Saturday, September 30, 2006
It's brought a much deeper awareness of my ability to make a difference. It's brought a much deeper revelation of my responsibility to make a difference. It's brought an awe of God's love for people that I've not previously experienced...A passion that has always been in my heart has been ignited...no, it was already ignited...the fire has been doused with gasoline and pumped full of oxygen...
Let me begin by saying that I hate fundraising with a passion. After only 3 days of school, Kaitlyn brought home a catalogue full of overpriced chocolates in cutsie little tins that she is expected to sell to all of the important people in her life. She's only 6!!! I think she's too young to be an aspiring saleswoman! So, I reiterate: I hate fundraising with a passion!
When we started our adoption, we knew we couldn't afford it or even hope to come close. We knew we couldn't take out a loan, as we wouldn't be able to afford to pay it back! So, we had to turn to our community for help. We sent out hundreds of support letters asking for people to sponsor our adoption. We sold half of what was in our house and convinced others to contribute to a huge yardsale. We sold pins and patches at biker events. The youth in our church had a car wash. One of our close friends, a French teacher, had his French Club raise money for our adoption. We were awarded grants. We went to area churches and gave a presentation about our adoption and how it reflects God's heart for people. We became professional fundraisers! And as much as I hate fundraising, looking back, I wouldn't have done it any other way. Because of the fact that we were financially unable, the door was opened for many others to come along with us on this amazing journey. Because of our need, we talked to so many people about adoption. As much as we need and appreciate all of the money we received, the most rewarding part is when other people have started to understand that as much as we love our Ethiopian children and have been willing to fight hard for them, God loves them so much more. Our adoption is such a tangible image of God's love and His willingness to give up everything and fight for us, His children.
So, what does this have to do with 30 Days of Nothing? Well, I was willing to do a fundraising campaign for our adoption, afterall, these are my children! But, I certainly don't want to have to do it again because I still hate fundraising with a passion! But, during this 30 Days, the question for me has become, "What are my primary passions? What are the things that make my heart skip a beat to the point that I am willing to do something I hate in order to achieve my greater passion?"
The answer is Konjo Kids. Right now, Konjo Kids is just a pipe-dream that is beginning to take on some form in our hearts. But, it's going to require lots of money, which is probably the biggest reason for why I've been resistant to the idea. In fact, at the very beginning of our adoption, I was talking with a woman who runs an adoption grant organization in North Carolina. I told her that I really admire what she does but that I really just wanted to adopt my kids and return to life as normal, business as usual, and that I really hoped God didn't ask me to do anything further with adoption, as He had asked of her. She shared with me that she too felt that way during her adoption, yet now she and her husband are doing adoption grants! In that moment, I just knew deep inside that God was going to ask something more of our family. More than I really wanted to give. Because I like my life. It's pretty ordinary, which I really like. My life's never been very risky by my standards. But, I suppose there's something about adopting 2 kids that you don't even know that ignites a risk-taking streak inside of you anyway!
So, following this 30 Days of Nothing, I am in a place where I am taking ownership of my responsibility to make a difference. Adopting two kids out of 5 Million orphans that live in Ethiopia alone isn't enough. It's a start, but it's not enough. I can't save every child. But I can do more. I can't sit back and live in my American luxury anymore. I must make a difference. Not because I'm guilty, but because it's the right, human thing to do. I must make a difference because God is enabling my heart to love people the way He does. I'm seeing the impoverished the way He does. They are full of hope and promise. God wants them to have a hope and a future. But ordinary housewives, librarians, teachers, lawyers, computer techs, doctors, artists, maintenance men, postal workers, 1st graders, preschoolers, ALL need to be willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus to them. The invitation has already been extended to us by God to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, fight for justice for the oppressed. Our only responsibility is to respond and obey and do what the Father is doing. So, exactly one year after we decided to take the risk of accepting a referral for kids that we couldn't pay for, we once again have decided to take the risk of not returning to our "business as usual" lifestyle by committing to doing the stuff that God is passionate about for the people that He is crazy in love with. As Konjo Kids takes on some more definitive form and function, details will be posted.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Also, tonight we will be taking money out of our 30 Days of Nothing jar and spending it at Cold Stone Creamery. Now, this might not seem like a very necessary purchase, and indeed, it is not. However, the icecream is actually free tonight! That's right- FREE. All you have to do is make a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Cold Stone will share some icecream with you. Check it out on their website. We figured that we already have enough money saved up to buy a bicycle for a needy family in Kenya and what better thing than to spend the extra money on this organization that helps kids. And it doesn't hurt that we get to eat icecream too!
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Then, I read Rich's post over at No More Counting The Cost and thought that he was right on the money! My perspective on family size has drastically changed as a result of this adoption. I used to think I wanted a "large" family, which meant 5 or 6 kids. Then I had a couple and changed my mind. Not because I don't like them or anything like that. I am so in love with my kids that words can't describe it. It's just that I realized what a full-time job it is to have kids and how expensive they can be. During our adoption of our two Ethiopian kids, which started as adopting one Ethiopian kid, my perspective changed. There is such need. And we have so much room in our family for these kids. I somehow just know that there are more kids out there who in the future are going to find themselves as orphans and I believe that God has already chosen them for our family. Once you allow yourself to believe such a thing, your house feels somehow empty, as it is lacking those additional voices and footsteps on the stairs. I remember how incredibly empty my house felt on September 30, 2005 as I got into bed. I had just seen a picture of my Ethiopian babies for the first time and immediately knew that they were mine. I was committed to them. And as I snuggled into my blankets that night, there was a pervasive emptiness that literally filled the air in our house as though it were pregnant with the barrenness I have struggled with for an entire year now.
