Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Gospel Truth-Beautiful Feet

I just finished reading Evidence Not Seen, a book chronicling the experiences Darlene Diebler Rose and her first husband had while serving on various islands in the Pacific prior to and during World War II. She and her husband were taken as POW's when the Japanese began invading all the small island countries in the Pacific. She was held for three years and liberated when the Allies won the war. Her husband and many of her missionary friends died while in captivity. The book was an excellent reminder of the way many people live life and live their faith in the middle of truly awful circumstances.

But to the point...beautiful feet...

Darlene and her husband were anticipating working as missionaries in Papau New Guinea. Up until 1937, the "civilized" world considered this island nation mainly uninhabited. But in 1937, a pilot discovered hundreds of thousands of people living in the mountains. Darlene and her husband desired to go and share God with these people. Because of the remoteness of the location, the first trips made by their sponsoring organization were made only by men. They trekked through jungles and over mountains, through swamps and down rivers.

When Darlene's husband returned from his first trip to visit the mountain tribespeople, he returned 60 pounds lighter and with no skin on the instep of his foot nor on the balls of his feet or his toes. Darlene was advised by a doctor on how to care for her husband's feet including how to drain the infection out and how to redress the wounds. A fellow missionary penned this words as he watched Darlene care for her husband's raw feet. "This morning I looked at the bleeding feet of a missionary, saw his wife tending to them, saw the blood and pus running from them and thought to myself, "What a nauseating sight that is! But as I walked from the room, the Lord said to me "Oh but to me they are beautiful feet!" Then I remembered "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bring good news"...good news to men and women like those in New Guinea who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death."

What a powerful reminder of how precious God believes His message of forgiviness and redemption to be. Our own mess ups, mistakes, and short comings separate us from God and unless we make known our desire for God to fix those things, we remain separated from God. We remain lost, like a lost set of keys that are useless unless they are placed in the hands of the person who created them or owns them, the person who knows what they are made to unlock. God wants no one to go through that lostness so He passionately implores with the hearts of men to change, to cast off the "I'm just fine" attitude and to come into a relationship with Him. His passion is so great that He finds beauty in ruining temporary things like feet in order to secure eternal things like souls.

This passion should run like blood through the veins of every person who claims a relationship with Jesus. Every Christian should have the attitude of "Come Hell or high water, I am going to do what I can to share Jesus with the people I come across." Too often, we don't. But that doesn't dilute the potency of the message. God's a life boat, a life jacket, a life guard, a light house. He's your rope when you're over the cliff. He's the water to quench the fire, the bandage for the gaping wound, the strong arm of the law when you're threatened. It's life or death. My prayer is that you would feel the urgency pumping through your body and let it settle in your heart and mind. Decide what you will do with beautiful feet and God's good news.


It's gone. All the contents of D's mom's house have now been auctioned off or claimed by family and friends. We just got back from her house and the auction. As many of you know, D's mom passed away after a 5 month cancer diagnosis. This diagnosis took so many things from her and from us but in many ways gave a lot to us too. D's mom came to know the Lord only a few years ago and this was the first real test of her faith. She clung to the promise of heaven and of God's presence in her illness with little complaining and no bitterness even though she was in constant pain.

The auction is just one more thing to cross off the list, one more affirmation that life is going on with out her. It's bittersweet to watch memories go out the door with a stranger, to try to determine what to hang onto and what to let go. It's bittersweet to realize how proud D's mom was of her things but to recognize that those things pale in comparison to the goodies God has gifted her with in heaven. It's bittersweet to miss someone terribly, with parts of your heart you didn't even know existed but to be so thankful for the way that person has been restored and redeemed FOREVER.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

God and Me 7

This week has been busy with D and I spending several days insulating, rewalling, and painting our back porch. I often woke up feeling like I had a lot to do so maybe I should just skip breakfast and my quiet time.

That being said, there were many times throughout the week where I knew God and I were having conversation even if it wasn't during my normal quiet time. I think that's part of spiritual growth, getting little God messages throughout your day.

This month Discipleship Journal had several short articles intermixed with art work depicting prayer. One piece of art I particularly liked because it gave me such vivid concrete pictures of prayer, especially what happens when I pray for others or when others pray for me. As it is a copyrighted image, I can't just copy it and put it on my blog. But I encourage you to head on over to Wayne Forte's site and check it out.

