Thursday, December 9, 2010

A year ago today...

One year ago today my life changed forever. My heart raced. My breath got caught in my throat. My eyes filled with tears. Time finally quit crawling by and actually froze. And I knew that I knew that I knew. Child #909-33 was mine.

We had been on the waiting list for one year. Waiting for a little baby boy from Ethiopia. But then God stepped in and changed our hearts. He shattered them with the eyes of older kids we had looked into in Uganda. He pounded on our heart’s door with their precious hands slipping into ours and squeezing so hard. He broke them as we watched them carry their brothers and sisters on their backs all day long. And so we gave in. We threw up our hands and gave God all the fear we had about adopting an older child and extended our requested age from an infant to a five year old. It was up to Him. The paperwork to change the age range went through on December 7, 2009. We were told that maybe by March we would get a referral.

Then came December 10th. Just three days after the age change was processed we got THE call. The call that every adoptive family on the planet agonizes over and waits for. It came.

I remember hearing Tariku’s heart breaking story. I remember scouring the information in the referral document. We got three attachments in the email…the first one was all the information about him, but I just wanted to see a picture him. I clicked on the second attachment and all that was there were pictures of the burns on his hand. I didn’t need to see the burn pictures – they didn’t matter in that moment. I just wanted to see his face!! Then finally I opened the last attachment. It seemed to take an eternity to load. My body was shaking. I just wanted to see his face. I just wanted to know the moment I saw him that he belonged in our family. I was so nervous…what if I didn’t feel a connection? Can you even feel a connection through a picture?? Then his face filled the screen.  His tentative, sweet, precious little face.



I remember drinking him in instantly. I can still feel my heart exploding. I can remember my sobs as I smiled like someone who’s crazy in love. I knew in a matter of two seconds. It was meant to be. God had moved heaven and earth for this moment. It was no mistake. Tariku was ours.

This little boy who was alone now had a family.  My heart soared.  That empty space inside of me that was missing my little boy somewhere on the other side of the world was instantly full.  God had fulfilled his promise to both of us.

And now, this beautiful little boy is thriving and growing and happy. 



There's nothing like the moments I spend tucking him in bed at night.  He tells me about Ethiopia. About his history.  All while his sweet little hand rests gently on my face.  He goes on and on about what he remembers...what he felt.  The good and the bad.  The pain and the happiness.  Often, I can't help but let the tears roll down my face as I realize all my little one has been through.  Other times, I just lay there in wonder and smile until it hurts.  The little one I dreamed of for so long lays beside me.  Safe and happy and loved.

I can't imagine my life without him.  I am just so thankful.  I am so in awe of what adoption has meant to our family and how it has transformed our lives and the way we want to spend them. I can't help but think...what if we never pursued adoption?  What if the obstacles scared us off?  What if the fact that we only had $1,000 of the $20,000 needed had kept us from starting the process?  What if???

We wouldn't have gotten to see God provide every penny of what we needed.  We would still be stuck in our safe little lives, numb to the 147 million orphans in the world.  We never would have gone to Uganda and seen first hand how orphans like our son struggle to live day in and day out.  We never would have felt moved to spend our lives on behalf of vulerable children.  We never would have moved across the country and accepted a job with Children's HopeChest advocating for orphans.  We never would have had the life altering encounter with God that we have had.  And we never would have experienced the joy of having Tariku as our son. 

Fear stinks.  Plain and simple.  It robs us of the depth of life we are meant to have.  It steals our joy.  The reality of living in safety, risking nothing actually ends up suffocating us.  Adoption is scary.  Lots of things in life are scary.  But none are scarier than missing out on what CAN be if we would just take even one little step or one big, bold, blind leap of faith. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pick It Up

"There are moments in life where you walk up to something and you can’t believe your eyes.

Like there is NO way that this dream is sitting right in front of you.

No way.

You look around.

You look for a hidden camera.

Nothing. Nada.

It’s true.

It is really there.

You start convincing yourself that this dream is maybe not for you.

Maybe somebody left it there.

So you wait. Sit. Stare. Dream. What if? What if?

You don’t dare touch it.

Almost as if you believe that if you touch it, it will go away.

Then you see someone walking towards you.

He gets to the dream, looks around, and in 2 seconds picks it up.

Done deal. He gets to live your dream. And your fear of God not wanting His all for you has paralyzed you to pick up what He created for you.

That gift of a dream.

So today…When you walk past that dream…

Don’t leave it sitting there.

PICK IT UP.

It’s yours." - Carolos Whittaker


Photo courtesy of the incredibly talented Esther Havens


I am SO proud of my friend, Jody Landers for not walking past her dream, but for picking it up, as scary as it was at times.  The Adventure Project was birthed out of her dream and here it is...the launch date for the reality of the crazy thing God placed in her heart some time ago.  And it ROCKS.  As in lots of little rocks...lumps of coal actually.  She went to Haiti last month and found the value of a few lumps of coal.  The power that they have to change people's lives...to help restore dignity...to create jobs.  And so, it is with lots of excitement that I present to you the opportunity to give a beautifully packaged lump of coal for Christmas and provide a family in Haiti with an efficient coal stove.



CLICK HERE to join the adventure.  For $20 each, how can you afford NOT to???


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Going Limp

I had just written yesterday about pain and then stumbled upon the blogpost below from this woman that I just had to share.  Beautiful and true.  Enjoy.

Two years ago I read C.S. Lewis’, The Problem of Pain, and thought I was an expert on the subject.


Unfortunately, and as much as I hate to admit it, life cannot be experienced through books. There’s no getting around it. I can read all I want about why there is pain, what to do with it, how to handle other people’s pain, the life of Job, etc., and not come an inch closer to truly knowing how to function when pain comes ripping into my soul like Dorothy’s worst nightmare. Disrupting my well-ordered, well-read thoughts with emotion that cannot be logically explained.

I have been married for almost a year. It has been a painful year. About two months into marriage, when I was happily cruising on a (what felt like would be) permanent high of a new marriage, new job, new everything I could have ever wanted, God very gently reopened a wound that covered up with many, many years of cynicism and pride.

Of course I never would have dreamed of saying that then. All I knew was that I would go to bed at night feeling like someone had ripped a hole in my heart and walked away without any explanation.

With this inexplicable came fear, depression, and hopelessness. Everyone throws around that phrase, “misery loves company,” but no one ever tells you what company misery brings with it. Those were some of the darkest months of my life.

I guess what caused it to “feel” so intense was in contrast to what I had expected. I was barely into a new marriage and getting ready to finally go on staff with the ministry that I had volunteered for all throughout college. This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life.

Then God stepped in. He led my husband to ask me some hard questions. Grace-filled and always with gentleness, but hard.

God pulled back those layers of pride & cynicism and looked at that wound and said, “There, right there. You needed me and thought I had not come. You felt alone, unloved, abandoned. You were mocked by those you held closest to you, and you felt like I didn’t do anything to stop it. So you protected yourself, Christina. You have built up your walls so high and thick that you’ve forgotten you need Me. You would rather be given the glory and approval of man than of Me.”

I called one of my friends who has been a counselor to me for the past few years. I sobbed (maybe coherently) into the phone about what was happening. She prayed for me before saying anything. Then, very quietly, she said something that rocked my entitled self right over on my backside.