One of my favorite songs, written by Steve Taylor who recently adopted an HIV+ Ugandan girl, says "Float her basket over the sea, here on a barren shore, we'll be waiting for..." I understand exactly what the song is saying, as my heart has labored under that barrenness for many months now. Here in America, the "promised land" of the world, I wait with my wonderful husband, beautiful children, financial stability. I have it all. Yet I have never felt so barren. This barrenness will not subside until my Ethiopian babies are tucked into their beds here in America. What an amazing adventure! Three cheers for children coming home soon, for large and small families, for the courts reopening, for this barrenness that has changed my heart in ways I can't even describe.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
We spent the weekend in a camper at the beach with my parents. As predicted, my mom had all kinds of yummies! Ice cream, Cranberry Almond Cruncy (which she sent me home with!), soda, soda, soda, cheese (that ran out on week one of 30 Days of Nothing), yogurt, cookies, I could go on! She made grilled cheese sandwiches with mozzerela and pepperoni inside, which we dipped in heated spaghetti sauce. Sooooo tasty!!!
I'm extremely excited that Sept. is almost over, but it really doesn't have so much to do with 30 Days of Nothing coming to an end. Well...,maybe just a little! There are thing I'd really like to buy afterall! But actually, my excitement has more to do with the fact that the courts in Ethiopia are reopening and our paperwork for our kids is completely ready to go!!!!!! We're ready for our courtdate!!!! I think there's some major holiday this week in Ethiopia, so I don't expect anything. But next week, let's just say that I'm already living on the edge of my seat and I don't think that's going to lessen any next week! My birthday is in the middle of October. What a gift that would be for my children to be legally mine!!!!
Thursday, September 21, 2006
We're at the end of the third week of 30 Days of Nothing. So, what have I come to a new understanding of so far? That I am more blessed than I ever realized. That while there is this huge taboo in the adoption community about accepting kudos for "rescuing" a child as though that kid is a project to your family, I can't ignore the fact that our little Ethiopian babies are indeed incredibly blessed to be coming to America to be a part of our family. No, they don't "owe" us for adopting them anymore than Kaitlyn and Lucas "owe" us for giving birth to them. Well, Kaitlyn's delivery included 20 hours of hard labor followed by 4 hours of pushing. Maybe she does owe me?! Hmmm...
Anyway, God is helping my heart to understand his heart of justice for the widows, orphans, poor, oppressed, and downtrodden in the world. These are the things that make God's heart break. These are the things that made his wrath burn against Israel. It wasn't breaking the Sabbath or worshipping idols. These things certainly break His heart too, but when He states his reason, the evidence of the nation of Israel having turned their backs on God, it's that the orphans, widows, and poor weren't treated with justice and mercy. Wow. My Ethiopian burakoch (blessings) are a tangible picture of what it looks like for God to bring justice into a broken life, to set right that which is wrong. My babies are so loved by their family in Ethiopia. They have all died with the exception of their great-grandmother, who is brokenhearted with grief for the loss of her entire world. Yet, she knows the hope she is giving them in allowing them to come to America with our family. God always intends to bring unfathomable redemption to the people He loves. This adoption is a most tangible picture of what that grace, redemption, and justice looks like. And to think, all of this because I'm tired of eating rice and ground beef! Suddenly, I can feel my resolve strengthening. If God has helped my heart to understand all of this in just three weeks, I wonder what next week will look like?!
I'm feeling nostolgic, so I'll leave you with a few rather cute pictures from Kaitlyn and Lucas's first few years. And maybe I think I'll find one of Avery and me too. Enjoy!
Kaitlyn used to think she was hillarious with this little Q-Tip trick. I was worried she'd rupture an ear drum! Age 2.
Kaitlyn, age 2 and Lucas, age 1. One of my favorite pictures!
I can't believe I went on a hike in the mountains of North Carolina just a couple of months before Lucas was born! Funny how just a couple of years of being a Mommy can zap your energy level! I think all of the energy I used to have has been magically transferred into Lucas!
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Lucas helped me to come up with today's blog topic. He thought I should post pictures of our family. He helped pick them out. This is Lucas (well, his head anyway!) at the beach this summer.
Kaitlyn was having a completely serious conversation with me when she started making this face for no particular reason...aren't they always the funniest when they're not really trying?!
Now, in light of the yummy supper which found it's way into Avery's "caption me wednesday" contest, I wanted it to be known that the following day, I made due with my 30 Days of Nothing food supply, however, this time I decided to serve all ingredients separately. Also, I opted to not add the black olive juice!
When we did our washing laundry in the stream for our 30 Days of Nothing, I was actually babysitting a 7 year old girl and a 2 month old baby. So, with baby in sling, we walked to the stream. I'll be babysitting him while his mother works 3rd shift for about one month. It's a perfect situation. I get my "baby-fix" and I'm also reminded that they are an awful lot of work!
Actually, it's not hard at all when Kaitlyn takes a turn too! For some odd reason, once bed-time hits, I'm the only person left who is still willing to take their turn! Still, isn't he adorable?!
Monday, September 18, 2006
sandwich meat and cheese
He went for bread and peanut butter and made an executive decision regarding everything else. I don't really have any feelings about ketchup one way or the other normally, but I've absolutely been dying for some this past week! Anything to give the potatoes a different flavor!
It's funny, but I've realized that in addition to the blessing of an abundance of food, I am so blessed with the sheer amount of variety that is at my disposal here in America! We've been eating a lot of rice, and while you can jazz it up, there's only so much you can do and I'm so sick and tired of rice! I've never been so appreciative of the fact that I can eat different foods from all around the world right here in America. Less than two weeks to go...
On Saturday we washed our clothes in a stream, which we walked about 1 mile to get to. It was actually a lot of fun. I think the kids liked it. But they were quite tired once we got home and left their bags with their clothes outside instead of hanging them up to dry. So, on Sunday morning, Lucas wanted to wear his "nice clean sweater" to church, meaning the one he washed in the stream. He asked Kaitlyn to help him find it. They came to me and asked if I knew where it was. They were astonished that Mommy hadn't dried their clothes for them!
