Thursday, December 29, 2011

Joy in the Middle

Where do we find joy when joy seems elusive? Where do we find it in the middle of death and financial difficulty, in the middle of natural disasters, betrayal, or sickness. Or just in the middle of the common ache of life?

Perhaps it is not joy that is escaping us but that quick emotional high we get from the feel good moments of life? When those feel good moments vanish, where does joy go?

Joy is there and happiness too. But it it not quite the same. It is no longer a happy that is fleeting and fragile crushed by a bucketful of tragic circumstances.

Yes, it's that happy-go-lucky happy that I'm not sure I can find.

But a deep sturdy joy?

A deep seeded, God-is-here-in-the-midst-of-this joy? An I'm-not-afraid joy that claws its way out of the pit of circumstance?

A die-to-my-own-desires joy, a letting-go-of-how-you-thought-life-would-be-because-you-are-trusting-God's-way joy?

That joy is here. It's not light and fluffy, rainbows and roses.

It is joy that fights its way out from your soul, a form of trench warfare that pits joy against your need for control, your anger, your impatience, and your pride. Joy that does not come as a regal warrior who conquered your heart with one swift move all while atop a white horse. It's dirty and disheveled, almost unrecognizable.

We want the white horse, but joy comes on a swaybacked old mare.

We want fast victory but joy is a long lesson.

We want a powerful hero but joy comes in on tiptoes.

Joy is there; it's just not as it seems.

Find it in the small moments.

Fight for it in the chaos.

Choose to believe it will be there.

Because the divine God is almost always about human contradiction. Humbleness makes you strong. Laying down your life makes your life worth more. Being last makes you first. Sorrow brings you an unshakable joy.

2 Corinthians 6:3-10
But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Death and Reality

Just a few weeks ago, while cuddling Kenson in his bed for a few moments after bedtime, he whispered to me “Grandpa’s really not coming back, right?” Almost 4 months after Grandpa has been gone and he is still holding out a little bit of hope that maybe it’s not really the way it is. I found myself amazed at his thinking.

But even this big girl gets caught up in how surreal death is. How many times in the last few months have I felt like this was some really bad dream? Until something pricks my heart with reality.

Something like the words of a 5 year old who really wants his grandpa back so they can go feed cows together. It’s hearing someone recount how the harvest got done by friends, listening as familiar last names from my growing up days, names like Myers and Estes, Griebel, Ritchie, and Slagle, all flow out, mixed in with words like combine and auger wagon and corn. It’s seeing new old pictures of my dad, knowing his hair isn’t going to go gray, knowing his face will forever be that way in my mind, a strange mix of the way he was in the most recent photos with the way he was on the night he died, feeling the heavy weight of my brother on my back as he leans in with tears. It’s knowing that if I am in the car alone, without my kids, that the reality will probably crashing down, because when I am alone, when it is quiet, my mind most often goes there.

There just isn’t a fast way through it or an easy way over it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

May you remember the reason for the season, knowing that the God of heaven, the King of all Kings, humbled Himself to become one of us, all as just one tiny piece of the Greatest Love Story the world has ever known.

From Soren Kiirkegaard's The King and the Maiden-

Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maiden who lived in a poor village in his kingdom. How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist-no one dared resist him. But would she love him?

She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know for sure? If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was a king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross the gulf between them. For it is only in love that the unequal can be made equal.

The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend to her. Clothed as a beggar, he approached her cottage with a worn cloak fluttering loose about him. This was not just a disguise – the king took on a totally new identity – He had renounced his throne to declare his love and to win hers.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Conleigh or Kenson Quotes?

"Mom!  Guess what's in my pants?  Actually, it's in my underwear.  It's a pretend orange!  But don't worry it doesn't have poop on it."

During a conversation on bad smells, "Or you can be stinky like a sweaty boy!"  (Think our kids are the children of a high school boys' soccer coach?)

"Zuuuummmmm!  I'm a Superhero!"-said while running then leaping into the air with not just scissors but also a dinner knife...

D-"I think Grandpa can see you from heaven."
"You do?   You're the smartest person in the world!"

Upon seeing a commercial for Starbucks coffee beans, "I don't want any of those.  They make you cough."  (Say it all slowly...)

After having a child sneeze in my hair, I reminded said child to cover their mouth when sneezing.   The response?  "My boogers come out of my nose not my mouth."  "Yes, and they are probably in my hair."  "What do boogers smell like?"  "I have no idea."  "What do boogers taste like?"  "Really?"  'I think they taste like sausage."

Got any guesses as to who said what today?

Friday, December 16, 2011

'Tis the Season...

For exploding heads?  I have serious felt like my head was in danger of exploding this week.  Waayyy too much stuff going on.  I accepted a short term, multi day sub job which has definitely made my life busier.  I am glad I get to help my friend, Kathy, out by being in her music room all of this week, part of next, and then for a few more days after Christmas break but it means a new schedule and less time to get the normal schedule done.  (As indicated by the gigantic pile of laundry, crumbs on my counters, papers and mail that is everywhere, and the dirty dirty floors and bathrooms.  2-3 days a week is plenty of work for me in terms of subbing so doing a full week is more than what I usually will do.) 

Add to that two church events on Wednesday and Thursday night which meant no extra time after supper and a trip to Norfolk this weekend to celebrate Christmas with D's family and the little time we did have is reduced yet again.  So glad we get to do those things so don't interpret that as a complaint; it's just there's a lot going on right now. 

In addition, there is a ton of mental busyness right now too.  D is finishing up a grad class.  We're still trying to sort out the finances and plans for a house.  We've started the paperwork for another adoption.  Our tax return is being audited and requires additional follow up.  The Christmas shopping is not quite done and I have a few more food items that I need to make for different events.  I have several Etsy orders that I need to finish before the holidays and then will have several new ones to start on once Christmas is over. 

