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.


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". 


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? 


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.