And it wouldn't be the same without the worms, bugs, and frogs! Isn't that part of the joy of having a boy (and often girls too!)!?:)
Friday, September 15, 2006
This is Lary and Bob from Veggie Tales. I'm so glad that I have kids, as that gives me a most legitimate reason to watch Veggie Tales, which I think is a hilarious series. One of my favorite quotes is from Larry the Cucumber, pictured above. He said, "I laughed, I cried, it moved me Bob!" So, how does this relate to my blog? Well, yesteday, according to the comments and emails I received, I made you cry. So, today, I'll make you laugh! Saki!
First, our 30 Days of Nothing supper last night was perhaps one of the best meals I've ever had in my entire life. Seriously. Avery's work had a fancy lunch to honor all safety captains. *thinking....Hmmm....I wonder if Avery would think it was funny if I were to start calling him "Captain Safety"....I'll ruminate (ponder) later* Anyway, he brought home a to-go plate for our supper and it was the most delicious filet mignon that I have ever eaten in my entire life. This steak was so tender that a baby with no teeth could have eaten it.
Much yummier than the concoction I served earlier this week!
It is now halfway through 30 Days of Nothing and I fear I will have to spend money on toilet paper. We have one roll on the holder right now and one roll in the closet. I could start rationing out toilet paper. Or we could determine it as a luxury rather than a necessity, which in all honesty, what a luxury it is! Or I could just spend $.79 and buy another roll. I'll let my readers know once I make up my mind. :)
I'm having to ration my dish soap, but I think I'll make it until the end of the month. I only have 2 dryer sheets left. This is a real travesty for me. I use Downy that comes in a blue box. Lucky for me, I still have almost a full botttle of the liquid fabric softener. I hate rice. I also hate ground beef. What a whiner I am! I actually have lots of rice and ground beef, making me much richer and fatter than many of my sisters around the world. And yet, as much of a complainer as I realize I am, God broke into my whiny world yesterday and delivered to me the best piece of steak I've ever eaten all our of sheer love. My goodness! And I thought I loved MY kids!
We still haven't washed our clothes in the stream near our house. It rained everyday this week except for yesterday when Avery was quite late getting home from work and I had a very bad headache. (Thankfully there's the luxury of Advil in America!) When I told the kids we couldn't do it last night, Lucas started sobbing and Kaitlyn shouted, "You always say tomorrow but you never mean it!" All this because they want to wash their luandry in the river!
Also, I am very thankful for a country where there is bug spray readily available. I don't mean for on our skin, though I am thankful for that too. I mean the poison you spray around your house. If you've ever lived or traveled through the south during the summer, you'll appreciate this. We have had these horrible Palmetto Bugs, which are 3 inch cockroaches. They're awful and disgusting and fast. Now, if you're from any other part of the country where cockroaches are associated with filth and eating your food, Palmetto Bugs are different. They're outside bugs that come inside for shelter and to eat the grease behind your microwave, evidently. They don't breed in your house. They just visit, eat, and leave. But theyr'e terrible. The only way to get rid of them is to seal your house up with lots of caulk and spray poison. Thank God for poison, caulk, and my Avery who kills them for me! They're sneaky. You have to hunt them down! But Avery comes to my rescue whenever I see one. So, thank God for the burak of Avery!
Thursday, September 14, 2006
September 14, 2004. I have no recollection of where I was or what I was doing on that day. Perhaps I read a book and washed a load of laundry. I must have cooked supper, maybe spaghetti with salad. There must have been the usual afternoon naps for Kaitlyn and Lucas. Maybe I drank a Pepsi. It was such an insignificant day that it doesn't even exist in my memory.
Yet, it was one of the most significant days of my life. For it was the day that you walked into the arms of Jesus and left behind the disease that kept you bed-ridden for the last year of your short life. You left behind the children who would become my very own. My heart cannot begin to grasp the austerity of that day for you or for those two beautiful children. My heart breaks under the weight of the cries that were offered up to Heaven that day. God must have cried a million tears too. As much as I want to mother these children, I would give it all up in an instant if it would mean that they could have been spared the pain of losing you. I love them so much that I would trade this opportunity in a heartbeat if it would mean that you were still here with them.
How I wish I had known you then. I wish I could have taken you to a doctor, bought you the medicine that may have saved your life. Yet, I know that you were already too sick by then. I wish I could have held your hand and prayed for you in those last days. I wish I could have comforted you. I wish you could have known for sure that I would come to love these children. I hope your heart knew that they would not be abandoned or forsaken. As hard as I try, I cannot imagine the pain of a mother leaving her children behind in an unfair and uncertain world. I wonder if your heart sensed that somewhere out there, another woman had been praying for you for nearly your entire life? Did you know that you could trust God to take care of your babies? Did you know that they would once again know a mother's love? Did you know that another woman could love them as much as you did? Did you know how much I would love and honor you? Respect you? Look forward to meeting you face to face in Eternity?
Though I never knew you, I will know a part of you in these children, your children, my children. Our children. The blessings of God in your life, both the blessings He intended and the blessings that were never realized, are waiting to be realized by these babies. In looking at the blessings inside these two little hearts, I will see you. I will see God.
God never intended for mothers to die. He didn't create us to know disease and death and pain and sorrow. Yet we live in a broken world where these things are a reality. While His intentions toward you and me and these children are good, from the dawn of creation, He also knew that your life would be cut short. I am humbled beyond words to know that I have been hand-chosen by God to mother these children. I am humbled to know that I am being entrusted with the most cherished possession that any woman can have. It seems trite to say, "Thank you," yet from the deepest recesses of my heart, I am so thankful that I get the opportunity to love and be loved by these little ones. Though you had no say in their adoption, I still say thank you to you for giving life to these children. They are yours. They are mine. They are God's. Our son is so excited that in America the name "Justice" will be added to the name you gave him. We chose "Justice" because that's what God's heart is for the orphan child. Justice- to set right that which is wrong; to bring redemption out of tragedy. To our daughter's name we will add "Zoe" meaning "life." For that is indeed what God intends for her. Life. Not the breathing, getting out of bed each morning kind of life. But real Life. Vibrant life. The kind of life that lights up a room. The kind of life you surely wanted for her to know. I commit to you and to God to train these children up in the way that they should go so that when they are old, they will not depart from it. I look forward to the day when I will meet you face to face in Eternity.