We've been living in the land of loose ends for awhile now and the hectic pace of the last few weeks have definitely made those loose ends seem even looser.  Really looking forward to the weekend, then two days of work, and then a bit of a reprieve.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Celebrate Adoption-Waiting Children HCH

I know it's no longer November.  But I ran out of month and still have some waiting kids that I wanted to post.  (Not that the month really matters...)  Conleigh's orphanage, Haiti Children's Home, has 20 waiting kids right now.  3 special needs girls (Shanaika and Jenny who have neurological issues, possibly shaken baby type disorders, and Kettalaine who I would guess to be severely mentally handicapped with a low IQ) and a whole passel of boys (17!  Many of those little boys came in at the same time as Conleigh and are still waiting for families.  That just makes me terribly sad.  I don't know why but people often want girls, not boys.)  Anyway, here's some snapshots of some of those faces.  Please pass it on and share.



James who has been waiting for a very long time

More of James

Who doesn't need a little guy to get all dressed up in a tie?  This is Jamesky.



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Parenting Dilemma #432

What to do with a child who puts things in your drink when you are not looking?

Seriously...3rd time in like 2 weeks where I have left a drink on the table unattended, returned to take a drink, took a swig and found "something" in my drink.  Today it was pizza flavored hamburger from our calzones.  (Which does not go well with Diet Mountain Dew.)  The other day it was wheat from a candleholder.  Time #3-I'm sorry to admit that I don't know what it was.  But there was definitely something in there.

I'm pretty sure I know which child is responsible.  But I have yet to catch her....

Friday, December 2, 2011

And the stockings were hung...

Not my actual stockings.  Those bloggy people, who have a lovely post and lovely pictures that they have taken of the actual item being discussed, amaze me.  That requires a lot of planning...and a better camera than what I can muster up.
We drug the Christmas things out from the basement this week, much to the delight of the children.   (I love that the morning after we put the tree up Kenson came down the stairs and was slightly surprised and utterly thrilled that the tree was STILL up.)

Then, when I picked the kids up from school today, I overheard them discussion their plans for afternoon play.

"Wanna play Santa after we rest?"

"Yeah.  Ho, ho, ho!"

And sure enough, after lunch, rest time, and snack, they were ready to play.  Conleigh won the role of Santa and Kenson played the child.   He was sequestered upstairs while Conleigh carefully selected items to place in the stockings.  Then, after many minutes of my itty bitty chocolate girl ho-ho-hoing to herself and much yelling...

"Are you done?"

"Not yet."

"Can I come down?"

"Not yet." was finally time.  And they both proceeded to joyfully reach into their stockings and pull out the gifts Santa had left, all items from our toy room.

Let's just hope the Santa who visits on Christmas Eve is a better gift giver than the one who was here today.  I'm guessing an empty egg carton, a lidless dried onion container, and an assortment of fabric fruits are not what my children are wishing for.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Non traditional gift giving-Products from Adoption Fundraisers

$99 flat screen tvs and $199 Nook Colors.  Cheap DVDs and cheap toys.  Black Friday is always full of deals.  That said, I often find myself torn on Black Friday.  I love a good deal and believe God want me to be frugal and thrifty.  But I almost always walk away a little sad about what a consumer nation we are.  It is hard not get get caught up in all the bargains of the day.  But also hard to know that as we spend, there are others who are getting by on very little.  I guess that saying "Live simply so others can simply live." often comes back to me.  (It doesn't mean I don't buy things on Black Friday, just that I try not to get sucked into buying stuff I don't need just because it's a good deal.)

And every year at this time, as we start thinking about gifts to give, I find myself challenge to give gifts that bless not just the person who receives the gift.  There are many ways to do so.  Last year, I highlighted fair trade type projects, things that are were a part of small organizations and were a way for people in developing countries to sustain themselves.  This year, I plan to do the same.  But first, I thought I'd highlight another way to give:  by supporting adoption fundraisers.  I know people have mixed feelings about adoption fundraising.   (I've actually already written a post on adoption fundraising and the various reactions it garners.  If you're not sure how you feel about adoption fundraising or if you just don't like the idea, I'd encourage you to read it.)  Regardless of your feelings on adoption fundraising, I think it is fair to say Walmart, Target, and K-Mart all get way too much of our money.  So why not consider purchasing a product from someone who made it themselves or who is tied into a corporation that is not quite as large as a major box store?  Instead of Bath and Body Works, what about handmade goat milk soap?  Or instead of a skirt from Penney's or Kohls, what about a skirt from someone's etsy shop?  And the best part?  Those gifts are a part of someone's adoption story, a story of God's provision in the life of a family and a child.

Here's a list to get you started:

The Boyd family, adopting a little boy from Uganda
Tee shirts (Jesus Loves the Little Children theme)

The Chambers family, adopting a boy from China
Tee shirts (Chinese characters plus an assortment of other graphics including adoption and Scripture references)

The Waughtal family, adopting two girls from China
Tee shirts (Chinese character plus an assortment of family related graphics)

Lilli's family, raising money for a service dog for their deaf daughter, also adopting another deaf daughter from China
IPAD and quilt raffles
also selling coffee
also gain money by referring families to Circle Pi, a company specializing in creating keepsake videos (list Dubbs family as the referral source)

The Walker family, adopting from China
Goat milk soap

The Ryland family, adopting a teenager from China
Selling an assortment of treaures:  fine China dishes, collectible Barbies, handmade bracelets and watch sets

The Ballou family, adopting from China
Fine art including oil paintings and drawings

Contribute to the grant money available to the family who decides to adopt Olga, a 4 year old orphan in Russa with CP in great danger of being transferred to a mental institution unless a family adopts her
A 31 Fundraiser (personalized bags and more)

Aliyah's family, adopting from China
Doll dresses and skirts, also some are available as matching sets for your little girl and her doll

The Spence family, adopting from China
Handmade hats, hair accessories, bags, and clothing

Feel free to leave information in the comments if you or someone you know is doing a fundraiser with a product to purchase.  I'll happily add it to the list.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fill in the Blank Part 2

And because I know you all are just dying to, Conleigh was not talking about private parts.

Conleigh's disapproval at Kenson's decision to play cowgirl went like this:

"Kenson, you can't be a cowgirl.  You don't have a head of a girl."

Giggle...her phrasing just made me laugh.

