Monday, December 28, 2009

Why is it her choice?

No word from MOM today. She would not return Safe Families calls. I know many of you are wondering after seven months why it is MOM's choice reason is because that is the way the law works. But there are reasons I have that I will try to explain. Again, this is the way I process and you just get a peek at the insanity:)

Being a mom is the single hardest thing I will ever do and I was raised by the most loving parents that encouraged and supported me and even loved each other. I have a college education. I have a support system and friendships that the world envies. I have a husband that helps give baths and financially cares for our family and does the laundry and gives me a break when I need it. I am in my late 30's and have had many life experiences that have enriched my life. I am a firm believer and follower of Jesus. AND I cannot imagine doing any of this with anything less.

I can't imagine having two children by the time I was 20 and living on the streets because their father beat me to a pulp over and over again. I can't imagine trying to parent when the only example I had of parents was the dozens of foster parents who kept me for a few months at a time and a biological mother that drugged me so I wouldn't bother her. I cannot imagine having not a single healthy relationship in my lifetime and no one to call friend. I cannot imagine being a mom with little education or resources. I cannot imagine being a mom without a house over my head or the money for food on the table. I cannot imagine being a mom with all that stacked against me.

I don't say this out of pity. I say this because there are women all over this world that are mothers not like I would mother. It is about the quality of life that I don't think I can make a judgement on. I don't have the right to tell her she can't be their mom because she is unreliable and unstable. I don't have the right to tell her she can't be their mom because she is too poor or has made bad choices or is too young or too ignorant or has been too uninvolved.

She chose to give birth to them. She has loved them as best she could until 7 months ago against some pretty unspeakable odds and she broke. And she has done things I wish she wouldn't have and she makes me angry and frustrated but she is their mother.

My baby sister gave birth to her first child as a senior in high school. She had to drop out and get her GED and lived with my parents. There were times when I would watch her early on and think this is no way to parent a child, this is not the kind of life this baby deserves, this is not the way to parent.....and then one day it hit me, that despite her choices or her parenting style, she is her mom and not my mom or my sisters or I can take that away from her. As long as the child is not at an inherent risk of injury or neglect or abuse, we can't take that from her. We can encourage her and mentor her and show her Godly examples but we cannot take that place for her. I saw it with some of the teen moms I used to work with. They have to find their own way.

And my sister turned out to be a pretty good little mama. Sometimes we have to pray and love from a distance even though it seems impossible. My sister still doesn't parent like I would and she probably thinks I'm crazy but she loves my goddaughter with all her heart and she does what she thinks is best for her and she does the best she can and I am so proud of her for that. Many moms don't do what I think they should do or what I would do in any given situation....

I don't think MOM will have a happily ever after but there are many many parents that if I were to look into their lives would think they have no right to lead the little lives they do, but they do. I don't decide who gets to parent and who doesn't. Where would I draw the line.....

There is another reason. The biggest reason of all. I have fallen hopelessly in love with these children. I look in their sparkly eyes and I see a future that is uncertain and a pain that goes deeper than I can reach. I feel a sense of longing to be with their MOM and have her love them like she should and want them like she should and protect and provide for them like she should and it simply breaks my heart to it's core to not be able to give them that. I love them so very much that I want their MOM to be whole for them. I want her to heal and grow UP and let God lead her and I want the happily ever after for them. I want to see them run into the arms of a MOM that I know will be exactly what they need for this life. I want them to be loved more than they can imagine. I don't want the themes of abandonment and loss and grieving to be a part of their story. I don't want them to be sad and hurt and struggle with the feelings that must bring. It makes me angry and sad and frustrated and I grieve about it more than I ever could have imagined. I grieve for these children I love. I grieve for the loss I know they must feel and the fact that I can only do so much to fill that space.

I think it is very easy with adoption to see the wonderful side of it, which there is... a hugely wonderful side that brings a child into a family that loves and wants them and is great for them and can give them a wonderful life and values and all of that....but I think it is so easy for everyone but the children to forget the loss that always accompanies it.

I would be so happy to be their momma. I don't mean by any of this that I do not want to be. I want them to be my forever family so much. I just don't want that for myself through a loss for them.....does any of this even make sense?

This may seem a bit naive or silly but I'm new at this. The emotions that I have gone through in the past seven months and sometimes all in one day have plumb worn me out. Maybe this is completely unrealistic but it is how my thoughts look now. They change from minute to minute it seems so it's good to get it out and be able to go back and look at and pray about the choices we make. So this post is an attempt at clearing my mind so I can sleep. The past few nights have not been kind. Maybe that's why this has been such a ramble......but if it buys me sleep, I'll take it:)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I exalt Thee

This morning at church, Pastor Keith gave a great sermon on how to be a student of the word. He challenged us to set for ourselves the priority of not only reading the Bible, but allowing it to change your heart and in turn your actions. He asked what distractions we needed to get rid of to be able to focus on HIM. He wrapped up by referring to the song we had just sung, I exalt Thee. He asked what we exalted, what we put before God. And in my heart I believe I put God first but as I look back on 2009, I realize that by many of my actions, I put my family first. That may not seem all that wrong to some of you or it may even sound a bit noble at first thought.....she puts her family first....but this is what the problem with that is.

1.) My God wants me to put HIM first
2.) If I'm not dialed in to the word of God, I get burned out easily
3.)Eventually I feel unappreciated for all I do
4.)My attitude gets stinky
5.)I get tired and emotionally drained

I think many Moms try to do it all and be all for their family. I most certainly have. I love them, I want what's best for them, yadda yadda yadda. Somewhere in the midst of that though I have lost myself at times. The days I don't take the time to read my Bible because I just want 15 more minutes of sleep or one of the little ones wants on my lap to cuddle or another mess has been created or I just want to escape on Facebook....those days aren't good days. I am just off. The kids are off. It changes everything. I know my days are best when I start with some time alone with my God. It just works better. I handle the spill at breakfast better, the constant reminders it takes to get children out the door to school don't seem as annoying, and when the husband calls from work to check in, I can focus on him for a minute instead of feeling so flustered by life I don't have time. And then their is my little battle with eating....if I would only turn to the word everytime I felt anxious or worried I'd be a Bible scholar, a thin, hot Bible scholar;) I pray all day long. I am in constant conversation with my God but the days have been sparser lately of when I devote time to His word, I am ashamed to say.

This morning as I sang I exalt Thee, I felt it to the tips of my toes but when I reflect back on where I spent my time, hands down my family wins. and I love them. but I need them to be 2nd. I am a better me and a better mom and a better wife when I put our Savior first. In January I am starting a bible study with some friends on Balance in life and it couldn't be a better topic for me. This past year of adding two new lives to our family and having the most amazing God-filled experience of my life have taken a toll. I am ready for new perspective and new focus and renewal with my God. I am ready to truly exalt Thee.

It is my prayer that 2010 brings me closer to my God than ever before and that my heart and my actions will show the place I've given him as Lord over all. It is my prayer that He will chisel away all the distractions and that He give me a hunger for His word. That is my prayer for you as well.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Not the miracle I was hoping for...

I don't want to say there will be no Christmas miracle this year because I know how huge my God is and I know families that are being touched by His miracles right now but evidently my plan is once again not HIS.

Safe Families was able to track down MOM. She was very rational and clear and they had a nice visit. They were able to give her the necklace we had made for her and she was very touched by it and appreciative. She loved being with us for Thanksgiving and could not believe how loving our family was to her. She appreciated all of it so much.
She is still very much on the fence. She stated that she would like to think about transitioning them back into her home and asked what that would look like and what she would have to do. They set out a timeline and tasks for her to complete. Right after Christmas they will meet again and she will either terminate her rights or we will start visitations and the children will be back in her care by Feb 1st. I do not know if this is my mind protecting itself or not but I just don't feel good about the prospects of this adoption going through. I hesitate to even say that outloud but why hold back now! I am trying not to be completely heartbroken and a total basket case for the holidays so I am going to attempt to smile and laugh and soak each moment in with them and remember for this year, for this Christmas, that we are, by all means a family. I don't need a legal document to tell me who my family is. I have been one of those people blessed by my legal family and we have enjoyed adding in honorary members throughout the years so I am not going to let definitions scare me and make me sad and send me into the fetal position crying.

I know MOM loves them. She does not parent like I would. She does not know what I know. She does not have the same values I have but she is their mother. I don't want a parent to not be able to parent because they lack the resources. She does love them and they love her. I have to pray with all my might that if she takes them back that she will love them and care for them and do her best for them....even if it is not what I would do. I have to trust that God will protect them and cover them in HIS magnificent grace.