Mother to Mother with Love
The Orphan Song- Click Track 7 to Listen
Recorded by: The Newsboys
Maybe I push when I meant to be still
Maybe I take it all too personal
Jesus, how to reconcile
The joyful noise
The ancient land
The tug from some invisible hand
The dying mother weaving bulrushes
Along the Nile
Float her basket over the sea
Here on a barren shore
We'll be waiting for
A tailwind to carry her orphan's cry
Don't you worry child
I wrote a lullaby
I try to settle, but I just pass through
A rain dog, a gypsy
A wandering Jew
All those homes where not ours
Then slept one night in Abraham's field
And dreamt there was no moon
The night he died
Float her basket over the sea
Here on a barren shore
We'll be waiting for
A tailwind to carry an orphan's cry
Don't you worry child
I wrote a lullaby
Building you a home
Building you a home
Building you a home
We're Building you a home
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Pictured above is the supper I cooked. I don't really know what it's called, as I sort of invented it as I went. I don't think there will be a need to copyright the recipe that I'm about to share with my readers either!
First, I cooked rice in a pot, and ground beef in a separate frying pan. I had something in my cupboard called Mole Sauce (A friend moved recently and gave us all the food that was in their cupboards). I'm not a big fan of Mexican food, so I wasn't exactly sure what this sauce was used for, but the label said it was for meat. Ground beef is meat. I mixed up this mole sauce thinking I'd stir it into the ground beef and serve it over rice. In retrospect, I understand that this is not a very good idea! Once the sauce was mixed up, it smelled so bad that there was no way I was going to try to eat it! Especially not in the manner that I had thought up.
So, it's now just 30 minutes before Avery is supposed to get home from work and I have...well, I have ground beef and rice for supper. Isn't hindsight always 20/20? If I could go back, I would have just cooked some vegetables for a side dish and stopped there. But nooooooo. That's not what I did! I decided to stir barbque sauce into the meat. In Pennsylvania, they call this "barbque" and I am from Pennsylvania after all! Well, I didn't really have enough barbque sauce, so I found a little bit of salsa in the fridge. Still, there wasn't really enough to constitute a sauce. So, I added half a can of spaghetti sauce, brown mustard, and brown sugar in an attempt to simulate Pennsylvania barbque. It didn't really work out. So I decided to stir the rice into the meat mixture. Then it seemed sort of plain. So I added some frozen peas, which seemed lonely. So I added frozen corn. Then I remembered the peppers I had picked in my garden and frozen last week. Throw in a cup of frozen sweet bell peppers. Still....it needed something more. Oh yea! I had half a can of black olives in the fridge! Then, it was time for some spices. Salt..Pepper...and...hmmm...that's it....BASIL! Lots of Basil! It tasted...um...a little off. Like it just needed a little bit more of something else. Something like...1/2 cup juice from the black olives. But, what could I use for color? That's right! The tomatoes in the garden needed to be picked anyway. Throw in some cut-up peeled tomatoes and voila! The only problem was that it tasted absolutely awful! Seriously bad. But I didn't have anything else prepared, and isn't 30 Days of Nothing supposed to be about appreciating what we have and not wasting as much? So, I served it up with a side of fruit cocktail. Lucas ate every bite without complaining, which was a small miracle. Kaitlyn was actually pretty sick tonight, so she didn't even taste. I ate enough that I won't starve to death before tomorrow. And my most supportive husband ate every bite on his plate without complaining! He did thoughtfully suggest thought that I might just want to throw the leftovers away. Advice which I heeded by the way.
Now, I have come to a point in my cooking ability that I recognize what a horrible idea this was. I wish I'd have seen it in the moment, but I didn't. When we first got married, I used to cook this way all the time. I didn't know any other way to cook! I actually cook pretty decent now. I just have these little slip-ups every now and then. It keeps Avery appreciative of how much I've learned over the past few years! :)
Monday, September 11, 2006
All was well. The birds were singing. What a glorious morning it was! When we got four houses away from our driveway, Lucas said, "My feet are tiiiiirrrreeed." (Insert 4-year-old whine here for full effect) I knew then that it might be a long walk! I'm a smart mommy though, and I brought along snacks in my backpack for the kids. Keeping them eating helped as we walked on. To get to our church, we have to leave our little residential neighborhood, walk through a not-so-good area (unless you don't mind drug dealers under the bridge), and then walk down the side of a highway for a little while. Now, the drug-dealer area wasn't bad at all. I've never been a drug dealer, so I'm probably not qualified to speculate here, but my theory is that drug dealers don't wake up early in the morning on the weekends. There were a couple of kids playing in a stream, but nobody else was anywhere to be seen. The highway was a little trickier, but not that bad. We were mostly able to walk through parking lots in order to avoid walking in the grass next to the road. While I remembered to bring snacks, I didn't bring any "bug-bite medicine" as my kids call it. Wouldn't you know they were both itching their arms and legs fiercely by the time we arrived to church. I tried to convince them that rubbing spit on the bites is a natural remedy, but it did little to alleviate the itching or the whining. We had two people stop to offer us a ride, one person honked and waved, another slowed down to gawk at us, and we found out later that somebody we know saw us walking and wanted to offer us a ride, but they were too embarassed because their car was messy.