A Fill in the Blank

So this morning, the kids were playing dress up.  You know the kind where they look for any item not nailed down and add it to their ensemble?  Like 5 cocktail rings featuring a plastic pink solitaire.  Or not one but three fluffy tutus layered over their pants.

Kenson decided he was going to be a cowgirl but Conleigh disagreed.  In her own words "Kenson, you can't be a cowgirl.  You don't have a _______________."

Now here's the fun part...let me know what you think she said.  I'll fill in the blank with her actual words later.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What's Cooking for Thanksgiving

Just in case you need some last minute inspiration, I thought I'd share what I'm making for Thanksgiving.  We actually had an early Thanksgiving last weekend with my hubby's family.  Then we'll be on to my side's for the actual day.  (My cousin and his family are back from a yearish long stint in India.)

Last weekend, I made Pumpkin Dump Cake and Sugar Cookie Bars.  The Pumpkin Dump Cake is a wonderfully easy version of upside down pumpkin pie, a pumpkin pie layer topped with a crunchy streusel type crust.  The Sugar Cookie Bars I have already posted on.  D requested those and by adding some fall sprinkles, they were perfect for Thanksgiving.  For this week's celebration, I'm making Three Fruit Relish.  It combines tart apples, raspberries, and cranberries with a hint of orange for a sweet and sour, cold salad.  I'm also going to make a dessert snack tray with caramels and fudge.  I decided to try a new Microwave Caramel recipe.  Um, yummy!  And easy!  No worrying about scorching the caramels or overcooking and ending up with hard as a rock candy.  I honestly think I will be using this recipe a lot.  The recipe, as listed, is a bit bland but I personally thought it was much better when I added in vanilla and some sea salt.  I also topped it off with sea salt so it was kind of a take on salted caramels.  I'm also trying a new recipe for the fudge.  Pumpkin Fudge sounded like a grand way to use up my leftover pumpkin puree from the dump cake I made earlier.  It is kind of eggnog meets pumpkin pie meets white chocolate fudge.  And because two new recipes weren't enough, I also opted for another candy with fall flair:  Maple Peanut Fudge.  In all fairness, I'm not really sure I'd classify it as a fudge, more of a candy mixed with a fudge.  I added maple flavoring and then drizzled chocolate over mine.  It has the consistency and texture of a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup but with subtle maple flavor.

Best part of all my efforts?  I have extra so I can use the three candies during the Christmas season either as gifts or as goodies to share.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Orphan Care and HIV/AIDS

Thinks of some cause and effect relationships that you know.  If you're parenting a little one, you might have thought of something like "touch a hot stove, get burned" or "stick a toy in an outlet, get shocked."  If you're on a diet, you might have thought "eat a cookie, gain a pound."  Or if you've just came home from work, your thoughts might drift towards "be late, get yelled out" or "try to use the copy machine, get confused."

I'm guessing most of you did not think "get HIV/AIDS, leave your children as orphans."  The reality is that HIV and AIDS are contributing factors when it comes to why children become orphans.  When fathers die, families fail.  When mothers die, families fail.  When aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers die, families fail.  It's not even that every person in a child's family dies.  It's that when an important link in the support system is not there, the family cannot sustain itself.  If a father dies, there is no income.  If a mother dies, there is no caretaker.  If siblings die or extended family die, there is no community to fall back on.

Most people are unaware of how manageable HIV is.  It is not a death sentence.  We are not in the 80's.  Take 5 minutes and watch this video from Project Hopeful.  I was amazed when I watched it and had to know more.

Visit Project Hopeful to learn more about HIV/AIDS, to find children who are waiting children living with HIV, or to learn how to support their Hope Sisterhood project which enables HIV positive women to support their families through education and empowerment to work.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Kenson made his first stab at invented spelling today.   (You know, where they guess what letters make the sounds, and yes, it really is called that in teacherese.)  You'll never guess on what word?  Beatrice.  As in the town.  B-A-J-R-S.  Beatrice.  He had B-A already on the fridge with the magnets when I walked in.  I heard him saying the sounds to himself "Beeeee Aaaaaaa Chhhhhh."  The "Ch" stumped him.  (Those silly digraphs...they trick kids all the time!)  He settled on "J".  Then I helped him by saying the last sounds but he picked the letters out.  Too funny, I mean, usually kids just spell cat.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Waiting Child Challenge-China's Waiting Child Program

Take 5 minutes and repost this info.  Maybe you will help a waiting child find a home.  

I've learned a lot about Chinese adoption in the last few weeks, specifically in regards to waiting special needs children. Some things I've learned: 

The timeline is crazy fast.  12 months or less, and if you wait to accept a referral on a child until later in the process, the child can end up being under a year old when they travel home.  I don't know how often that happens but it is feasible.  It is also very feasible to come home with a child under two.

It is not crazy expensive in terms of adoption (I would say 23, 000 on average. Remember that an average US domestic newborn adoption averages 20, 000).

The process is stable and does not contain a lot of variation as to what will happen and when it will happen.

The information available to adoptive parents regarding the health of the child is actually pretty good.  (Comparatively, we are still talking about international adoption and trying to understand a child's health needs without actually examining them.  You also have a government trying to share information which means things could be misdiagnosed or the information could be outdated.)  Compared to the information we received with our Haitian adoptions, it's like a book.  

There are lots and lots and lots of waiting kids in China.  The system for locating a waiting child is very spelled out and well organized.  The Chinese government controls every facet of adoptions and so there are several different lists that kids end up being on, all fairly well publicized if you know where to look.  There is also a crazy good advocate system in place in the US, created by an assortment of people who want to see those waiting kids find homes.  If you want more information on the different sites, let me know.  I literally know of at least ten websites dedicated to waiting kids, many of which provide you with great information about specific children through.  

Curious about what types of kids are waiting?  C'mon, you know you are.  Head over to Sharing Life and Love to view a few photos including 5 year odl Wen Wen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Favorite Faithful Living Quotes...