I have to trust that our family, the originals and the rest of my extended family and friends will be better for loving these two little lives. I have to trust that we will be better for loving MOM. I have to trust that I will survive this.

And if by chance, I end up being their mom....then I will have total and complete peace knowing we gave MOM every opportunity to keep her babies and that someday I can explain to these beautiful faces how much she loved them and how hard she tried and how heartwrenching of a choice she made and how we had a multitude of people praying for her and them and us and that God's will be done in a very difficult situation.

When I think of MOM and the choice she is faced with, when I think of the possibility of losing them, at this time of year it makes me think of Mary and how as teenage girl when an angel appeared to her and told her she would bare a son and she would call HIM Jesus, she didn't argue or complain, she said yes. And from that moment on, our lives were changed. Jesus didn't call her mother. He called us all His family and that is what I pray we have done for P and L.
I pray we have shown them the greater meaning of family and this year as we blow out the candles on baby Jesus' cake, I'm sure the tears will flow. I will be remembering the choice that Mary made and hoping I can say yes with half as much grace. I will be remembering the choice MOM is trying to make and I will be remembering the day we said yes to this opportunity and I will be soaking it all in.

I am going to allow myself one creep into the fetal position cry, one all out ugly feel sorry for myself can't believe this is happening to me moment of pity and then I am going to soak each moment of this Christmas in with a smile on my face and laughter in my soul so if they are ever remembering what this Christmas was like with our family, they will remember a celebration of our Savior's birth!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Praying for a Christmas miracle

Tomorrow, Tuesday, Safe families is making their third attempt to track down MOM and ask her for the last time to sign to terminate her parental rights to each child. If she doesn't do it, which is a huge long shot, we will be enduring a court battle which I'm sure has a pretty price tag and an emotional one I hate to think of. Please pray with me for our Christmas miracle....that they will find her and she will follow through with her adoption plan for her children. That's what I want for family to be complete.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jesus boring? what?

From Ava: "Mom at pre-school today we learned about Jesus being boring."
me: "Boring?"
Ava: "I think that's what she said."
me: "Maybe you mean BORN"
Ave: (uncontrolled giggling) "yeh, that was it."

Look at His life, sweet Ava, Jesus is anything but boring. There's the time He healed the blind man, the brother can change water into wine and there's that whole dying on a cross thing. Add to that the healing of lepers and the fact that mankind may have walked on the moon but Jesus walked on water and you are a far way from boring.

Look at what our life has been like this year trying so hard to follow HIM. Look at the struggles and the victories and the fun. This Jesus thing is not for those that want to be bored.

Even the way He was born wasn't boring. How cool is it that our King was BORN in a stable? How cool is it that He didn't have to be in a palace or wear a diamond studded crown on His head? Instead He worn a crown of thorns for our failures and for that I am so thankful that He was BORN!!!

Merry Christmas, Friends. As things kick in to high gear this week with last minute preparations for the holidays, let's remember whose party this is. It most certainly wasn't someone boring!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The plan is set...

Thank you for all the prayers. It was a great lunch. I love working with an organization that helps families that starts all their meetings out with a prayer!! Trevor and I met with Safe families, Krista the head of the program and our new caseworker, Vivian. Krista has worked closely with MOM since the beginning and is agreement with us that MOM doesn't want the kids to ever think she didn't want them and because of that has not been able to sign them over to us. It is our belief that she fully loves them and knows she does not have the skills or ability to care for them and this has just been much harder to do than she had thought. She needs someone to blame or for someone else to make the decision. We also don't want the kids to be lost into the system so with all of those things in mind......we came up with a plan. We are going to file a legal petition for adoption for both children. At the same time, Safe families is going to try and locate MOM and tell her that they have asked us to move ahead with the adoption and that she has three options. First, she can quietly sign for P now and this will all be done. Secondly, if she wants them back they have a series of qualifications she must meet within three weeks time to prove her fitness as their mother. They include parenting classes, getting a bigger place for them all to live, securing childcare, etc. We will help her with any of that and begin preparing the children for a transition back to her. Her final option is to do nothing and we will see her at our court hearing for their adoption where I assume she will be able to contest it or not.

We feel those options allow her control, give her an out, or make her step up. It is the plan. So we have a call into our attorney and our waiting to hear how much this will cost and what it entails for us. We will hopefully be able to meet with her this week and understand the whole process more fully. It is our hope that MOM will just sign quietly but we are prepared to go to court and are hoping the expenses don't have to hold the process up.

We decided to offer MOM the oppportunity to visit with our family once a year at Thanksgiving time to celebrate the kids birthdays and how thankful we are for her bringing them into this world and for loving them so well until they could be with us. I think that will be easier as roles are more defined and it will just become our life. I want them to always be aware that she loves them and just wanted what's best for them. Safe families graciously offered us all the case notes so they can someday see how much she was struggling with this choice and that she was literally on the streets and could not do it.

It feels strange. I did not ever want to have to file without her consent because I didn't ever want to feel like I was taking them away from her but I see clearly now that she just can't do it. It is a step we feel we need to take for the security of these children.

It is my prayer that MOM would realize how fully we appreciate her and how much we want the kids to know about her and be comfortable talking about her and loving her and that she will not just be pushed aside. It is hard to convey that kind of love to someone who has never seen it. It is my prayer that MOM would realize that knowing her and being with her and having this information available to us is a treasure for adoptive parents. These exact kinds of experiences and information is what is missing for so many people that we feel like it is a huge blessing. It is my prayer that God's will be done and that MOM grow from this experience like we all have. It is my prayer that no matter what shape this plan takes, that P and L feel the love of Jesus and the love of our family wrapped around them. It is my prayer that our family fully realize the hand our Lord has had in hand picking our family and that through each challenge and struggle and each victory and celebration He is shaping us. Allow us to be like clay, Lord.

The past few weeks have been hard for me and it hit me this morning that I was trying to do it on my own again. Back in June I wrote an entry about needing an attitude adjustment...I know that may come as a shock to some of you...HA! When will I get it?! I realized this morning that I have been so tired that my sleep has become more important than my fifteen minutes alone with God each morning and my time has become everyone elses and I've forgotten that I NEED TO REFUEL MYSELF DAILY IN HIS PRESENCE!!!! If not, I am a crazy person. A total nutcase. I have been walking around sulking that I don't get help with such and such or no one listens to me or I am picking up after so and so again and I have been ugly and miserable and less than God needs of me, less than my family needs of me. I know there are things that have been stressful and I know there is alot on my plate but as I tell my children, just because we are tired or don't feel well, doesn't mean we can act ugly. So, I am getting back on track and really going to focus on seeking His plan for my day and remembering that it's not about me. He has entrusted so much to me and I need to step up. Any of ya see me acting up, smack me will ya?!

So for now, I wait for the call from the attorney. I wait to see if Safe Families can find MOM and what her reaction to 'the plan' will be. and as I wait, I will be in HIS presence and I will seek HIS face and be at peace in HIS love for my family.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tonight we finally got to deck the halls. The kids were so excited and we were putting the tree together, listening to some Christmas tunes and the entire time my little preacher man, Noah, is telling L all about the real meaning of Christmas and how it's not about Santa but about the baby Jesus and how much God loves us that He sent His Son. He is the sweetest. boy. ever.

The originals were making sure P and L had just as many ornaments to hang and teaching them how to do it. This was their first Christmas tree. I was taking pictures and rearranging ornaments that were three to a branch and it just hit me. Somewhere between Jingle Bells and White Christmas, this wave of sadness hit. I was looking at my familiy and it occured to me that it may not look like this next year. These two precious children may not be with us. I had to excuse myself to go cry in the bathroom and then it was hard to stop -- so the tears would just fall throughout the evening.

I was so proud of Grace, Noah and Ava and how they shared their special ornaments and how excited they were for L and P. In our home, it is a big deal each year whose turn it is to put the angel on the top of the tree. It is a guaranteed kodak moment and gets lots of applause. As we were approaching that coveted time, the kids started asking whose turn it was and they said that it should be P or L's turn since they've never done it before. I couldn't believe how willing they were to share that with them.... and I couldn't believe how sad it made me feel. I know this will sound completely irrational and it may very well be but I just couldn't do it. There was something inside of me that thought if I have a picture of these two putting the angel on this tree and then I lose them....I could never survive it. There was a part of me that wants to wait until it's official to celebrate their first topping of the tree. It was such a profound and strange reaction that I'm still not sure what to make of it. I of course didn't say any of that outloud and instead just said I thought it was Ava's turn and nobody thought a thing about it. Gracie just said that next year it will be L and P's turn then and I said that would be great. That would be great. Next year....