“Christina, I keep hearing the phrase, ‘Go Limp.’“

“…. what? Go what?”

“Yes, I feel like you’re supposed to stop fighting this and go limp.”

We talked for a little longer and then I hung up the phone. I rolled over onto my stomach and had it out with God. Where have YOU gone? What are YOU doing? Go limp! What do you mean?! I have given you everything Jesus and YOU leave me like this? Hung out to dry? Go limp?!?!”

A lot of people quote that verse in Psalms, “Wait on the Lord. Be strong and take heart, and wait on the Lord.”  What if the Lord asks you to wait in pain?

If you read that and thought, “Well waiting in pain isn’t that hard,” then forgive me for being blunt, but you do not know the pain of which I speak.

There is a pain that doesn’t allow you to run away from it. What if the Lord asks you to sit in that pain? That doesn’t go away with medication, or facebook, or movies, or alcohol, or sex, or work, or a new pair of shoes, or a new hobby, or a new home project, or a new baby, or a new relationship, or, or, or…..

Waiting around the corners of your thoughts, it crashes around you. It suffocates reason. The only person who opened themselves up to that kind of pain was Jesus, and He wasn’t too excited about it.

We humans have become experts at avoiding pain, and I wonder if we’re numbing ourselves to death because of it.

Some of you know exactly the pain I am talking about. If you walked through a season of this pain in the past than you are overwhelmed with the mercy and grace of Yaweh.

We walk with limps, you and I, but we know Who holds us up, now, rather than what.

If you are walking through it now your soul may scoot as far as it can into the corner of your being and cover its face like a frightened child. There is hope, beloved. Oh, is there hope. You will be able to experience a side of your Father that only those wounded beyond coping can.

I heard a speaker give her reason for why she chooses to follow Jesus, and I thought it was beautiful:

“It’s pretty simple, my God has scars.”

There is hope in the middle of suffering. Even when the Son of God breathed His last on the cross, the curtain in the temple split in two, and the Holy and Eternal came colliding into this world to wrestle the broken, beaten, and forgotten from the hands of the enemy.

At the darkest hour hope came rushing into this world violently, and while Easter morning sings of salvation, it also brings a deep, unmoving, Strong Tower of joy to those who are in pain.

I feel like I could write for hours about the gritty in between spots, but much like how we process pain it would be a whirlwind of anger, depression, frustration, hurt, and exhaustion. Rather I’d like to give you snapshots of redemption over the past several months.

My husband laying beside me and holding my face in his hands, telling me that I need not bring anything to our marriage but myself, even if myself is unhappy.

Sitting in a chapel in Colorado during a worship service and weeping for thirty minutes, because God gave me the vision of Him running toward me in desperation, arms wide open.

Reading the scene between Edmund and Aslan in, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” on the front porch of the admin building at the YMCA of the Rockies and realizing what grace really is.

Mourning losses I haven’t allowed myself to. I cried about things that happened ten years ago.

Being able to forgive someone who I’ve been bitter toward for quite some time, and then being able to forgive a church that I’ve been bitter toward for quite some time.

Reading the Gospels and hearing the tone of Jesus’ voice, hearing the desparation that has no trace of the pathetic, but rather stems from a holy love.

There’s much more, but to wrap it up I wanted to include an excerpt from “The Gospel According to Job,” by Mike Mason:.

…. they are something we have come to expect in the speeches of Job: a shockingly earthy account of a knock-down-draw-’em-out struggle against the raw power of an incomprehensible Spirit Being. Time and again Job resorts to images of war, savage aggression, and brute hand-to-hand combat in an effort to describe his relationship with God. Why? Because in his present condition this is what faith fells like for him. this is what it is like to believe in God when absolutely everything is going wrong …

Those who utterly despair of trying to do anything good for God, yet who blindly insist that God be good to them – these are the faithful ones. These are the ones who have the grit to hold on to God through the grimmest and dirtiest of scuffles. Nothing short of that kind of faith could have carried Jesus through the ordeal of the cross, “The old rugged cross,” a famous hymn calls it, and so it was. The cross was a rough, dirty, violent affair, and it was all God’s idea. Why do we picture the Lord as being less rugged than we are? Just because He is holy, does that make Him milk-mannered, skittish, oversensitive, and effete? Too delicate to handle the gross crudities of real life? if we shrink from the idea of wrestling with God, is it because we are afraid of losing? But Jacob did not lose! Perhaps the real probelm is our fear of offending God’s refined sensibilities. Are we so afraid of seeing our nice clean God get dirt under His nails, or blood on His lily-white hands?

There is no life without fight. There is no reality without blood, toil, tears, and sweat. If you are a Christian who does not wrestle, then you may be sure of one thing: someone else is doing the wrestling for you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pain Is The Underbelly of Love

"Pain will come because pain is the underbelly of love, but Love is the greatest because nothing, not even pain, can can ever steal Love’s joy.” -Ann Voskamp


Isn't much of life just messy?  Relationships, Work, Emotions, Circumstances...all of them can just get so messy.  I love my friend Jen's blog.  She calls it a "beautiful mess" and isn't that just what we are all??  One big, beautiful, hot mess. :)

To be honest, I've felt a bit of a mess lately.  Scratch that.  A LOT of a mess lately.  These past two years have been so FULL.  Full of spiritual transformation, full of brokenness, full of change.  Change is painful.  Realizing my faith was incomplete was painful.  Allowing God to break down all the walls I'd built up around my life was painful.  But God does a funny thing with our pain.  He uses it.  He loves us through it. He shapes us through it and makes us FULL and more complete.  Stronger.  Deeper.  More courageous and more hopeful.  A better reflection of Himself.  

I'm in one of those seasons right now.  God is stripping me of everything I rely on, everything I know and am comfortable with and leaving me with just Him. JUST HIM??  Hmmm...isn't that the place I should be every day of my life?  Reliant upon Him and Him only?  Isn't "just Him" all that I need?  Isn't it funny when life doesn't go as we expect that we can immediately take on a "But, God...I deserve better than this!  I gave up so much to follow you!" kind of attitude?  Wow.  How childish.  How ridiculous.  Don't I recognize that HE is the one that gave up everything for ME???  Don't I know that just because things are bumpy and more difficult than I like that He is still the God who loves me and has my best interest at heart?  Don't I know that God is more concerned with growing my character and my love for Him than my comfort and satisfaction? 

I know it in my head, but sometimes it takes a while to sink deep into my heart.  I have so many questions right now, so much I don't understand. But then I'm reminded of 1 Peter 4:12 that says "Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner". 


And here's the bottom line for me today.  My life is about bringing glory to God.  That's what I long for, that's what God longs for.  And so if God is glorified in the midst of my difficulty then it is worth it.  Always.  There's a line to a song that says "Bring me anything that brings You glory".  Anything.  Yikes!!  But that's what I long for today - a heart that says "God, I will choose to follow you and trust you when I don't understand.  I will choose JOY in the midst of my pain and difficulty because YOU are worth it.  Because You deserve all the glory". 