"We aren’t really called to save the world, not even to save one person; Jesus has already done that. We are called to love with abandon."  Katie Davis 

"I have come to realize more and more that the greatest disease and the greatest suffering is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, to be shunned by everybody, to be just nobody (to no one)."  Mother Teresa

"We can worship Christ in our sanctuaries and we can pray to God on our knees, but how we treat — or neglect – the person next door, the poor, every human being, this is how we truly speak to Christ and this is how we really treat Jesus."  Ann Voskamp

"God in His Sovereignty decided you could be born and allowed you to live in a place that has almost everything anyone could ever desire, so there is no guilt that He has ordered your life this way.  The only guilt we bear is the guilt of ignoring the men, women, and children of this world who do not have what we have-the guilt of spending the majority of our time, money, and resources exclusively on ourselves and our families."  Kay Warren

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thoughts from a Public Bathroom

Those of you with little ones who require your presence while using a public restroom know that the act of using said public restroom is always about one really loud comment away from embarrassment.  Whether it's a comment related to the size of Mama's hiney, questions about which bathroom function you are performing, exclamations about the smells in the bathroom or an inquiry about the funny noises that are coming from the stranger using the stall next door, you often are left wondering why on earth public restroom bathrooms are not equipped with some form of sound absorption so at the very least, whatever is said does not echo around the entire restroom for all to hear.

Today though was a first.  There were no words about body functions or body parts.  Instead it was my little boy uttering multiple times "I'm Satan."  I.Have.No.Idea.  So don't ask me why.  (I'm going to go with the fact that he was sort of hissing prior to the remarks and was perhaps pretending to be a snake in the Garden of Eden.  Yes, let's just go with that.)

Celebrate Adoption-Waiting Child Tabby

Tabby has been on the Nebraska Heart Gallery page for quite a while now.  I love how she seems to have a spirit that wants to be positive and helpful to others.  So many teens wait for families because, let's face it, adopting a teen is scary.  But it is doable.  Hard but doable.  I often think of the soccer boys who end up in our house, watching soccer games or eating meals, and recognize that in a lot of ways, those waiting teens are a lot like D's soccer boys.  Just makes me sad.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Celebrate Adoption-Prudence and Practicality vs. Faith and Fearlessness

People often assume that D and I adopted our children because we could not have biological children.   While it is true that we have yet to experience pregnancy, what is also true is that we did not set out to adopt because of that.  We discussed adoption long before we married.  When we were ready to start actively taking steps to begin a family, we started looking at adoption.  Like many people, we came to adoption because we wanted to have children.  But we also came because of a deep desire to do the right thing for children without families.  For me, I had personally seen children in Romanian orphanages and I could not know what I knew and just walk away.

It's not that our adoptions are more noble than anyone else's.  Our adoptions were simply about obedience to God, believing that God placed in our hearts a desire for children, that God gave us certain gifts and talents that made us a family who could parent kids with some hurts, that we knew that God desired us to love the "least of these".  

If you know our story, you know that when I left Romania, I swore I would never be a part of the international adoption system.  I saw how the Romanian government did little to prevent the orphan crisis there and how the Romanian government ran orphanages that were truly institutions.  I saw how it seemed that any money associated with international adoption never made it to the children who were in the orphanages.  I just didn't want to be a part of it.

So we decided we'd do a domestic infant adoption through local, reduced cost agency.  Until our little dream was crushed by the news that because we did not have diagnosed infertility, the agency would not work with us.  We looked at a few other options for domestic adoption, then stopped.

A few months later, we were contacted by our state about doing foster care training specifically with the intent of adopting out of foster care.  After completely the training, inquiring about lots of children, and spending about 18 months with no real leads, we were certain we had come to a dead end.  We opened ourselves up to not just more permanent situations but also foster care and had an emergency placement which taught us a lot about ourselves and what fit our family.  Straight foster care was not it.

So we stopped yet again.

And went to Peru.

And came back feeling like maybe it wasn't the time to have a family but maybe it was the time to travel.  So we started praying about going to Haiti on a mission trip.  And from there, it quickly changed into adoption.  The thing I swore I'd never do because a reality and my life is blessed beyond measure because of it.

Through all of that (and now) it was always a struggle to balance prudence with faith, practicality with fearless living. I want to be sold out for Jesus.  I want to say that no cost is too high when it comes to obeying Him.  I want to love freely, to love deeply, to love passionately with no regrets.

But then the reality sets in.  There are bills to pay.  There are emotional consequences to our actions.  There are relational consequences to our actions.  Things seem to hard, too long, too expensive, too risky, too out there.

Our rational brains go to war with the convictions of our hearts.  Maybe that right there is the crux of faithful living?  That a life lived in faithful obedience is a life full of wrestling, full of more questions than answers.  It's a life full of disequilibrium, a life spent balancing on top of a ball, knowing that at any moment you could slide right off into the land of "too safe" or into the land of "reckless pursuit without regard to godly wisdom."  (And even as I write this, I can't help but think that perhaps the "land of reckless pursuit" is maybe where we're all supposed to be.)

When you consider adoption or orphan care, it requires you to stand on that ball, balancing prudence and practicality with faith and fearlessness.  Our decision to adopt from Haiti took a lot of wrestling.  And where we are now, considering another adoption, has probably required even more wrestling.

How do you get past the mental games where you talk yourself in and out and in and out of getting involved?  I struggle with decision making, especially when it comes to big decisions.  I'm a recovering perfectionist so when a decision needs to be made, I long to make the perfect one even though I know there isn't a perfect solution.  I understand how hard it is to make a decision that is outside of the box.  It's incredibly hard to make a decision that literally means "I've counted the cost to follow Jesus and I'm willing to lay it down."  It--as in my relationships with my family, my friends, my finances, my nice comfortable life with 2.4 all American kids....I will lay it down.  There is no 12 step plan or a how to book on that.  And it's scary to start thinking about what are often considered radical choices.  To wonder where the line is between practical prudence and fearless faith.  But start thinking.  Get on the ball and start balancing.  Start counting the cost.