The artist wrote that he has illustrated the scene from Exodus 17 where Moses stop atop a hill overlooking a battle. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Isrealites prevailed but when he lowered them, they started to lose. When Moses' arms grew weary, his friends stepped in and held up his arms. Notice how the triangle formed by the arms and the rim of distant mountains dominates the center of the canvas. This recalls the way God exists in community and our posture under God when we pray for one another.
I hope this picture encourages you.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Project Porch

Well, we're finished with our back porch. The room that isn't really fit to be called a room. We've got some really wavy walls and had to be creative in our use of trim pieces to correct some things but we're done painting and insulating and trimming. (Aside from a few pieces of trim that we need to buy yet and a few small painting touch ups.)

I also realized I really do fear white walls. As I was trying to decide on what to paint the walls and ceiling, I thought for a moment I might end up with three white walls which almost made me panic. But nevertheless, no white. I've got an off white wall but that's it.

Best part of the project: using free paint because it was all left overs from other projects and watching my husband work on this project just because he knew it would make me happy



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Funny Stuff

I saw this on someone else's blog. Usually, I don't watch videos mostly because I don't trust another person's sense of humor to not waste my time. But this is worth watching. (Plus it made me take the time to figure out how to get a video on my blog.) The comededien is Tim Hawkins, someone who is trying to make comedy respectable but still funny.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I've Got an Itch

I've got an itch...or two or three. D and I have been working on insulating our back porch and that fiberglass insulation is just nasty stuff. (I even wore a long sleeve shirt, leather gloves and a mask.) I'm not sure if you can really call it a porch. It's an enclosed room that was tacked onto the back of our old house at some point in time. However, I use the word "room" loosely. One side is actually 2-3 inches longer than the other. In one place, you can see the exterior house wall including the original gingerbread trim. In other places, it is bead board paneling backed up against the outside wall of the room. There are no studs anywhere on our porch; all of the framing was done using 1 x 2s. In some places, there are strips of metal tacked up. I'm assuming these cover holes. The windows are ancient; one of them doesn't even open. When we moved into our house, one of the previous owners had decided to get trade this ugliness for another ugliness: mismatched paneling. So for several years, our porch has had a white tile board, green tile board, and wood grained paneling covering the walls. Lovely. A while back, I decided to rip all the paneling off the walls (and the ceiling) and try to make the place look a bit more respectable. I did the demo and then quit. With the acquisition of a stroller and a wagon for Kenson, we will soon be needing to actually use the porch in some functional way to store things. Hence, we need shelving. I really don't want to put shelving in and have the porch look as badly as it does so we are insulating the porch and then covering the insulation with a uniform fiberboard. Then we will be able to paint it and have it all look sort of the same. Except for the exposed gingerbread which I'm leaving exposed so I can paint it. In my mind, I'm picturing a bright crazy paint job with many colors but we'll see how it goes. I'm currently thinking turquoise, apple green, orange, and black but I'm not sure what walls I would paint what colors nor how I can make all of those colors fit together and not look like a circus gone terribly wrong. Hopefully, I will get it painted before the end of the summer and maybe I'll be able to post some pictures.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Helping James

When D and I went to Haiti in June, we met a little boy named James. He is living at Conleigh's orphanage. Part of him has come home with me. Thoughts of him remind me that children should not grow up in orphanages, that children need families and one on one attention. Don't get me wrong. Orphanages minister and serve and love but they are not homes for children. Every part of James' being is screaming "Pick me! Choose me! Love me!" And unfortunately, no one has. For five years. He has been at HCH for five years, watching other kids come and go, clinging stubbornly to a hope that some family will come and take him home. Again, he just reminds me how an orphanage while meeting basic physical and even emotional needs is not a family. No one is sitting down with James over supper asking him how his day went. No one is curled up with James at night, asking him what he wants to be when he grows up. No one is telling James every day how special he really is.

