Thursday, December 12, 2013

Joseph and Mary's boy

This year will be our 3rd Christmas without my Papaw.  Boy I miss that man.

I come from farmers.  I grew up on a pig farm.  My aunts and uncles farm.  My papaw farmed.  Some of my favorite memories as a child were spent on his farm....learning to fish, feeding hogs, riding the 4 wheeler, hanging out with cousins and aunts and uncles and he and my mamaw.  After a particularly hard year for farmers in 1985, before our Christmas meal, my aunt said she had a song she'd like to share with all of us. And by all of us, I mean close to 40 of us then....which now looks more like 90 of us.  No exaggeration. A large, loud, loving, German, Catholic, farming family.  We were all quiet and she pressed the button on her tape deck.  This is what we heard.

And in a room full of strong farming men and even stronger women, tears fell.  When it ended, my Papaw with tears in his eyes simply said Amen and laughed his deep chuckle that only he can do and our family all filed in to share our meal together.  The next year we all sang along with it and every year after that. It is one of my greatest childhood memories.

There is no other song that makes me feel Christmas quite like this one.  There is no other song that so fully fills my heart with the love of family as this one.  There is no other song that still makes me cry.  Every single time I hear it.  There are beautiful traditional Christmas songs that I love.  There are many contemoporary Christian Christmas songs that find me in a place of awe over the baby Jesus but this one....this is the spirit of Christmas all wrapped up in 4 minutes.  The appreciation, the celebration, the simplicity, the fact that in the midst of pain and struggle this day brings with it hope, a miraculous display of love. For us.  This song does all of that for me.  If you had been there, if you had known my Papaw, I think it would do the same for you.

May this Christmas be filled with wonderful memories with your family and a true appreciation for the miracle the Christ child is.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Our family's experience with child sponsorship.

In the fall of 2009, I went with WRCC to Nairobi, Kenya and served in the Mathare slums.  We spent several days running a vacation bible school in what we’ve now come to know as Area 2,  where our church has gone on to build a school.  It was less than an hour at the school when I noticed one set of eyes following me everywhere I went.  This little girl would look at me much like your own child does during a sporting event or performance to make sure you are watching them.  Her eyes were as big as her face and her smile even bigger.  One of our first projects was to make name tags and I then formally met Mercy.  She and I were fast friends and it was often I would look down and find her by my side or feel her little hand in mine.  This beautiful girl completely stole my heart.  One of the highlights of my trip was getting to wash her feet like Jesus did his disciples and place on her feet her first pair of new socks and shoes.  I will never forget the pride in her face. 

A few days later, the teachers and social workers were telling us about the new children at the school and how many still did not have sponsors but explained they could not turn them away.  Mercy was one of them.  I couldn’t sign my name fast enough to sponsor her through CMFi.  It is, admittedly, an easy choice when you can smell the raw sewage, see the dust covering her feet and hear the sounds of the slum she calls home.  Saying goodbye to her sweet face was so hard for me.  Through a translator I told her I would come back someday.  I wasn’t sure when but I promised that I would be back.  I told her how much Jesus loved her and how much I did and assured her that our family would be praying for her and her family daily.  I left her with a picture of all of us.

Over the next two years we sent letters and received them from her.  We sent care packages, pictures and Christmas presents.  She shared with us some of her fears and her prayer requests and her accomplishments and dreams.  Our entire family fell in love too.  We think of ourselves as a family of 8 with one us of living half a world away.  The kids were just sad she couldn’t come to live with us but I explained she has two living parents that love her very much but that where they live the unemployment rate is very high and there are simply no jobs.  I explained that some families will relinquish their child because they cannot afford to feed them or send them to school.  We are an adoptive family and the thought of parents having to place their child for adoption because of finances breaks my heart to it’s core.  It breaks God’s heart.  I explained this is something small we can do to make a very big difference for this family and for our Mercy. 

In 2011, I returned to Mathare.  As I came around the corner I saw her sitting and talking with friends and as her face met mine, I could tell she knew.  A smile spread across her face and I went up to her and asked if she knew who I was and she said quietly, “Yes, you are Jen.”  Tears welled up in my eyes and I hugged that little girl and told her I kept my promise to come back.  We spent time together and acted silly and sang songs and it is in those moments with Mercy that I know God uses us.  He used a broken vessel like me to bring hope to this child.  She asked about all of the kids and as I showed her pictures she commented that they looked like they had grown.  She was always fascinated with Grace much like a younger sister is with an older one.  She thought she was so pretty and asked what she was like.

On that trip I had a difficult time leaving Mathare each night to return to our hotel.  It hurt my heart that she stayed.  It hurt that I couldn’t do more.  Before we came I had asked if it would be possible to meet with Mercy’s family.  I was told their would not be enough time.  On the morning of our last day there, I was so heavy hearted to say good bye to this girl I love, to leave her behind…

And then, I walked in to the school and out of close to 800,000 residents in Mathare, God had brought Catherine, Mercy’s mother to me.  She sat there holding a baby on her lap and I knew right away it was her.  She looks just like Mercy.  I was able to speak with her through an interpreter and show her pictures of our family and tell her how much we pray for them.  She was warm and loving and slightly shy like Mercy.  She thanked me for what we are doing for Mercy.  It was incredibly humbling.  She had on the cross necklace I had given to Mercy just a few days before.  The cross now hung around her neck and it was such a God moment.  It felt in my spirit as if God were saying, Mercy is okay.  Her family is okay.  I am with them and I love you all so much.  I love you enough to give you the gift of this meeting and the peace I know it will bring to your heart.

Fast forward two years later and just this past October, my husband, Trevor, and our oldest, Grace,  went on the mission trip to Kenya and were able to meet Mercy.  Grace declares it the best part of the trip.  It was wonderful for Grace to walk in to her classroom and she could see the recognition Mercy had for her.  She looked at her just like she had looked at me.  She KNEW her.  She had that relationship established.  Trevor and Grace were able to meet with her and give her gifts we had handpicked just for her.  Yes, we've been able to, for five years now, provide schooling, food, medical access, school uniforms and immunizations to Mercy, but even more lasting, she has learned about the love of Jesus.  I can only imagine what this young girl from the slums of Nairobi thought when for the 3rd time our family came to visit her.  I can only imagine how much she felt loved, believed in, worthy…...

And Mercy has given to us, taught us.  She is our family.  She has taught me that our attitude isn’t in our circumstances but that our joy is in Jesus.  She has given as much love as she’s received.  Sponsoring her has taught our family about sacrificial giving and praying for other’s needs besides our own.  She has helped us focus on a global-God-view of the world instead of a closed focus of our own surroundings.  This sponsorship has helped us to be grateful for our blessings and to not take our privileges of a home, food, and access to healthcare for granted.  This beautiful child, our Mercy, has given us a relationship…a connection thousands of miles away and it feels amazing to know we are making a difference in her life.

Andy Stanley has a quote I love, “Do for ONE what you wish you could do for everyone.”  One sweet Mercy at a time.  To God be the Glory for the things He has done.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

WAY harder to send

Two weeks ago was Missions weekend at our church.  Our speaker was Claude Hickman and he gave an impassioned talk about missions around the world.  The main point was that biblically speaking we either, GO, SEND or DISOBEY because Jesus commands all of us to go and make disciples.  I have gone.  I love going.  It is the heart of my heart.  Two weeks ago, I sent.  And it had me grasping for breath through tears all day.  In each moment, I was reminded of the sacrifice God must have felt when he fulfilled the ultimate mission in sending His son to die for us.  I sent my husband and our 13 year old daughter to Kenya.  I didn't feel fear.  I didn't feel jealousy.  I didn't feel concern.  I felt overwhelmingly proud of their Yes to God.  I felt an overwhelming sense of peace that my teenage daughter would choose to spend her break this way.  I felt a deep sense of love for the man that is my husband and the values he upholds.  I felt a sense of knowingness of what they were about to see, feel, smell, experience.  I knew they would come back to me different.  I knew they would be forever changed.  My faith has been tested in the past few weeks in ways I wouldn't have imagined.  Turns out you God will change you in the staying if you let Him.