So I've pretty much been a weepy mess since then. I cried on the way to the grocery store. Tried to tell my sister about it on the phone and cried some more. Cried on the way home from the grocery store and sit here now crying. I would not change a single moment of the last six months but I would give so much to know what the next six will hold.

I asked L if he ever had a tree before and he said no. He said he didn't have any ornaments and I told him that we all share all the ones in the box and they are his now too. He looked so proud. I told hiim how blessed we were to have them with us this year and how special it is going to be, our fist Christmas together....our first. I am not going to worry if it is the last. We showed them their stockings and put up the nativity and I could still here my little Noah's words. This is what Christmas is all about....the baby Jesus. If God can love us enough to send us His son than surely I can do this. I can do this. I am trying with all my might to enjoy every moment I have with my family of 7. I am trying not to worry about what the future holds for us. I am just trying to trust that we are right where God needs us right now and He will take care of the rest. I am trying to see the beauty of it through the tears.

Hoping with all hope that next year P and L will be putting the angel on the top of the tree but being at peace knowing that this year they will certainly know the real meaning of Christmas and remember it was preached to them by a 6 year old boy they called brother, remembering it was shown to them by a community of believers. I will be at peace knowing that this year they are loved and safe and wanted. I will be at peace knowing that I have given everything in this situation that I know to give. I will be at peace knowing that all the children that call me mom will forever remember this Christmas and the true gift we were able to be a part of... and I pray it forever shapes their lives.

The tears will still come I'm sure. But it's not about me. It's about the baby Jesus. Thank you, my sweet Noah

Monday, November 30, 2009

The gift of P....

So tomorrow it's P's turn. She turns 3. If you haven't met her in person let me share a little what it's like to first meet her. She will first hug your leg then either stretch out her arms or just plain ole tell you to pick her up. She will hold your face in her little hands and study your face and ask you all kinds of questions. She will kiss and hug on you and shower you with affection....and that's for those of you whom she just met.

She is a joyful kid. She always has her little grin on and the bigger the grin the bigger the trouble! It took me a few weeks to figure out that if I walked into a room and she said hi or smiled really really big she was probably up to no good. That smile has gotten her this far but we are slowly getting through to her that it takes alot more than that!

She is a hoot. The girl loves to sing and dance and it is a fairly common scene around here to see her thick little self busting a move in front of the mirror and hamming it up . She is smart as a whip and funny funny funny. She often has her hat on backwards or wearing a wig or anything to act silly and get a laugh. She loves to cuddle and if mom and dad are busy it is not unusual to see her curled up in her brother or sisters arms. When she first came to live with us she would demand everything and asking with a please has been an endless lesson but the best demand was at bedtime every night when she would look at me and say, "Give me a kiss!"

Her eyes dance when she laughs and her little spirit is contagious. She doesn't know a stranger and makes friends wherever we go. She is a joy and we will celebrate her short three years tomorrow. We will celebrate that she was in her other mommy's tummy and that when she could no longer take care of her, God found her for us. We will celebrate what a blessing she is to our family and the times she has us all rolling on the floor in laughter. We will celebrate that this beautiful girl is safe and loved and wanted. We will pray for her future and for her mom's heart to make the right choice. I will celebrate that for tomorrow I am her mom and I will celebrate that each day I get to be. Happy Birthday my beautiful ball of energy. I love love love you.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Parental Units

Parental units is the loving term that my brother and sisters and I gave our parents back in high school. It later became shortened like most of our nicknames do into just Units. My family of origin is known for their nicknames that have no relation to your actual name and by the time it morhps into it's 2nd or 3rd variation of that nickname really makes no sense. I'm just glad my sister doesn't call me Face anymore...which was shortened from Buttface when she was a lovely teenager. But I digress...

My parental units happen to be the best you will find. Go ahead, look high and low. The best are mine.

Our family has had and will continue to have it's fair share of dysfunction but that is what my parents have taught me best of all. Famly means sticking together through whatever comes your way. A good family doesn't mean that you won't ever have your problems or that you agree on everything or even live your life in similar ways. It means you love one another despite yourselves.

It means when your brother has green hair and plays songs in his punk rock band titled "Psycho Cabbage'' that you go to his gigs and cheer him on. It means that when your little sister comes home pregnant as a senior in high school that you cry with her and then walk her through the steps of what it's going to take to be a good mom. It means when that same sister is beaten by her husband you sit with her while she talks to the police. You don't preach or judge, you sit with her. You love her. It means when your sister calls from far away after her fifth miscarriage, you know it is okay to not have anything to say. It is okay to just cry on the phone with her in silence. It means when one of you want to be an emmy award winning news producer you believe they will do just that. It means when another of you want to just be at home with your kids, that you help them find bargains now and then. It means that when you are a senior in high school and you get arrested at a college for underage drinking, your parents love you anyway. It means that when a marriage is struggling you pray for them and love them and encourage them and you show up with pink capes on if necessary. It means that when you know you have screwed up and made a dumb choice that your family will be there anyway. They may rib you a bit for it. They may joke about it (in love, of course) for the rest of your life but they will be there when you are doing the victory dance in life or when you are sliding down the wall in grief.

Family was modeled to me from a very young age and that gift is priceless. I sit and think about my family. What we've been through and the journeys I'm sure are to come...and I feel a sense of pride that I've never felt about anything else. I feel a sense of gratitude like no other. I know how blessed I am to have this and the older I get, the more I realize how abnormal it really is. This year at Christmas my entire family will be together and I simply cannot wait. It is one of my greatest ways to spend a day...with my loud loving family eating and watching 14 cousins running around and playing games and dancing and singing and lauging so much someone just may pee a little. I love that my family looks like an old Benetton ad from the late 80's and that you can't tell whose kid is whose by just looking because we all take care of each others like they are our own. I love that if you have married into this family it really doesn't feel any different than if you were born into it. Like it or not. I love that God gave me my parental units example and for each one of my very different siblings. I love that my parents set the example for me of what a family looks like and that at the center of it all is the example Jesus set for us on how to love. I can only hope that someday my children look at their Units and feel the same sense of gratitude and pride.

Now if we can only get Mom to remember who she told what to, things would be perfect!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving with my baby mama!

I never thought I'd title an entry like that. God has quite a sense of humor! Thank you for all the prayers because I really wasn't that nervous. I called my friend Lia on the way there and was joking that I was going to drive thru Starbucks and see if they could add a shot of Kahlua to my hot chocolate:) I really felt shockinglly well though. Some may call it a curse but I think it is a blessing that I am a 'take it or leave it' , 'what ya see is what ya get' kinda girl. It helps in situations like these.

P, L and I went downtown to pick up their mom. Their wasn't room for all of us in our van so we met the others at my sisters. The kids were very excited waiting for her to come out and P could not get out of the van fast enough to hug her and she just burried her head in her neck. L got quiet and nervous and I had to ask him if he wanted to give her a hug and he started giggling and said no but I just teased him and he finally did. She was by far the nicest she's been to me. She hugged me and said I looked great and if a stranger were watching they would have assumed us old friends.

She looked good and the conversation in the van was easy. We talked about her work, school and her new apartment. We spoke about the kids a bit and her family and mine. It was a nice time. It felt good. When we turned into my sister's drive I could see her change. She said she was nervous and I could tell her 'flight or fight' survival skills were rearing their ugly head. I told her that we all were nervous and it was probably going to feel a bit awkward but that we were all glad she was here and we all loved her family. I thanked her for saying yes because I know it wasn't easy to do.

She was a bit quiet and would have kept to herself if we didn't engage her but when we did she was pleasant. She made several digs at my parenting that I just had to leave alone and breathe through:) She mainly played with P and L and the birthday presents she had brought for them. I made a frame for her that says "We are thankful for you" with the kids picture and they proudly gave that to her. P did not leave her side and did not act herself. She was almost solemn and did not run to everyone and hug them and act silly and sit on everyone's laps like usualy. L acted normal and could take her or leave her except for the fact that he cried easily if someone took a toy or he didn't get his way. They mainly called her by her name but as the day went on, P called her Mommy and L even did once. Safe Families had arranged for a cab to pick her up and drive her home and when it got there she was upset and told me it was too soon and the kids didn't understand why she had to leave. Of course they don't understand!!! They don't understand any of this. I explained to her that I did not arrange the cab or when it would come and she could talk to Safe Families if she was upset. So yes, I threw them under the bus and told them I did just that. Our social worker said that's what she's there for:)

L hugged her goodbye when we told him to and ran off and played. P held onto her sobbing and screaming "I want her." I had to pry her off of her a bit and was able to calm her in a few minutes but my heart and everyone else's was broken for this hurting little girl. It is obvious the bond that she feels to her mom and all I could say was I'm so sorry this hurts you. Mommy loves you and can't take care of you and she wants me to love you and I do so much. I will take care of you and love you and you will be safe. Not so easy to digest at 36 so I have no idea how you can at the age of 2.