By the time we arrived, both kids throroughly understood that we were very fortunate to have a car. A few weeks ago we had an orphan child from Uganda stay with us for the weekend. Because we were able to make that personal connection with the kids, explaining that in Uganda, kids like Oliviah have to walk many miles to go to church, Kaitlyn and Lucas actually understood! This was perhaps one of our most successful projects so far. They really got it. I really got it. Because we had worked so hard to get to church, I really wanted to be there. Though I was hot, sweaty, and dirty (don't ask me how!) by the time I got there, I was so ready to worship God! In America, it's so easy to find Jesus that most of us don't bother to really look, myself included so much of the time. Why is human nature like that?! Why do we want the things that are hard to get? Yet when it's starring us right in the face, we become complacent.
Anyway, people at church thought we were crazy for the most part. People just kept asking us why. I think I'm going to print off some slips of paper with my blog address on it so that I can just start handing them out rather than keep explaining. Some people thought our 30 Days was really cool. Others sort of rolled their eyes, no doubt thinking "Heather and Avery are soooo strange!" One woman suddenly felt guilty over her own life, which isn't laden with consumerism by any means. I just encouraged her that there's no need to feel guilty, but there's a huge need to go to God and ask Him what He wants you to do about the poverty in the world. Then do it.
Now, when it was time to go back home, the North Carolina sun was burning bright. I can't remember how many offers we had to drive us home. It was tempting, but we really wanted to push through this and walk home too. So, we declined and set out on our homeward journey. Car after car after car leaving the church pulled over to try to give us a ride, assuming our car had broken down. One man asked if we needed a ride. Avery said, "No, we chose to walk today." In wide-eyed disbelief, he asked, "WHY????" What kind of lazy society do we live in where people don't choose to walk to church just for the enjoyment and exercise! We both laughed so hard when he asked us that. We explained our reasons, and he seemed to understand. I would probably not want to know what people who know us say about our family. We do some of the most crazy, daring, adventerous things. But I love my life! Seriously, I absolutely love our family and the adventure we live.
Someone at church knew we were doing 30 Days of Nothing, so after making sure it was okay with me, she bought the kids some Oreos. I, smart mommy that I am, saved the Oreos in the backpack as an incentive to walk home without whining. For you see, kids who don't whine get to eat Oreos! It worked like a charm. The prospect of eating Oreos even kept Avery and me from whining too much!
When we passed by that stream in the drug-dealer neighborhood, we stopped so that the kids could play in it for a minute. It was still peaceful with no sign of life anywhere. Must be that drugs make you sleep in on Sunday mornings! I wouldn't know, but that's the conclusion I drew. Now, as the kids were walking down the embankment to the stream, I noticed the grafiti on the side of the bridge. Kaitlyn also noticed it. She excitedly ran back to me exclaiming, "Mommy! Mommy! Somebody painted a really pretty picture down there!" INNOCENCE! I love it! While we sat on the banks of the stream we got to talking about how people in poor countries have to wash their laundry in a stream just like this one. Kaitlyn and Lucas are actually starting to get into this 30 Days thing. They asked, "Can we bring our clothes down here and wash them in the stream to see what it's like?"
So, this week we'll be focusing on the blessing of clean water. And we'll each be carrying an outfit to the stream to wash it later in the week. Again, I'm very thankful for Advil after that long walk!
PS Dear Blogger Police: Please don't infer from this post that we would ever put our kids in danger or expose them to drug dealers! We strive to keep our kids safe, perhaps to the extreme at times! Drug deals can happen anytime at anyplace. Even in your neighborhood! We happen to be aware of what goes on in our town because we care so desperately about our kids and their safety. If you are so naive that you actually believe there isn't this kind of thing going on in your town, then perhaps you're the type who has this going on right under your nose without realizing it.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Yesterday though, prior to our date, I worked all day cleaning up the yard from Ernesto, which breezed through North Carolina last week.
We have 13 pine trees in our back yard, so there was a lot of clean up to do. Lucas helped me too. As I was doing all that raking and hauling off branches, I thought of how strong my African sisters have to be who don't have the luxury of machines to do so much of their work. My African sisters who know how to clear a field and plant and weed and harvest. I worked all day long and finally got it cleaned up. Then I took some Advil to help stave off the sore muscles I knew I was bound to have, for I am definitely NOT that strong! And I've continued to take my Advil every four hours, which has enabled me to be only slightly sore considering how hard I worked. I realized what a blessing it is to have such easy access to something as simple as Advil. I have a bottle of it in my medicine cabinet. And if it runs out, I'll just go to the store and buy some more. What a luxury and a convenience. And my backyard, while small in comparison to some, is a sanctuary that only a lucky few around the world possess. After all my hard work, I can kick back and enjoy something that most people in the world have no potential to ever own.
So, now that we've been through an entire week of fasting from consumerism, what has God done in my heart thus far? For the first couple of days, I could feel guilt trying to push its way into my heart. Guilt over the fact that I waste more in a day than some families have in a week. Guilt over the fact that life in America is so easy for me. I have so much while others have so little. Then, after the guilt started, I started to question why it is that some have to struggle so much while others just walk in blessing everyday of their lives. But, I know that God does not want us to feel guilty. So, I asked Him to help me understand what it is that He wanted me to be getting out of this experience. I'm starting to understand.
The guilt is gone. Well, mostly. Instead, I am finding myself more grateful and cognizant (aware) than ever before of the many blessings in my life. It's as though God is opening my eyes to a realm of blessing that I didn't realize I possessed. I'm so rich in so many ways. I'm noticing the little things God has given me. My clean sheets that smell like my favorite fabric softener. The shade in my backyard. Lucas snuggles in the morning. Kaitlyn hugs in the afternoon. The fact that soon (Nov. hopefully) I will have two more little ones running around. My husband. My patient, loving, gentle, strong husband. Adventure and unpredictable excitement in my life. Cold, clean water with ice in my glass. A relationship with God that fills me with love, faith, and peace like I've never experienced before. Flowers. Friends. The blue sky. Air conditioning...I could go on...