And He is SO worth it.  God's faithfulness and love is the same yesterday, today and forever.  My circumstances may change but He does not.  And so I have HOPE and I beg for Him to enter into my mess and give me the ability to see Him for who He is and for what He is doing in the middle of it all.  Because He is doing something.  He is loving me in the midst of the messiness.  He is whispering His joy to my heart.  He is refining me.  He is working to make me more like Him.  And that's all I ever want to be.  More like my Savior. 

Psalm 145:13-19

The LORD is trustworthy in ALL he promises and faithful in all he does. 

The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.


You open your hand  and satisfy the desires of every living thing.


The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.  

He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't think there's power in forgiveness?

Forgiveness.  Doesn't the word itself just make you want to close out of this post right now?!  I guess it depends on how you look at forgiveness.  If you are the one being forgiven, then it's a beautiful word.  But if you are the one who needs to forgive, then the word forgiveness seems big and hard and daunting.  I don't usually tackle topics like this on my blog...I like to stick to talking about orphans and poverty and clean water and materialism and what Jesus says about them all.  But Jesus also talked a lot about forgiveness too and I imagine that the poor and the orphan struggle with this as well.  Proof offered below, thanks to the wonderful photography of Esther Havens.

Let me introduce you to David.  David lives in Uganda, an African nation torn apart by war.  For those of you who haven't heard of the LRA (The Lord's Resistance Army), let me give you a short education.  The LRA was started as a rebel army headed by an evil man named Joseph Kony.  The LRA killed, tortured, maimed, raped, and abducted large numbers of civilians. Most victims were children and young adults who were terrorized into virtual slavery as guards, concubines and soldiers. The LRA abducted young girls as sex and labor slaves. In addition to being beaten, raped, and forced to march until exhausted, abducted children were forced to participate in the killing of other children who had attempted to escape.

The smiling young man you see above was abducted by the LRA at the age of 12.  He was held captive for 5 years, being forced to commit atrocities against his fellow countrymen.  Upon returning to his village, he found his entire family had been killed by the LRA.  Let that sink in for a minute.  I KNOW that you and I cannot begin to imagine what even one day must have been like for him during his period of slavery to the LRA, much less five years.  And then to finally exit such a terrifying experience only to find the LRA had killed his entire family.

I can't say what David felt over the five years he was a child soldier or how he felt when he realized his whole family was dead.  I can imagine what I would have felt.  Guilt. Intense anger. Profound loss. Rage at the injustice of all of it. Unimaginable sorrow. Complete despair.  But look.  Look close at David's smile. It's not fake or forced.  His smile reeks of a person who's been set free.  Not just physically free, but emotionally and spiritually free as well.  Two things happened to David.  He learned the God loved him and he learned the freedom that comes in forgiveness.  Just read the chalkboard.

He forgave Joseph Kony.  The man whose forces abducted him and forced him to commit atrocities and killed his family.  David forgave him.

God has forgiven him.  I can't imagine the power this knowledge holds for David. 

He forgives himself.  Because of God's forgiveness towards him, David can forgive himself.

Is that not unbelievably powerful??  I can only imagine that David didn't want to forgive Joseph Kony.  If I were him I would have harbored nothing but anger toward him.  I'm sure that David's process of forgiving him must have been insanely difficult and seemingly impossible.  But he did. And he now lives in the beauty of that forgiveness.  He did the hard thing and it has set him free. 

How about you?  Are you living in the beauty of forgiveness today?

Friday, September 24, 2010

How the World Gets Changed

I'm just giddy today.  One week ago yesterday Tariku started his campaign to raise $5,000 for a water well in Africa for his birthday.  I knew we'd never get to $5,000 and I knew that I just needed to be content with whatever we had raised in the 90 day period of time.  Well yesterday, exactly one week after starting the campaign, the well was fully funded and then some.  WHAT????!!!! 

I've had lots of questions over the past week..."how did you think to do that?", "how did you get that much money raised?" "how did it happen so quickly?".  I've been thinking about these questions and have some thoughts on them...

First of all - "How did I think to do this?".  Well, the journey I've been on over the past few years has brought me to the place where I realize that stuff doesn't matter.  There is incredible need in the world we live in and I am wealthy compared to the rest of the world, even when I don't feel like I am.  I have found greater joy in giving of my time and resources than in any gift I've ever received.  Ever.  I want my children to grow up with that same experience and I want them to start NOW.  What child really needs another action figure or toy??  Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying children shouldn't receive presents.  Mine do and will in the future.  But, what I am saying is that if we have any hope of changing the world we live in, we need to start NOW modeling for our children that giving is a pleasure AND a responsibility we have to our fellow man. 

The other part of why I thought to do this was simply because of Tariku's story.  He likely would have been one of the statistics...4,500 children die daily from water related diseases.  His brother died from diahrrea due to their water source and Tariku was drinking that same water.  That sends chills down my spine.  He was spared, but so many are not.  This is PREVENTABLE.  And we have the resources to do something about it.  I had learned about charity:water over a year ago and had been really impressed with their work and their model of educating and involving people. The connection just seemed natural. 

As to how we got that much money raised so quickly...that's simple.  People WANT to be involved in changing the world.  They do.  I have found that many folks sit back and do nothing because they are paralyzed by the massiveness of the problem and don't feel there's anything they do can make a dent. Haven't you all heard "Well, it's such a huge problem and my little donation isn't going to really help."?  It's really not that people aren't willing to give (although there certainly are those people!), it's just that they don't realize the impact they can have.  I love how charity:water breaks it down...$20 provides 1 person clean drinking water for 20 years.  That makes the person who thinks their 20 bucks won't make a dent see that it will indeed make an incredible impact for the one person they are helping. 

I also think that when people hear a statistic like there are 147 million orphans in the world they say, "Man, that's really sad."  It's overwhelming to them.  But when you share a story with them about one of those orphans like my son, Tariku, there's a connection.  People can connect to a story about a little boy.  They can see that they can help him have a future.  Our community of friends and family GAVE us close to $15,000 to adopt Tariku.  Ben and I were inspired to adopt as we saw friends whose lives were changed as a result of it.  People were inspired to help us bring our son home from Ethiopia.  Others were inspired by us bringing Tariku home and are now in the process of adopting their own children.  And now, people have heard Tariku's story and made the connection that he was one of the people in the world drinking water every day that may have killed him.  And so, once again, they acted.  None of it ever would have happened without telling a story.

So, how do we tell our stories effectively?  We live in the information age.  We have the advantage of social media like FaceBook, Twitter and Blogging.  But for all those folks who aren't technical, there are other ways!  Good old fashioned letter writing is what helped bring in the finances for our adoption.  Share your heart.  Share what you're passionate about and why.  CONNECT at a deep level with the people you are sharing with.  People want to be moved.  It's not about making it a production. It's about being authentic.  Help people understand why you are passionate about whatever the "thing" is.  Once they understand and are connected at a heart level, they may become fellow advocates!  My neighbor, for example, was so moved by Tariku's water project that she sent an email out to everyone in her address book.  My nephew shared Tariku's story at school in his classroom and gave out information.  Friends shared Tariku's story on FaceBook.  All of these seemingly little things mobilize people to get involved.

Stories change our lives.  They compel us.  Find a story and tell it.  Maybe it's your own story...maybe it's someone else's.  If you're feeling today like you can't really make a difference, don't buy the lie.  You can.  Find something you care about and if you don't have a story of your own to tell about it, find one. We all need to hear it. That's how the world gets changed.