Livesay family on counting the cost

Monday, November 7, 2011

Celebrate Adoption-Orphan Care in 30-60 minutes

Earlier I posted a list of easy, 5 minute things one can do to be a part of orphan care.  What about not giving a bit more of your time?  What about supporting orphan care by supporting families you know who are ministering to kids through adoption or foster care?

Most people are eager to support families when new babies arrive.  When new, older more independent children arrive, I think friends and family believe that those children are not infants who have nighttime feedings and are very dependent upon the new family.  That leads to the assumption that the adoptive family doesn't need support like a family with a newborn might.  What most people don't know is that those older children need to have some infant moments with their new families, even if the children are 4 or 10 or 12.   That doesn't account for the stress that comes from a sudden change in family dynamics.

We have had two relatively easy adoptive placements.  That said, I had one who did not sleep well for about 8 months.  For a good 4 months, she was up every 4 hours or so.  It was like having a baby.  But no one really knew that except for a handful of friends.  With many adoptions, you also spend every waking moment smothered by your new arrival.  They need you at every moment of the day as they navigate all sorts of new things and feelings.  They miss their old life.  They miss their friends.  They are scared of indoor plumbing.   They are scared of dogs and cats.  I've had a foster child who cried herself to sleep every night of her short stay with us because she missed her mom.  I've had a child who was 2 1/2 but was not adept at stairs or even walking outside on an uneven sidewalk.  You need to be their safe spot and be available.  It's what causes them to trust and love you.  But it is hard to do the things you once did and can be socially isolating.

One Thankful Mom recently posted six ways to support adoptive/foster families, all of which are 30-60 minute tasks.  It's just a wonderful little list so I'm just reposting it in it's entirety.  Consider who you know and how you can send the message that you will care for their family as they love and serve each other.  It may not seem like it's really supporting orphan care but the implications come across loud and clear:  it says we see adoption and foster care as important and we will support you so you can use your gifts and talents to parent kids who need permanency.

Last week’s Tuesday Topic amazed me.  Your responses were so thoughtful and good – I wish we would have all been sitting in my family room, sipping coffee together having the discussion.  I suspect we would have laughed — and cried. Next to Notes on Hope, it may be my favorite Tuesday Topic we’ve done together.
This was the question,
What would have helped you the most in the early weeks and months of adding a child to your family through adoption or foster care? If somebody had asked you, “What can I do to help?” and you were able  to answer anything at all with no shame, guilt, or concern about whether they really would want to do it, what would it have been?
This is what you answered:

Bring Food
Many of you stated that having meals delivered allowed more time to focus on all of your children, but also gave you some contact with “the outside world.”  It does not have to be dinner, as somebody said, even bringing cut-up fruit would help.  Someone else mentioned having dinner brought by friends who then shared the meal and spent the evening with them.  One person wrote that when they adopted a baby, friends brought meals, but when they adopted an older child people assumed it wasn’t as demanding and didn’t bring meals.  I think we can safely say that every adopting/foster family will be blessed by meals.  We don’t need to make this complicated – simple food is a blessing. I remember a friend bringing us “Breakfast in a Bag,” a gift bag filled with yogurts, juice boxes, muffins and other little treats.  Gift cards for take-out were also mentioned – a great idea.  After one of our babies was born, a friend brought us Kentucky Fried Chicken and another ordered pizza to be delivered – what a treat that was!   Cookie dough ready to be baked, homemade soup or spaghetti sauce, a frozen lasagna, will all be welcomed.

Provide Household Help
Several of you wrote that you needed help with laundry and cleaning.  I know we all have a hard time letting people see our mess, but I for one, find it very hard to relax if my house is too messy and chaotic.  A friend grabbing the vacuum or folding laundry while we visited was a big help.  I had a friend once pick up all of our kids’ dirty laundry, take it home, and return it clean, dry and folded.   A group of friends might want to go together to hire regular cleaning help for the first few months after new children join a family, or create a cleaning team themselves.  

Along those lines, a number of years ago I was very sick and needed treatments that were an all day event.  One day a friend came to my house while I was at the clinic, put new, clean flannel sheets on my bed, washed my other set, and cleaned my house with my older children.  I came home and crawled into a clean bed with new sheets and it was pretty much one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.  That was nearly nine years ago and I’ve never forgotten it.  Friend, if you read this, thank you once again.

Run Errands
Picking things up at the store, or driving children to sports practices and appointments was also mentioned as a great help.  If you are already out and about, or if you can add a child or two to the crowd in your car, you will make a big difference for a family adjusting to life with new children.  The first year my girls were in school, a friend drove them home every day which not only simplified my life, but relieved my mind.  As our little ones grow older, we forget how difficult it is to buckle multiple kids into car seats in order to pick up one child from an event.  Waking kids from naps to take an older child to a practice is even worse.  This is a great kindness if you are somebody who is already in the car and happy to run a quick errand for a friend with a new child.

Provide Babysitting or Respite
Many of you said that babysitting would have helped, even if it was just somebody being with the kids while you took a nap.  Some said they needed help with their other kids while they took new children to multiple appointments. Others said they needed care for their new children while they gave some attention to their original crew.  Of course, it all depends upon the unique needs for the family, but this seems to be a need for most families.  Weekends are particularly difficult for Dimples, the lack of structure that she enjoys at school just doesn’t transfer to a long Saturday stretching before her.  We try to fill her days, but one of the greatest gifts we receive are friends who invite her over for a few hours, or even all day.  This Saturday when I’m in Denver, she has big plans with our youth pastor and his wife and she is already looking forward to it.

Respite is a great need for families whose new children have significant challenges.  A family can quickly become exhausted when there is constant raging, arguing, and destructive behavior. A friend who understands children from “hard places” and is willing to give the family a 24 hour break, or even a four hour break, will have an impact far beyond what they may imagine.

Show Kindness to the Original Crew
I’m in the process of (slowly) writing an article for Empowered to Connect on “giving voice” to the siblings of children from “hard places.”  Our original children struggled with our inability to give them attention and time when we added three new children to our family and one year later added another.  They lost us for a number of months as we struggled to figure out how to live this new life.

