual around here.  Oh, except for the fact that I just wrote a letter to President George Bush telling him all about the once-orphaned boy in Ethiopia who was named after him.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Caring for Other People's Children

I hear the same sentence over and over again..although, most people don't quite have the guts to say it to my face considering I have two children who were once "other people's children".  People say it with their eyes. They tend to look down, or look away, or just glaze over when I begin to talk about caring for "other people's children".

That sentiment is exactly what we do in Safe Families for Children.  We CARE for...and about...a child that did not come from our bodies.

Pause here for a minute - this reminds me of a new pet peeve for Joe and I.  The term "biological children" is always used to describe Eleanor, Harry, Isabel and Lincoln....but not George and Anna.  So, does that mean they are not biological?  The dictionary defines "biological" as relating to biology or living organisms.  So, how exactly are George and Anna NOT biological?

In our world, we are so quick to define things or feelings or even people.  So suddenly children are biological - or non-biological.  They are either my children or someone else's children.  They are no longer just children who need and deserve to be loved.  If they are not MY children...are you actually asking me to care for another person's child?

To that question, I answer NO.

Well..sorta.

Maybe it's YES.

The problem comes from the mind set that these over here are MY children and I will lavish them with whatever they need.  But those children across the street, who are hungry and neglected, well, they are someone else's children so I don't need to care for them.  

Even if that means NO ONE cares for them.  I don't have to care for them because they are someone else's children.

See what I mean?

And if we were being honest, we would all probably nod our heads and say, 'Yup."

But if I asked you WHY you don't want to...or won't...or cant'...care for other people's children, what would your answer be?

"It's too hard."

"I can't love a child for months and then just give them back to their parents."

"My life is too complicated right now."

"We are too busy."

It really comes down to those 4 answers that I hear over and over again.  So I am going to guess those are indicative of most people who say no or look away.  

Now, I ask you , what is at the core of each of those answers.  Or maybe, better put, WHO is at the core of those answers.

Is it the child?

Is it the child who needs to be cared for?  Does that child factor in any way into those answers?  Even the answer about loving the child but them giving them back has SELF at the core - would it be hard for the child to be loved and then go back to love their parent?  NO....who is it hard for?

When we live in a society where children are viewed as YOURS or MINE or THEIRS, we fail to see that we - especially we as believers - have a duty to care for ALL children.  We have gone so far away from the early church that rushed outside the walls of Jerusalem to rescue the orphaned children who were cast out.  We have strayed from the days when neighbors truly looked after their neighbor's little ones - even when it was inconvenient or messy.  We have left the table completely in the areas of abuse and neglect...not wanting to touch THAT mess with the proverbial 10 foot pole.  

And I try to convince you that children are ALL our business.  

I have a lot to sort out about this.  I am not even sure how to convince the Church to care for other people's children.  I think the Church does a decent job of caring for the Church's children....but what about the widow I just met?  No one saw her struggling with 4 little ones when her husband left her.  No one helped for 2 years when she didn't have enough money to pay the electric bill - she slept huddled on the floor with her 4 little ones pulled close next to her with every blanket and every spare piece of clothing laying on the bed.  And when it was one of those unbearable southern nights, she would take her kids to the W*lMart parking lot, roll the widows down and pray for a breeze and sing her kids to sleep - whatever kind of sleep they could manage in a car in a W*lMart parking lot.  No one saw those children and thought it was worth caring for them.

So...where are they now?

One is a run-away.

One is an unmarried mother addicted to meth.

One is an abusive boyfriend to an alcoholic girlfriend with a new baby.

And one is dead.

That is my reality now.  I meet these women, these modern day widows and I cry with her and I pray with her and I tell her that God loves her.  She asks me, "Where were you when I needed someone to help me care for my children?"

Sadly, I can't answer that.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Do I Have to Apologize?

I have a song that is dear to my heart - it is by Br**ke Frasier and is about going to Rwanda and SEEING.  She sings, "Now that I have seen, I am responsible.  Faith without deeds is dead."

I sing that, too.

