Saturday, March 31, 2012
If you'd like to read the book for free, click here.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
One of my beautiful daughters is black, growing up in a white family. I’ve spoken a lot lately about blackness versus whiteness, and about Western attitudes towards the rest of the world. It bothers me to talk persistently about these things. It feels more polite to pretend each race and culture is a carbon copy of the others.
I would love to stick my head in the sand and believe race doesn’t matter. Once upon a time, I did believe that. But as the white mother of a child who looks nothing like me, I no longer have the luxury of singing kumbaya and pretending the world is color blind.
Who wants a color blind world anyway? Who wants to overlook Amelia’s gorgeous chocolate skin in contrast to Caroline’s milky fair complexion? Who wants to blush at the variety between my stick straight hair, Caroline’s soft waves, and Amelia’s thick, tight curls? Diversity is too rich to risk ignoring.
I embrace diversity because it is exquisite.
I scrutinize diversity because this world renders it excruciating.
I want to ignore the articles I read. The proof that racism is thriving. I want Amelia’s appearance to bring a trivial form of joy, without it carrying serious consequences about the way society views her. I want to celebrate her outward beauty like my friend Amanda’s family celebrates the curly red hair she does not share with either of her sisters.
And I do celebrate it that way. But I cannot disregard the hatred in this world. The preconceived notions. The subtle feelings of superiority and condescension. Worse still, I cannot forever protect Amelia from them.
I can only educate myself, empathize with others, and teach my daughters how to live.
God is the answer to this all, isn’t He? The purpose? The center? I’ve read some fantastic things lately about Scripture, race, and our faith. Still, my mind swarms in perplexed frustration. Why does it have to be complicated? A person is a person, made in God’s image, no better or worse than you or me. Where did the confusion ever come from?
It grieves me.
I am grappling to find the God-lesson in all of this. There are many. Sometimes, I grab onto the God-lessons and rejoice in them. I thank God for forming our family in a way that opened my eyes and my heart to the multiplicity of His children. Other days, like today, I just shake my head and wish Amelia could spend her childhood blissfully unaware of these issues.
This world is depraved. We need Redemption.
Monday, March 26, 2012
I shamelessly went into her room after he left, turned the lights back on, and took this video. Yup. For the blog. I think she's ridiculously cute, even with dark circles under her eyes too late at night.
No, she doesn't understand what she's saying yet. "Lean not on your own understanding" turns into a jumble of precious preschool style syllables... "your own humber thanding." However, she is learning that:
- her parents think God's Word is a treasure to learn, pass on, and recite, and
- she is storing away precious phrases that the Holy Spirit may call to mind as this faith hopefully becomes her own, rather than her parents'.
I am not writing this post to pat myself on the back. I don't teach Caroline scripture nearly enough, and I'm thankful that Brad and her preschool have picked up my slack. I write this to encourage us all to do better at exalting God's Word to our children, and to show you a great tool for children's scripture memory:
My dad sent us this booklet of memory verses aimed at preschool through five years old. You can order yours for $5 here. (No, no, not a promotion... just my unsolicited endorsement!) Each short verse is paired with a picture to prompt non-readers to remember the passage. I snapped a photo of an example:
Watching Brad teach Caroline the verses last night has inspired me to get back on the teach-children-scripture-ball! And since I've seriously slacked on scripture memory in my own Christian walk, I know learning these short verses with Caroline will also benefit me.
Maybe when I finish learning the set intended for preschoolers, I can graduate to the adult version. :)
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
For years, I've feared to admit just how intrinsic writing is to who I am. My amateur words often feel weak and atrophied in comparison to gifted authors, like a muscle I am aching to strengthen through exercise. How can I define myself by something I haven't yet mastered?
But I am learning that "amateur" is not an antonym for "art". There is value even in the unpolished.
Lately, writing has been an increasing itch that only amplifies the more I scratch it. My blog is cluttered with words… my journals filling quickly… even my private, internal thoughts are rearranged into sentences more pleasing for the written page.
I am a woman obsessed.
At the age of seven or eight, I filled my free time writing short stories, usually tragic tales about motherless young girls. My own mother took slight offense at the constant killing off of each maternal figure.
She should have felt complimented. I knew that great stories needed calamity, and I could imagine no adversity worse than losing a mother.
And here I sit, 28 years old, writing blog posts, still about motherless children and what we call "the orphan crisis." It is almost laughable how little things change.