There is a part of me that wishes I could be that person who picks James up and with a touch of my magic wand, makes him a part of a family. But, it's not us. He's not our kid. My prayer is that if I'm not his momma, then by golly, I'm going to do what I can to try to find that person who is. So this post is all about James, a boy who needs a mama and papa desperately. I don't know much about James. I believe he is 7 and has been at HCH for five years. I know he is struggling with his behavior at the orphanage and one can't help but assume some of this would follow him home. But I also believe that, while love can't fix everything, a mom and dad who consistently love him and can accept the hard work that comes with loving him could change his life forever. So help me out here. Link to my blog. Tell your friends. Pray for James and his family who just haven't shown up yet. I've asked permission from the orphanage to advocate for James as best as I can and have their permission to do so. I believe that somebody somewhere is missing a little boy with a mischieveous grin, a boy who is desperate to finally come home. Contact information for James would be Patti Vold at or 403-783-6079.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kenson sighting a la Kathy

Another adoptive mom was in Haiti at the beginning of July and took these pictures of Kenson. Thanks Kathy! We just came back from an adoption training that we were mandated to attend. At that training, there was a whole session devoted to orphanage care. This included video of various orphanages, lists of things you might observe in an orphanage, and how orphanage care affects children. Most of the orphanages featured were Eastern European. I've been in two orphanages in Romanian and saw essentially the same things that the videos showed. In general, D and I walked away feeling good about the care Kenson is receiving. First, Kenson is being fed by the nannies, not feeding himself. This is important because it is creating a child who is dependent upon adults to meet his needs and not allowing a child to become prematurely independent. Second, Kenson is interacting with other children and adults. In many of the orphanages we viewed and in the Romanian orphanage I was in that housed babies and toddlers, there was little interaction between babies and other people. Workers did not talk to the babies. Children did not talk to each other or babble at each other. Starkly quiet is how I would describe it. The orphanage in Haiti is not that. Yes, there are inappropriate interactions where kids hit, push, pull and bully but there are also opportunities for children to be together and for them to be with adults in positive ways.

God and Me 7

I did a lot better this week with spending quiet time with God. I think I'll share with you the bulk of what I read from one article in Discipleship Journal this week. The article was on regret, which I deal with a lot. I would rather prevent a problem than deal with one, so I generally spend time thinking about how to do things perfectly (or at least in the best way possible) so that I don't have to fix a problem later. If something does go wrong, I often try to analyze what I could have done to prevent it or what I need to do to fix the situation. In general, I think I waste a lot of mental energy in prevent and fix mode. Anyway, I'll share with you what the author, Paula Rhinehart, had to say about releasing regret. She specifically is talking about what we allow our brains to dwell on when life isn't turning out the way we would have hoped.

"God is good and God is great but sometimes His greatness and goodness come together much farther down the road than we would hope."

"If we interpret our stories based soley on visible data, we can easily get mired in regret. The sovereignty of God gives us a much larger framework for making sense of our experiences."

"How are we going to allow the detours and the lost years and the mistakes to take their proper place in lives that are somehow being orchestrated by God?"

"Our wasted years contain seeds that will blossom in ways that we never expected."

"His tales of redemption through our lives are always larger than we imagine."

Her words brought up a new side to God's sovereignty in my life. While I do believe God desires for us to live passionately and to put forth our best effort, I think His viewpoint on mistakes and detours are much different than mine. I always believed that mistakes and detours were usually attributed to my own inadequecies or the inadequecies of others. And this may be true in some circumstances. But those same mistakes or detours also might be a part of what God is doing in my life. Today I read an online devotion that dovetailed so nicely with this.

"I want God to make sense, but He doesn’t. All too often, He seems to choose the exact opposite of what I would choose. It’s like He tells me to move to the ocean. So I buy bathing suits and a boat and a dock and I do everything I can to get ready for water. Then He says, “OK, you’re moving to the ocean, so the first thing I want you to do is go spend a few years in the desert. I want you to go a million miles away from the ocean.”

That doesn’t make sense. That is illogical. But I swear that is how God works. When Joseph had a dream of greatness, the first step was slavery. When Christ was called forward to save mankind during the baptism with John, the next thing he did was go spend 40 days alone. When you were called to get a new job, the next thing that happened was you got a promotion at your current one. When you were called into the ministry, instead of going to seminary God asked you to study Italian for a few years.

Sometimes we get the opposite of what we expect, like Joseph getting a shackle instead of a scepter. But when it comes to God, He always gives us what we need."