My "song" is about all that I have seen over the past 4 years of my life.  Wow!  God has shown me so much in four short years. 

I have seen drug addiction.  Domestic abuse.  Suicide. Mother's abandoning their children.  Incarceration.  Prostitution.  Fear.  Hunger.  Those things I have seen on the streets of the cities here.

But what I have seen in Ethiopia has changed me forever.

I have seen.

I have seen children crying because they were so hungry.  I saw people living with leprosy.  I saw men cutting acres of grass with hand scythes the size of a pair of household scissors.  I have seen women with incontinence sitting on the sidewalks being chastised and ridiculed.  I have seen babies with very little life in their eyes. 

I have seen the fatherless.

I have held their hands and rocked their bodies and wiped their tears. 

So, I am responsible.

I am responsible to tell you.

I am responsible to tell those who have NO IDEA.

I am responsible to tell you their names.  Their share their stories. 

I have heard that I am "too passionate". 

Really?

When it comes to the fatherless...is it better to be apathetic?  Show no passion?  Just let people continue thinking that things are not "that bad" for the millions of children in orphanages? 

I can't do that.

I remember hearing K*y W*rren once say that she doesn't get invited to dinner parties anymore because all she talks about is AIDS and people dying. 

I understand her. 

I talk about orphans.  I talk about adoption.  I also talk...a lot...about what the church can be doing in America to serve and love those fatherless and widows right here in our own communities. 

I guess people don't appreciate that.

But I am called to do this..I know it. 

Now that I have seen....I am responsible.

Faith without deeds is DEAD.

It is far too easy for American Christians to dismiss this fact from scripture.  They can too easily throw grace in the picture and say, "You don't have to do anything for salvation!" 

I agree!! 

But I am not talking about that.  I am talking about the EVIDENCE of your faith. 

I remember singing some kind  of camp song as a teenager that asked the question, "If I were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?"

I cringed at that every time I heard it. 

Deep down I knew.  The answer was NO. 

But God.

God showed up in my life and RUINED it.  He turned it upside down.  He showed me that couches and rugs and lamps were of NO value - so we continue to sit on the lumpy, really old, really stained couch older than our children.  He showed me that saving for a retirement had NO value - so we spent our savings on adoption.  And then..He showed me hurting people - so I have now seen and I am responsible.  And I can't stop seeing..and I can't stop thinking that God can use ME to somehow bring one more child into a forever family where that child can be loved and nurtured!!

Do I have to apologize for telling you what I have seen? 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On Forgivness

I have the joy of practicing forgiveness each and every day...multiple times a day...with George.  I wish I didn't have to.  I wish he would just find peace in his heart and start to relax. 

But, he hasn't.

I will say that we are getting through this "traditionally very rough period" OK.  Just OK, but so much better than previous years.  The rages don't last as long...but they are more intense.  His RAD is full-blown right now, meaning he is doing EVERYTHING in his power to bother, annoy, pester, bug everyone in the home. 

I wish I could understand why in the mind of a child with RAD, pestering and annoying are ways to function.  I would think he would get so tired of all the pestering that he would eventually give up.

But, he hasn't.

So, Joe handed me a book of essays written by C.S. Lewis called The Weight of Glory.  He said, "Read the chapter on forgiveness."

"To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.  This is hard.  It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury.  But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life - to keep on forgiving the bossy mother in law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, they selfish daughter, the deceitful son - how can we do it?"

And this is where I am.  I know how to forgive...I think.  I feel like I have been forgiving and offered that freely.  But when it comes to the incessant provocations of daily life...sigh...I am living in that now for 4 years.  And I don't see an end in sight.  George doesn't often to the single great injury anymore.  But what he does is like a dripping faucet....just little pestering and talking and talking and talking all day long, never stopping, never pausing, never knowing when enough is enough. 

His RAD wants to drain my life out of me.  Take all of me and focus on him.  So, he talks non-stop, bothers me non-stop, pesters everyone non-stop despite all the positive reinforcements we have given him, despite all the love we pour in when he is not in full-blown RAD, despite all the reminders of how happy we ALL are when he is not pestering constantly. 