The difference now is that I'm more interested in happy endings.
God's hand of intervention.
And because God encompasses so much more than ONLY adoption and His rescue of motherless children, my writing also is shifting towards other manifestations of Jesus' love.
I'm asking God to please use my writing.
Please marry my love of words
to my love for You,
(and even mingle in some happy endings for motherless children.)
Be pleased, Lord, to glorify Yourself through me. I don't deserve it, but I do desire it.
Wouldn't that be a happy beginning?
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I know you're sick of the controversy surrounding the Invisible Children's Kony 2012 video. I have been engrossed in the whole thing and can't help myself but to post a few more thoughts/links. Humor me! I'll be brief.
- I applaud the Invisible Children for making the (admittedly flawed) video through their (admittedly flawed) organization. It started conversation. It's made young people see the world as a bigger place with bigger concerns than our belly buttons. It also caused thousands of us who "advocate" various causes to question whether we do so in a harmful way tainted by Western attitudes and baggage. I needed that lesson. I have been changed by the discussion. Any flaws the IC has, I also had and am being challenged to shed thanks to their boldness. In a world where so many do nothing, I am proud of the efforts of the IC. I pray that the troubles they are now experiencing are mere growing pains and helpful lessons as they move forward with added wisdom, rather than the beginning of their end.
- Here are the links I loved when researching this controversy:
- A simply excellent article from TIME. So intellegent, helpful... I can't say enough good about it. I tried to pick a favorite quote to pull for you to entice you to read it, but it was too good to pick just one line. Really, go read the full article!
- The blog post that best said what I was thinking about the controversy.
- The blog post that best said the things I should have been thinking about the controversy... like, where is Jesus in all of this? (a perspective from someone in Uganda)
- The best blog post about empathy for the struggles of imperfect yet trying not-for-profits.
- The best blog post about Jason Russell's breakdown, and why our devotion to a cause should not be linked to the perfection of a human in leadership.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
"We say, then, to anyone who is under trial, give Him time to steep the soul in His eternal truth. Go into the open air, look up into the depths of the sky, or out upon the wideness of the sea, or on the strength of the hills that is His also; or, if bound in the body, go forth in the spirit; spirit is not bound. Give Him time and, as surely as dawn follows night, there will break upon the heart a sense of certainty that cannot be shaken." - Amy Carmichael
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
(If you subscribe to my blog through email or reader, you may have to click on the link to my actual blog for the video to appear.)
"The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story." - Chimamanda Adichie
Monday, March 19, 2012
My husband Brad is in Honduras on a missions trip. I am terribly jealous.
In the meantime, the internet is plastered in controversy regarding white Americans advocating for a situation of social justice in Africa. Many say that this "activism" is a facade for elitism, and that a privileged few are speaking out of turn for those a world away, whom they have wrongly painted as helpless Africans. The critics cry "white savior complex!"
I am familiar with this kind of argument. When people like my husband go on short-term mission trips, many wonder whether the locals they visit receive any lasting benefit. Do short term missionaries help those they come to serve, or are these trips a case of upper crust Americans swooping in for the warm fuzzy high of feeling altruistic while gawking at others' poverty?
The adoption world faces this same scrutiny. Why did my family feel the need to cross oceans and racial barriers rather than adopt a white American child? Was it some form of modern day colonialism that caused us to impose our whiteness and Western culture upon an African child, rather than a child closer to home?
Believe me. I spend time thinking about these questions.
Here's the thing. I do believe that neocolonialism exists. I have read "The White Man's Burden" and am educating myself about the dark attitudes the poem symbolizes. I never want to extend love to others out of a feeling of superiority.
|Cartoon depicting the horrendous ideology of the White Man's Burden, via|
There is a place for global concern and advocacy.
There is a place for mission trips.
There is a place for international adoption.
The importance of a short term mission trip or of global advocacy is the same as the importance of our adopting Amelia -- the act of helping someone else instead transforms you.
Make no mistake... we cannot feel any "white savior complex" when she is the one blessing us.
The same truths hold for my husband on his mission trip. Sure, they'll pass out food and lend a hand to those who are providing full time ministry in Honduras. But the lasting effect of the missions trip will be how God uses Honduras to change my husband and those traveling with him; not vice versa. And Brad knows that. We all ought to know that. We cannot visit foreign countries under an illusion that our presence is some sort of healing balm. Instead, we go to have our own minds broadened, our own hearts softened, our love for other peoples stretched, and our points of view illuminated.