The rest of the evening P played and acted fairly normal....not quite as giggly but good. L had major meltdowns over the tiniest thing. I could just see him hurting and struggling and angry and not sure why or how to handle it all. This is the exact reason why she cannot continue to pop into their life when the urge hits. Children cannot process that kind of pain.

After having a day to process our thanksgiving with Baby Mama, I realize a few things. One, she will never fully take responsibility for them. I believe she is incapable of it. Secondly, she will never fully let go. Third, loving someone like we do these babies, hurts but is completely worth it. I am not sure what will be the next step. We want to talk with our attorney this week and DCS to determine what our options are and the affect it would have on the children. We know that becoming their guardians and her showing up when she wants is not an option that we are willing to do. It is not healthy for her or them or us. We may have to quickly become licensed foster parents in case they would become a part of the system. We are working closely with Safe Families as to what the next step will be and ensuring it is best for the kids. We want to be their forever family but we have to do that in a healthy way for all of us.

We are praying for wisdom and guidance for a miracle to be worked in her heart. Trying to love her like Jesus and these children and the three we already have feels like a juggling act at times. Trying to wade the waters of the 'system' and the legal stuff and the emotions and the logistics is at times overwhelming but I rest in knowing that we are doing everything we do out of love. I have to be okay with the fact that I am limited in how I can help her. The problems she has are not ones I am equipped to handle and the offers I give are met with rejection. Our hands are tied as to what we can do for these babies by the legal system and the welfare system and the rights of their mother.

But I know my God. I have seen His miracles firsthand. I have seen him move mountains and clear obstacles and do the impossible. I believe in His mighty hand and I trust in HIS soveriegnty and love for these children and for their mom and for our family. I know He is in control and I surrender all to Him. This is greater than me or Trevor or our family. This is more than we can do. You have to take this one God. I also fully realize that this ending may not be what I think it should be. I realize this ending may take me to the ground. I realize this ending may make no earthly sense to us but I am determined, Lord, that you will be glorified. I am confident that Your Love will prevail and that in all of this, someone will know Your name and feel Your presence. In all of this, we will praise You. In all of this, we will soak in the lessons You have for us. In all of this, our children will see that we love like Jesus even when it's hard. In all of this, our children will see that we make ourselves one with people who seem nothing like us. In all of this, our children will see that we serve the least of these. In all of this, Lord, you will carry our burdens if we just leave them at Your feet. Here they are.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tomorrow we are celebrating the gift of L's life. On the 24th he is 4! I am so thankful for this little boy that came walking into my house with his arms folded and a grumpy face on that would not speak a word to us. I am even more thankful for this little boy that lives here now. This sweet boy that has the world's best giggle and is loving and affectionate and happy. I celebrate that he loves hugs now and we had to teach him how to even give one. I celebrate that he says I love you and asks for hugs. I celebrate that his birth mother did not take the easy way out and gave him life. I celebrate his desire to learn new things and how hard he works. I celebrate that he likes to act silly like the rest of us and that he could dance and sing and play his guitar all day long. I celebrate that he asks to pray at every meal and that in his evening prayers he actually things about his day and talks to Jesus about it. I celebrate how he has changed me and my family. I celebrate how being his mom stretches me and I am so thankful to God for this precious child of HIS. I am thankful for the things L has taught us, for the things I am still learning, for the challenges to come and the triumphs. I wonder about all of his birthdays before this one. What were they like for him. I wonder about all of the days I missed in his life and I rest in the peace of knowing that although I have not been with him from the beginning, our mighty God was. Happy Birthday my sweet L. It is truly a gift

Saturday, November 21, 2009

No news is good news....

No news is good news. That seems to be true for us lately. We'll go weeks without much contact with the kids mom and I almost forget to worry about it. She always calls to check in on them with Safe Families but doesn't ask anything of us or have questions or anything. I've been having lots of medical tests done to figure out why I am so tired all the time and in pain, and my blood pressure drops too low and sweating like a banchee. So we wait and if we don't hear anything, it's okay.

I spoke with the kids MOM yesterday by speaker phone with Safe Families. She wants to plan a party for our entire family for their birthdays and I think that is very sweet and thoughtful. She feels proud that she can do that. She is still working and has gotten an apartment and is not taking any assistance from the government right now. She knows that she was in a deep depression for the past few months and is not proud of the way she acted. I asked her to spend Thanksgiving with us. I'm not sure if she will yet or not but I could tell she was very thankful that I asked. I know that may make no sense to people but through all of this God has placed a huge burden on my heart for this girl and at times I'm not so sure that she isn't the one that needs us the most, that she isn't the one that we are called to. I hope she comes. No one should be alone on Thanksgiving.

I can tell she struggles very much with the question of if she will ever be in a place to be able to care for the kids and when that will be or letting them go....I can not imagine those circumstances. Safe Families spoke with her a little about why she signed for Logan and not Perri and basically she realized that Logan is probably going to need special classes and therapies and she does not feel like she would be able to handle that financially or otherwise. I think that reaction is one, a lack of knowledge of resources available to him and two, sad. We don't get to pick and choose to keep the easy ones or the ones that cause the least amount of stress and no one in the United States should be in a position that they feel they should give their children up because educating them would require finances they don't have. The entire situation breaks my heart.

The more I learn about her upbringing and the more she opens up about her life, the more I see how broken our world is and how easy it is for that brokeness to be passed from generation to generation. In the same manner, I see what a blessing it is to pass along the saving power of our mighty God and how THAT is what truly changes lives. It is in that spirit that I continue to reach out to her. No matter how much I love P and L and feel they are my children, I love my God even more and He instructs me to love all men, even the ones that seem unlovable, even the ones that hurt me and push me away. My God is so amazing because He doesn't want me just to worship Him but He wants to grow me and make me better and stretch me and although there are times it brings me to my knees weeping, there is always a season of harvest....of fruit...and it is that promise I rest my face in. It is with that promise that I love MOM too and I will trust in His mercies and grace to handle each call and each moment with her.

I try not to worry about if these children will be mine or hers. I know they are HIS. She is HIS. I am thankful for God's example of sacrifice and forgiveness and for Jesus' example of love and embracing the least of these....I am failing and trying and falling and reaching to be more like HIM.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The latest in the MOM saga...

Since I've been home MOM has a job now and she has been there three weeks. We are very excited for this step in her life. She has checked in on the children each week and has let us know she would like us to take custody. We are not all that hip on custody. It really doesn't change much for us or the children and she could still take them back at anytime. It also gives the children no sense of belonging or security in their future with us.

We have told her that if it is her intention to be their full time mother at some point, then we are asking her to sign guardianship to us. That would allow the children to be on our insurance and go to our doctors and allow us full parenting privileges like getting them enrolled in school and things like that. The main reason for wanting this is if she does want them back, she has to prove her competency as a parent to the courts. This is the only way I will be able to return them to her, if it is proven that she can be a good parent to them and we have given her a six month window to get in that place to be able to do that. That would mean the children had been with us a year. I know that seems like forever and I cannot imagine giving them back but if, in the course of their young lives, if this one year is the only time she needs help, then I would hope someone would help me for that amount of time. I would hope someone would give me another chance. After that six months, if she is not fit, we have asked that they are signed over for us to adopt. The six months would allow her time to become a part of their life again and she would have to work in cooperation with us so the children know that we all love them and working hard for their futures. That would mean doing things all together and her allowing us to mentor her and help her with some skills she may need. This would hopefully build a relationship that could continue for the rest of their lives.

IF she doesn't want to get them back at any point in the next six months, then we are asking her to sign adoption papers right away. We feel it is in the children' s best interest to feel fully a part of our family and that guardianship for an extended amount of time would not be good for that outcome. I want them to know we want them and they are loved completely as our own. I do not want them to question their security and future with our family. I think permanency is the only weapon we have against that.

We are waiting to see what MOM says. She has been kind lately and appreciative so I am praying she sees this offer as her best option. I think this is the only way we can love P and L and their MOM. Trying to be Jesus in this situation is so difficult but it is so not about ME. Pray she sees our heart in this situation. We have prayed and prayed about what to do and we think this is the plan God would choose. Now we just have to trust HIS soveriengty for how it pans out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Struggling a bit

So, I'm struggling a bit. It seems that the elusive post mission trip haze has set in. I was in an intense all out serving God experience for two weeks with no distractions. Now I feel a bit small, a bit insignificant and alot like I'm not doing enough for God. I know I have my family and they are my first's just not near as exciting as a trip to Africa. I realize how ridiculous it sounds and as I type it, it makes me sound quite pathetic but it is what I'm feeling.