My humanness does not always see the richness that mistakes and heartaches and seeminlgy pointless misadventures add to my life, but God does. This also fits well with something our Sunday school class was discussing on Sunday. I was relating how it is so hard to see where God is going and how hard it is to understand how His goodness fits in with the rottenness of life. I was especially thinking about my children who will be spending years of their lives in orphanage care. I know God can and will use this to shape their hearts in positive ways but at the same time you can't help but think how unfair it is. But reading the things I read this week, it made me realize that God's plan for my kids, if they choose to obey Him, is ten times bigger than even the best dream I could imagine for their lives. So while I can see that their years in Haiti may be teaching them to have a great compassion for the poor or to want to serve in Haiti as a doctor or to want to become an adult who helps children who need families and love, the truth is God's plan is even better and bigger than that. The wasted years are not wasted. The detours are not trip ending. The misadventures have a purpose. For me and for them. And sometimes, these events are allowed, even planned by God, as part of God giving us what we need to develop in maturity.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Two Quarters Quotes July

On the Gospel..

If the devil were wise enough and would stand by in silence and let the gospel be preached, he would suffer less harm. For when there is no battle for the gospel, it rusts and it finds no cause and no occasion to show its vigor and power. Therefore, nothing better can befall the gospel than that the world should fight it with force and cunning. -- Martin Luther

On Life...

Live intentionally.

True greatness is a passionate love for God that demonstrates itself in an unquenchable love for others. Tim Kimmel

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Worldview Question

A while back, right after we returned from Haiti, I posted a question. "What event has most shaped your current worldview? What event has most changed how you see things?" My reason asking that is because it is a question that every person on this planet should have an answer for. It's part of having an examined life, a life and worldview that you have considered and weighed and wrestled with, and one which has caused you to do so with yourself and with God. If someone hasn't given much thought to his worldview, he ends up with a worldview that becomes his by default. I also think pictures of poverty and heartache are best viewed with one's thoughts on God and justice and hope and love in mind.

I promised that I would post about what experience most changed my worldview. So here goes. When I was 18, right after my freshman year of college, I decided I would go to Romania to work in the orphanages there. I can't really say how I reached that decision because I really don't know. A group based in Council Bluffs did a presentation at a church camp my senior year of high school so I knew of a group that did trips. So without much thought, I contacted them and filled out an application to go on a trip in June of 1997. I was accepted as a participant but then missed most of the training sessions because I was in college and playing basketball and unable to go to the meetings they had due to basketball games. So, on the date of the scheduled departure, my parents took me to the airport and essentially left me with a group of strangers to travel halfway around the world. (Or at least a quarter of the way.) I had never flown on an airplane before. I knew no one I was traveling with with most of the people being in their 40's or 50's with the exception of a married couple who was close to 30. The stark feeling of being really alone hit me once we arrived in Atlanta. The airliner had overbooked its flight to Zurich and they were telling me they didn't know if I would be able to get on the flight. I was scared stiff and I didn't know who to tell because I really knew no one. One of the women I was traveling with noticed how close I was to tears and talked to me a little bit but I was too scared to tell her what was going on. I ended up being the last person on the whole entire flight.

After we got to Romania, the group I was with divided into smaller groups and went to different areas of the country to work in different orphanages. I was still very alone and homesick. But I came to realize it was just me and God. There was no calling my mom, no backing out, and no one who would meet my needs but him. In the orphanages, I got to do all the things I dreamed of: holding babies and doing projects. Our evenings were essentially free and we stayed with Romanian families in their homes. I saw how these families lived in two or three room apartments where every room became a bedroom and then considered how my home had so many rooms and a room that was meant just for me. One night, we traveled to the shore of the Black Sea to worship with a local youth group. Since the translators who traveled with us were high school and college aged, I found myself gravitating towards them. So when the translators said they were going back to the beach, I went with them, nevermind that I really knew none of them, that I was the only American in the group, and that we ended up going out fairly late. One of the translators, Daniel, invited me to a dance club but I declined that offer. I also got to attend a Romanian worship service which meant two hours in a small, overstuffed church with no air conditioning.