And I was reminded that in THOSE DAYS, I need to forgive....constantly.

I need to forgive George for taking all my energy and leaving me with very little for anyone else.  Friends?  Who has time for friends when George is consuming my every waking moment?  Not to mention my need...and joy....of parenting the rest of the kids!  I need to forgive George for not trusting any of us yet.  I need to forgive George for not understanding true love yet.  I need to forgive George for being angry and hurt and lost still. 

Lewis asked, "How can we do it?"

Only God.

Only through God and in God.

Lewis goes on to say, "Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.'  We are offered forgiveness on no other terms.  To refuse it is to refuse God's mercy for ourselves.  There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says."

If God can forgive my PRIDE and my SELFISHNESS and my BAD ATTITUDE and my HARD HEART....and believe me, my list of sins can go on and on and on.  God forgives me each and every time.  And if God asks me to do the same...I need to.  Despite how hard it is, or how tired I am, I need to forgive the way He does.

I have said it often, and need to tell myself again, how can George every know and trust the love of a forgiving Father in heaven, if he has never felt the love and forgiveness of a parent on Earth?  Whether I like it or not, or if I am worn out or not, God has asked me to be a tangible Christ to George.

And so...I forgive.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Isabel Singing

Just in case you didn't see this on Facebook..

here is Isabel singing "Desert Song" at her elementary school talent show:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Does God Really Close His Eyes?

"Why has God closed His eyes to me?"  Alison wailed.  She screamed over the phone so loudly this same question over and over again that I had to pull the phone away from my ear a bit. 

This is the type of phone call I take on a weekly basis for Safe Families for Children.

Alison and her husband have been homeless.  They moved to Greenville looking for a new start.  Her husband got a job at the local chicken processing plant.  Not the most glamorous job - but a job - and a good place to work from what I have heard!  Alison and her husband have 5 children. 

Alison is beyond sad.  She is barely hanging on.  And she desperately, passionately loves her children!  And she said, "Giving them to a stranger would happen over my dead body!"  As I tried to explain the ministry of Safe Families, she completely shut down and couldn't believe there were good families out there who would love her children....and love HER!

You see...she doesn't know what love is.  Alison decided to describe to me her first 15 years of life.  As a only child to a drug addicted mother, she grew up watching her mother beat and raped...over and over again.  So when child welfare came in one day and saw what Alison was living in, they sent her to live with her grandmother.  Problem was...grandmother was addicted to drugs...and was often beaten and raped by drug dealers and gang members.  So, for the first 15 years of her life, this little child of God was exposed to countless episodes of seeing men brutally beating and raping women. 

So that is love, right?

It was no different when she finally became a young adult, became involved with a boy, and soon found that he would beat her for no good reason.  She became pregnant soon after that.

Alison had a son when she was 16.  They slept on the streets in Georgia.

No one offered to help.

No one came to her rescue.

No one seems to care.

What does a girl do next?  Of course, find another man - desperately searching for love.  Repeat the scenario above 3 times. 

At this point,  Alison was still homeless, but now with 3 little children, sleeping on the streets in Georgia.

Somewhere along the way, she met her current husband who does love her and does treat her right.  They both dedicated their lives to Jesus and started looking for a church home.  First church told them the church bus wouldn't pick them up until they were members and tithing regularly.  The second church told them after 6 months that they were not putting enough into the offering plate each week. 

They stopped trying to go to church.

My  heart broke for Alison.  I have never met her.  I have never seen her.  But she is my sister!  She is a child of God!  I apologized for the Church and how as Christians, we have failed her over and over again. 

Did you catch that Church?  Do you see how you have turned a blind eye to Alison and her family? 

Why?

I hear it over and over again..."She could get government aid," or, "She shouldn't have had sex when she was 16," and then, "She shouldn't keep having babies!"

My words to you...easy for you to say.

When you have walked in her shoes for even one day, get back to me. 

Why has the Church become so cynical and skeptical and un-compassionate?

When did the Church become so heartless?

Do you know YOU have an Alison living in your city right now? 