There's another continued without me while I was gone and most people weren't exposed to what I was exposed to so in this season of holiday wants and's hard for me not to want to nicely remind people how excessive our lives are on a global perspective. It's hard for me not to struggle with my own luxuries and wants. It's hard to not tell my children that they are getting goats, clean water and immunizations for Christmas for the children in Kenya. Merry Christmas! I know it's silly. I know it is not our existence. I know we can appreciate and enjoy our blessings. I'm just struggling.

It also appears that I have a slew of children that need me and want me and the two weeks of only being responsible for myself spoiled me. My patience has to be built back up:) Not everyone wants to see all one thousand pictures of mine and hear the story behind each one of them. Not everyone wants to serve in Africa or serve at all. Not everyone cares that these people are children of God and it doesn't matter if they are born in the USA or in a land far away.

So I'm just adjusting to this reverse culture shock. I'm sure it won't be long til I'm letting the water run longer than I need to, not thinking of all the people I could be feeding with the scraps I throw in the trash, dreaming of my new carpet and sectional again...but for now....I think of Africa and it's people and it hurts. It makes me sad that the difference between the haves and the have nots of this world is so vastly different. It challenges me to think of ways I can live my life more simply so that others may simple live. It pressures me to step out of my box and make a difference in the life of many or one. The images haunt me. The experience changed me but for now I have to wait patiently to see what God asks of me. I have to focus on the hope I saw there. I have to focus on the hope that Jesus brings and how there will be a day when there will be no suffering, no famine, no sickness and we will all truly be One in Heaven with Him. What a day that will be.

So I'm struggling a bit but I'm sure that's what He wants of me. The real work begins now for me. Digesting all of these images and experiences and listening for His call. I'm hoping that I don't forget or become non-chalant about the feelings this trip brought to the service of my soul. I want to remember. I want to have His eyes. I want to be used.

Our God amazes me. He is strong and mighty and vast and sovereign and I trust this process and the fruits that will come from it. Thank you, Lord, for this internal struggle. Thank you for breaking me. Use it to Your Glory.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top ten signs dad's in charge

I don't have to tell you my husband rocks. He did an amazing job while I was gone and I don't know a single man who could've handled our brood other than my man! So this is in fun: Top ten signs dad's in charge and momma ain't home:

10. everyone is jumping over the couch again
9. we need milk, eggs, bread and fruit
8. homework was done but not signed on for two weeks straight. good thing the teacher has a sense of humor
7. the children know daddy's fantasy football line up
6. leftovers everywhere and empty containers from close friends stacked up on the counter
5. even the three year old knows the flag football plays
4. are they singing reggae?
3. when bathing, ears are skipped
2. the hairdos or dont's :)
1. children's fingernails....oh my.

Monday, October 19, 2009

10/12 and 10/13 Safari

10/12 This morning we left at 6am for our Safari. It was completely awesome. We saw giraffes, gazelles, tons of zebras, warthogs, ostrich and an entire pride of lions. We watched them eat a zebra!!! Seriously. We were close enough to hear it!!! WOW! They went to a watering hole and we watched them for a long time. I wanted to bust out in song,"the circle of life." On the afternoon ride we saw hyennas, cape buffalo and elephants. The elephants are wonderous!

We ended the evening around a fire outside looking up at the incredible stars and I actually saw a shooting star. It feels like a dream...I have such mixed emotions about this being my last night in Africa. I cannot wait to get home to Trevor and the kids but for some reason this white wild child from the midwest feels at home in this sea of brown faces. I love Africa. I love Kenya, the people, the land, the beauty and the struggles. I love seeing God at work here and in me.

10/13 This morning I watched the sun come up on the African horizon with zebras dotting the plains. It is my last day here, my last sunset until I come again. Our safari brought lots of hippos which I've been waiting for and more lions, this time the males. We loaded up afterwards for a very bumpy dusty six hour trip back to Nairobi to catch our plane. I will miss this team. I have learned something from each of them, seen God in each of them at some point, cried with them, laughed with them and experienced the most intense, God filled moments of my life. I am not ready to leave here although I am ready to go home. My work is not done here. I know I will be back. In Kenyan culture they do not like to say goodbye. They say farewell, until we meet again. Farewell Africa.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


We worshipped this morning at another area of the slum called Kosovo. Our children we did the VBS for showed up to suprise and sing in church the songs we taught them this week. It was great to see them.

We headed to the Bush afterwards to pick up our team. It was great to see them and start to get glimpses of how God's been working through them. The ride there was so bumpy and dusty. We toured the Health Clinic which is a wonderful facility. Our team did great work and it is fun to see our friends again.

It is cool to be driving along the plains and to see nothing but dirt and trees on the horizon and then to see a pop of red and it is a Massai herder. They herd cattle, goats and sheep and walk for days with their walking sticks. The drought is evident here and painful to see. There is no water anywhere and we can drive throught the riverbeds. Cattle skulls are here and there where they have been overcome by the conditions. We saw baboons, tree monkeys, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, impallas and wildebeasts and we're not even on the safari yet!!! It was way cool!

It was another roller coaster three hour ride out to our base camp, half of which we spent at a 30 degree angle because we were driving in the ditch because it was smoother than the actual road. We got a flat tire and stopped near this little village to change our tire. Children appeared and wanted to touch us. They were so dirty they appeared gray. Some had no pants on or one shoe because that is all they had. They were malnourished and sick and carrying even smaller siblings on their backs.

We made it to our camp and were greeted by cool wet towels to wipe off the dust with and fresh pineapple juice. It is a great place and very beautiful. It makes me want Trevor with me. On the way out here we watched the most amazing sunset and I had to remind myself again that I am really in Africa. It was a such a huge sign of God's genius. The stars are bright as can be and you can't even count them there are so many. We can see the milky way clearly! It is spectacular. Our 'tents' are gorgeous and have running water and flushing toilets with seats!!! PTL!

I have a mix of emotions about being here and leaving such poverty and devastation behind. I am just trying to have a heart of gratitude and appreciate God's magnificent creation. My soul needs this before I go back to real life. My heart needs to see God's beauty and greatness.

As a side note, I have a pretty good case of sun poisoning, major stomach issues and my tubes in my ears are crushed in from the plane ride still and causing me lots of pain. If I had to have stomach issues, I am just glad it is hear with a real toilet:) Hoping my ears pop before the plane ride home or it could be quite painful! Dr. Suzie gave me some meds so hopefully that will help. I am in Africa, I don't have time to be sick and I will not miss this!


Each day seems more powerful than the next and I find it hard to believe. It is my fervent prayer that everyone have an experience like this that makes them truly feel God's presence in their life and that He is using you. Joska was different today than I thought it would be. Most of the place is still temporary structures and the opportunities for God to move through us there is HUGE. The new dorm is a permanent building and it is fabulous! (Joska is the boarding school for ages 10-14)

We again had presentations by the students and it was great fun. There are over 600 children there and we had the time to visit with them for about 2 hours. Impressed in an understatement. They are bright, articulate, well behaved, smart. They too have that hunger for human touch and affection and cling to your hand or just reach out to touch you. I hugged and kissed foreheads and held hands and patted backs. They were a joy! We talked about their families and mine. They loved my brown skin family and thought I did a good job on their hair!

We talked about living away from home and they said it does not make them sad. They expressed feeling loved and cared for there and safe. We spoke about movies and they love Jackie Chan. They like some american artist like Chris Brown and Michael Jackson. They all had big dreams for their futures and I told them God dreams ever bigger for them than they can dream for themselves and that my dream was to come to Africa and I was finally here. They want to be surgeons and electrical engineers, pilots and sargeants...and they will be. I trust fully that they can be. My little group that circled around me most of the time was Lucy who is 12 and very inquisitive, Gladys who was 12 and beautiful and kept holding my hand, and Terri that was 10 and loved to ask questions. Peter was quiet and handsome and will be a pilot someday. Felix was a bit shy but warmed when I showed an interest in him. He told me I was beautiful:) Joel was a timid little guy who did not leave my side. I loved my time with them and was sad when it was time to go. Before we left, Lucy and Glady ran to the van and told me they loved me and would miss me. They asked for the pictures I had shown them of the kids so they could pray for my familiy. I handed them over. What a full heart.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Today was a day of rejoicing and celebrating. We met at Pangani Center and children from several of the 10 centers performed songs, poems, memory verses and dances. At the very end they grabbed our hands and we all danced together for 10 minutes are so celebrating the work of the mission. It was the best moment. They presented us with t-shirts and traditional wraps. The children and the staff were so unbelievable. It was so beautiful and gracious that I sat and cried and laughed and danced. We should all take a lesson from the people of Kenya in hospitality and service, they are something special!! We were able to see the Mathare Valley 2 kids we had spent so much time with. It was their first performance since the school is only two weeks old and they did great. Mercy was there so I was able to hug her and kiss her goodbye. She is a gem and I will miss her.