But really, it was the babies and children that captured me. I saw so much that was really indescribable. I saw wall to wall children who were bathed and fed and clothed but not loved and held and played with. I saw handicapped children who were essentially treated as discards. They were placed into one room regardless of their ages and all children were confined to cribs. Some of them had treatable conditions like bow legs or cleft palettes that were not treated. Knowing Romanian culture, I would wager that most of those children will be street beggers within the next 5 years. I heard overt racism in a way I had never seen. Orphanage workers would look at the Gypsy babies with total apathy and would make comments like "How can you kiss that baby? He's so dirty." I saw pure and utter hopelessness reflected in the chocolate eyes of children who were still toddlers.

God taught me so much on this trip. He taught me about loving children in a gritty way. He taught me about relying on Him rather than others. He taught me about how priveleged I was. (One of the times I can remember feeling especially insensitive was when I realized the pictures I had brought to share with the Romanians seemed very inappropriate. I brought pictures of my senior prom, pictures that screamed extravagance and wealth, even though I am from a lower middle class family.) He taught me how Communism tried to supress the Gospel but really made it stronger. He taught me how His power in me can enable me to do things I never thought I could do.

This trip laid a lot of the groundwork for being called to adoption. When I first returned, I really didn't know if I could have my own children. Having my own children seemed almost selfish after what I had seen. This trip helped me feel connected to the global church. It has helped me believe that I could go to Peru and Haiti. And more than anything, it has taught me that my God is my God no matter where I am or what I feel, that He is right beside me and more sure than my parents, my friends, or my church.

I'd love to hear your own version of life shaking events so take the plunge and post it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

God and Me 6

from I Hate Other People's Kids by Adrienne Frost, published by Headline, October 2006

I must admit there are days when I don't like myself very much. I must also admit there are days when I find myself charming, witty, and lovely and I expect others to see me in the same way. I think more often than not, this last view is the one I find myself having most. My parents raised me to be confident in myself, to do the right thing, to love others. And for that, I am thankful. But I also know that these characteristics mean nothing if they don't flow out of a love for God. I also recognize that it is very easy to get caught up in my goodness and not evaluate my character for the parts of me that are ugly and not so wonderful. Don't get me wrong. God doesn't desire for us to be hunched over and depressed because of who we are nor does He desire that we spend our lives chasing after perfection and then feeling rotten because that is unattainable.

But He does want us to reflect on what aspects of our lives don't show a love for Him or a love for others. I have especially thought about that this week as I have dealt with the frustrations that i have had this week. I do not handle frustration well. I usually expect things to happen quickly and for things not to need to be redone. When that doesn't happen, it is really easy for me to get discouraged and just let my emotions all hang out. Depending on the situation, those emotions can be being short tempered and angry with others, having a crying melt down based on self pity, or giving up on whatever it is that is frustrating me. As I've grown up, I've come to realize that these responses aren't great, and as I've thought about parenting, I've really felt called to do my best to curb my reponses because my gut reponses aren't great examples for my kids. When faced with situations that frustrate me, I have tried to allow God to help me rather than to try to handle it myself. It's trying to fix it myself that creates my frustration and then often leads to me immediately reacting with whatever emotion or action pops into my head or mouth. I need to try to stop and think rather than just reacting with angry words or a waterfall of tears. This deliberate action should lead to a quick conversation with God about what is going on and how He wants me to handle it. It sounds like such a simple thing but its not. This week, I spent a lot of time vomitting emotions out of my mouth and body rather than letting my actions flow out of the way God wants me to live. I also know that acknowledging this I will be more aware of what I say and do in this upcoming week.

Believing that God has given me all I need for godly living...if I choose to tap into it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More from a waiting heart-Time and the wait

I am not doing well tonight. D is gone to town for soccer stuff. I haven't been sleeping well due to too much traveling. My sleep schedule is all messed up. We stayed out until midnight three nights in one week and now my body is not wanting to go to bed at a normal hour. Last night, it was 3 a.m. or so when I finally fell asleep. And I am missing my kids.

They're not really my kids. They're God's kids. Adoption has a way of constantly reminding you of that. When I start thinking of them as "mine", that's when the sadness and sense of loss start to kick in. And that's where I am tonight.

I don't know if it's because I know there are other adoptive families in Haiti right now who are closer to my kids than me. Or if it's because we've been having trouble getting the processor at Conleigh's orphanage paid and this just feels like yet another delay in getting her home. Or if it's because my nocturnal ways are catching up with me.