   

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Was Not Designed for This...

I was not designed

to be on my own

to author my own story

to compose my own rules

to live with me in the center.

I was not designed

to look for life outside of You

to treasure the creation

to love people, places and things

more than You.

I was not designed

to rely on my wisdom

to trust my imagination

to rely on my thoughts

to igonore Your revelation.

I was not designed

to follow the path of my craving

to be enslaved to my desires

to be ruled by my passions

more than I am by You.

I was not designed

to put created things in Your place

to look to the creation

to fulfill the longings

that only You can fulfill.

I was not designed

to live for the moment

to ignore what is forever

to covet what belongs to others

forgetting I've been given You.

I was not designed

to question Your goodness

to bring you to the court of my judgment.

to be bitter in my assessment

of the things You do.

I was not designed

to let my heart fill with envy

to be constantly accounting

to be jealous and untrusting

instead of resting in You.

I was not designed

to forget Your right hand that holds me

to ignore your good counsel

to not see that You're with me

I will be in glory with You.

I was not designed

to think I am living

to ignore the evidence that I'm dying

to forget that we perish

when separate from You.

So I acknowledge this morning

it is good to be with You

to make You my sole refuge

to speak daily of your workings

Whom do I have but You?

I praise you for rescue

for always holding me near You

for owning my heart's desirings

My life is You.
 
- Paul Tripp

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Gang of Little World Changers

In case you may have missed it, my 5 year old son is raising $5,000 to build a well for the Bakaya people in the Central African Republic for his birthday.  We launched his campaign almost four days ago and so far he has raised $3,000 towards the well!  All of us are blown away.  You can go here to donate if you like.  Or here to read Tariku's own story of growing up with contaminated water in Ethiopia.

One of the amazing things to me is that there have been so many children who have contributed to Tariku's water campaign.  I've had a couple of emails like the following over the past few days:

"Amy, I talked about this with Luke and Anna. Luke is so sad for Tariku and for losing his little brother. That would be like Luke losing Charlie, who just turned one year old. Luke is getting his bank, and we are talking about how to give more! Thanks for impacting my kids, too!"


"So, it's been a few more days, and wow!!! Almost $3000! Just amazing!!! My kids are still talking about the well and asking several times a day what the total is. I feel so grateful that my kids are experiencing this at such a young age."

"After reading Tariku's story and watching the video, our kids were appalled that clean water is not available to everyone and amazed that this is really going on in our world right now! They were also effected that someone they knew came from this exact situation. ("Ella's brother didn't have clean water AND he had bugs in his tummy???!!!") It really made it tangible for them.  Immediately after watching your video, Alli went and literally dumped out her "spending" jar and said, "I want to give it all" and Jack came over with a fist full of his spending money and said, "Bam! Give it all, mom!" It literally made me cry!!! How neat to see God working on their little hearts...not to mention mine!"
 
Isn't that just awesome?!  It is humbling to see children understanding the injustice of a world where not everyone has clean water.  And even more so, that they are not just understanding it, but are going to their own piggy banks and emptying them on behalf of others.  I would imagine THAT would bring a smile to any parent's face. It sure does mine.
 
Then today we actually had Tariku's birthday party.  The kids who came were asked to forgo buying a new toy for Tariku and simply bring a donation to the well, and if they felt compelled to give something to Tariku, to bring a used toy from their house. So, with 19 kids from five different families (we had three African countries represented in our little gang of kiddos!), we celebrated Tariku.  And we celebrated the fact that an entire community in Africa will have clean water thanks to them. It was so fun and cool to watch the kids engage. 
 
We sat them all down in front of the laptop and let them watch this video:
 

charity: water 2010 September Campaign: Clean Water for the Bayaka from charity: water on Vimeo.
 
I couldn't believe how they stayed engaged.
 

 
They watched as we explained what they were seeing.
 
 
And they all smiled when Tariku started pointing to the kids drinking clean water at the end of the video.  His excitement was so ridiculously sweet!  I just love my little man!
 
 
Wow.  Kids are awesome.  We are so grateful for our awesome friends who have stepped up to not only learn about clean water, but to give to and to pray for those who don't have it.  I don't know, folks...I think we might all just be raising little world changers.  Maybe it's time we start seeing them as such.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Impact of Our Stories: WATER

Clean water.  We turn it on in our kitchens to wash the dishes or to get a drink.  We use it to shower.  We use it to cook.  We give it to our pets.  We lavish it on our thirsty grass in the summer.  FACT: My grass drinks cleaner water than most of the people in the world. 

When we went to Ethiopia to adopt our son, Tariku we learned his story more fully.  He had lived for four years or so with his birth father and step mother.  They collected their water from a small dirty pond that was contaminated with God knows what.  His family had no other choice.  They needed water and that was the water they had to use.  Tariku's little brother became very sick and had severe diarrhea from the water.  At the age of one, he died. From dirty water.

When we brought Tariku home from Ethiopia in April he had severe stomach and blood parasites from the water...likely, the same parasites that ultimately took his brother's life.  Of course, here in America he had clean water and access to medication that got rid of the parasites relatively fast.  The same sort of simple care would have likely saved the life of his brother.

Parents all over the world today do not have a choice about the water they give their children to drink.  Their kids must have water and if the only water that is available is contaminated, then that's the water they get.  Tariku watched his brother be born and die in the same year all because there was no clean water available in his village.  As a mother, as a sibling, as a human being...this angers me.  Everyone should have the ability to drink clean water.  Period.  Have you ever taken the time to count how many outlets you have in your house for water?  I counted mine today and I have 10 places I can go in my house at any time to get clean water. Ten.  Most people in Africa can't even get to an unclean water source within a ten minute walk.

I'll never forget that about a month after we brought Tariku home from Ethiopia we took a weekend trip to Washington DC.  We visited the World War II Memorial where there is a gigantic fountain.  We walked down to the edge of the fountain and Tariku got on his knees and leaned over and cupped the water in his hand as if he was going to drink it.  I told him not to drink it because it was dirty and that wasn't what it was for.  In that moment I realized that water was much cleaner than any water he'd ever drank in Ethiopia.  He looked up at me confused after I had told him not to drink the water.  He said "For animals?"  I said no.  Then he said "To wash?"  I said no.  Then he said "What for then?".  What for, indeed.   Here we are in America, where we have the luxury of clean water being simply a decoration to look at.

If we can afford to have clean water as a decoration...if we can pay for it to water our lawns and fill our swimming pools, can we not afford to help a community like the one Tariku came from provide clean water for their families to drink?

Tariku is turning five in just a few days.  In celebration of his birth, his story and his miraculous presence in our lives, our family is going to raise the money to build a water well for a village similar to the one Tariku grew up in.  Isn't it cool that you and I can do that?! 

All it takes is $5,000 to impact the lives of 50 families.  That's 50 families who will be able to drink water without worrying it might kill them.  What an incredible opportunity we have to make a life changing difference for an entire community. 

Tariku's story is heartbreaking in many ways, but it is mostly a story of love and hope.  The hope that one little boy can help make a difference for 50 families just like his birth family.  That is a story I can't wait to watch play out.  And thanks to charity:water you can be a part.  We have three months to raise this money and it's going to happen.  I feel it.