My friend, Beth, welcomed Ladybug into her family and home, and nearly completely homeschooled her for a year after Dimples came home.   Rusty and Ladybug joined the youth group of a local church and we were thankful for the encouragement and positive adult interaction they received.  It was so meaningful, that we eventually made that our church our new church home.

Friends who will take the kids and do something fun is also a huge blessing when life at home seems to be a load of work or simply tumultuous.  If a family has new children who are raging or crying for hours, the kids may need relief from the stress too.  My friend, Sue, began taking Ladybug and Sunshine to the library once a week, which they still look forward to each Friday.
It is very easy to forget how hard this adjustment phase can be for the other children.  Reaching out to them, or giving the parents a break from the new kids, so they can enjoy the other children, is a real blessing.

Be Present
I have to admit, I was struck by the prevailing theme of loneliness and isolation in the comments.  I hope you will read them yourself, because I can’t express the thoughts as well as the original authors did.  Over and over readers expressed that once the initial excitement died down,  they felt lonely.  The needs of their children may have prevented them from getting out and about; they were stuck at home, alone, living a new life with new children.  It is hard to imagine how very isolating this can be.

Several people said they wished friends would just stop by for coffee, even if the house was messy.  Others used the words grief and loss to describe how they felt.  Some of you said you needed somebody to just listen and not judge or try to cheer you up as you coped with the changes in their lives.  Encouragement is needed.  If you live a distance away, a phone call, email, or encouraging text may be what a mom needs.  Knowing you have not forgotten her, that you are praying may help her through the next hour.

It has been four and a half years since we brought our first adopted children home and for a long time our life needed to become very contained and small.  We simply could not go out much; even going to my bookgroup once a month became impossible.  I hope you’ll be encouraged to know that this month I am going to my bookgroup once again — and I even read the book.

If you missed this post, be sure to go back and read the great responses from everyone.  Please take a moment to add your thoughts – it is not too late.

Thank you for being a great community and sharing my life.

Encourage one another.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Full of Thanks...and Nose Hair

Lots of people have been relaying what things they are thankful for during this countdown to Thanksgiving.  Here's mine for the day:

Today, after church, D asked the kids who taught the Kids Club portion of Sunday school.  Conleigh replied that it was Mashayla's grandma but that she didn't know what her name was.  I told her it was Denise.  Then Conleigh told me that she didn't know the name of Mashayla's grandpa either.  I told her it was Rolly.  Then Conleigh told me how Mashayla's grandpa had a beard and a mustache.  And hair in his nose.

I think I'm thankful that just the four of us were present to hear that gem.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Celebrate Adoption-Waiting Child Victoria


Victoria is an HIV positive child, born in 2003.  An adoption facilitator from the Ukraine shared this information with the folks at Positively Orphaned.

A couple of months ago I e-mailed a picture of one girl, she is HIV positive. Her name is Victoria, date of birth 2003. I am e-mailing this picture again. This child is placed currently at the specialized House for Babies with special needs. Next September she will be moved to the other orphanage as a child older then 9. Today I talked to her doctor and she is really concerned about the girl. Here is her story.
Victoria was born in 2003 to an HIV positive birthmother. At birth she was diagnosed as HIV positive of IV clinical stage. She has been taking anti HIV virus therapy since birth. At the moment she has zero HIV viral load. Until the age of seven, Victoria lived with the mother and thus she has all skills of everyday life as any home child does.
At the age of seven after the mother’s death, Victoria was placed at the specialized orphanage for children of special needs. No one among close persons of the mother’s community or any one of the relatives expressed the desire to adopt her or take her into their custody.
That was obviously a hard time for Victoria. The period of adjusting to the orphanage conditions took a long time. Currently she feels comfortable at the orphanage, psychologically steady and has made a lot of friends among the children of the orphanage and school.
She is attending second grade classes. Her teachers characterize her as a very diligent, attentive, hard working, and very creative girl. From what the caregivers have said, she is a child with a big heart, caring and affectionate. Victoria is very tactful and polite with the teachers and caregivers and friendly with the children. She likes playing outside, watching TV, and doing handicrafts. She can spend hours embroidering or painting. This girl is very homey. She really needs a family.
Moving to the other orphanage would be a great stress for her and no doubt it is a risk for her health condition. She really needs a family. She is available to be adopted internationally.
I hope she will find her family and in my turn I promise to do my best to serve and to promote this adoption as quick as it possible.

For me as an adoptive mom, there are a couple of things that strike me about this post.  First, she is a child who is struggling to adjust to orphanage life.  My Conleigh was this girl.  She lived in a private foster care placement in Haiti for many months before coming to live in the orphanage full time.  (It was actually through this foster care connection that we found her but that's another story.  For those people who say that random postings online cannot find children forever families, it was a random posting online that led us to Conleigh.  A family in Haiti was caring for her in a private foster care setting and was advocating for her online.  I have never met the people nor did I know anyone who was connected to them.  It was a chance posting where I read the post and now that little girl is in our house.)  Like Victoria, it was hard for Conleigh to get used to all the noise, all the kids, all the chaos that orphanage life means.  The other part that strikes me is the report that she has life skills and was relinquished to orphanage care through the death of her mother.  While I personally know nothing of the situation, this sounds like signs that she was positively attached to her mother and children who were previously attached to a parent are much more likely to not have major attachment issues as they are able to transfer that attachment rather than learn how to attach and love.  That doesn't mean older child adoption is easy because it's not.  But that comment sounded very positive to me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Celebrate Adoption-Waiting Child Alice, huge grant!

Following up my previous post on orphan care in 5 minutes, here's my first reposting of a waiting child.  Take the challenge and repost or link up to her Reece's Rainbow page.


This lovely girl was born 6/2006 at 38 weeks gestation.  She is an independent, active, and can move around on her own. She feeds herself easily. She likes to play with toys.  She’s had surgery for her heart condition.   Surgery for congenital cardiac defect 02/09/07 (ligation of patent ductus arteriosus, suturing open oval window). 
Alice is already 5 years old and facing the institution.   Alice has Down's Syndrome.  There are approximately $12, 000 worth of grants waiting to help her family offset the adoption costs.