I have spoken with them a few times.  It has been an amazing time and they are beyond appreciative of the opportunity.  They come home to me tomorrow.  I simply cannot wait to touch their face, listen to their hearts and see the light of Jesus in their eyes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Leaving on a jet plane....

In a few days, my 13 year old daughter and my husband travel on a mission trip to Kenya, the place my heart loves as if it were birthed from the soil there.  It is a place I have traveled twice before and will again next year.  I try to go every other year but something about this year told me to wait. I did.   And a prayer I'd been praying for years came through.  My husband wanted to go.  And he wanted to take our Grace. Now in my prayer, I was going with them but close enough.  In all honesty my initial reaction was totally flawed human jealousy.  I know. That's how ugly my heart can be.  It was my dream.   I wanted to be there to see them experience such an important and impactfull God sized journey.  You'll be glad to know, that reaction only lasted a few hours.  What?  Too long.  Hmpph.  I have absolutely been thrilled for them both ever since.  I immediately knew and was pained to admit why I had felt that nudge to wait.  Trevor and Grace are internal processors. They are quiet thinkers.  They need time.   I need to talk about it.  Now.  I spew my thoughts out as quick as they come racing at me and with my ADD in full effect few can keep up.  I realized it was best for me not to go.  Still stings a bit to say that, but I know myself enough to know that I would have driven them crazy with my questions and lurking behind every tree and hippo's rear end to see them experience this.  I would have taken certain expectations along I think.  I wouldn't have given them the space they needed.  It was best for me not to go. Really, God?  Yes, really.  This is truly best.  I have tried to keep my stories, impressions, even my advice to a minimum because I want this to be wholly theirs.  How many 13 year old girls get this experience with their daddy?  Man, I did good picking him out.

As we told others about this trip, and especially after what transpired in Kenya a few weeks ago, many, even some that surprised us, were a bit concerned about someone her age going.  What she would see, experience, her safety.  It wasn't something we considered lightly as seen in an open letter to my Grace.

My beautiful Grace,
I am beyond proud of you for wanting to take part in this mission trip.  I am so thankful for your heart for the people there but most importantly for Jesus.  I knew when you said you wanted to go that I had to let you. How can you tell a child their entire life that they should follow the promptings of God in their spirit and then when they ask you to go, say no.  I couldn't be the one holding you back from God's plan or calling on your life.  I couldn't be the reason you disobeyed.  

But as an earthly momma, I fought with a few things.  I want to protect your heart.  It will most certainly break there.  I remember how hard it was for me to see some of the suffering, the injustice, the intense effects of a poverty that had yet to be defined for me.  What would that do to my girl?  And you know what God whispered to me?  He whispered names.  He whispered Mercy....Terri....Mary....Anne....He whispered the names of the girls I love living there.  Gladys....Ava...Elizabeth...  Living it.  Daily.  And I knew you could do it.  And I knew you had to do it.  I knew that our home is different from many in the way we try to teach you and your siblings from a global Godly perspective.  I knew you have seen my pictures and heard me speak and although it is different close up in the flesh, it is clear that God's spent your lifetime preparing you for this.  

I wondered how you would do on the plane.  Your first time flying since you are old enough to remember and it's kind of a long flight:)  I wondered if you would be homesick.  I wondered if you might feel hungry and not like the food.  I went over every scenario in my mind and the same peace kept coming over me.  You might be uncomfortable at times.  That's okay.  You might not like the food.  That's okay too.  You come from a place where you can have your fill.  Life isn't about comfort and safe and easy.  

I worried about your health and your safety even though I have never worried about either of those things on a trip of my own.  But I worry about those things here too.  I think most people would say this momma duck likes her ducklings close by and they would be right.  It is a huge stretch for me for you just to be gone for 2 weeks, much less so far away and with little communication if any.  But you are HIS child.  I trust His protection over you and I put you in His hands.  I do that each day when you go off to school or stay at a friend's house overnight.  It's a broken world and anything can happen anywhere but we don't live in fear. We live free.  

I know full well this will change you.  I know it will leave a lasting impression on your life.  I pray exactly that. I will be praying for you and your team daily.  Please do not forget a single moment so you can share them all with me.  You know I'm serious.  And yes, I will say it again.  My one piece of advice.  Write everything down!  You think you will never be able to forget an experience like this and in your heart you won't but the details will fade when you're old like me and juggling children while balancing plates on broom handles. At least that's what it feels like.  You will thank me someday.

Now go love on the Kenyan people in the name of Jesus.  Shine your light, girl.  Live your dream. Your momma will be here thanking God for a Daddy like yours and the beautiful spirit of my first born.  I love you more than you can fathom.


Friday, September 6, 2013

working woman

Over 13 years ago, I made a choice; a choice to stay home with my baby.  And that choice continued after each baby.  5 babies later, I am eternally grateful for the wisdom in that choice and that God provided my husband a job that allowed me that decision.

Many times over the past 13 years I've questioned it.  I wanted vacations and nicer clothes.  I wanted a car that was reliable AND had air conditioning.  I wanted to go to the grocery and NOT have to calculate every thing I added to the cart to make sure I wasn't over budget.  I wanted to get my nails done and a pedicure.  I wanted our kids to be able to go to the best camps and extracurricular activities.  I wanted our family to eat out at a place where the kids meal didn't come with a toy.  I wanted to buy toys just because not just at Christmas.  I wanted to be recognized for the intelligent woman I am.  I wanted to be recognized period.  I wanted.  Somedays I wanted a lot.  BUT, for the most part I was content.  Because it was the choice that we made for our family.  It was the value we decided on.  I had every single second with my children.  I did not miss a single first.  I went to class parties.  I held and read and wiped and napped.  I dried tears and giggled and ran and played and I would not change an ounce of that time.  Ever.  I would choose to be broke all over again to have that experience with my children because that...that stuff lasts...pedicures fade, children that spend thousands on sports camps end up never playing the sport again at some point.  We lived life together.  I am so very grateful for that.

So as all five headed to school and the opportunity to work outside of the home presented itself, the idea was exciting.  I still had strict criteria though.  I had to be home when the kids were home.  I had to have the same breaks and days off as they had.  I needed to make X amount of dollars to help make ends meet.  Not too much to ask, right?! The job didn't come.  For over a year.  A few opportunities presented themselves and the temptation of taking a job even though I wouldn't have the same schedule as the kids presented itself. A few opportunities that would require evening time or weekend time came along.  Then this summer I interviewed for the perfect position for me and our family and I didn't get it.  School started again and I was jobless.  So I waited and prayed.  I prayed and waited.  I knew we'd make it whether the perfect job came along or not because countless times over the past 13 years I have watched our God provide for us.

Last week I got a call....about that perfect position I had wanted earlier in the summer.  It was at a different school closer to home.  So even better.  I tried not to get my hopes up.  I prayed and knew that if this was what God wanted for us, He would make it happen.   I was offered the job on the spot.  I cannot help but feel like God is honoring the many sacrifices we have made over the past 13 years being a family of 7 on one income.  It's not like all of the sudden it's pedicures for everyone, but I will be contributing and talking to adults and wearing grown up clothes.  It meets all the criteria that echo our values.  Same schedule as my children.  And you know what?   He is SOVEREIGN!!! I didn't get that job I wanted this summer because this one is even better for us.  His hand is all over it. Thank you, Lord!