Click HERE to read more about how to get involved or to donate.  Let's help Tariku tell his story so that 50 families can live to tell theirs.  Thank you!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Throw Your Pebble

One of the absolute joys of living here in Colorado has been getting to know Jody and Andy Landers.  They are some of the most authentic people I know.  I knew about Jody because of her work for charity water, and it has just been the biggest blessing that both our families moved to Colorado about the same time.  Not long ago they adopted two precious children from Sierra Leone and I wanted to share Jody's blog post from yesterday.  Enjoy.  Be moved.  Throw your pebble...

our pebble.


On our March trip to Sierra Leone, we had the profound privilege of spending some time in the Kroo Bay slums with Word Made Flesh staff. They focus much of their lives and their ministry connecting with the people who make up one of the poorest areas in the world.  On Saturday mornings, they run a program for the kids of Kroo Bay. We participated while we were there and it quickly became a highlight for all of us.

We watched them dance and sing.


We watched them pray to ‘Papa God’.


David lead them in a memory verse. A story was told. Each child was prayed over individually as they left the building.


Many of the children are sick and hungry and exhausted. We were given the job of watching for the kids who would fall asleep in their seats….and grabbing them quickly before they fell to the cement floor:

We had to do it several times in the hour we were there.
Each Saturday at the Good News Club, the kids are given an egg. Probably the only protein they have all week.  The adults watch to make sure the egg is eaten by the child and not put in a pocket to be taken home to their family.

This precious boy fell asleep in the seats and was gently placed on on of our backpacks…next to the Bible and bread. You don’t have to look very hard to see the Kingdom of God at work here. I’m not sure that I have sensed it anywhere as intensely as I did that day in heat of a crowded room in the center of Kroo Bay slums.

When we went in March, you helped us to bring a number of supplies. One thing we did was deliver these vitamins:

The staff took these and the past several months have given each child one vitamin with their egg on Saturday. We recently received an email that said: “We need more vitamins. Can you help?”

Um, yes. Yes, we can.  Because we love this. We love any opportunity to think outside of our own picket fences.  An opportunity to do something.  An opportunity to keep our eyes open, hearts soft.

Now I currently have what I would consider a strict grocery budget.  But I still browse the aisles at the supermarket and put oranges and apples and carrots and granola bars and pancake mix into my cart.
And I’m thankful for the opportunity to stop….to stop and pick up a couple jars of vitamins. Not to supplement my already full cart for my own kids. But to pause to think about mothers across the world who struggle every day to provide any semblance of food for their children.

This is simply one of those chances we look for ‘to do something’. Something that will no doubt provide a tiny bit of nourishment to the weak bodies of children in Sierra Leone. And something that will no doubt ensure that our heart stays aware and our hands remain open.

We all win.  And that’s why I love it.  So here’s the plan:  Join us if you want.

Collect vitamins. Do it with your own family. With your small group. MOPS group. Whatever.  And then we are going to stock the suitcases of the next person that travels to Freetown with WMF.  For now, we will make my house here the central location. You can order them online if that’s easier and have them sent here.
Or once your collection is done, you can mail them to me.  Or if you want to forego shipping all together, you can paypal (jodylanders @ gmail . com) me and I will shop for the vitamins. We will collect until Sept. 29..so if you can have them in the mail by then.

And to wrap this up I’m quoting in full here Jaime, a missionary in Costa Rica. She describes this incident where she delivers food to some desperate kids:

“I’m gonna go fight poverty for two and a half hours. Two and a half hours on a Tuesday morning to solve the biggest problem in the world. What a joke.  We will show up with a bag full of bread and an armload of bananas, and the children will clamber around us like ducks at a pond. A bunch of little ducklings, falling all over each other for a bit of bread and a soft pat on the head.

And for 2 and a half hours we will laugh and play and eat, and we will talk about Jesus. And when we leave, they will be just as poor as when we arrived. Poverty taunts us as we drive away.  It’s overwhelming.  The problem is so big, and we are so small. It feels ridiculous… showing up to war wielding a loaf of bread.

Of course that’s how David showed up. Just a shepherd boy with some bread for his brothers, a kid who was quick with a sling shot. He chose for battle against a giant, not a sword, or the kings armor, but five smooth stones. And he won.

He said to the giant:”You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” ~1 Samuel 17

I kind of love that.  I’m going to feed the ducks, now.  And then, with all my might, I will hurl a tiny pebble at their giant enemy. And I hope it hurts like hell.“

And I love that.

So pick up your pebbles, people. Here we go…Thanks for joining us.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Oceans of Justice

My last post was about our stories.  Today marks the one year anniversary of one of the most important stories I've ever had the opportunity to be a part of.  A year ago today I walked into Ngariam, Uganda and encountered God through the weak and feeble frame of an old woman named Mary who I found lying in the dirt. To read about her story go here.  You won't be sorry. 

Mary has never been far from my mind over the past year.  Who knows if she's still alive or not.  I just know that when I get to heaven I'm going to find her and we will talk and laugh together.  I will tell her how God used her to open my eyes not just to suffering in this world, but to the people behind the suffering...to the faces, to the names, to their stories.  Mary may have just been one in a sea of suffering, beautiful faces I glimpsed that day, but God allowed me the privilege and opportunity to stop and truly SEE her, and in doing so, to SEE Him.  And to see him more clearly than I ever have in my life.  

That day in Uganda amidst the heat and the dirt and the suffering, God wasn't interested in my "spiritual credentials".  He didn't care about my involvement at church or how much scripture I knew.  He wanted justice for Mary.  He wanted for one second, for someone to bend down, look in her eyes and see what He saw...His little, tiny lump of a creation crying out for justice and help.  That day, He wanted her to experience the love and care that He had for her tangibly.  He wanted her to be treated fairly, like everyone else in the village...not written off and left for dead because she was old and useless in the eyes of the village.  He wanted her to be seen as precious. 
  
 Amos 5 says:

I can't stand your religious meetings.
   I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
   your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes,
   your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
   When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
   I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
   That's what I want. That's all I want.
   

Living a life that stands up for and embodies the justice that God desires is messy and hard. Not sometimes, but often.  That's the reality.  How many people do you know who want to hear about the injustices in the world?  Likely, not many.  How that must break God's heart.  I think He's pretty clear above that He has no interest in our lip service.  He wants us to allow Him to indwell us so completely that when we walk into a village or the grocery store, or the school that Justice walks in.  That we won't be able to see an unfair or unjust situation and just turn around and walk out.  Oh, that I would be compelled by God's fairness with me to live it out in an unjust and fallen world. 

What would it take for us to be moved the way God is moved by injustice? I think it takes a movement of God in our hearts and a willingness on our part to engage in the brokenness and suffering of others...even others we don't know or who we might not ever meet this side of heaven.  There are millions like Mary waiting to be SEEN.  

Oceans of Justice and Rivers of Fairness...that's what He wants. That's all He wants. 