After the celebration, some of the microenterprise businesses set up their craft/sewing store for us. Beautiful handmade bags and jewelry. We then headed to Massai Village Market and we bargained for souvenirs. It was an evening of fun bonding with my team and hard bargaining. I got two very special things as a remembrance of my time here....a gorgeous ebony nativity and a huge colorful batik to hang over our fireplace that is a scene from the slums. I will definitely be leaving a part of myself here.


Today was our last day of VBS and the highlight was of the chicken dance that Malissa taught the kids. It was hard to know we wouldn't be back tomorrow to spend the day with them. Since we came, I've just been drawn to this one little girl. Her name is Mercy and her smile is large enough to light up Mathare. She is tall and thin and bright and giggly, smart as a whip with a shaved head and little hoop earrings and huge eyes like my Gracie. Today I found out she does not have a sponsor so we were able to add to the Harris Clan!!! We are now her sponsors and will pay for her education and the food program through CMF. How cool is that?!

The afternoon was filled with giving the children their new socks and shoes. They were so excited!!! They kept showing them to each other and laughing. Wonderful to serve God.


VBS was another big success. The highlight was when Rachel a teammate from New Hampshire remembered a Swahili song she must have learned as a child. Such a God thing. We were able to teach it to the kids and they LOVED it. You could see their pride that we knew their language:)

The women had a wonderful treat in the afternoon. The orphanage we visited was state of the art, top of the line. The children were well loved by the staff and many many volunteers. They have an ICU there and rescure abandon babies under the age of three months that are brought there by the police. Many of them are HIV+.

I first held a little six month old named Suzanne. She was precious and liked to stand on my legs and bounce-we played outside together. When it was time to go in, I scooped up little Angela who was a beautiful chubby cheeked curious baby with down syndrome. I fed her dinner and her bottle. She just kept looking up at me and studying my face and my heart just melted. There was a little Noah toddling around, a little guy named Hayden (my maiden name) laying on the beanbag taking his bottle and a tiny baby named Sid (my dad's name). God is SO in the details:)

In the infant room their was the chubbiest baby ever named Bosley. He was busting out of his jammies and couldn't have been cuter. He had a big fan club with our group.

When we first arrived they were lined up in their strollers in the parking lot getting ready for their walk. The first view of the infant room revealed a metal track that hung from the ceiling with six jumperoos attached and six little babies bouncing away. So so cute! There was not one child laying in a crib...except for the ones in ICU. The grounds are beautiful, the place is immaculate, and the children are the focus. The orphanage does not take any money for adoption agencies so it takes the business out of adoption. It puts the focus on the children and this place should be an example of how things can be. We met the lady who started it and she said everyone told them they wouldn't be able to have a place like this, that it wasn't possible....but it shows what one can do if they strive for excellence for Jesus! Amen, Sista!! If a child has to be without parents and waiting for it's forever family, this is where you would want them to be. Kenya has strict policies in place and you have to reside in the country with the child for six months before you can adopt. :( I'm sure that is best for the child but it sure makes it tough on me:)

It was an uplifting wonderful day to spend an afternoon. I think God knew we needed it.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Today we started VBS and it was amazing. We had only around 75 kids because of the limited space. It was great though because we recognized many of them from the health clinic and by the end of the day knew many of their names.

They greeted us with songs and memory verses. We made nametags, played with the parachutes our family brought for them, and at my station we taught them the story of Jesus birth. They dressed up in costumes and acted it out and they loved it!!! Giggles all around. The time of VBS was one of the most fulfilling of my life. The children have so much hope and crave the attention and affection we loved to heap on them. Watching my teammates felt like watching Jesus with the children. The men ended up serving at the VBS too and it was completely not what they were expecting but it was a total God thing. They were stretched and blessed as was I.

After lunch we paired up with some CHE trainers and social workers to ''bring the light.'' This program is installing fiberglass panels into the roof of their homes to allow light into them and to remind them of the light of Jesus. While workers installed the panels, we visited with the owners/renters in their homes and prayed with them. Our first home was Anne's. She is HIV+ and lived with her four children in a home the size of my area rug. She has been there for 20 years. The heat was oppressive, flies swarmed everywhere and the home was dark except for the light peeking in from the propped open door. As I sat there while Robert, our CHE trainer spoke with her, I noticed some pages from magazines covering her walls in an attempt to decorate. In the middle of ads for hair products and couture clothing was a picture of a beautiful colonial home with the caption, "My dream home." I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. It was a picture I would put in my dream folder. What were her dreams? What did she want to be when she grew up? Anne was so much like me except for these circumstances. She asked us to pray for her health and I walked over to her and sat next to her on her bed and embraced her. I held her hand in both of mine and wept as I prayed. She was gracious and lovely and she said throught the interpreter that she was blessed by how we touched her. I walked out of her home and broke down. It is was the most intimate time with our Savior. For the first time in my life, I felt like His He gave me the words and used me to touch her life. Indescribeable. My teammates and I hugged and collected ourselves for the next home.

Bencoretta was next. She was actually bathing behind a curtain with a bucket of soapy water when we came in and stuck her wet head out from behind the curtain and welcomed us. Her sister Christine was visiting from the rural area and we prayed with her for her job search. As Bencoretta was behind the sheet, she was animated and spoke loudly and would laugh with us. When she appeared from behind her sheet of security, she sat quietly and would not make eye contact with us. She is HIV+ and scared it will kille her. She wants to be healed. She tried to cover us from the dust as it fell from the ceiling as they shook the place cutting the whole for the light panel. Polly and I held hands with her and prayed. I just kept rubbing her hand and arm wanting to somehow say I love you and you are worthy of so much more. I am not afraid to touch you.

When we were done, she asked if she could pray for us. WOW! An HIV+ woman in the worst slum in Nairobi and she wants to pray for me. I am beyond humbled.

We were able to go out to dinner that night as a team and I found comfort in the form of a milkshake. The joke of the day was how hot I was. My shirt was soaked from neck to navel. It was a good look. Tomorrow is a new day of VBS and a trip to an orphanage. I'm not really ready for that. How can this possibly get worse? The good news is the team is great and we are able to share and cry and laugh with each other. Their encouragement and support is invalualbe and the prayers of people at home are getting us through.


What I thought was difficult yesterday turned out to be worse today. Our entire group went to the new Hope Center in Mathare Valley 2 in a different section of the same slum. The main road was wider but even more trash covered the area. We held a medical clinic from 9-8:30 and we saw 125 patients in that time.

I held a child whose ear infection was so bad both ears were draining cloudy liquid and the flies were swarming them. He smelled of urine and infection and his skin looked gray because of all the dirt. I am ashamed to say but it was the first time I really had to remind myself to be Jesus to him. Jesus would hold him tight and not wince from his condition. Jesus would wipe his ears and shoo the flies and clean his hands and face. Jesus would treat him as the prince he was and pray for him.....So I did. I will never forget this boy or his mother. She had a 3rd degree burn covering her arm from shoulder to elbow that our team cleaned and treated for her. She was so brave and strong. She didn't cry out or flinch as they peeled away the dead dirty skin. The pain of it would have brought the best of us to our knees. When we were done, she wept with gratitude and hugged and kissed each one. Her name is Elizabeth. (God would put her in our path for the next two days as well and Elizabeth accepted Christ for the first time on the 3rd day. This is what it is all about.)

The road in and out of this area was very narrow and the first time I have felt any fear. The thought of travleling that road for the next four days is not one I'm looking forward to. It takes about 15 minutes and the bus windows must be closed so the heat is intense. It is lined with desperate men who have turned to unhealthy coping conditions to survive. They bang on the windows and shout at you. The bus cleared the roofs by maybe 3 inches. It felt like hell on earth. It is their existence. I can manage the drive in.

In some ways, today was amazing because we weren't just taking a tour, we were actively helping. We were doing tangible things. Part of our team played with the children as they waited. I worked the second station half of the day taking height, weights, temperatures, and blood pressures. They then saw the nurses or doctors. I helped with patient exams the 2nd half of the day. Each patient was then prayed for and given meds and multi vitamins.