So I joined the forces of working women this week and so far, I've survived.  I've become a commuter. 1 hour and 10 minutes.  A week.  Round trip.  7 minutes from my garage to the door of the school 5 days a week and home again.  The worst part are those few hours right after school that just stink. The ones where everyone needs help with homework and everyone wants a snack and one needs to find their jersey for practice and the other needs helping filling their water bottle and you need to stop all of that and load everyone up to pick up another from practice and then they all want dinner and you are still standing at the island in your work clothes having to pee since you walked in 2 hours ago.....yeh, that two hours....well I'm trying to remind myself that it stunk even when I wasn't working and that it just seems like more because you are exhausted from re-entering the workforce after almost a decade and a half of not being there.  I'm telling myself that the exhaustion will get better or I'll at least forget what it felt like to feel less exhausted.  And if that isn't the case, don't you even ruin that little pipe dream for me.  I know I'm all about being authentic but I want to live in denial if this isn't going to get easier because right now it's that hope that is keeping me going:)

The good news is I love my new job.  It is a perfect fit for me.  I can bust out the work and leave it there. The kids are doing great with the schedule and adjustments and the people I work with have been fabulous and welcoming.  I am beyond grateful for the opportunity.  I am blessed with a husband that throws in laundry and hasn't complained that the house looks less than stellar and he ate subway for dinner this week. I'm sure one of these days I will be able to stay awake long enough to actually have a conversation with him too.  Since yoga pants and flip flops have been my wardrobe of choice, I got some new clothes that no one has ever worn before and two pair of shoes this week.  That is more than I've gotten in the past two years combined and I can now look cute 4 days in a row.  So if you see me out and I look all crazy, it's the 5th day.  I cannot promise hip and fresh on the 5th day.

I'm sure there will be some bumps in the road and the transition may not always be pretty but for right now, at this time in our lives, this is what works for our family.  It's kind of nice to be known as me and not so and so's mom or Trevor's wife.  I am just thankful for a position that I can enjoy and allows me the privilege of keeping mom and wife as priority #1.

For you young momma's that are staying home, I encourage you to stay the course.  I know it is incredibly hard and there is no one around to give you a merit raise or a certificate for breaking the record of diapers changed in a single day.  I know you do not hear enough how appreciated the sacrifices you are making are. I know that somedays you feel completely invisible....but I see you.  I know you.  You are amazing.  What you do is profound and beautiful and so worth it.  I know you are wearing a top off the clearance rack at Target and a pair of shorts your rich sister passed on to you after she was done with them.  I know you used a box color on your hair and it is swept up in a ponytail with a little bit of baby's breakfast in it from that cute at first but quickly annoying phase when they learn to vibrate their little lips together.  Oh, I see you.  I know that you cannot possibly answer another question today because your toddler has asked you 70 and it's only lunchtime.  I know you feel responsible for the rest of these tiny people's life.  I know how heavy it feels.  I see you.  I recognize the hard and often thankless job you are doing and please know that God sees you. Please know that what you are doing is irreplaceable in the life of your child.  God will provide.  And someday if you ever choose to go back to work, something will be there.  All in His time.   And it just might be the position you have thought all along you would like and would work for your family.  We all have our seasons.  That first one lasted 13 1/2 years for me.

Praying for all you mommas out there.  Working outside of the home or in it.  It's hard stuff.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Vick's Vapo What?!?

Croup.  That seemingly evil thief in the night that steals the very breath from your child.  If you've heard it, you know.  The sound of that cough, the sound of their breath squeezing through the ever tightening space in their throat.  I have a child that is prone to it.  He is never sick except for that.  Gets it a few times a year. This weekend we ended up in the ER after trying the trusted tricks at home.  We sat in the bathroom while the shower steamed around us and steamed and steamed. I am a 40 year old overweight claustrophobic momma.  Sitting in that room holding a child is a lot like I imagine a person with a peanut allergy feels walking in to Logan's Roadhouse..GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!  Then we sat in the cool night air.  Some relief but still struggling for breath.  After an hour of trying to get it under control we end up at the ER and require a breathing treatment and steroids.  A few hours later we are home.  Just in time for everyone else to wake and the day to begin.

The week before was spent with another child and a mysterious all over body rash, high fever and bouts of intense itching throughout the night. Couple that with the first emergency room run of the week for breathing problems due to a reaction to a medication.   The prior month the same child spent fighting a weird skin infection and another allergic reaction to a medication.  Bizarro.   So when last night, my 13 year old woke gasping for air, you'll understand my reaction of "are you flipping kidding me?!"  Can a teenager get croup?  Google says they can.  So if you think holding a 7 year old in a steaming bathroom gave me a hot sweaty anxiety filled someone has a giant size fist around my neck type of feel, you can imagine what it was like holding my 5'9'' 13 year old.  Did I mention our bathroom is the size of a port a pot?

The course of action is hot steamy air followed by cool night air......only last night it felt a bit like a sauna outside so we did the most rational thing....stuck her head in the freezer.  If you've ever had a 13 year old you know how smart they think moms are anyway. The fear of dying helped my argument and shortened the need for an explanation.  No relief.   Hot steamy room again.  And let's be honest, this time mom sat outside the door and kept sticking my head in to check on her.  No relief.  Scared 13 year old.  Scared mom.

I could not believe I was going to be making my 3rd ER trip with a 3rd child for breathing issues in 5 days.  I was certain it would start a DCS investigation or at the very least the nurses would start to think of that episode of 48 hours with the whacko mom that made her kids sick for attention.  That's what lack of sleep does to you folks.  So in my desperation, I did it....the old wives tale...the backwoods treatment....I lathered Vick's VapoRub all over her feet and slapped some socks on her.  The 13 year old looked at this old worn momma, whose hair was going in every direction thanks to the sauna, with total confidence this would work.  *said with sarcasm for those first time readers*

I told her she has 20 minutes for this to work or we are going to the ER.  5 minutes later I thought I could tell a difference but thought it might be wishful thinking.  10 minutes later she no longer had stridor and was not as agitated.  15 minutes later I awoke to total silence thinking she must be dead next to me.  There she was peacefully sleeping.  No gasping, no noises, no cough.  No flipping way.  Waaaaay.  It worked.  Totally worked.  I don't know how and I don't really care because we slept and my child could breathe again.  I know there is only anecdotal evidence to support this claim but when you haven't slept in days and you're looking at your 3rd ER run of the week, anecdotes'll do.

Momma's will try anything to help their babies.  If rubbing VapoRub on their feet makes me a hillbilly well move the couch to the front porch and sign me up!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Stealing a life

First it took his short term memory.   Remembering what you had for breakfast, where he parked the car or how to get to familiar places.  Then it was as if it was eating through his memory year by year until he could no longer remember that he was married and that my husband was his son.  He could not recall his grandchildren whom he loved immensely.  He would talk as if his parents, long past, were here and he was a small boy.   He would sit and read his Bible all day and when it took his proficiency to read, he would still sit with it on his lap and grip it close.  The last memories to go were the scriptures....he could not tell you what year it was or where he lived but he could recite scripture word for word for years.  Out of the overflow of your heart, your mouth speaks.  He is as good as they get.  Through it all he has been kind.   Through it all the eyes glistened with life, with the love of Jesus.  He would not be able to follow the conversation but would smile and laugh anyway.  He did not know who you were but he was just as thrilled to see you. 

It stole his ability to drive, to remember to take his medication, to handle his finances.  It was no longer safe to live on his own.  It ripped the independence out of his life.   The most devastating of all, it took his capacity to pastor his church.  A church he loved.  A church he gave his life to.   The disease claimed his right to brush his own teeth, clean and dress himself.  It claimed every physical skill he possessed.  Except for breath itself.  That time will come.

Alzheimer's.  Brutal, vicious, life stealer.  Grief after grief stacked on top of one other for each capability that is taken.  Now he sits.  No longer able to communicate.   No longer able to move himself.  No longer able to engage with you or even to smile that smile.