God has given me all of these things just because He loves me. But the hard part to reconcile is that God also loves my sister in Africa who walks five miles each day to get water for her children. He loves the "invisible children" of Uganda who walk 20 miles each night just to find refuge in the cities from terrorists. His heart breaks for the baby girls of China who are discarded as though their beautiful femininity were a curse when He meant it to be a blessing. I know that tears fall from His eyes each time another Emaye (Mommy) dies from AIDS in Ethiopia. How does one reconcile that and actually feel the liberty to enjoy the blessings that we have in America?
I don't have all the answers yet. I do know that some of the blessings we keep to ourselves are really meant to be shared with those who don't have. I do know that God loves the hurting people of the world. I do know that the things that break God's heart are widows, orphans, the poor, the downtrodden, the oppresed by society. I know that He intends for justice to be carried out in the lives of these people. I know that at any moment, He could reach down and squash like a bug those who are perverting that justice. Yet, I also know that He's not a tyrant. While He intends for all of those things to take place, He intends to use ordinary people to carry out that justice. We're all intertwined in a way we can't exactly see. He blesses us because He loves us. He blesses us because He loves them. He blesses us so that we can bless them. And as I knew on Sept. 1, this 30 Days of Nothing is just the beginning for our family. Not that we'll fast from consumerism forever. But there is so much more for us to do in the world...Hmm...I wonder where I'll be in another week?!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Today while Kaitlyn was at school, Lucas and I took a walk. You see, we're out of hair conditioner so I indulged in buying some, a luxury to many of my sisters around the world, yet just another thing I take forgranted. Rather than drive the 1/4 mile to the store, we walked. At first, he thought it was lots of fun. About half way there, the complaining started. He is only four. I explained why we were walking. He said, "Oh. It's so we don't run out of gas." I said, "Yes. And the money we're saving on gas we can put in our jar for the family's bike." That satisfied him. Then all at once, he realized that his brother and sister in Ethiopia are just as poor as the family in Kenya that we are helping. Kind of sad, he said, "I wish my brother and sister could come home to America forever." HE GOT IT!!!! He understood that they are very poor in their country and that they need to be home with our family. So, at the store, I chose the conditioner that was on sale. Then when I got to the checkout counter, the clerk informed me that she had a coupon for it and I ended up getting it for 50% off the sale price! So, I gave Lucas the leftover money for in the jar. That's when he saw some candy he wanted. When he asked me for it, I reminded him that we're not spending money this month. He rolled his eyes and said to the clerk, "Oh yea, we're having a year of NOTHING!"
When Kaitlyn got home, we needed to mail a small package, so rather than drive, we all walked to the post office. My goodness, I wonder how much time each day my sisters spend walking. Walking to get clean water (if clean water is even available) and food for their babies. Walking to the river to wash clothes. Walking to their place of worship. Walking their children to school, when they're able to afford the cost of education. I have the utmost admiration and respect for these women. To my sisters around the world, I say kudos to you for your strength. Or as they say in Ethiopia, Gobeznesh- You are strong.
Confession: I bought something yesterday!
I bought some yarn to make a baby blanket for a dear friend who is bringing her little Ethiopian baby, Daniel, home to America in just a few days. I got really soft yarn in green, yellow, red, and black. You guessed it- Daniel's little blanket is going to be the colors of the Ethiopian flag. Also, we had some digital photos developed at Walmart so that we could send them to the orphanage in Ethiopia where our kids live. When Avery was there, the kids were the ones who did most of the photography, so we printed the ones that were important to them so that they could have them. I meant to buy conditioner, but when Lucas had a complete meltdown over his desire to have "Spwite" to drink, I decided that the conditioner could wait for another day. As though I would reward a screaming 4-year-old by giving him what he wanted, hence reinforcing to him that Walmart is a most acceptable, appropriate place to have a meltdown!
Resisted Temptation: I didn't buy anything from the sewing section except for yarn!
I'm certainly not Martha Stewart, but I do enjoy doing certain types of crafty things. I'm working on a project. For each of our four kids, I'm collecting squares of fabric that I will eventually sew into a quilt to be given to them when they graduate from high school. The squares are all chosen for a reason, which I write down on a piece of paper with a square of the fabric attached. Walmart had so many cute new fabrics in, and while I did look, I didn't buy any. All we need for this bicycle for the family in Kenya is $60. Seriously, every dollar counts. Kaitlyn contributed a dime she found at school to the 30 Days of Nothing jar. She's a doll.
Huge Blessing Regading Motorcycle:
Okay, now for the thing that blows my mind. As though God has not been good enough to us already, He's really proving His provision to us this week. Yesterday, I got a phone call from a very good friend who said that she and her husband had an extra car and they wanted to let Avery use it until he could get his bike fixed. Wow! Having just one vehicle this week has been somewhat inconvenient, but we've also realized in our inconvenience how incredibly blessed we are to even have a car. Yet still, God has provided a replacement. It gets better though...
While I was on the phone with my friend, Avery got a call on his cell phone (Yea, I wonder how many people around the world have even just one telephone?). It was another friend calling to say that when he heard that Avery's bike had broken down that God had impressed on his heart to pay for the repairs. He said to get it taken care of and bring him the bill.