I think I am especially struggling for two reasons. First, I think the weight of traveling and leaving two children is finally catching up to me and I am really starting to process it. Second, I think I'm dealing with some guilt because of the way things have gone with Conleigh's adoption. we knew about her in November but it took us until May to get her dossier to Haiti. Everything that could go wrong did. We had a miscommunication with our agency, D's mom was sick so we had to cancel appointments with the agency, D's mom died in the middle of trying to assemble our paperwork, it just took a long time. And now that our paperwork is there, we've hit another delay. Our paperwork has not yet begun to be processed by their lawyer because our payment hasn't arrived. I did not get too worried about sending our payment because I didn't understand that not having the payment could hold up our process. I tried to send it before we left for Haiti but the person I needed to talk to was unavailable due to having a sick child. Then we left for Haiti and were gone for 11 days. Then we got home and I called and got the information but then forgot to take care of it before we left for my parents. So I could do nothing since we were gone. After we returned, I tried to send it but the bank told me the information I had would not work. Back to calling the person who gave me the information. She didn't know what was wrong and said she would look into and get back to me. 3 days later, I called her back and she still didn't know what to do and advised me to talk to someone in Haiti about it. Which I did today. Which resulted in me getting information that looks like it will work. But I also heard today for the first time that we need to get our payment to Haiti by next week because the adoption processor will be gone on vacation soon and not having our payment there would mean our dossier would not be able to be processed until August.

I am not stressed about getting our payment there before this person goes on vacation. I am just sad to know that Conleigh's process could have been held up until August because it has taken us basically a month to figure out how to pay the people we need to pay. I can't help but feel a bit responsible for the length of time that Conleigh will ultimately have to wait. But I also know that this wait, while not okay, is okay. That a lot of adoption is not about my efforts. In fact, I read just yesterday that waiting is not about my efforts plus God; it's really just about God.

One of the sweetest, most selfless prayers I have heard my husband pray was about our wait for Kenson. One night at small group he prayed that God would use our son's smile and personality to minister to the nannies at the orphanage. I know that was not an easy thing for him to say outloud because it almost seems to make light of a child having to wait in an orphanage. Those words seem to offer a haphazard acceptance of the waiting our family has done. But it was about him recognizing that God is still God; in fact He is the God of the wait. And tonight, even though my eyes are teary and my heart feels a bit defeated, I choose to believe that, to choose to picture my God, sitting on His throne, with His foot resting on top of that awful four letter word-WAIT.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Adoption Update

We have been out of the Haitian courts for a while now and have been waiting to get into the first office that leads to Kenson getting a Haitian passport so he can come home. While we were in Haiti, we were told that our paperwork had been submitted to this office (called MOI). So (in simple terms) it looks as if Kensons' passport has been applied for. (If you are reading this to learn more about Haitian adoption, don't take that as the gospel truth. It's really just a simplified version of what goes on in the last stages of an adoption with MOI and passport printing.) We also filled out the paperwork with the US Immigration office which begins the process of applying for a visa for Kenson so he can enter the US. This will allow the visa process and the passport process to be done simultaneously. (Although we can't get a visa until the passport is printed. But the rest of the visa process can be happening.)

As far as Conleigh goes, I'm not sure where we are with that. I know they have looked at our file and asked us to bring an additional paper when we traveled to Haiti. The first steps of beginning the adoption process means that the Haitian processor of your adoption looks over your file and then submits it to first legalization. But I know one of the workers who works on adoptions was out of the country for a week or so plus we have not yet made our payment to the orphanage yet due to us being gone and having trouble getting directions on how to send our payment. But hopefully we can maybe get it sent tomorrow if we can get the directions figured out. Anyway, we are waiting to hear that we have been submitted for and have received first legalization.

Monday, July 7, 2008

God and Me 5

I am a bit of a control freak at times which becomes evident in lots of little things in my life. I usually avoid things that make me feel out of control. Like crazy games that involve blindfolded people spinning on bats and then using said bats to try to smash a watermelon. (Just played such game on the 4th with a few friends.) Or letting the mail pile up for more than a day. Or trying to share the computer with my husband and letting him run the mouse rather than me.