In all of that, he was faithful.  In all of that, we are faithful.   It can not take his faith.  It can not steal the love of Jesus. It can not pilfer the victory that Christ already won.   Alzheimer's, you may be able to pillage my father-in-law's memories, his physical abilities, his independence but you cannot claim him.  Jesus did that long ago and he graciously accepted.  I know with all of my being that he will hold a special place in heaven for the way he loved Jesus and the work he did for the Kingdom of God.  I know he will be honored to see the hundreds of souls in heaven he had a hand in bringing to Jesus.  I know he will be blessed beyond his wildest imagination and his eyes will brim with tears of thanksgiving and they will glisten again.  But until then he waits.  In the mercy and love of our Lord, he waits.  In the quiet stillness of his life it is my prayer that he feels the presence of God in his heart until He calls him home. 

My husband is there with him now.  Caring for him.  Reading to him.  Holding his hand.   I've seen it often.  Daddy lived with us for 3 years and I was blessed to witness it.   It is in those moments that my husband is the most beautiful to me.  It is in those moments when he so gently cares for his daddy, when he so patiently helps him to eat, while he cleans him and allows him dignity and honor, it is in those moments I see who my husband is.  Whose my husband is.  It is in those moments that I see the character and integrity of the very man he is holding up shine from the heart of my husband.  It is in those moments that I am at once so very thankful for the legacy given to Trevor and equally struck by the enormity of the responsibility of the legacy we will leave our own. 

Incredibly thankful today.  Indebted to my mother and father in law for offering the love of God to Trevor.  Humbled by the man I am blessed to call husband.  Praying for others that battle this disease.  Focusing on living a life worthy of the legacy we've inherited.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Racism? Nah.

Okay, I have felt the need to blog about this from the beginning but wanted to stay out of the fray.  Truth is, I can't anymore.  Albert Einstein once said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”  

I have friends, people I know are loving and kind, good, good people that are saying things about this Trayvon/Zimmerman trial that just doesn't seem to match up with the heart I know they have.  I believe it is because they just don't get it.  They don't get race in America.  They get the white version of race in America but truly have no idea what the experience is like for many blacks in our country.  I don't want to rehash the facts of the trial.  I don't want to get in to some heated argument about stand your ground or profiling or who is to blame.  I cannot, however, sit back and not share my heart on this.  I'm asking for open hearts to hear this.  This is not meant to be divisive.  This is just to tell a side of things you must not know. 

Racism still exists in America.  Please don't tell me it doesn't.  Do some blacks hold stereotypes and prejudices about white Americans?  Yes, sure.  BUT, racism is most affective and felt the strongest within the minority group that doesn't hold the power.   If you think that white people in America are still not the loudest voice and the dominant decision makers, you haven't seen our lawmakers or watched the news in a very long time.  I wrote about this on a personal level not long ago. I get it.  It's not on your radar.  I get it from a white perspective.  If you aren't black I get that you would believe racism isn't an issue anymore.  But I see it.  I really do.  When your family looks like mine, you notice when the issue arises.  It's like buying a car or naming a baby.  You never notice a white Honda minivan until you get one and then every parking lot seems to be filled with them.  You name your daughter Grace because you don't know a single child with that name and suddenly you are introduced to 5 in the next month.  It's on your radar.  It's part of you now.  Race is part of me.  It will always be.  I notice what you don't. 

Do you know that in America if you have a name that sounds like you might be black you have less of a chance of getting an interview from your resume than your white counterpart with the same skillset?  And if you get that job, chances are you will get paid 25% less than your white peers.   This isn't liberal propaganda.  This is fact.   Did you know that if you commit a crime, you better hope you're a white man because a black man gets on average a 20% longer sentence for a similar crime.  The big stink a few weeks back about Paula Deen using the N word and everybody wants to know what the big deal was.  I'll tell you what the big deal was: "A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart." Luke6:45.   I heard the argument it was 20 years ago....I met my husband 20 years ago.  That term wasn't acceptable then and it sure isn't now.  That was a story because racism is still alive and well.  I could stock this post full of examples I've experienced.  I could tell you about the time someone called my husband the N word when we were sitting in a restaurant in my hometown and how the sight of us made him sick.  I could tell you about the place of business that blatantly refused to wait on us, after being given numerous chances and the benefit of the doubt.  I don't make it a practice to "pull the race card" but please know that there is a reason that card can be played.  It exists.  I have to prepare my children, my boys especially for the fact that there will be a time that someone will make presumptions about them based solely on the color of their skin.  There are still unjust things happening solely on that.  An unarmed boy being shot by an armed man that pursued him hits a very real button.  Especially when your son looks like him.  Especially when your life experiences have been peppered with injustices because you are black in America.

I have two black sons.  I am married to a black man.  Their future and how they will be perceived by someone that knows nothing about them should not have to scare me.  Do you truly think that if George Zimmerman was a 28 year old black man that followed a 17 year old white kid with every other aspect of the case the same that he would have been found not guilty?  It is simply not the experience of black men in this country.  Would I love to be wrong about that?  Absolutely, but statistics show otherwise.  Experience shows otherwise.  Do I believe race played a part in why Zimmerman felt Trayvon was 'suspicious' in the first place?  Yes.  Is there a woman raising a black male child in this country that does not explicitly feel the heaviness of that responsibility?  No.

Sometimes we just need to look outside of our own experiences to see the reality of other's lives. 
86% of blacks are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Zimmerman trial.  78% of them think it raises significant issues about race that should be discussed.   That number is only 30% and 28% respectively with whites.  Do you really think that 86% of African Americans are 'playing the race card?' or could it be that their experience with race is vastly different from yours? Different from yours and true for them.   If you think that 86% of blacks are crying racism then you might want to take an introspective look at your heart and the prejudices it holds.  

This isn't about Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson or Barack Obama.  This isn't political.  A child died.  An unarmed child that was pursued by an armed adult.  Do I know what happened after that?  No. None of us do.  I do believe wholeheartedly that child would still be alive had Zimmerman not followed him with his gun.  The fact that Trayvon had been in trouble before is also mind blowing to me.  He is a teenager.  Is he the first teenager in trouble?  Does that make it acceptable that he died or more believable that he was the aggressor against Zimmerman?  I don't get it.  Could it be he was scared because some crazy armed man was following him when he was just taking a walk through a neighborhood he had every right to be in.   I keep hearing that he wasn't the angel the 'liberal media' was trying to make him out to be.  Seriously?  That has no argument here.  Truth is, his life has value.  The same value as yours and mine, regardless of his choices. Or his color.

This is about listening and giving value when someone tells you the struggles of their life.  Even if it may not be your own experience.  If I want to know what it's like to be a mother, I ask moms and validate their response.  If I want to know what it's like to be a lawyer, I ask lawyers and weigh their experiences. If I want to know what it's like to have cancer, I ask someone who has lived through it. If I want to know what it's like to be black in America I don't ask an old white man.  Why is it that we don't believe an overwhelming majority of blacks that say this is an issue?   What is it about us that makes us say, no, you're wrong, your voice has no value here?!  Am I the only one that sees a huge disconnect here?! 

I don't know George Zimmerman's heart and why he did what he did.  I do not know the choices Trayvon made that night.  I do not pretend to understand all the legal jargon about stand your ground or to be knowledgeable about all of the evidence presented at trial.  But if you think that this case does not bring up the issue of race in America and doesn't deserve the hard dialogue that accompanies that, you are mistaken.  I understand that my life experience has been very different from yours, but I would hope that you would not question the truth of my experience simply because it wasn't yours.  Let's be respectful.  Let's stop our I know all attitude and pointing fingers and listen...really listen to the hearts of an entire community that is hurting over the loss of what they see as a great injustice.   Let's trust the intentions behind the dialogue and walk in the shoes of someone that is other than us.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Time keeps on slippin slippin slippin

This week marks the end of another school year.  We now have an 8th, 5th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st grader.  Feels weird to type that out.  I always feel too young for how old my kids are getting.  This weekend marks an even bigger time in our family's life.  4 years ago on the 31st, these two little children walked into our home and our family forever.  It would take another year and a half before the courts would agree with what our hearts knew.  As we sat waiting for a referral for one child from Ethiopia we had gotten a call about siblings that were local the Monday before.  After some prayer and discussion, Trevor and I decided that God's heart, our heart, was to give a child that needs a home a family.  It didn't matter where they came from.  I've always gone by the thinking that you just keep walking through the doors God opens until He closes it.  We met with their mom for her to get to know us a bit one day.  They came to visit another day so they would be comfortable with us and the following Monday Perri walked in smiling from ear to ear and Logan walked in with his arms crossed and a scowl that told us he had fought hard to get to this day.  When I look back on that time, it's a blur really.  I'm so glad I blogged about it so I can look back and see what it was all like.  We had 5 kids aged 8 and under overnight.  3 of them 3 and under.  We could have given so many excuses.  We could have said not now, no.  We could have said we don't have the money or the space or the time.  Thank God we listened to HIM.  Thank God we stepped out on faith and trusted.