Celebrate Adoption-Orphan Care in 5

Somehow, November has been designated celebrate adoption month.   November 6th is Orphan Care Sunday with much focus given on adoption.  While my inner cynic says, "really do we need a month or a day?  Even a hot dog gets its own National Hot Dog Day and adoption and orphan care should not be on equal ground with processed pig part.", I do recognize how the designation provides focus and helps to organize orphan care initiatives.

That said, I also see how all too often people hear the stats and see the pictures regarding orphan care and walk away feeling guilty or sad but then don't take action.  I don't really know why because it is exactly those things (pictures of kids in a Romanian orphanage viewed during my last year of high school church camp) that brought me to the place I am, a mom of two Haitian kids.  But I digress.

The reality is that it is easy to do something.

A lot easier than a lot of us think.

You do not have to choose to adopt.  (Even though I will probably go to my grave saying more people ought to.)

The reality is that orphan care can occur in 5 minutes.

Let me give you some 5 minute ideas.

*take 5 minutes from your lunchtime to pray about orphan care.  Or better yet, bookmark a waiting child site like Reece's Rainbow, Rainbow Kids, or AdoptUSKids .  Then visit there, taking 5 minute to pray for a waiting child by name.
*take 5 minutes during your bill paying to write a check to a ministry directly involved in adoption, orphan care, or orphan prevention  (Angel Tree Ministries, a branch of Prison Fellowship, works in the US with the children of incarcerated men and women  with the goal being to prevent their families from failing.  Reece's Rainbow works to provides grants to families who choose to adopt special needs kids.  Heartline Ministries and their Harbor House project encourage Haitian moms to parent rather than place a child for adoption.  Or make a donation to your local homeless shelter/women's shelter.  Most of those place are serving families who are on the brink of falling apart.)
*take 5 minutes to encourage a family you know who is involved in foster care or adoption.  Write them a note.  Pray for them by name.  Send them a gift that shows you appreciate the way they are using their family as a way to love.
*take 5 minutes and repost my posts.  Throughout the month of November, I'm going to share the faces and stories of some children who are waiting for forever.  Would you take the time to pass those faces and stories on?  By reposting on your blog or on Facebook, you may just be connecting that child to a family who is willing to make a commitment to that child.  Ask your friends to repost as well.  Wouldn't it be amazing if you were a part of the link that found a home for that child?
*take 5 minutes to have a conversation with someone about orphan care, even if it's a conversation that you know will be difficult.  (My first choice would be God but you pick whomever you'd like.)  Maybe it's your spouse.  Maybe it's your sister.  Maybe it's your kids.  Share how you know that there are kids who are struggling because their moms and dads aren't around or are unable to provide for their basic needs.  Share that you are wanting to help.  Take a chance and see what the other person says.  Maybe that simple conversation will start a more serious one.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Dentist, His Gloves, and the Children Who Love Them

Today was dentist day here.  Kenson has been once before but Conleigh has never been.  She went last year and watched which given her warrior type personality when it comes to blood, injuries, and medical professionals, we thought that was best.  (Warrior=fight like the devil.  If there is ever a war, I think I want her on my side.)

No tears, no cavities, let's call it a good day, right?

But a trip to the dentist means goodies like a free ice cream coupon, new pink toothpaste, and new toothbrushes.  And the treasure of all treasures:  a blue latex glove.

They played dentist and doctor with those silly gloves once we got home.  It always makes you chuckle to hear your kids playing together while using the words "Now don't bite my finger!"

Look closely and you can see the illustrious blue glove!
But perhaps the funniest part was when Conleigh came into the kitchen, wearing her glove on her foot, proclaiming "I'm an orangutan!"  (In case you're wondering, just remember that monkeys and the like have hands on their feet, something that is fascinating when you are 4.)  And then she tried to climb my refrigerator by pulling herself up on the door handles...

Friday, October 28, 2011

24 Hours as a Mom

You might be a mom if sometime within the last 24 hours...

You find a McDonald's Happy Meal Barbie in the crisper bin of the refrigerator.

You have to give the reminder that a stuffed lamb's hygiene does not warrant brushing teeth with real toothpaste or applying body lotion.

You overhear at lunch, "My feet are tired of eating."  "Your feet are tired of eating?"  "Yes, because the food is going all the way down there."

You may or may not have forgotten to start the dishwasher because you were interrupted by 1.  a girl who is eating cooked broccoli and alfredo noodles with her fingers 2.  a boy who is in the bathroom doing number 2 but feels compelled to use this down time as an opportunity to share about his school day.

You wake up to a little body snuggling in next to you saying, "I just want to sleep like this for a little bit."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

At least we're not picky....

Earlier today I tried to convince my two to go outside and play.  The October sky was clear, the sun warm, and the day seemed to be perfect for playing in the leaves, on the swing, or in the sandbox.  When I suggested that it was indeed beautiful out, I was met with disgust from Conleigh.  "No it's not.  It's not beautiful out!"  she insisted.    "There aren't any rainbows!"

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Different Side of Orphan Care

After my trip to a couple of Romanian orphanages in 1997, my heart was singed by God.  I walked away forever changed.  The documentaries that were coming out of Eastern Europe regarding orphanages were true.  Babies in row after row of metal cribs with industrial fencing on the ends and edges to help keep the babies in.  Handicapped children who spent almost every hour of their lives untouched, forever scarred by the lack of human contact.  Gypsy babies with liquid eyes and wispy brown hair who most orphanage workers considered "dirty" and then questioned how anyone could kiss or hold them.  A poor country crushed by the pervasiveness of Communism, so pervasive that the government literally said it was a woman's duty to have as many children as she could, despite her inability to feed those children.

While I can't say that orphan care is always at the front of my mind, it is there often.  I used to be incredibly frustrated by the way most Americans were oblivious to what was going on with children in the rest of the world.   And then for some reason, orphan care became a trendy topic in churches around the U.S..  More and more people are aware of the way most women and children live.  However, it sometimes seems like the awareness stops short of being a true agent for change.   The focus narrows and often comes to rest on things like Samaritan's Purse Operation Shoebox or adoption.