After our phone calls, we sat there in astonishment at God's goodness. I can't even understand how or why God loves us so much. We're just ordinary people doing our best to see the things that are important to God accomplished in the world and in our lives. We fail so miserably so often. Even after God has provided $20,000+ for our adoption, and given us so much favor, I still have days where I loose faith and cry to God that I just don't understand. And still, I can honestly say that God has never let me down. Not one single time. Even when tragic things have happened in my life, I can honestly say that God was right there with me. He loves me so deeply, so much more than I can understand. And it has absolutely nothing to do with anything I've done. It's just because of who He is. He's God. He's my Father. I'm his daughter. That's enough. Wow.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Now let me back up a little bit. This month marks one year since the referral of our Ethiopian kids that we are adopting. From reading up on Ethiopian adoption, realize that it is unusual for an adoption to take this long, but I guess our family is a little bit unusual too! Part of the deal for us in this adoption is that we have to pay $350 each month for fostercare for our kids while they're still in Ethiopia. At the beginning, we were told to expect 4-6 months, so I calculated fostercare for 7 months just to be on the safe side in figuring out how much this would cost. At the end of this month, our grand total so far for fostercare will be $4,500, a whole lot more change than we originally counted on. We still need a van too, as our little car isn't equipped for four kids. There's just no way to set aside money for a van with this kind of fostercare expense. This has been very overwhelming to me lately and has had me worried. And I'd be lying if I didn't say I've gone to God a few times asking Him why it's had to take so long; why it's had to be such a financial strain to do this thing.
A few nights ago I had a very rough night where everytime I woke up I was having another dream about our kids not being able to come to America. I woke up the next morning exhausted and sad, which opened the door for all of the "what if" questions to start creeping in. What if their paperwork never gets finished? What if they don't get a courtdate? What if they're never released to come to America. What if this thing goes on for yet another year? What if...
Then Avery's motorcycle breaks down right at the beginning of this 30 Days of Nothing. Yea, real convenient, huh?! Resist the urge to buy unnecesary things for the sake of breaking the grip of American consumerism while helping a family in Kenya that doesn't have transportation and Avery's transportation breaks down!!! Does anyone else see the irony?!?!?! Well, God is very faithful. A dear friend in Bikers for Christ gave Avery $100 for our adoption. Then, an anonymous person from my parent's church in Pennsylvania sent us $50. That makes $150. Then, there's this woman I've never even met from New York. We "met" via an Ethiopian Adoption user group on yahoo. We've coresponded for a while now and have become fast friends. Her support and encouragement throughout this adoption has been invaluable. She has prayed for our family through some of the darkest days of this adoption. I've also prayed for her family in their adoption of their baby boy, whom they are going to bring home from Ethiopia in just a few days!!! Lately, I've been praying for their finances, asking God to provide the final $1,800 they needed for their adoption. Well, I got a card in the mail from her and her husband yesterday explaining that out of the blue, they had received a check tucked inside a card for $2,000! Now, one of the things that Christians practice is something called "tithing." Tithing is where you commit to putting 10% of the money you make back into the things that God is working to accomplish here on earth. For some, this is very difficult. But Avery and I have always given back 10%, even in the most desperate of times, even throughout this past year. We believe that the things in the Bible are true, and one of the things the Bible says is that if you will trust God enough to give back 10%, then God will be faithful to provide for you. We're even told in the Bible to test God by doing this. Avery and I have always tithed, and we have ALWAYS been taken care of. There has never been a time when we didn't have what we needed when we needed it. We've seen times much leaner times financially than these, but even then, we always had what we needed. Well, 10% of $2000 is $200. That left my friend with the $1,800 I've been praying that she would receive. And her and her husband prayed and felt like God wanted them to give us the other $200. That brought our total to $350- the exact amount we have to pay for fostercare each month. Which also frees us up to use the money we would have had to use on fostercare to take care of Avery's motorcycle. Which also gave my heart so much encouragement to continue on with this journey; strength to stand.
Sure, the bike breaking down is money we'll have to spend, but hey, it's not like we're breaking this 30 day fast from consumerism to go drink milkshakes at McDonalds everyday! :) To me, the really cool part is how incredibly faithful God has been to us. He loves us so much more than we can understand. I've heard it said that you can't outgive God. Here we are, saving pennies to help a family in Africa, fasting from consumerism in order to invite God to speak to our hearts about some things. And even so, God has given us back so much more than we can give. He is so faithful. He is the faithful God who will bring my kids home to me. It's not an agency, not MOLSA, not my own persistance. It is God in his faithfulness and sovereignty that will bring my kids home.
Oh yea, one more cool little thing about this 30 Days of nothing thing. There was some meeting at Avery's work yesterday where they provided lunch for everybody. When Avery walked by the room later, he saw that there were leftovers that he brought home for our supper last night! So, we not only were able to save some of our rice and vegies and venison for another night, but we got really yummy deli-style sandwiches from Arby's and much to my kids' delight, curly fries!
So, one of the biggest things my heart is already understanding on an even deeper level than before this 30 Days of Nothing is that God is generous beyond my wildest dreams and He will take care of my needs and He even cares about our desires. I can only imagine the smile it brought to God's face yesterday to see my kids smiling and eating up their curly fries! :)
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Now, about this 30 Days of Nothing...
I went to the store last night. We were out of shampoo and there are still 25 days left. Enough said! I did resist the urge to buy pretty hair clips for Kaitlyn!
30 Realizations for 30 Days of Nothing:
1. Having spent only $98 on groceries for our family of four for the entire month of September, I still haven't come even remotely close to living like much of the world lives.
2. Firstly, I actually had $98 to spend on groceries.
3. My cupboards are full.
4. In fact, they're overflowing with food.
5. Despite the fact that there isn't going to be a whole lot of variety this month, I have enough spices in my cupboard that we can have a different flavor of rice every night without having to repeat anything.
6. I have enough rice to last for an entire month.
7. My kids can eat as much as they want.
8. There is no need in my house for rationing our food.
9. I have hot running water right in my kitchen.
10. I have a kitchen in my house.
11. I have a house.
12.I have a stove in my kitchen where I cook the food that I just pulled out of my refrigerater.
13. I have a refrigerater.
14. It's full of food.
15. I can't count the times I've had the audacity to complain that I couldn't find anything to eat, which really meant that out of all the food in my house, none of it appealed at the moment.