Trevor had been layed off from his job.  They weren't sure how long it would last but probably a month and were pretty certain he would be able to return to his job.  It wasn't exactly the most opportune time to bring two other children into our home.  People thought we were crazy.  Many still do.   It wasn't easy.  There were times that were outright ugly.  Parenting little ones that are grieving is hard.  Parenting little ones that are transitioning into a new family is hard.  Parenting little ones that all the sudden have two new family members is hard.  Parenting is hard.  Being layed off is hard.  Patience is hard.  I blogged about the good, the bad and the ugly and I'm so grateful I did.   That experience taught me, like none other, that God provides.  Always.  He saw to it that we had food and snacks and clothing for them all.   He provided through angels all around us that would help with the kids and love on our hurting new babies....angels that sent gift cards and showed up with clothes or dinner....angels that showed us grace and generosity and the love of Jesus. It was amazing.  I remember that Trevor and I just decided to look at the lay off as a blessing.  He would get a month home with all of us and we would have a month or longer to bond as a family and grow together.  It truly was a blessing in disguise.  That experience also taught me that sometimes our blessings come from struggle.  Sometimes things aren't always as they appear and you can find His goodness even in the sufferings. 

Our family has gone on to welcome other little ones into our home throughout the past four years through Safe Families and it has been amazing to see our children's heart for others grow.  Some may question if that is fair to our children to make them share their rooms, stretch the money even further, spread our time amongst them all but I can tell you we wouldn't have it any other way.  Do we always get it right?  No.  Are their sacrifices, yes.  Sometimes do I have that I want peace and quiet and more money kind of day?  Absolutely.  BUT...The opportunity our children have to see the love of God poured out onto a family that is struggling, to children that need comforted is an experience I can't put a price on.  They are better because of it.  We are better because of it.  The children that have walked through our doors have given us more than we have ever given them.  They have taught us. 

Especially those first two.  The two that stayed.  The two that became ours.   I can't imagine life without Perri and Logan in it.  It has been a privilege to watch them grow in security and see them flourish in consistency and stability.   I've gotten to see our 'originals' open their hearts and their lives to another so intimately and innocently.  What an honor to be their momma.  I often think of Perri and Logan's first mom, with tears.  I sometimes feel angry at a broken world that failed her.  I feel sad she is missing all of this.  I pray for her often and am forever grateful that of the choices she had, she chose life.  And she chose us.  She chose to give them a chance to break the cycle she and the generation before her had lived with. 

I wouldn't have chosen for my Perri and Logan's life to begin like it did.  I wish they hadn't had to go through such loss and pain but all of this has taught me that God can use anything for good.  Adoption is a story of loss but it is also a story of redemption.  It is a story of the gospel...a story of love...of choices....of family. 

That summer, 4 years ago, I had prayed three specific prayers over and over.....
1) Open my eyes to the needs of others around me, Lord, and use me.
2) Break my heart for what breaks yours and give me the strength to act.
3) Whatever you ask, I will do.

I have tried to live each day since like that.  It has changed my life. Do I fail?  Continuously, but it is the desire of my heart.  Being the mother to these 5 is my greatest challenge and my greatest joy.  I can't wait to see what adventures the summer holds for all of us.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Slippery Slope

Definition of SLIPPERY SLOPE

As defined by Merriam -Webster : a course of action that seems to lead inevitably from one action or result to another with unintended consequences

It often seems as if my life is one.  Truly.  I remember in high school learning this definition and my girlfriend, Diana, and I making up stories that just kept going and going.  We would get laughing so hard making up stories about some unsuspecting soul.  I didn't know that would come back to haunt me. 
3 weeks ago our basement flooded.  Not furniture floating flooded but standing water from wall to wall.  (Enter initial 'course of action.')  Mind you, there is someone living in our basement right now.  I discovered this at 6am.  I woke up our friend and we started immediately getting all of her stuff out and I called Trevor with a slightly panicked tone in my voice and told him he had to come home right away.  My husband is Jamaican.  While this might seem to be a crisis to many of us, my husband never operates in crisis mode.  He doesn't have a crisis mode.  No problem, Mon.  He was home by lunch. 

We spend the day cleaning out every single item in the basement and dragging soaking wet area rugs through my house and into the garage where a pile the size of Everest seemed to appear.  The restoration company was able to come the next day and set up dryers and disinfected and all that good stuff.  Pretty minor flooding.  We were blessed really.  I know families that lost so much in area flooding that it was just a huge inconvenience to us. 

The insurance adjuster came and surveyed the damage.  They would have covered carpet but do not cover area rugs so that was the first big hit.  Area rugs are not cheap.  (Enter 'unintended consequences') Then a few days later the washer and dryer just stopped working.  Both of them.  Granted those suckers were old but the insurance guy told me to call if there were any problem with them so I did.   He was estimating the loss to be about $2500.  I started clean up and repainting the floors and the walls right away.  I took laundry to my mom's and spent the entire day there running between her house and my sisters two doors down to get a weeks worth of laundry for 7 done. 
I called the insurance adjuster to see when we would be getting our check so we could replace the washer and dryer and he told me it would be a few weeks.  Ugh.  So I'm thinking I can make the laundry situation work until we get a new set, right?  Wrong.  After depreciation of our washer and dryer and our deductible, we'll be getting a check for like $300.   Well, woohooo!   What the what?   I do not understand insurance.  I get they were old but I can't exactly replace them for that.   So in a desperate facebook plea to buy some old ones from people we know, some wonderful friends had just moved and gave us their extra set!  So gracious and generous.  So thrilled and happy.

We have to borrow a truck and go pick them up.  A friend comes over to help move the old ones out and the new ones in.  I go off to a friends with another week's worth of laundry piled up in the van.  The paint is now dry enough to move everything out of our family room and back into the basement and our friend doesn't have to sleep on the couch anymore.  Trevor through all of this is having to work every weekend so the pile in the garage remains and the trips here and there to pick up a part and borrow a truck and all of that eat away the little time we have in the evenings. I am supposed to keep parenting as normal and work around all of the basement's contents scattered throughout our family room and maintain my patience amongst the chaos.

He goes to hook up the dryer one evening and discovers the vent is filled with lint.  We don't want to shell out anymore money so on FB many friends weigh in on how to do it ourselves.  So we borrow a dry vac for the next day from friends and he works on sucking it all out another evening.  He can't get it all.  So we borrow another tool from another friend and he will get to that tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I am off to another friends to do a week's worth of laundry for 7 again.  Which takes an entire day.  I mean 8 am to 5 pm back to back as fast as you can fold it.  

I decide that Trevor has been working so much and so hard and I will just help out while he's at work so he will only have to hook up the washer and dryer when he returns that evening.  It's just sticking a little brush on the end of a plastic tube in the PVC pipe to clear it out.  How hard can it be?  In the words of my 4 year old nephew helping me fold laundry one day, "I'm a super good big help."  So I stick the sucker in there and wiggle it around and start to pull it out and it breaks off in my hand.  Breaks off so far in there that I can't reach.  Of course, it does.   At this time, I feel like falling to the ground and pounding my fist on the floor in the best 2 year old style fit you've ever seen. 