I am reading a book called Pursuing Justice.  Here is a quote from the book, "You can't rob Crazy Horse to pay Bishop Tutu and call is 'Social Justice'".  In other words....sometimes we miss what is right beneath our noses.

I love child sponsorship in South America and buying African beads to help widows in Uganda and wearing trendy t-shirts to fight human trafficking in Asia.  But...what about Alison in Greenville, SC?

Alison does not believe the Church loves.  Alison does not believe the Church serves.  Alison does not believe the Church forgives.  And because of that....she thinks God has closed His eyes to her.

In reality....WE have failed her...and disappointed God at the same time.


I spent the last 10 minutes with her praying...crying out to God to show Alison how much He loves her.  I think He is showing her how much He loves her by leading her to a ministry like Safe Families. I don't think Alison will place her children with Safe Families...she is in too much pain and does not believe God loves her.

Church...it's time to wake up!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Geocaching and The Bible

Since we last talked....our family has taken up the hobby of Geocaching.  Basically, Geocaching is where you use GPS coordinates to find "treasures", or caches, that have been hidden literally all over the world!  In Greenville alone, we guess there are over 1000.  We could even find a cache in Ethiopia if we ever get there again.  We have an official Geocaching fanny pack, being modeled here by Harry.



It really is a fun family activity.  Joe uses his phone to use GPS, read a clue and give a hint (if necessary) to help us find a cache.  This year, we think we have found around 16 so far.  We have done everything from finding one hidden at the top of a city parking garage to wading through a roaring river to grab a cache on an island.  Fun!  Here the kids are finding one in a loose stone in downtown Greenville.



Saturday, it was a beautiful day, so we decided to hit several caches located in downtown Greenville.  The day was warm and it started out very fun.  I think we may have pushed the kids too far.  We had another family join us down town, so then we felt like we had to do a few more to show them how it is done.  Looking back, that was a big mistake.  We found our last one here, at a rose garden.



Crabby kids, tired feet and legs, hot people led to a lot of grumbling, complaining and then all out fighting. 

By the time we got home, I sent them all to go do something quietly by themselves.  I stood in the kitchen getting dinner ready and thought to myself, "What am I doing wrong?  Why do these kids start fighting with each other over nothing?" 

I look around at other big families and imagine they are holding hands, singing songs and speaking with love and kindness to each other constantly.  I look at my family and hear Anna scream, "Geeeooooorrrrrrggggeeeee!", when George giggles at her tripping, watch Lincoln fall apart because we have to walk to the car, see Eleanor totally push her brother causing him to go flying through the air because he won't stop talking....and then of course you get the parents yelling at the kids to stop screaming, stop whining, stop pushing, stop fighting! 

I also think...our neighbors must think we are the worst family.

Then...fast forward one day.  Easter Sunday.  Our family has been watching The Bible.  No commentary here about the accuracy of the script.  My children have loved watching this and have been looking forward to it each Sunday night.  We knew this night would be difficult for our children to watch...this was the night where Christ would be crucified.  I sat on one of the couches with Lincoln and Anna, wanting to be there to hold them.  Right as expected, as soon as Jesus began being scourged, the both broke down in sobs.  Lincoln covered his face and sobbed, Anna drove her head into my body.  But, they both wanted to continue watching.  Lincoln said, 'I need to see this."  At one point, Lincoln had stopped crying and noticed Anna's sorrow.  In pure gentleness he reached out his hand and grabbed his sister's and said, "It's going to be alright, Anna."  And he held her hand for the rest of the scene.

Meanwhile, on the other couch, George began to cry.  I don't think he has ever really thought about the reality of what it meant when we say, "Christ died for your sins."  That night, he started to see what Jesus went through.  He wasn't just crying.  He was wailing.  I had my hands full with the twins, so I witnessed something that was truly amazing;  Isabel, who had been sitting near my feet, got up and walked over to the couch.  She then sat as close as she could get to her brother and wrapped her arms around him, holding him for the rest of the scene.

I was amazed. 