This being said, I am also a creature of routines. Routines make me feel grounded and give me purpose. When my routine is abnormal, I don't do well with getting in my quiet times, prayer time, or journal writing. I know I should do it. In fact, on days where the events of the day have been scattered around, I will even think to myself that I need to sit down and be with God. But I don't do it. These last three weeks have been like that for me. We've been gone more than we've been home due to trips to Haiti and both sides of our families. I also finished the book I was reading for my quiet times so that means I don't have something always ready, that I have to do some thinking about what I will do during my quiet times. All of these problems (lack of schedule and lack of material) are all easily remedied. I just choose not too. So I'm going to try better this week.

I've got a plan. My Bible needs cleaned out and I need to go through all my old sermon notes to see if there is anything I want to keep. I also have been meaning to "mark up" the new Bible I got last winter. I'm a note taker by nature and my Bible is no exception. My old Bible is multi colored and covered in words because of this. My new Bible? Not so much. In fact, I rarely use it except for church because it doesn't feel comfortable. So, that's the second part of my goal. To read some of my favorite books and start writing as I read. And to reveal how truly anal I can be, I will probably be color coding it. Blue for character traits of God. Pink for His promises. Green for His commands. I get more out of it when I read it that way. So now you've seen the part of my personality that needs to control and organize.

If only I carried that into my housekeeping!

Friday, July 4, 2008

No Place Like Nebraska

As we were boarding the plane in Ft. Worth last week, I said to someone "I can't wait to get back to Nebraska." Then I realized how odd that comment probably sounded. Most people don't think of Nebraska as a place you miss or a place you long to return to. But the longer I live, the more I appreciate this place. Maybe it's the pioneer spirit instilled from the generations of my family that have lived here. Maybe it's the farm girl in me who loves the wide open space and sense of freedom that the skies and grasslands encourage. Regardless, there are certain things I love about living here and we're definitely grateful to be home.

"She had never known before how much the country meant to her. The chirping of the insects in the long grass had been like the sweetest music. She had felt as if her heart were hiding down there, somewhere, with the quail and the plover and all the little wild things that crooned or buzzed in the sun. Under the long shaggy ridges, she felt the future stirring. " Willa Cather, O' Pioneers

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Orphanage Experiences-Part Four

Overall, seeing where your children live and breathe is so beneficial. It connects me to them. In some ways, it gives me a glimpse into the heartache and sorrow that have already been a part of their lives. It also shows me that they are being loved. It is hopefully the place where the healing of their hearts began. It reminds me that as much as an orphanage tries, it is not a family and will not be able to replace that one on one, you're my special someone feeling that families should share. It has given me the chance to have a Haitian nanny tell me in the little English that she knows, that she loves me just because I love my son and her country. It has let me serve God by bathing, diapering, hugging, and holding children who may look nothing like me but are still my brothers and sisters because they all carry parts of Him in their DNA. It has made me press on at times when I really wanted to not have the pull of hands eager to braid my hair, when I really wanted to not sit down because I knew my lap would be the landing place for three or four kids, when I really wanted to find an air conditioner and stop sweating. I am so thankful for the experiences I have had in orphanages. I love orphanages because of the resilence you find in their walls, yet I hate them because of the unmet needs they represent. I am always amazed at how faith and hopelessness, how praise and poverty can intersect in such a place.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Orphanage Experiences-Part Three, Differences