I text Trevor.  So I don't have to say it outloud.  That No problem, Mon vibe he's got going comes in SO handy on occassions such as these.
The laundry has taken over our bedroom and with the next toss of dirty drawers onto the top of the heap will require it's on zip code. Deep breaths.  I call the professionals.  The professionals can come the next day. Thank you, Jesus.  

They came today.  They can only get to one end of the vent because the other end they built our deck over.  Not kidding.  So they cleaned it out and my awesome husband hooked up our washer and dryer and I started laundry while whistling and skipping.  The sun shines brighter.  The birds sing clearer.  You get the picture.  

We are supposed to cut a trap door in the deck to have access to the dryer vent.  Don't worry. We won't be doing that on our own.

Oh and the PVC pipe I stuck that dryer vent cleaner in and broke off.....uh yeh, that was the vent for our high efficiency heating and air unit.  So I guess I'll call them too.   

And that, my friends, is a slippery slope.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Springing in to me.

Every Spring I spend the last few weeks of March climbing out of a hole.  Call it seasonal affective disorder, depression, the blues, a funk, whatever it is when Fall turns into winter I seem to literally fall into another me.  A me that I don't really like honestly.  A me that is less patient and kind, less fun and friendly, less than who I know myself to be.  Nothing too dark, not crying in the corner by myself me but just not me.  Every March I climb back out of it.  I can feel it happening.  I can feel the irritability start to fade away with every ounce of sunshine that soaks into my skin.  I can feel my laugh come easier.  I can feel it happening.  Usually by May I'm back.  Found myself again. 

This year I was going to stave off the hole.  I was prepared.  I was ready and waiting like a lion for the pounce and it came anyway.  It hit me again.  I felt shame in it.  I felt loss in it.  And that just makes the hole bigger.   I felt the irritability rise as the temperature outside decreased.   Energy for five kids seemed harder.  Typically outgoing me, turns inward.  The mundane everyday occurrences of life were enough to freeze me in an overwhelmed state some days.  Subtle things mostly.

This year I learned from it all.  I learned we all need grace.  Sometimes, big huge double portions of grace.  We usually need the grace when people feel least like giving it to us. 

I learned that people get nervous when you just say you're blah, maybe even depressed, fighting the blues.  I realized how heavy the stigma of mental health feels.  I think it's because people don't know what to do.  I can hear about your influenza because I understand how that is transmitted.  I know you need rest and fluids to help you feel better and I know that in about a week you'll be back to normal.  Mental health isn't quite as neatly packaged.  There isn't any of that in-a-week-to-10-days you'll be all better proclamation. 

I learned that partly that stigma comes from others questioning your faith.  There are people out there that don't get it.  They do not understand the whole hormone, chemical imbalance, psychological aspect that comes into play.  So they think you can pray it away or if you were in the word more or had a better relationship with Christ, then the darkness wouldn't come.  I want to smack those people.  In the less of me times and the happy Spring/Summer/Fall me times, I want to smack them.  They make me feel less than and shame on me for giving them that power.   It is in those times I depend on Him even more.  You can long to feel close to Him and still feel far away.  Even when you seek His face.  Even when you sit at His feet.  That is where the faith comes in.  You trust He is there.  You know that this is part of that less than you you and that your feelings are just feelings and the TRUTH is He is right there with you.  In the Fall and the Climb.  He is with you always and you read the truth and you rest in it and wait for your feelings to match up.  Those people that don't understand, that's their issue.  Not yours.  Let them carry that. 

I learned that there are so many others out there like me that don't feel like they can tell anyone because of the judgements, the looks, the stigma.  One in five adults suffer from some form of mental health issues but no one ever talks about it.  (I could now go on a rant about the state of mental health in our country and the school shootings and the divorce rate, homelessness, etc but this is just to say, reach out.)  Be the kind of friend that someone can call and say I'm struggling lately.  And you don't judge.  You listen and you support and encourage.  Be the kind of friend that lets people in.  That lives authentically and shares your life with others, even the not so you you.  Be the friend that steps out in trust and says, I'm hurting and could use your prayers.  I'm in a hole.  My marriage is in a hole.  I feel like a loser mom lately.   Be the friend that can say that and the friend that can hear that without judgement.  Offer grace and prayer and maybe cook a meal or take them out for coffee or a nice long walk. 

I know we like everything to be okay.  I know it is most comfortable for everyone to think that life is without struggle.  I know we want to believe that everything is as cheery as our instagram pictures make it look.  I know we want to read through Facebook posts like a copy of US weekly and see how great everyone is doing.  We want it to all be okay.  So does the person in the hole.  And sometimes there is no real reason that they feel that way other than they do.  And that is okay.  I know the hole is scary and you don't want to get too close but it is okay to hang over the hole and reach out a hand.  It is okay to just say I don't know how to help but I'm praying for you.  It is okay to just say the ridiculous to get a laugh or to drop off their favorite Starbucks just to say you aren't alone there in the hole,  I see you struggling and am here.  

I learned that comparing ourselves to others is almost always a recipe for disaster.  Do not let your contentment in parenting, marriage, what you're wearing, your walk with Jesus,  how much you're making, your weight, any of that depend on how others are doing it.  You are fabulous even in the hole.  Usually you haven't really changed, just your circumstances have and your fabulousness is still there it's just harder for you to see at the moment.  But it is there.  And so is HE.

I learned almost all of us have been there.  Few choose to admit it.

I learned I feel like I have to explain this all away by saying it's not that bad and my family is still great and we are happy and I do count my blessings and I am appreciative of all I have.  I feel like I need to say most days are fine and it really is good.  That is the fear of the judgements I guess but then I'm back to the people that just don't get it and well, I didn't write this for them.  I wrote it for you, the one in the hole.  The one that has just climbed out and the one that is clinging to the ledge. I see you.   I know.  I don't know what got you in there.  It doesn't matter.  Maybe it's a seasonal thing, or a life's curve thrown at you.  Maybe it's from poor choices you've made or injustices done to you.  Maybe it's genetic, hormonal, chemical imbalance.  I don't know what got you in there and it doesn't matter.  What matters is you are not alone. I've been there.  I see you.

I learned that I put that shame of the stigma on myself and I won't do it anymore.  I learned that I am that kind of friend that can say it and hear it.  I learned that it is something I will most likely struggle with for the rest of my life and no matter how prepared I feel, it will come.  I learned to not let that make the hole wider and deeper.  I learned that I crave sunshine like my husband craves his momma's cooking.  I learned that my God is greater and that feelings are fleeting but Truth just is.  I learned that we do not extend grace ever enough and that there is nothing more lovely or humbling than receiving it.    I learned that for me,  I can not exercise it away or take enough supplements and herbal remedies or pray or study His word or cling to my faith enough to make this go away for me. I learned that it is okay to need help with it.  Whether that is medication or counseling or whatever that looks like for you.  I learned that I expect others to be okay with it but wasn't okay with it myself.  I'm over that.  Do I struggle sometimes?  Yes I do.  Is my life still beautiful?  Absolutely.  Is God ever present?  Indeed He is.  Always with me.   I have an enormous tapestry of blessings in my life to be thankful for.  I'm not about to let a little hole ruin that.   Somedays, when the sun is shining and the wind is gently blowing through my open windows, I can barely see it anyway.   And I have 3 seasons to prepare for the next round!

Is 46:4 "I am He, who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and rescue you."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thoughts on Boston bombings.

Senseless.   Horrific.  Shocking.  Just a few of the words that I've heard people use to describe the viciousness of the bombs in Boston.  Sad.  Scared.  Angry.  Words people have given to their feelings of these events.  Hateful.  Detailed.  Bold.  The terms others have given to those involved with setting these devices.  For the runners and the rescuers and the everyday citizens that ran to help, opened their homes to scared cold strangers to shield them from the openness of the street:  Brave.  Loving.  Courageous.  Helpful. 