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Our Stories

"My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours… it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually." - Frederick Buechner

I read that quote by Frederick Buechner today and it made me think about my story.  I don't know if any of you can relate, but I have kept "my story" just that - mine.  Over time as I have found the courage to spit out the words which encompass my story I have found the ability to breathe again.  How many of us hide who we have been and who we are out of fear of what others might think?  I did for years.  It was an ugly prison of my own making.  The freedom came for me in recognizing that God was big enough for my story.  He could handle it.  And in the end, that's all that matters.  There are people in this world who can't handle my story and that's okay because God can.  I've found that as I've spoken the words I thought I would never say, that freedom has seeped in to my bones.  Just like Frederick says above - I don't want to lose track of my story or the stories that my story has birthed.  God shapes our stories if we let Him.  And that, is a beautiful thing.  So, share your story.  Don't profoundly impoverish the rest of us. :)

In that spirit, here are the ABC's of who I've been, who I am and who I long to become... 

Awakened



Beloved. It's taken me years to figure out I am.


Compelled by the compassion of God


Desperate for love.


Entrapped by my craving for comfort


Freedom found in forgiveness of myself.


Grateful. Ridiculously so. Nothing I have do I deserve.


Hoping in what I do not see, but what I know is real.


Insufficient.  That's me. 


Justice...learning how to stand for it, live it, and weave it into the fabric of my being.


Known...truly known by a few


Low Self Esteem


Married to the most amazing man on the planet


Night. So many dark nights...but light has always come.


Orphans. They have changed my life.


Prayer and lots of it has carried me through


Quitting my safe life. Trying to let go of the things I hold to tightly.


Rescued from my painful choices.


Sliver of who I long to be.


Tariku. My Ethiopian son whose story has shaped the course of my life.


Used.


Vulnerability...it's a word that has changed my life. Tell your story. Someone needs to hear it.


Whole because God stooped down and poured out His grace on me.


X- rated - My heart in all it's ugliness.


Yearning to be the woman God created me to be


Zealous wanna be.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just Wow.

With all of the needs and urgent, important things going on in the world, does it ever just make you stop and wonder that God cares about the stuff our lives?? This past weekend was spent saying good-bye to friends and church family we've knows for years and years now.  It was hard.  REALLY HARD.  And there in the middle of all the emotion I realized something.  I am loved.  My family is loved.  And God made sure that I knew it this weekend.  He didn't have to, but He did.  Cuz that's how our God rolls. :)

Our pastor asked us to share the story of how God led us to this point. (You can listen to it HERE if you like). So, we had the privilege of telling the story God is weaving with our lives to our church family.  It was so encouraging to tell about the process and the goodness and faithfulness of God.  Oh, and speaking of faithful...we received several random donations from people at our church that completely covered our moving costs TO THE VERY DOLLAR!!  Nobody knew how much money we needed and I just had to laugh as I counted it out.  Only God.  We had wondered how we were ever going to afford the moving truck...and the trailer...and the gas...and then God provided.  As He ALWAYS does.  Amazing.  And if He cares so much about little things like moving expenses...imagine how much He must care about the bigger things.  I just don't think I can really even imagine. He is so GOOD!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

This is it

I have neglected my blog lately...not because I don't have things to say but because I have no time to write them! I hate that! So much is going on right now. We are getting ready to leave this:


Good old Cincinnati where I've lived for 30 some years...

and move to this:


Beautiful Colorado Springs where there is no humidity (thank you, God!).

With this move comes quite a bit of excitement, a lot of loss and the overall sense that sacrificing what's comfortable for us will be the beginning of a beautiful adventure.  (I know, I know...it doesn't look like much of a sacrifice, does it?!) The moving truck comes next week so I'm back to packing.  Next blog post will likely be from Colorado!  Thanks for all your prayers and support, guys!  THIS IS IT!!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

If you could RESCUE, would you?

I know that so much clamors for our attention. There are so many things to donate to, so many organizations doing great things. Many of us have our budgets laid out each month to support organizations that are making tangible differences in the lives of people all over the world. And, many of us don’t. For many of us, money is tight.

I’d like to challenge our view of “tight” however. Please know I’m not making light of anyone’s financial situations. I view my financial situation as tight right now too. BUT…

I still find money for Starbucks runs, eating out and a few other things that cause me to realize my financial situation is NOT tight. In fact, according to www.globalrichlist.com I am in the TOP 0.61% richest people in the world!

Um, excuse me???? I’d encourage you to check it out and see where you fall on that scale. I think what you will find will give you reason to pause. It gives me reason to stop complaining. It gives me reason to think about the situations of other people in the world and recognize that even if I am struggling…I AM WEALTHY. I have a roof over my head, a car, food whenever I need it (and then some!) and everything I “need”. I think that it’s too easy to come up with excuses NOT to give. I’d like for you to consider laying aside those excuses today because there are ten girls in India who need RESCUED from a life of rape and abuse. Please go HERE to read more about their unthinkable situation. We are hoping to raise enough money by the end of the day TOMORROW. Just think…you can help rescue little girls from their abusers with your Starbucks money and eating out budget. Are their lives not worth our sacrifice??

My friend, Tom Davis wrote earlier this morning that “We cannot stretch out our hands and arms to serve the poor when they are clutching tightly to our things.” Ouch. That hurts because I know that I clutch my things. My cable, my hair products, my shoes. I CLUTCH them…you’d be hard pressed to pry my hands from them. But I have been forced to stop and pray and think this morning. All of those things bring me fleeting pleasure. Being able to rescue little girls from a life of torture and darkness gives me GREAT joy. For their freedom I will give. Will you consider joining me?


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Spent Extravagantly


I just got the email below from Vince Giordano, Ben's new boss and our dear friend.  I was challenged by his words and thought you might be too...

Those of us who spend our time focusing on the poor, the oppressed and those who serve them are sometimes confronted with grim realities. The fact is that there are too many problems out there...there are too many children that need help...there are too many women and children who are stuck in sex-trafficking and too many people starving. So, you read a book or you adopted a child or you went on a trip and you were overwhelmed with poverty and injustice. You never imagined that things were so bad. You couldn't believe how cheap it was to solve individual problems - medicines for less than $10, mosquito nets for $5, school fee that are less than your monthly starbucks budget. You thought to yourself - I have to do something - I am GOING to do something.


You return to America or you finish your book and your mission begins. You start telling your spouse or your best friends. This is unbelievable - we have to do something now. We have to act. Some of them seem interested but most of them try to wait it out hoping you will get over this latest obsession. But you know in your heart this is not an obsession - it's a calling. It is a new awareness that the kingdom of God has to extend out from you and reach the least of these. You keep going.


Your friends initially tolerate you and then some just quietly phase you out but you are undeterred initially. You press on KNOWING people will want to make a difference. You start reading the Bible with fresh eyes and asking yourself why you had never seen that or read that before? Why did I not hear this in church? You listen to sermons with fresh ears and you hear the repetitive beating of a drum that seems to resound with a self-centered rhythm. It isn't supposed to be all about me is it God? Why are we only focused on making our great lives even better when kids are starving, when young children are being prepared for sexual exploitation every two minutes? I guess that will all just go away if I can truly develop the purpose driven life right? Or if I just keeping doing more bible studies with my accountability group?


For some of us, the hard reality is that we simply need to move on from some of our old ways and old friends into the fullness of the gospel. The true religion that we know He is calling us too. You won't be popular but quite frankly neither was Jesus among the religious crowd. You may find yourself test the patience of some of your closest friends who would just rather plan their next big vacation and not hear about the sexual exploitation of children or starving kids or children who are alone and with love or hope. That stuff is just too hard and depressing and doesn't fit with the trajectory of my life that God is making so pleasant and easy.