There are some differences between the two orphanages we visited, but I would say most of these differences are policy related. Haiti Children’s Home allows parents to visit whenever they would like but does not allow the children to go the hotel with their parents. For His Glory restricts visits to planned trips and encourages parents and children to spend time together overnight at the hotel. Haiti Children’s Home is run by Americans who provide oversight and process adoptions as well as care for children. It utilizes Haitian cooks, drivers, groundskeepers and nannies. There are many American and Canadian volunteers who come and go for short term trips. For His Glory is actually not an orphanage; it is an American run adoption facilitator who does not actually place children for adoption as an agency would. It only matches families to children by maintaining a relationship with the orphanage, Maison de Enfants de Deiu. For His Glory is run by Americans; the orphanage is run completely by Haitians who process adoptions, teach school, cook, do laundry, provide security, and act as nannies. Haiti Children’s Home has around 30 children. The difference in number does make a difference in the personalization of the orphanages. At HCH, which has less children, they do a better job of letting kids experience ownership of both possessions and chores. The children's clothing are labeled and each child has a drawer for their things. Also, the older children share certain chores like helping the little kids get ready for bed and helping with meals. I know FHG would like to do better at these things and has taken some steps like creating bags for the kids to store their personal property in. But it is difficult to work out all of the details when you have more kids. I know first hand through my job how adding more kids really can complicate things. In general thought, Haitian kids seem to struggle with ownership of things. Most kids in Haiti don't have toys and life there often revolves around the moment rather than the future so caring for toys and other items so that they last for tomorrow is difficult for kids at both places to comprehend. Another difference would be location. FHG is in Port au Prince which is a huge city while HCH is in Mirebalais which is a city but in a rural setting. The air quality in Port is really not good because of the street traffic and burning garbage. FHG is also located on what is essentially a converted hotel. There really isn't much space for kids to run and play. HCH has a large fenced yard with playground equipment. FHG would love to be in a more rural setting and is currently working on plans to purchase land to allow this to happen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Orphanage Experiences-Part Two: Similarities

Comparing the orphanages is really not about saying one is better than the other. There really isn't one way to do things and running an orphanage is no exception. But for the sake of those who might be interested, I would like to share a bit about their differences and similarities. Both orphanages are operated from Christian perspectives. Both orphanages employ Haitian staff to care for children and to cook. Both orphanages have a range of children from birth to teens. Both are meeting needs in Haiti that arise from severe poverty, lack of educational opportunities and lack of appropriate medical care. Both dramatically improve the living conditions of the children whom they serve.

Many people in Haiti live in one room huts built from corregated metal and palm fronds. Others live in one or two room cinder block houses. Over ten family members may live in a house like this which does not have electricity or running water. If the family is lucky, they have a well nearby to supply them with fresh drinking water. If not, they carry water in recycled plastic jugs either from a well or from the river. When I say a well, I mean the old fashioned pumps that you pull the handle up and down to make water come from a spout. And when I say a river, I mean a dirty, muddy river that people do laundry in, take baths in, and water their animals from. We have seen all of these occurring almost simultaneously at the river. Sleeping in a small house is tricky and a family may or may not have a mattress to sleep on. I have read that large families often sleep in shifts. Lack of food is a huge problem in Haiti and is a major reason why many families place their children for adoption. Many in Haiti do not eat three times a day; often food is provided once a day. This depends on the family's income as does the content of the meal. Poor families may eat biscuits made by combining dirt with lard and letting it harden in the sun. They may eat only rice or beans. Other families may have animals like chickens or goats that they can butcher occasionally. Some families grow corn or peanuts. We personally saw two farmers planting crops, one using a donkey and a plow and the other using a team of cattle and a plot. And there are fruit trees like pineapple, mango and coconut which families can harvest fruit from. Through the orphanages, Haitian children are given three meals a day plus snacks. They sleep in real beds with real mattresses. They have access to fresh drinking water and indoor plumbing.

These orphanages also provide children with an education. I believe I read that the illiteracy rate in Haiti is close to 50%. That is unfathomable to me as I live in a country where 90-100% of our population is literate. There are schools in Haiti but my understanding is that most of them are not free. Plus children can be seen as valuable contributors to a family's economy so a family may feel it is more benefical for a child to work than to go to school. Both orphanages provide schooling to the school aged children. Both are teaching the children basic English skills. FHG recently switched curriculum and I can see a huge improvement in the English skills of the kids from when I was there last summer to now.

Medical care in Haiti, for the poor, is beyond substandard. It is, in some places, non existent. If I remember correctly, there is one doctor in Haiti for every 10, 000 people. Craziness. Children and moms die in childbirth. Often. Children die from diarrea. Often. Children and grown ups die from tuberculous. Often. People suffer from malaria and other parasite born illnesses.. Often. Couple these medical concerns with lack of access, a superstitious culture that acredits illness and death to curses, lack of basic medical knowledge, and reduced women's rights and you end up with a mess. Both orphanages ensure that the kids do not suffer from malnutrition, that their basic medical needs are met, and that more complex medical needs are tended to and monitored. Melinda, at HCH, is a nurse so she has medical knowledge and is able to personally care for many needs. FHG has a pedatrician who comes in once a week, if I remember correctly.