We saw an undending case of worms one after the other and fungal infections on their skin and in their hair. We saw hernias and pneumonia and countless colds. We saw chicken pox and a suspected case of TB in a baby. We saw this beautiful baby girl with pneumonia, a double ear infection, and a fever of 103.3. She also had worms and would have for sure been hospitalized in the states. We gave her an antibiotic. I'm not sure how she can make it in those living conditions. It was one of the many times my limits crushed me.

I played with children, comforted nervous mammas, took vitals and saw patients (I'm not a real doctor, I just play one on the mission field) prayed for people, and felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I could serve God in this way, in this place, at this time....alongside our amazing team! I am struggling with my feelings. Many tears have come. Laughter too. I have seen the ugliest of uglies and the beauty of Jesus. I am wreaked. I am devastated. I am trusting God to show up big in the next few days.

We ate dinner at Mary and Wallace's home. It reminds me of Trevor's house in Jamaica. The food was yummy and it was good to share about our day. The bumpy road and the bus fumes have worn this tired body out. Tomorrow we start our VBS and ''bring the light.'' Our Bush team will head out tomorrow and I will miss them. I love those girls.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

a few journal notes....

Over the next few days I will try to share parts of my journal from our trip to give you all a snapshot of my experience there. It is wonderful to be home and to see my children. How amazing was my husband while I was gone?! He's the cutest!! So proud

Our luggage didn't make it home yet so I will post pics as soon as I can. I know you all are waiting:)


Okay, this is crazy, I woke up in Africa. The breakfast was great. The place we are staying is pretty nice and has running water for showers. I got a surprise letter of encouragement from a friend and it felt so nice to know that people were praying for me. After a 4 hour church service of worship that would blow the speakers out at WRCC, the social workers of the Hope Center and the CHE trainers gave us tours in small groups of the slum where we would be working. Our social worker assigned to my group is Mary and she is in charge of 180 children. She knows where they live, home dynamics, school attendance, reason missed and does counseling. She is amazing. The Kenyan workers blew me away.

The Mathare Slum was like nothing I've ever seen before. It was sensory overload. It smelled of livestock and sewage. That kind of smell that is so intense you feel like you can taste it. There is dirt everywhere. On everything. By the end of the day it lined my nostrils and ear canals. Trash piles of old tires, plastic bags, human and animal excrement, maggots and human and animal hair all lay on the streets made of uneven dirt and large rocks. The water for the community runs through it all. The water they drink, wash clothes in, play in and animals walk doesn't stop. The sheer size of this slum is completely overwhelming. There are 800,000 people in the Mathare slum alone living in these conditions and it sickens me to my soul.

What I saw today will haunt me. Children with flies on their snotty faces. Children with a very worn soiled sweater and nothing else, five boys under the age of 7 trying to light a fire and a four year old girl carrying her two year old sister on her back while the youngest one toddled alongside. Men next to the river brewing illegal alcohol to take the pain away. Babies helping babies. Women doing their laundry in the river that is almost dry and filled with sludge.

At church there was a little boy dancing with a winter hat on his head, a tattered sweater, and pajama pants. For four hours he was there. I never saw a parent and he was maybe 3.... Another image I will not forget is one of a mother barely 5 feet tall carrying her special needs son on her back. He was probably ten and she carried him in a sling on her back walking tall and proud. A glimpse of love and sacrifice unrivaled. At church Pastor Dan helped with the baby dedication. One of the infants was the newborn of a couple he helped marry last year on his visit. How cool is our God?!

We visited several homes on our tour and one was a great great grandman living with a family of seven in a room that was very drak and about 8x10 in size. She has lived there in those conditions ''uncomfortably since 1963." I cannot imagine the hopelessness that must yield. She was gracious and a blessing. It was a hard day--a devastating heartbreaking day. So hard to process and wrap my brain around it all. Mary and Wallace Kumaw started this all. It is amazing to see what one person can do to change the world. CMF and Hpe Partnership have truly brought hope to the darkest places int he world. It is an honor to be serving God here.

As I fall asleep, I can't help what God must feel when He looks down and sees His precious people suffering like this. It is my instinct to wonder where He is and how He could allow this to happen. But I know that He is looking at me, at us and wondering where we are and how we let this happen. We are His plan. We have to step up.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No Drama from the Baby's Mama

Okay so the biggest concern I have for while I'm gone is that MOM would try to take them back or see them or make a fuss about something and I would not be here to say goodbye or to plea for them or to go to battle for them.....Safe Families called today and MOM checked in. She was her nice self this time and just said how hard her life is right now and that she found a place to stay but didn't say where. I am glad she is not out in the cold. She just wanted to know the kids were okay. She obviously still cares about them. I'm glad for them. This call made me feel good about the next two weeks. It brought me peace that she will just stay calm until I get back. Lord, watch over them and help me trust you'll do just that.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Africa or Bust

In 6 short days I will be going on the trip of a lifetime to Nairobi, Kenya. Excitement doesn't even come close to what I'm feeling. It is hard to explain but I have had a heart for Africa since I was a very young girl. I knew God was calling me there from an early age and was just waiting for the right time. I kept putting it off because we didn't have the money and we had small children and the list goes on....I felt like I kept having to put God off on what He was asking me to do. So as you know, this past year I prayed for God to use me and that whatever He asks of me, I would do. Well two kids later and I'm on my way to Africa:) I decided that there is no reason that God would think good enough if I was essentially telling him no. I prayed for a long time about if this was really His will for me to go and not just a dream of my own. I went to church one evening by myself and sat in the dark quiet sanctuary and told Him He was going to have to give me big signs so I would know. Right after walking out of the sanctuary, I saw a book on the counter about Kenya. I opened it up to a random page and it talked about things that are my passions. HMMM i thought. I then went into my bible study where one of the ladies used to be a missionary in Kenya and is helping lead this trip. I told her my prayer and she got very quiet and said, "that's interesting because we were told to pray about one person we would ask to go on this trip and to write that name down, I wrote yours." Tears, chills. Thank you, God. I am going to Kenya!

I am on the team staying in the Mathare Slum which is one of the largest slums in Africa. We will be bringing food to homes and just praying for people. We will put on a VBS for about 200 kids for four days and we are putting plexiglass windows in the roofs of their homes so they have a source of light during the day. We are giving shoes and socks to children who have never had any. We are doing some health screenings and AIDS/HIV education. The area we will be in has 40% of their adult population infected with HIV. We will be visiting the bush area of the Massai people that are very tribal and remote. Part of our team is doing a medical mission their. We are spending the last two days of our trip on a wild animal safari on the plains. It will be a dream come true for me. I still can't believe it is happening.

I am scared in a way of what it will do to me. I am already very passionate about Africa and the struggles it faces. I am already passionate about social justice issues and cry at the drop of a hat for those causes. I am afraid of how much it will haunt me. I am afraid of what God will call me to do about it and just knowing what that will be. I am afraid of the sadness and the hopelessness. I am afraid.

I am not excited about traveling 30 hours one way. I am not excited about the suffering I will see. I am not excited that I won't be able to bring all these children home with me. I am not excited about how small the dent is that we will make. I am not excited about feeling helpless and overindulgent. I am not excited about the trash and the human waste and the thousands of people in a small place and the smells that are a part of all of that. I am not excited about the lack of clean water and electricity and sacrifices I will have to make for just two short weeks. I am not excited.

I am thrilled to be doing what God's will is for my life. I am thrilled to see the beauty that Africa holds. I am thrilled to be able to see the joy and hope in the children's eyes. I am thrilled to bring the love of Jesus to so many. I am thrilled to hold the hand of a woman dying of AIDS. I am thrilled to love on a baby that is malnourished. I am thrilled to provide food and light and hope and love. I am thrilled.

I am sad to leave my family. I am sad to miss a field trip with Noah and Ava. I am sad to miss Grace and Noah's games. I am sad to sleep apart from my husband. I am sad that my kids will be sad. I am sad.

I am joyous that I am showing my children how to love Jesus and others. I am joyous that they will see firsthand how to serve. I am joyous that they are learning that sometimes it is hard and we have to sacrifice to make the right choices in this world. I am joyous that my husband supports me on this journey 100% and that after we brought two more children into our family, he still said go. I am joyous that he can handle our crew and is a wonderful dad. I am joyous that God provided for this trip. I am joyous.

I am going to keep a journal while I'm gone and will post it when I return. I am in charge of the blog for our entire group so we are hoping to have electricity at least part of the time so we can post some. The website for that is below so you can check in there.

I can think of hundreds of words to describe what I'm feeling but none seem to quite measure up. So many thoughts and emotions. So many little worries as a momma leaving her nest. So much thankfulness for the people who have supported this trip in prayer and finances. I am scared and excited and not excited and thrilled and sad and joyous....all of those things. I am going to Africa!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Little glimmer of hope for now...