16. If we did run out of food and money, we wouldn't have to be hungry.
17. We could turn to our church for help.
18. We would go "shopping" in their food pantry.
19. My kids wouldn't have to be hungry.
20. I wouldn't have to go hungry for the sake of feeding my kids.
21. I have never had to make such a choice.
22. And if I did make such a choice, it would probably be due to the pride that would keep me suffering in silence rather than an actual need for that kind of sacrifice.
23. I have thrown away enough injera batter to feed my Ethioian kids' entire orphanage a high- protein breakfast for a month.
24. If I ask God to open my eyes to the reality of my wealth and my waste, He will do it.
25. God isn't helping me to see this so that I can feel guilty.
26. God doesn't motivate people by making them feel guilty.
27. God wants me to recognize my waste so that I can reign it in and steward our resources better.
28. Our wealth isn't for us alone.
29. God has blessed us as Americans so that we can bless others.
30. Saving money so that a family in Kenya can have a bicycle for making a living is just the tip of the iceberg for our family...
Burakaeyae (My Blessings) thus far:
1. Avery designed a logo for Bikers for Christ several years ago. This weekend, we discovered that it has been used on a T-shirt, which we could have purchased at the BFC retreat. But, that definitely would have broken our fast from consumerism. Later in the evening, knowing nothing about our 30 Days of Nothing, Pastor Fred Z, founder of BFC, pulled Avery aside and gave him a T-shirt for him and one for me too! I've come to know God as my Father and He is so lavish with me. Certainly, a T-shirt isn't exactly a need for me, as I have plenty of clothes. But our Father wanted the pleasure of watching His kids enjoy a little token of His affections.
2. I fed my kids donughts for supper at the BFC retreat. I didn't have to do that though. God already had it taken care of. We enjoyed fried chicken and salad, compliments of Stillwater Lodge. We didn't have to eat donughts just because they were there. God gave us something much better. Next time I will trust Him more. This made me realize that I've been worried about the fact that I'm soon going to have four kids, yet I drive a sub-compact car! Definitely a problem, especially since three of them are still in car seats. I've tried to figure out where a larger vehicle would come from. How will we pay for it? We've already spent $4,200 on fostercare for our kids in Ethopia, far more than we ever anticipated spending. Money that we had earmarked for a van. Our "van money" is almost completely gone now. Now I know that if God cares enough about us to make sure we had frivilous T-shirts and fried chicken despite the fact that we weren't hungry, then He will surely see to it that we have a vehicle where we can drive our kids around safely. Trust...
3. Generic Saltines and Stale popcorn out of the trashcan. That's right, this was a blessing to me yesterday! Supper last night was cooked by some very good friends who honored us by inviting us to supper and pampering us and serving us. I didn't have to do a thing. It was soooooo nice! They wanted to love us by taking care of us. Not only that, but aware that we're doing this 30 Days of Nothing, they sent us home with three pounds of venison (deer meat for those of you who have never hunted or are opposed to hunting!). As we were leaving, Amy opened her cupboards and started looking for other things she could send us home with. Hence, the Saltines and stale popcorn (for feeding neighborhood ducks- I can't afford to be feeding them bread this month!) .
Monday, September 04, 2006
. Today is day four of our family's 30 Days of Nothing. Note the home-made jar for collecting money. The quarter on the bottom is from Kaitlyn. What a sweetie! I've been working diligently on this home-made injera thing for a while now. It involves adding more flour and teff to the injera each day, and throwing some of the batter away so that the injera doesn't overtake the kitchen and my life! Well, this morning I thought of what a waste it is to throw away the injera batter. So, I added a couple of eggs and a little bisquick and made pancakes with maple syrup for the kids. Now, I thought it tasted absolutely disgusting and opted for yogurt instead, as did Avery. But the kids loved every bite of it. So, I now have a bunch of sourdough teff pancakes in the freezer that I can pull out and toast each morning for the kids. I'm pretty proud of my non-wasting of injera batter.
Yesterday, our family went to a Bikers for Christ retreat that is held each fall. The founder of BFC Fred Z and his beautiful wife, Esther were there. I wish I could spend more time with these Californians. They are good friends to us. It was so nice to get to see them yesterday. Not to mention we saw people from Tennessee, South Carolina, Maryland, and North Carolina. We've missed some of these people for 2 years and it was such a gift from God to spend the day with them. The event was held at this beuatiful little retreat center, Stillwater Lodge right on a lake in rural North Carolina. I'm not kidding you- the moment you step foot on the grounds of this place, you can sense this amazing peacefulness. It's sureal. The owners, Jeff and Jan, are these awesome people who have seen their lives make a complete turnaround these past four years. Looking at them is looking at a miracle. Below is a picture of Avery and me with Fred (short little biker dude) with Esther (tall, prettiest 60 something woman I've ever seen!)
Lucas loves to sit with me on the "handkercheifs." This means hammock. We were snuggling together on a "handkerchief" under some tall, old pine trees just a few feet from the lily-pad covered edge of the lake. The only sounds are those that nature makes. Lucas looked up at me and said, "I just love it here where we can enjoy the sweet smell of frogs and fish, Mommy!"
We went swimming in 60 degree water! I'm amazed at how kids don't seem to mind freezing cold water! We went for a little canoe ride out on the lake. We got to catch up with old friends, met new friends, and kicked back in the beauty of nature.
Around suppertime, we thought we'd better get going so that we could get home before the kids got too hungry. Remember, it's 30 Days of Nothing, so that means no McDonalds drive-thru for us! There were leftover donughts, so we all had one so we wouldn't be too hungry before we got home. And wouldn't you know it, just when we were going to leave, Jan announced that there was leftover fried chicken in one of the lodges. God is so good and faithful even in the little things. Now, I know that many people might not see that as a gift from God, be we sure did. Not only did we get fed without having to break our 30 Days of Nothing fast from consumerism, but with our bellies full, we were able to stay for several more hours. 26 days to go. Check back later...