I can't describe this tragedy in a word.  I am heartbroken by the state of our world.  Bombings and war and school shootings and bullying and hungry and homeless and the sick and the hurting.  I am also hopeful because our God reigns.  He knows and sees and heals and comforts and it is in Him, I am at peace. 

In the moments after the incident yesterday I watched things unfold over social media and for the second time in a matter of weeks was blown away by it's influence and speed.  I recognized the danger of it first; the opportunity for false reporting and rumors, feeding the insatiable hunger for drama and the 'if it bleeds it leads' mentality.   I can tell by the images we post that there is a level of desensitization that makes me cringe. But that same vehicle allowed hundreds to locate and know that their loved ones were safe within minutes of a disaster that 15 years ago may have taken days to accomplish.  It also had a country, a world, praying for everyone involved within a minute of the first explosion.  I believe that mattered.  I believe that it made a difference.

As someone with a background in Sociology, it is interesting to see the reactions of people in moments of fear and shock and see the texts, tweets, FB posts and instagrams that we now have the opportunity to post before our brains have really even had time to process what has happened.  This ugly display of cowardice and hate was answered by many on social media with the same kind of anger that breeds such hate.  Some are quick to blame.  Maybe it's an ethnic group or our government they point to.  Some just ask for peace and prayer.  Others just sit shocked, saddened. 

I had a friend run the marathon.  A friend that has been like a mentor to and a huge part of our oldest daughter's life and her walk with Jesus.  I knew she had finished earlier but was unsure if she'd hung around.  I immediately text her and held my breath and prayed.  I prayed for all involved.  For friends of friends that hadn't been heard of yet, acquaintances .  I asked others to pray on FB.  I prayed for those whose name I would never know.  I prayed my friend was safe and that she had not heard or seen anything that would haunt her.  After a few minutes another friend shared that she heard from her and that she was okay and just a few seconds later I got the text:

One of the things that is frustrating with such tragedy is the fact that one person or a few can ruin so much for so many.  Unfortunately, I don't think that is something we can change.   26,839 people qualified for the Boston Marathon.  Do you know how difficult that is?  Do you know how many of those people have had to fight through pain and adversity and a myriad of issues to make it to that day.  Instead of hearing their stories and their victories we have to focus on something horrific.  The celebrations that should have been happening weren't.  The feeling of accomplishment was smothered by hate.  The success of so many was hidden in the shadows of a cowardice few.  That breaks my heart. But people died and so many were injured and it does need to be covered and we do need to know.  It has always bothered me deeply how the actions of one can ruin the lives of so many.  It is why I am so very thankful that I believe solely in the One whose actions Saved the lives of so many.

This country is currently debating gun control and how to stop school shootings.  We talk about terrorism and what we can do to stop it.  I'm not saying these aren't important.  They are and I am of the belief that there needs to be change but in the midst of the dialogue on gun control, some kid stabs a bunch of students on a college campus.  And in this day and time where our large national events have more protections over them than ever before, there are still bombings.   Our world is broken.  This is a heart issue.   I can't solve the gun debate or offer a solution that hasn't already been offered.  I can't solve terrorism. I cannot offer up a solution to all of this that every American will proudly support and agree with.  I can't prevent bad people from doing horrible things.  Not today.

Today, I can work on my heart.  I can work on the heart of my children.  I can make sure I and my family are prepared if it is ever our time to leave this earth, whether by natural disaster, God's design or at the hands of someone set out to hurt others.  I can love my children and my husband so that if ever anything were to happen to them or me, we could be at peace with how we loved one another.  I can show my friends and loved ones how important they are to me in the way that I value their presence in my life.   Today.  I can do that today.  So in times of disaster, that is one less burden to carry.  I can tell others about the impact God's love and His son Jesus have had on my life.  I can live a life of faith that others can see.  I can offer that to them.  Whether they do anything with that information isn't up to me.  God simply commands me to tell them about Him, to show them. The rest isn't in my control.  For that, I know we are all thankful:)  I can love those that seem unlovable, unworthy.  I can love the stranger next to me because it may be the only time in his day he is shown love.

In that spirit of authenticity, I also have stunk at loving lately. I mean, I love my family.  I tell them all the time and if you asked, they know I love them but I haven't been the easiest to love back lately. When I feel stress or am struggling emotionally, they are always the lucky ones to feel the weight of my craziness. I've been less patient, less accessible, less able to find joy through the struggles.  So when we prayed as a family last night, I asked God to forgive me for that, in front of our children and my husband, and prayed I would do better.  I prayed to be the momma they need and the wife he needs because at the end of the day, it's all that matters. I can do better.

My sweet friend knows I love her.  I've told her before.  Freakishly often.  It's how we roll.  She does the same.  She knows the impact she's had on my daughter's life because we've shared that with her and have shared our appreciation for her before.  I think that is why I didn't cry until I knew she was okay.  The relief that she was still with us....such a huge release of thankful tears.  Who haven't I told?  Who do you need to tell?  Who needs to feel your love?

We can all do better.  We can all be better.  We can all work on our hearts and if we're all working on our hearts and truly loving those around us, surely the ugliness of the world won't seem as scary.  If we can show our families this crazy kind of love in our lives, if we can pile on the love so thick than maybe it will make the sting of the pain of this world less.  When the ugliness intrudes on our lives, we'll be able to have a peace knowing that we loved as big as we could.  And maybe, maybe if we just love big enough...some of the people filled with ugly will feel loved too...and the world will be a different place.

*Continued prayers for those that were touched by this tragedy.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Riding the wave

So there was a minor little sports story that seems to have everyone up in arms around here:)  That's right, I'm blogging about the blog.  It's what we bloggers do.

A little background here.  I am the stay at home mother of 5 ages 13 and under.  I started this blog when we set out to adopt from Ethiopia.  Yes, there is a reason for the name.  The blog has followed our family as God blessed us with two children that happened to be living locally.  Since, I've written about adoption, being a large family, a multiracial family, social justice issues, mothering 5 children often with extras around as we are a part of Safe Families.  All of this is seen through the lens of my love of Jesus and His love for me.  It's the only way I know how to see life.   I blogged because I am a writer.  A writer no one reads or pays but a writer all the same.  It's never mattered to me how many people read it.  I am a writer because I write.  Sometimes 50 may read, sometimes it's 300.  Two evenings ago, I sat and blogged about this mailer I received about a local high school basketball coach and the small little blog garnered some mucho attention.  

Mucho, as in 1300 before I went to bed that first night and now, after having been shared on FB and tweeted and retweeted and last night picked up by the news, it's at almost 8,000 hits and previously I've had 10,000 hits in the history of the blog.  A 4 year history.  Sports are powerful my friends.  A sad little commentary on our society I think.  However, hundreds more have also gone on to read about my passions and that feels good.   Maybe someone will read about living a life of faith or adoption or Safe Families.   Maybe they'll want to read more.  And maybe they'll read this one story about basketball and I'm okay with that because as a writer, it is nice to be heard.  It feels good to have captured the feelings of so many.  And let's face it, this story really isn't about basketball at all or this coach.  This story is about one of entitlement.  This story brings up the issue of parents throwing money at their children's problems, parents and the example they too often set for their children...however well intentioned.  This story is about how much sports has changed and how it used to be about exercise, healthy competition and learning life skills like playing as a team, hard work and determination.  It's about common decency and respect for others, even if you disagree with them.  It's about bullying.  It's about a society with skewed priorities.  So I'm okay if my numbers return to 5 today.  Because God gave me a voice and a gift and He asked me to use it.  Whether that touches 5 or 5,000 lives isn't for me to worry about. 

Behind the scenes yesterday was hilarious.  My friends kept texting about sports talk radio and how they were talking about it.  That they had seen the blog here and there.  It was fun to see the excitement for me and very cool to watch the numbers rise throughout the day.  I wondered how many shares and retweets I needed before I got the tshirt that says, I went viral.  Can I check that off my bucket list yet? 