Here were two of my children truly ministering to their brother and sister.  Very few words were spoken but compassion poured out of their little hearts and spilled over into their siblings in a way that was pure and beautiful and powerful. 

I will forever treasure these things in my heart.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Don't Know Why

I don't know why I haven't written anything in about 6 months.  Not sure if it has been six months, but it feels like it.  I guess that comes with the territory of writing a blog.  Some days one just doens't feel like writing.  Unfortunately, that has turned into months of not feeling like writing anything.

So, here I go.  A quick update on everyone:

Eleanor is sailing along as a sophomore in high school.  She had a role in the school play and is now the stat for the boy's baseball team.  She is loving that!  Our family loves baseball so much - it's no wonder she is drawn to hanging on the field hearing the crack of a bat (well, more like a "ting" since the bats are aluminum - ha).  She is practicing her driving often....test to come in a few weeks.

Harry is finishing out his middle school years well.  He has a busy month coming up with many band concerts and a trip to Carrowinds (which of course, is the highlight of being in band).  He got accepted into Eleanor's high school and has started scheduling classes.

Isabel just performed at her elementary school's talent show.  She brought the house down.  Wow...what can I say about this over-achiever;  she is the anchor for the school's announcement crew, she is getting straight A's, she got accepted into the International Baccelaureate middle school for next year, her cupcake business is still pumping along, and she is playing volleyball. 

George is in the middle of his tough season.  But, praise God, it is not as bad as years before.  Well...put it this way, he goes into rages unlike any I have ever seen before - and honestly have scared me a bit, BUT, he can come out of those rages and get under control within a few hours now.  There is such a battle for his soul - George tells us often he "hears" Satan and that he even sees him.  Joe and I have determined that our FIRST response when George goes into these rages is to fall on our knees as a family.  We must fight for his soul.

Lincoln is a nut.  He is so, so funny and the coolest thing is going on in his soul right now - he is truly hearing from God for the first time.  He has such sorrow for his sin, often resulting in him crying and just telling us how much he loves Jesus.  It is pretty amazing seeing what is going on with him right now.

Anna is just Anna - our most loveable cutie-pie.  She says the funniest things sometimes.  And she is so, so happy!  Joe and I have noticed a marked difference in her since the adoption was finalized.  She just has so much joy.  She skips and dances around the house, she laughs and smiles all the time and runs into our arms for big squeezy hugs. 

Gunnar - (our dog) - just found out he has a torn ACL.  Geesh!  I guess it comes with the territory of having a big, active dog.  We think he tore it while we were geocaching at the Enoree River.  Joe and Gunnar had to cross the river to an island that held the cache.  I think it was just too much for Gunnar.  So, he is now pretty heavy pain meds and anti-inflamatory meds.  Sleeps a lot now.  We are really hoping to avoid surgery - but we know with him only being 3 (this is his second injury to his knee), and knowing how active he is, surgery is probably inevitable.

Safe Families is chugging along.  I have had some real soul searching over the past few months and have heard clearly from God that this is exactly where He wants me to be. 

OK - so that was just a snippet - and nothing very profound or spiritual in this post. But, at least I am writing again.   Maybe I will write again later today - the kids are on spring break so that means I don't have to spend 3 hours in the car getting them to and from school - yipee!!!  It is a cold spring break - so we decided to not try to hit the beach.  Lots of wii...and Food Network.  Sigh.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Is This the Little Boy You Have Ben Waiting For?

The following was written from a friend advocatin for Nazar...an orphan who desperately needs a forever family.  Is it you?

Hi Friends,
Most of you know what has been going on in our lives these past few weeks, but maybe not everyone. I have so much on my heart right now. I know it is long, but please take a few minutes to read the following and learn how we could really use your prayers right now. Thank you.
2 weeks before Christmas, I was at work, and an e-mail came across my screen with a picture of a cute blond-haired blue-eyed Ukrainian boy. He was 10 years old, and the caption said he loves sports, particularly soccer. Really, he looked like he could be one of my boys...except for one thing. My boys have loving parents. He is an orphan. My heart broke as I looked at his sweet face and realized that one difference meant so much more. My boys have more than enough food. This boy is shares mild rations. My boys are tucked in every night. This boy is never snuggled. My boys are being raised in a Christian home where they are shown God's love every day. This boy is raised in a sterile government run orphanage where he fends for hims.elf most of the time. My boys have a bright future ahead of them. This boy will be turned to the streets alone in a few short years. My. Heart. Broke. What if this was Loken? or Jonas? I would want someone to give my older boy a chance if he was an orphan.