I spoke with our caseworker late this evening. Our case was transferred back to Marion County and they kept the appointment with MOM for yesterday. She did not show up to it and has not contacted them so they documented that and our caseworker took them all of the documentation they have on what she has done/not done since a part of Safe Families. DCS said they will consider the children a part of the Safe Families program still and not remove them from our home at this time!!! I am so relieved. I've been waiting for them to show up any minute. Nothing will change until MOM makes a move and for awhile, I don't think she will. She doesn't have alot of options right now and is making it harder on herself. We are trying to really live in the present moment and remember that where we are right now is right where God wants us. Who knows why, but we trust He does:) Just trying to learn from it and grow from it and survive it;) Tonight, I am going to bed feeling confident that those little faces will be with me tomorrow and I will be able to take them in again tomorrow night and that is more than I've had for the past 48 hours so I'll take it. Thankful for the glimmer of hope for now!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not much to report.....

Not much to report but I know you have all been wondering what in the world is happening. So much has changed in the past 24 hours that my head is spinning. I will not even take you through all the twists and turns because it is way to confusing. We are waiting for DCS to call us and if they do not call by tomorrow afternoon I may take a more proactive approach and call them so we are not left spinning until they get around to it. We do not think they will release the children to their mom so we are going to plead with them to let us keep the children in our care while we get licensed as a Foster family. We then would become their foster family and if MOM doesn't jump through the hoops they need her too, then they would become ours through adoption. This is the best case scenario and the one we are praying for even though it will probably take years. If she does complete the requirements we would feel okay about reuniting them with her.

The other option of trying to fight her in court for them is not something we are comfortable doing at this time. It is really important to us to try and love her too and this is allowing her to keep some control and attempt to make herself better. If DCS would decide to give them to her, we will have to worry about that then.

As for now, they are with us and we are loving on them and they have no clue how unstable their little lives are. It is our strongest hope that DCS will see how well they are doing and allow them to stay in our care until the best possible future for them is decided. I think it will depend on who our caseworker is how well they will work with us. We have Safe Families advocating on our behalf and we all know I've documented everything:) We are holding up. The kids are all clueless and Trevor and I are confident that we are square in the middle of God's will for our lives so even though it is painful and hard, it is drawing us closer to HIM. Thank you for the prayers and encouragments. We feel your love. I'm in awe of you.

Our best offer....

As of now, MOM is too irrational and Safe Families will not return them to her. They have filed a complaint with DCS and we wait to see what will happen.

We have offered to continue to keep the children without the hope of adopting them but working with MOM towards reunification. We really feel called to love not only the children, but her, as unloving as she seems at times. We will keep the kids until she has a home, is in school and has a job and childcare for the children. We will support her any way we can. We truly believe that the best possible outcome for them is to live with a healthy biological mom. If we can help her get there, then we have to try. It will give us time to help our family transition and prepare the kids for going back to their other mom. For now, we wait and pray that she will trust us on this offer and agree to walk along side us to give her children the best life possible. Safe Families and there resources are behind this 100%.

I think this is what Jesus would do, that's why we are doing it. I don't think it makes the most earthly sense and many of you may question it but this is the only solution we felt peace about. It is not the easiest, but the right thing isn't hardly ever the easiest.

Returning them both to her seemed impossible but so does splitting them up.

she decides, a DCS complaint against MOM has been filed by Safe Families and they will not return the children to her tomorrow. They cannot in good faith put them in that situation. It is all very up in the air and really out of our hands. I am not sure what, if anything, will change with DCS involvement but for now and tomorrow, they are safe in our home. I am just trying to keep focused on Jesus in this journey He has us on. Things seem to be changing minute to minute so I will update when I can and when it seems like the newest bit of news will stick for a bit. Thank you for your prayers and love.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Waiting for the fallout...

We haven't heard anything yet today. I'll be surprised if we do. Yesterday she was officially on the streets with all the shelters full and she wasn't sure what she was going to do yet. She is being unreasonable and mean to the caseworker that has helped her so much. I really think we are dealing with some kind of psychological issue here. She is really unstable right now. She must be going through so much stress and pain and it is awful feeling so helpless in this.

have been told all of our options in regards to the children and what hers are as well. It is our prayer that she will listen to what, in my heart I know, God is telling her to do and that is to sign P over as well and let us all be a family. My fear is that she isn't really concerned with God's Will and will do her own thing and take P from us. We have decided that we will not let her take L. We are proceeding with his adoption. That is a bit different than we've felt in the past but I just know he will not make it with her. I do not want them to be split up but if she wants P, then I will not also give her L. P has a better chance if she only has one to worry about one and it is apparent she hasn't been able to deal with L for quite some time. I will not let that sweet boy become a statistic. I did not want to be the one responsible for them being apart but our caseworker reminded me that this is not my doing and she will have pushed us to that point if it happens. If she does not have a shelter lined up she won't be able to take P without DCS getting involved but having a child will help her find a shelter so that is working against us.

I don't think it's that healthy to think of all the 'what ifs' usually but we had to prayerfully consider what we would do if she did any number of her options and we'll have to do them right away. The thing we are not sure about is if she shows up at all. Our caseworker seems to think she will. I asked if she takes P to please not pick her up until the kids are home from school so they can say goodbye to her. She couldn't promise that. I can't even begin to think of helping this entire family heal from that loss so I am praying for God to move mountains and allow her heart to be ready to let P go. I cannot even think about saying goodbye to P or what that will be like for me. If you have met her, you know what a presence she has:) I would be rocking back and forth sobbing in a corner if I did and this family still needs me today. Please God don't let me know what that loss will feel like.

I cannot fathom the loss MOM is feeling and how helpless she feels in her own life. I don't know what else to do for her. We have tried and it is rejected. I will pray for her everyday for the rest of my life. This experience of seeing her life so upclose has changed me forever. I am grateful for knowing her children. I am grateful to her for loving them and caring for them as best she could as long as she did with little to no understanding of how to do it.

We have decided not to attend the court appointment and are sending our attorney. I think it will be easier for her to do without us there and am just not giving her the opportunity for this to get ugly. The appointment is at 8:30 so I'll be on my knees storming heaven then. This is all beyond nervewracking. I know in the next day my life will be forever changed one way or the other and I have absolutely no control in how. It has been quite a lesson of trusting God and the role of suffering in our lives. A lesson in just knowing He is present with you when the light is shining bright and when the dark tunnel seems like it is closing in. I know that whatever my family looks like after this day that He will be at the center of our lives and help us deal with the fallout. I have left a lot of burdens at His feet over the last few months and I am not worthy of His all encompassing love for me. None of us are.

One overwhelming theme in all of this has been the importance of relationships....friendships. It has been amazing to see old friends show up at my doorstep with bags of clothes for the children, money to appear in the mail now and then from some generous friend loving on our family, friends bring meals and watch our entire crew and friends that pray with me and for me and this entire community of people cheering us on. I am humbled by the support and uplifted by your encouragement. I am thrilled to have seen Perri and Logan welcomed in and loved on by our friends and family and I have no doubt they know what the love of Jesus looks like because of it. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eviction day

Today is eviction day for MOM. Our caseworker called and said she called in a panic with nowhere to go. I think she has been in survival mode/crisis mode her entire life so she just has no idea how to plan or look to the future. She has known this day is coming and waited til now. All of the shelters in Indy are full. They finally found her one to go to but she is concerned about making it to school because it is not near there. The old shelter won't let her keep anything there so they will probably throw most of her stuff away. We told her if they can hold it for 24 hours, we can pick it up for her. It's easy to see how people get stuck in a cycle.

I feel sick. I feel like there is more we should do. She just really has no lifeskills. Our caseworker thinks this is God's divine timing and it will help her see that she just can't do this parenting thing. It is hard enough for her to care for herself. I feel so conflicted about her. I feel so sorry for her and worry for her life. I know she cannot parent these kids but she just never got a chance. I wish I could undo her life experience. I wish I would have met her when she was a child and taken her into my home. I wish someone somewhere would have loved her and she would have let them. I wish she had the time she needs to get her life together but children don't wait. It could take her 10 could take her forever and who knows what would happen to them in that time. I think there has got to be some kind of mental health issue going on. She won't let us help her. We've been offering it for five months so the only thing I know to do is to love her children and to pray for her everyday. I love these children so much and she is theirs and such a part of who they are that I can't help but have love for her.

I am asking you all to pray for her. She is alone and homeless and I cannot imagine what that feels like. Please pray for her heart, for her decision to be made this coming week, and for hope in this girl's life and future. Pray for these children. I know you do and will. Thanks friends.