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that everything we do will have an eternal impact in the lives of individuals and it matters. Your small choices can make a big difference in the lives of the hurting. The bad news is that you will not be popular, it will not be easy, you will lose friends, people will tire of you constantly beating the drum for the cause of justice. People will avoid you and criticize you and tell you to lighten up. But, I want to challenge you. I want to challenge you to be a louder voice than you have ever been. I want to challenge you to scream for those who have no voice. I want to challenge you to ask God to use you in places and in ways that others don't want to. I want to challenge you to fight against the apathy that plagues our churches and society. I challenge you to be His hands and feet to the least of these. I challenge you to allow your life to be a seed - which falls to ground and dies and in so doing it produces much fruit. I challenge you to swim against the current of our church culture that seeks to find comfort in a personal gospel and personal salvation and passionately pursue God with a reckless abandon for those that are helpless.  I pray that we would have the spirit of a warrior that has counted the cost and said with boldness - Lord I give you my life today - ALL of me - spend me extravagantly on the poor and the oppressed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jonah and I

One of the hardest parts of the changes that have happened in my life over the past year or so is the PAIN that comes from engaging with those who suffer. Well, maybe I said that wrong. It’s not the pain itself that is hard to handle, but what to DO with the questions that the pain raises. It can just be so confusing some days. I was telling my friend that this past year has been filled with so much personal and spiritual growth…that I have been grappling so much with exactly what my faith means…that I have been stretched more than ever before in my life. I feel more aware of God’s presence in my life…more alive, and yet I have felt so doubtful at the same time.


It’s been this mixture of finding TRUE life in loving the broken, the hurting and impoverished, while at the same time feeling angry and confused about why they are in the situations they are in to begin with…why God seems so silent sometimes.

Then this week we got word that friends of ours in India were getting ready to take the police on a raid to rescue 8 GIRLS from different brothels where they were being sold for sex. YOUNG GIRLS. The police, however, said they would only rescue two of them. Not all eight. WHAT???? I can’t wrap my mind around that. So, they went on the raid but when they got there they discovered there had been a tip off and the two girls had been moved. There would be no rescue for them after all. Not even for two of the eight.

So I of course started my musings…”But, God…there were so many people praying for them to be rescued. Why didn’t you answer? I KNOW that you want them to be rescued because that’s your very nature. You LOVE. You PURSUE. You do not RELENT. Could you not just smite the creeps who sell these girls from the earth? Would you? PLEASE??? Why must they continue to be allowed to even live??”

Then I read the story of Jonah today in the car. It goes something like this: God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and tell the people there that God hated their wickedness. Jonah didn’t want to go to Ninevah so he went the opposite direction, got on a boat, there was a big storm and Jonah got thrown overboard, got swallowed by a big fish, got vomited out on the beach, then went to Ninevah and did what God asked. (He sorta took the long way to get there). But the thing that hit me today was that Jonah wasn’t necessarily afraid to go to Ninevah. He didn’t WANT to go because he knew the very nature of God…he knew that he was going to tell the people of Ninevah that they were wicked and that they would change their ways and God would have compassion on them and not wipe them from the face of the earth like Jonah wanted. Jonah wanted them to get what they deserved... a lot like I want the “bad guys” to get what they deserve so often. Jonah got angry with God that He didn’t just wipe them all out. In fact, in chapter 4 verse 2 Jonah says to God essentially “This is why when you told me to go to Ninevah I went the opposite direction to Tarshish – because I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity”.

Nice move, Jonah. You’re ticked off at God for being gracious and compassionate.  Smooth. So, Jonah goes outside the city and sits there in the sun to see what God does. It gets hot and God sends a vine to grow up and give him shade. Jonah was happy about the vine. But then God sent a worm to eat the vine in the night and Jonah was ticked off that the vine had been destroyed. Then God says “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Ninevah has more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left. Shall I not be concerned about that great city?”

Whoah. That hit me. Who am I to question God? I didn’t create or care for those 8 girls who didn’t get rescued. God did. He made them. He knows every second of their pain. You know who else’s pain He sees? The people who hold these girls in slavery. The people who violate them. And His nature is to have compassion on them, not to wipe them off the face of the earth. In my finite human thinking this ticks me off sometimes. I too, feel like Jonah. Just get rid of them, God! Please! But God LOVES the people He made…even (and especially maybe?) the ones who are SO lost in life. And let’s face it…I’d rather have a God who abounds in love and compassion any day than a God who doesn’t. Where would I be if it weren’t for that???

God’s awfully good to put up with me thinking I can give Him a hand with running the world. I’m sure He is sitting up there shaking his head at me thinking “Amy, if you only knew even a fragment of what I know…”

There’s so much I don’t get about this world. And let’s face it…so much I don’t get about God. But I know that He’s good. And I know that He knows every child by name who is suffering tonight. I know He can meet their needs in ways I cannot. So, tonight I am asking God to give me a compassionate heart…not just for the people who suffer needlessly in the world, but for the people who cause the suffering. They hurt too. God, help me to ABOUND in love and compassion just like you.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Opportunity Knocks

Every day there opportunities to help all around us. Some days we allow ourselves to see those opportunities and other days we shut our eyes. We shut our eyes because we are busy. We shut our eyes because it hurts too much to look. Or we shut our eyes because it might cost us something, financially or otherwise. I want to share an URGENT opportunity to help with you today and I would like to ask that you not shut your eyes but that you choose to read on.


Meet Sanju, who lives in India.

Meet Lily, who lives in my house and is my daughter. 




They are about the same age and enjoy many of the same things. Yet there are some striking differences. Lily lives at home with me, her mom. Sanju lives in an orphanage and sees her mother only occasionally, which is difficult and confusing for her. Lily has always lived with me. I am always available for hugs, kisses and playtime. Sanju has not always lived in the orphanage. Before arriving there, she used to live in the brothel that her mother works in. Her mom was not available to her since she had to be available for her clients. Sanju's mother is poor and desperate for income and so she subjects herself to life in a brothel. Work comes easily for me and the worst thing I subject myself to is sitting in traffic for twenty minutes on the way to the office.

Sanju loves her older brother and sister. They are all she has. Lily loves her brother and sister, but they are not all she has. She is surrounded by a community of people who love her and are invested in her future. Lily is getting ready to go to Kindergarten in the fall. I simply had to fill out some forms and she is all set. Sanju is supposed to start school THIS THURSDAY, but she will be unable to go because the people who run the orphanage she lives at do not have the money to send her. Lily will start school effortlessly while Sanju's future is unknown.

What is known is that without an education, Sanju is likely to end up in the same profession as her mother. But we have an opportunity to change that. We have the chance to give Sanju a life that is different than her mother's. There are 12 other children in the same boat as Sanju. School is starting in two days and they will not go unless you and I can help.

Children's HopeChest (the organization my husband is going to work for next week!) is trying to get funding for all 12 of these children in the next two days so that they can go to school. It costs $407 per child to send them.