So often people consider caring for younger orphans, but the older ones equally need love and a home. Homes of Hope International is an orphan hosting organization. They offer orphans ages 6-15 a chance to come to America for 4 weeks to live with a Christian family. While here, they receive the love of a family, learn of the love of Christ, visit the eye doctor and dentist, and gain experiences they could only dream of. For the child, they believe it is just an amazing opportunity. For the host parents, it can become an opportunity to find the child a forever family.

When my heart first broke for Nazar, the little boy in the picture who needed a last-minute host family, I forwarded the e-mail to Nate and simply asked, "Can he come for Christmas?" Most ofyou know the plight of orphans is something God has greatly impressed upon my heart. With this, I often melt with I see their individual faces and dream of bringing them home. This one was different. I really really felt he was supposed to come stay with us for a short while. To my surprise, Nate felt the same. We prayed about it a lot, and that feeling never went away. The financial aspect of this endevour was a legitimate barrier though.

A women's group that I'm a part of at Elmbrook is reading, Spiritual Influence by Mel Lawrenz, and that week we read about injustice in the world and our call as Christians to not just know that injustice in the world exists, but to actually see it and act on it. And if God is calling you to do something, we are not to let something else get in the way. God can work through all barriers. Gods was really tugging at my heart now! My heart burst, and I layed it all out for the group. The group lovingly prayed for our situation, and without asking for a cent, the financial barrier was completely removed that very day. Others had stepped up to bring this boy home for Christmas. I sat in my car and wept over God's provisions and how he was clearing a path for Nazar to come here. It was amazing!
It was just 2 days prior to his arrival that we confirmed he was definitely coming here. We had so much to do to get ready, and I was overwhelmed by the support of friends and family in preparation. Thank you so much to those of you who contributed! We appreciate it greatly. There were other countless fingerprints from God all along the way that confirmed this was all supposed to be.

Nazar has now been with our family for almost 3 weeks. Overall, it has been a mostly awesome experience. We celebrated the birth of our Savior together, and our extended families loved on him. We ice skated, skied, swam, sledded, read, played, ate, learned, and just shared life together. We communicated though lots of silly gestures and laughing. We used a translator to share our family devotions with Nazar, and we even shared multilingual prayers together. "Thank you 'Crest' football" was one of my favorites. We've had challenging moments as well, but overall, it has been an amazing experience as we've been able to offer so much but gain so much at the same time.

So now what? On Saturday, Nazar and I will fly to Atlanta to prepare for his departure to Ukraine on Sunday. Hopefully that isn't the end though. As we've learned to love this little boy, it is heart-breaking to send him back to the present and future that the Ukrainian orphanage system can offer him. In as little as 5 1/2 years, he could be on his own, fending for himself with no family, support, or life-training.

It was so incredibly clear that it was God's plan for Nazar to come here, and we can only hope it is because his forever family is here. Although we love him, we are not feeling lead to 
offer that home ourselves because, as most of you know, we are already in the process of adopting 2 girls from Honduras. We still are committed to them. Please join us in praying for a home for Nazar. Pray that someone would find room in their hearts and home to invite in this sweet boy and continue to show him the love he does not regularly receive. Pray that someone's heart would be moved to love as God loves us and offer adoption as God adopted us into his family.
We covet your prayers, and please feel free to share this with anyone you think may be an open door to a loving home for Nazar.
Also, Nazar is still here until Saturday. We would love to hang out if you'd like to meet him (even just for the sake of meeting him, not just if you'd be interested in adoption. Seriously, no pressure!).

Thank you!
Natasha

Contact me and I will put you in touch with Natasha...God bless.