Yesterday afternoon, standing makeupless in yoga pants and a tshirt folding laundry on our kitchen table, I got a text that WISHtv would like to speak with me and they will be here in 30 minutes.  30.  Picture this, mom running up stairs hollering down to kids to leave all their stuff in their backpacks and hang up their coats all the while trying to find clothes that say I'm ready but not trying too hard.  20 minutes to go...All the kids are grabbing laundry and putting it away.  I'm throwing dirty dishes in with the clean ones sitting in the dishwasher.  Texting my husband what is going on so when he pulls into the neighborhood he is not freaked out by the news van sitting in his drive.  10 minutes to go....Run back upstairs to throw on some makeup while the kids are still scurrying about.  "Mooooooom, Grace says we really have to act like we love each other."  Yes children, that would be nice. 2 minutes to go..... "Moooooom, can I watch Netflix?"  No, not now.  Well, that did it.  No to Netflix and unnamed child is on a heap on the floor crying and letting out a guttural cry of how I'm no fun and it's always so boring around here.    Uh, excuse me?  Are we in the same house right now.  I'd love boring. 

I finally got everyone settled with a snack and a game and heard the knock knock knock.  The reporter and photographer were very nice.  The children were very tame.  I was a hot sweaty mess from running around trying to look 'normal.'  The patio door was opened and it was raining and both of these things combined made my naturally curly but blown out very straight hair start to curl in an odd fashion.  I could feel it happening as I spoke to the reporter.  I could actually feel it getting bigger.  Deep breaths. It was the quietest my children have ever been.  Ever.  I thought about hanging on their leg asking them not to leave.

As I closed the door behind them, I took a breath and wondered what had just happened.  Then I looked in the mirror and blinked my eyes 3 times wishing for a do over.   I am definitely a writer, not a speaker.  I stumble over my words and can't seem to form an intelligent response when asked a question.  My mind races and I babble and after they leave is when I think of the genius points I could have made.  Deep breaths.

Another station called.  I declined.  I don't want it to seem like this is a me against them.  It's not and I already had plans to meet friends for dinner and that's way more fun and less stressful.

Watching it all on the news was even more frightening.  We critique ourselves in a way we would never do to anyone else.  I was appalled at my weight, my hair, my obviously sweaty face (or now that I'm on tv do they call that dewy?).  Regardless, the image of me bothered me.  This morning as I showed it to the kids, none of them commented on any of that.  They were proud of me for using my voice to stand up for someone who was being picked on like I've spoken to them about countless times before.  They were proud of my writing and that I had the courage to voice what some would only think.  They were proud so many connected with something I had put a voice too.  Wow!  Schooled again by those babies.   A good friend set me straight too.  She reminded me how many people could learn about some of these social justice issues I feel so strongly about, about the bigger reason this happened.   

That is cool to think about.  The number is up to 9,300 now.  9,300 reading that post is good but what is even better is almost 1000 have read the one prior to it.  And the others.  The ones that shout about my God and His work in my life.  How quickly I had made this about me.  And my looks?  Society has done a great job instilling my low self-esteem.  Really?  9,300 people just read your work.  Who cares?   I doubt this little twist in the road will bring me the writing career I've dreamed about.  It won't bring me fame or riches.  (Except I did get an offer to buy me a drink)  I'd be lying though if I didn't say it felt good to be heard.  To use my voice for good.  9,500 now.  Somebody hand me my yoga pants;)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Smells like entitlement.

*sprinkles of sarcasm included because really how else could I respond.

I am baffled.  Truly.  I admittedly know nothing about our local high school basketball program.  Nothing.  I do not know our coach or any assistants.  I've never been to a game.  Never.  I do however, know enough to comment when I received a mailer urging the head coach be replaced. 
Seriously.  A mailer. 

A double sided, stamped mailer.  Which includes the following:

"It's time for a change.  The 2012-2013 Noblesville Miller basketball team was one of the most talented (and the tallest) in the entire state.  Yet, for the third year in a row, the team seriously underachieved relative to their talent and potential.  This very disappointing record included 9 losses -7 after leading or tied in the 4th quarter.  The team has lost the opening round of Sectionals the last three years."

The 2012-2013Noblesville boys basketball season was yet another season where:
Players were subjected to a negative and demeaning coaching style, berated regularly and subjected to profanity in practice.  Players rarely received individual coaching or positive encouragement from the head coach. 
Player morale deteriorated as the season progressed, but players perservered in the program because of their love of basketball and despite their strong dislike for the head coach.
Players were expected to perform "slave labor" for the head coach at youth camps and concession stands
Two-a-days (before and after school) practices left little study time and caused players to fall asleep in class
By sectionals time, player confidence and enthusiasm was depleted
-players just wanted the season to be over
Albert Einstein said, "insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results."  Such is the Noblesville Boys Basketball program. 
It's time to replace Coach McCullough and bring in a more positive and effective head coach to Noblesville Schools."

I do not know how many people this mailer went to or how much money was spent on it.  I just know I received it in my box and honestly couldn't believe what I was seeing.  Here is the trouble with it. Just some random thoughts.

It is mean.  Just mean.  This coach may not be good at his job.  You may not be good at yours.  But sending out a mailer asking for him to be replaced?   Mean.   Lovely lesson you are teaching your children.  Takes bullying to a whole new level.  This coach may be a jerk.  He may be a horrible coach.  This is not the way for me to hear your concerns.  This is not the "positive and effective" change you want for your beloved Millers.

How entitled does one have to feel to send mailers out to try to ensure that their child is on a winning team?  What kind of lesson are you teaching your kids?  Winning is fabulous.  I'm an IU fan.  I know what that's like:)  But how about hard work and determination and academics?

I too would not want my child to be coached in a negative or demeaning manor or to be berated or subjected to profanity. ( Even though I doubt if they were winning with this coaching style you'd have issue with it.)  Valid point if the alleged is true but your other arguments kind of make this one valid point become a non issue for me.  Not to mention, this mailer comes across as slightly demeaning and negative itself. 

I had coaches throughout my life that I liked and disliked. I played the game for me.  My parents would have never sent out a mailer about a meany coach.  They would have told me to play my game.  To hold myself to a different standard, to work hard.  They would have told me that in life there may be bosses I have or peers I have to work with that I may not like or agree with but I have to find a way to carry myself in a respectable fashion and work through it. 

Two-a-days are ridiculous, I agree, but are seen in many sports since I was in high school 20+ years ago.  It is a regular practice that this coach should not be singled out for.

The player morale and enthusiasm as the year progressed I bet was more affected by the attitude of the players and parents involved in this mailer than anything else.  Sometimes life isn't fair and things stink and it's okay for our kids to know that.  

The statement that we have one of the talented and tallest teams in the entire state gave me a good chuckle.  My husband is a 6 foot 5 inch black man and let's just say he ran track and played soccer in college.  For a reason.

The tone of the mailer hit me the most as an entitlement issue when I got to the ''slave labor'' sentence.  If you want to see slave labor, I will be happy to introduce you to the very real world wide issue. Your son having to work the concession stand isn't it and is completely offensive to say.  Spun this momma's head around and ended in a Z snap.

There are a dozen problems with our school system right now.  Our teachers need your support, our arts and music need your support.  I could give you the names of a dozen teachers who would love your funding for cool ideas they have for their classroom.  If you have money to throw at an 'issue,' I can help you find one but this?!  This is what you are going to join arms in and send out a mailer for.  Seriously?! 

The Albert Einstein quote?  Really.  It was  a good for a laugh. 

I am thankful parents want to stand up for their children when they feel they have been justifiably wronged.  Kudos for that.  But justifiably should be the key word here.  Voice your concerns to the coach himself, superintendent, parents, administration but to take out a mailer publicly shaming someone.  Ridiculous.  C'mon parents, we are better than that.   This group "paid for by concerned Miller parents seeking a better basketball program" is better than this I'm sure.  I'm sure they wanted to do right by their children, but in my opinion, they missed the mark.  Big time.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

*The image of the dejected ball player was a nice touch.