I have the incredible privilege of simply just sending Lily to school. Sanju needs help. If she is to have any future at all, she needs US to help her. There are few things that I fundraise for on my blog, but this is urgent and oh so important. The life that she will lead without an education is bleak. What if it was my Lily stuck in this situation. Would we not run to her aid? Would we not sacrifice to give her a hope and a future?

Sanju and her eleven friends need a miracle in the next two days. What would seem miraculous to her is really quite attainable for us.

12 children's education for one year (including tuition, uniforms and supplies) X $407 = $4884. There are 75 people who "follow" this blog. If we each gave just $64 we could pay for 12 children to have an education this year. We can do this. If you feel like you can contribute to this in any amount, please go HERE to give and put "India School" in the notes section.

Thanks for considering this.  Sanju thanks you. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

All The Difference

With 147 million orphans in the world I am acutely aware that not everyone grows up with a father. And certainly, not everyone grows up with a GREAT father.


This weekend as we celebrate Father’s Day, my heart aches for the children who have never known their dads. It hurts for the children who are watching their fathers die from diseases that are preventable. And I hurt for the fathers who have had to give up the children they love because they can’t afford to feed them. As the mother of one of those children, I am sobered.

There are plenty of heart wrenching stories I could tell just from two trips to Africa in the past months about children who have been abandoned by their dads. Stories filled with abuse, neglect and pain. I won’t take the time to tell those stories now, but I have to say they have led me to realize something I’m afraid I have often taken for granted. Having a father is a gift. Having a loving father is an incredible gift that fewer and fewer people on the planet seem to get the privilege of enjoying. Ask 17 year old Elizabeth who lives in Otoboi, Uganda. Her father was an alcoholic who almost killed her and her sister. Ask the little girl who lives in fear at night that her daddy is going to come into her room. Ask the 11 year old who was sold into sexual slavery by her father. Yes, loving daddies are hard to come by. I hate that the word “Daddy” conjures up such terrifying memories for so many.

Yet somehow, out of all the families on the planet, God chose to set me in a family with one of the great dads. Oh, he wouldn’t say he’s great...which is sort of what makes him just that. :) It’s not the fact that he baked strawberry strudel pastries for us every Sunday before church (and by baked I do mean took them out of the frozen package and placed them in the oven!), or that he built us the coolest treehouse ever in our backyard. It isn’t that he took us fishing and went on God knows how many bike rides with us. It isn’t that he took us swimming or opened our home to foster children. It’s the heart behind all those things that makes him great.



My dad isn’t perfect. Funny thing…turns out he’s just like all the rest of us – broken, needy and in desperate need of a Savior. Thankfully, he recognized that many, many years ago. The decision he made to love his family like Jesus loves him has made all the difference in my life. I am incredibly grateful for his gentleness, his servant’s heart, his loyalty, his steadfastness, his wisdom and his love.

I’m about to move over a thousand miles away from my Dad. It’ll be the first time in my life I haven’t been within a 20 minute drive. (Gulp.) What I love about my dad is that he chose to invest in my life in a way that even though I’ll be far away, I’ll still be living out the things that he taught me and more importantly, SHOWED me really matter. My children will be laughed with and snuggled, my spouse will be hugged and respected, my prayers will be many and my life will be lived not for myself, but for the glory of God. Thank you, Dad. There aren’t words to say how much I love you.

...And God, be close to those who have no daddy to love them. Heal the hearts of the children who have been mistreated by their dads. Whisper your words of comfort and value to the girls who are being sold for sex multiple times a day. Bring rescue, God. Let your light flood the darkness. Let these children know that they have a Heavenly Father who knows their name and sees each tear that falls. Reveal your love, Jesus. Thank you for being the best Dad ever.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Transition

My last blog entry was all about stopping to remember what God has done.  This blog post is to celebrate what God is currently doing!  Just a quick recap of the past two years for those of you who are new around here:

Ben and I decided to expand our family through adoption back in 2008.  We pursued an adoption of a little baby boy from Ethiopia (up to 12 months old).  As we embarked on this journey we started reading more about Africa since we basically just knew what we saw on tv. The first book I picked up at the store was "Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds" by Tom Davis.  I admit...I picked it out because it had a cool cover. :)  Turns out that book with the cool cover started a transformation in me that is going on to this day.  In it I read about the AIDS crisis in Africa, about the millions of orphans in Africa and about the Church's poor response to these things that God cares so much about.  I was broken.  I started asking questions about my life and the way I live it.  I started evaluating my love of "stuff" against my love for the least of these.  I started wondering why I insisted on living my life so safely.  I've just got this one life, right?  What am I doing with it? How had I ignored this crisis?  How had I closed my eyes and ears so tightly so I wouldn't be bothered? 

That book led me to check out the author, Tom Davis.  I looked him up online and found out he's the CEO of Children's HopeChest, an orphan advocacy organization.  Through his website I ended up going to the blog of a woman named Brandi, who is now one of my best friends.  We ended up exchanging emails and I found out more about the organization.  The more Ben and I found out about HopeChest the more we liked it.  We ended up driving down to Louisville to meet the new COO, Bob Mudd. He was leaving a very lucrative job to run HopeChest. We learned more about the organization and how we could volunteer so we decided to get involved. 

Throughout this time I can't begin to describe what was going on in me.  I was losing sleep, I was dreaming of Africa, I couldn't get the pictures and stories of the African orphans I had read about or watched videos of out of my head.  My life as I knew it was over.  Then came the opportunity to go to Uganda.  The way God paved the way for our trip is CRAZY.  What we saw there changed us.  It shattered us into a million pieces.  It gave us vision and the hope that people like you and I can make a difference in the world. One of the things that haunted us about Uganda was the number of child headed households.  Children raising children.  There were four and five year olds holding their younger siblings on their backs.  We were heart broken for these kids.  After seeing these kids we decided to change our age range for our adoption.  We felt like we needed to be open to adopting an older child.  Two days after we made the change we received a referral for our son, Tariku.

Our family went from this


to this


But our journey isn't over.  We have our son home, which has only further reminded us of all the children in the world who do not  have anyone to care for them.  Our hearts are now wired to give our time and energy to helping provide orphans with a hope and a future.  We have been praying seriously for the past year about what our next steps as a family should be. 

Through this time we've had to grapple with what we value and what is really important.  We've been brought face to face with the question of what we are willing to sacrifice.  It's been a crazy important journey for us.  One that has brought us to this conclusion: We are willing to go wherever He wants us to go to serve His children.  In the end, that's all that matters.  The American Dream doesn't matter.  How much stuff we have doesn't matter.  But giving our all for the dream God has for us does.  After years of running from the sacrifice that God requires of us, we are finally willing.

So today, my husband is quitting his job of seven years where he has done community development.  We are leaving the city we have lived in for the past thirty years.  We are leaving both of our families.  We are leaving our friends.  We are leaving our church.  We are leaving our children's comfort zones.  We are moving to Colorado Springs to work for HopeChest.

Are we scared?  Heck yeah.  Do we still need to sell our house desperately?  Yep.  Are we crazy?  I'm sure.  Are we excited?  Completely.  Are we in awe of what God has done in the past year?  Totally. 

Are we totally relying on God to continue to lead us and get us through this massive transition? Oh my, yes.  The really, really great news as I was reminded yesterday is that "The One who calls you is faithful and He WILL do it".  - 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Let the FUN continue!