I'm thankful people give and I'm thankful people adopt.  But unfortunately, those type of programs are not change mechanisms.

If you created a flow chart of sorts that portrayed families in crisis, the path to becoming an orphan, and the causation behind it, you would not find that the lack of an Operation Shoebox gift prevented the child from becoming an orphan.

And yes, it is true that adoption, prevents children from spending their lives alone as orphans.  But adoption or not, that child is still an orphan in his first life.  My kids, no matter how harsh it sounds, are orphans.  Have they been redeemed to some degree?  Yes, but their hearts and lives have been irrevocably changed.  Had we not been waiting, they may have stayed in orphanage care all of their lives.  But the real issue is not that they might have stayed in orphanage care.  The real issue is that they were even in orphanage care.  Even if a million families signed on to adopt, the reality is those million waiting families do not impact the process of how children become orphans.

Orphan care initiatives must do more than address the care of an orphan.  Instead, we as a church, as a community of people, must change our thinking and expand our label.  We need to be focused on orphan care and prevention.

Orphan care without prevention reminds me of an ER room.  Pretend for a moment that in that ER, you watch as patient after patient comes in with severed fingers, each one relaying to you how they had borrowed Joe's circular saw to do a home improvement project and that saw was missing it's safety guard.  How foolish would we be to bandage their wounds yet ignore the bigger issue of the saw?  Or what if a large number of people came in complaining of stomach pains, all of whom were uniquely tied to a family reunion and Aunt Maud's potato salad?  Unless the potato salad is removed from the buffet line, people will continue to suffer.  Of course, we can give them medicine and restore their health but wouldn't it be better to avoid the sickness?  Orphan care without prevention is like watching hurting people, attempting to repair what you can, and then doing nothing about the reason for the hurt.

While there are many reasons for why families fail and are unable to care for their children, a major one involves the health of the women within the families.  Women are historically the providers of care within a family.  When the women are unable to care for the children due to death or sickness, it places a heavy burden on the men.  All sorts of things play into this from AIDS/HIV to malnutrition, but one of the leading causes of death in women in the developing world is child birth.  The Livesay family serving in Haiti in a ministry that is tied to women's health recently reposted these statistics.

Worldwide the leading cause of death among women age 14 to 44 are complications from pregnancy and childbirth.

15% of all pregnancies result in a potentially fatal complication during labor and delivery. Women in the developing world rarely have access to emergency medical care.

More than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year - that's one death every minute. Of these deaths, 99 per cent are in developing countries. The lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy and childbirth in Africa is 1 in 22, while it is 1 in 120 in Asia and 1 in 7,300 in developed countries. (Source:UNFPA)

I have personally seen many fathers in Kenson's orphanage who lost a wife during childbirth (or shortly thereafter) and consequently placed their child in the orphanage.  

Head over to the Livesay blog and read their post on maternal care in Haiti.  Imagine your wife, sister, yourself giving birth in a country like Haiti and then consider how many women do give birth under such dire conditions every day.  Get involved beyond a project that is just about orphan care.  Step up and get involved in orphan prevention.  Vote for the Livesays.  Provide a financial gift to them.  Pray for the women they serve by name.  Don't be a bystander and don't just hand out some bandaids.  Choose prevention.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Call me a rockstar

Quite awhile ago, Passionate Homemaking had a post on how to be a rockstar with your kids. It involved visiting for school lunch and a pink tablecloth.  I think I just loved how the post simplified life, that our kids long for us to treasure them and do things that show they are treasured.  Small things, little things, things that seem very insignificant.  To be rockstar parents, we don't have to be perfect or invincible or able to conquer everything.  But somehow life gets busy and we find ourselves in the trenches, slipping and sliding into ruts as our kids' behavior frustrates us, the laundry vexes us, and the dirty floor laughs at us.  It is unfortunately all too easy to let the day go by and realize while sitting in the quiet that only comes after the kids go to bed that you did not do a single activity with them that involved face to face, "you are a blessing to me" time.

This week, I chose to be a rockstar.  It was not complicated.  It was something I stole from Pintrest.  Say hello masking tape roads!  Of course, I was hoping my kids would fall in love with it.  To be honest, I'm a bit surprised they haven't been more enamored.  (I was hoping for hours and hours of playing.  I think I got 30 minutes.)  But we'll leave it out another day and who knows, maybe, just maybe it will be loved as much as I love it.

Got a plan to be a rockstar this week?  Guess that gives me a valid reason for wasting time online.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Girl....

Apparently supper is a dangerous thing.  Or my cooking is dangerous.

Tonight, amid the pulled pork sandwiches, sweet potato fries, and green beans, Conleigh told me she was having trouble eating it because "it might be poisonous."

Where does she get this stuff?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sugar Cookie Bars

Can I tell you how awesome I am at not buying junk food while grocery shopping?

Can I tell you how not awesome I am at making something fattening?

Last night, I saw a recipe for Sugar Cookie Bars.  (The recipe is smack in the middle of a post featuring oodles of other yummy looking bar cookies.  Things like Marshmallow Blondies and Smores Cookies.)  So of course, tonight, I had to make them.  They were wonderful in a lot of ways.  One of the things I like least in a cookie are sandy, dry cookies.  Sugar cookies, when done wrong have a tendency towards the dry and sandy.  These cookies are not that.  They are slightly underdone but not in a bad way, just soft.  My other gripe about sugar cookies is that they take forever to prepare.  Even if you are not cutting out shapes, they still manage to be a time sucking project.  Not so with bar cookies.  And this recipe makes a large batch.  I did two 8 x 12 pans full.  I did mix some cardamon into my batter and made my frosting with lemon juice and lemon zest.  The photo with the recipe shows a lot of frosting so I went that route but if I were to do it again, I use less.  I thought the frosting almost overwhelmed the cookie.  I let the kids decorate them so we had rainbow sprinkles on half and purple sugar on the other. (Mostly even but clumped up in a few spots.  See the photo evidence.)

Butter, sugar, sprinkles, some footie pajamas...what more could a kid want.