As for those who advocate for foreign situations... not all of them are doing so out of a feeling of superiority. There has to be a place where we believe that some people just want to HELP. That some people see needs and want to act... even though political and geographical boundaries seem to stand in the way. Wanting to help is different from thinking that those you advocate for are helpless. I strongly believe that.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Last weekend, I left my two bitty girls to hang with some bigger girls. I attended our church’s junior high/high school girls’ purity retreat. I haven’t had so many meaningful, one on one conversations with teenage girls since I was also their age. And my heart was broken by this one pervasive theme in the hearts of adolescent Christian girls:
They feel burdened.
Burdened by their sins.
By the rules they feel unable to follow.
By the life they feel called – but not empowered – to lead.
By guilt that the things of this world, (“normal teenage things”), are often more appealing than the version of gospel we are selling them.
And my heart broke, because the “burden” that Christ lays on His followers is, in His words, light. Sure, purity is a hefty thing. Imitating Christ is a high and serious calling. But there should be no pressure because living a holy life is something that we cannot do, but instead Christ does in us. We are free to admit our inability and rest in the One who is able!
It’s a tough combination.
It’s the human condition.
We all know the feeling… the bending under the pressure of all we “ought” and “ought not” to do in life. And we also know how, at the end of the day, we shrug off mistakes and feel pretty good about ourselves. After all, we can’t be perfect, right?
We mistakenly feel that we can attribute SOME righteousness to ourselves, and so we miss the gaping need we have for Christ to be our ONLY hope of righteousness.
Because He is the only righteousness we can ever have.
By calling ourselves "pretty good", we lie about how sinful we truly are, we diminish our need for Jesus to be our righteousness, and we heap on ourselves the impossible burden of creating our own Christ-like righteousness.
We turn life into a list of rules.
We make Christianity an issue of morality rather than a passionate, transformative relationship with our Savior.
At this weekend's retreat, a couple of highschoolers were lamenting over various struggles they have with peer pressure and sin. I asked them this question, “How does Jesus help you in these struggles?”
They had no idea how to answer.
I’ve been there.
I remember being a wayward Christian in college, desperate to be saved from my habitual backsliding. I sat HUNGRY in a Christian conference, tears streaming, begging for answers. Again and again the speakers said, “Give it to God.” I squirmed in my seat and thought, “HOW do you give it to God!?!? Here, God! Take it! Fix it! I don’t know what the action is that enables me to GIVE my wickedness to God!!”
Like the young girls at this weekend’s retreat, I understood what Jesus required of me, but not how He could empower me to live that life. The result was immense burden.
Like the speakers at the conference that I desparately cried through years ago, the ONLY advice I know for these burdened girls is “give it to God.”
I can’t explain to you how it works…
...how the Holy Spirit moves in and takes over…
...how RELATIONSHIP with a sweet Savior becomes the point ,while the “oughts” and “ought nots” move to the background – even while you’re accidentally living a life of increasing purity by His power alone…
But Jesus died so that we might live. Not lives of burden, but of freedom within His righteousness.
"This grace gives me fear/and this grace draws me near/and all that it asks, it provides." - Derek Webb, Awake My Soul
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
She is my baby. I've only babied her a little over a year. And I'm devastated to give up the baby-ness of a crib.
You adoptive mamas get me... I fight giving up any baby milestone with Amelia, because I just haven't gotten to baby her as long as I did Caroline.
And she's my youngest.
And I adore her.
And we need to keep a baby around the house at all times. ;)
You reading this, Brad?
I'm getting the fever. Ha!
Monday, March 12, 2012
I've never told my children about about Disney. I've never mentioned Disney World. So why are my girls enamored by EVERY product and movie Disney stocks on Target's shelves?
And why... FOR THE LOVE WHY did my four year old daughter start sobbing when, after asking to go to Disney World, I replied that we can maybe take her when she's six? Will she waste away in the next two years from lack of Disney?
I'm pretty sure this is some form of cult.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
I am from humid honeysuckle summers, bare feet dashing across scalding pavement towards the pool.
I am from weeknight sporting events. Baseball diamonds surrounded by cheering parents. Squeaky church gyms. High school football games and siblings more athletic than I.
I am from vacations to the beach, junk-food sleepovers, and weekend church retreats.
I am from sleepy morning devotionals that we children hardly heard through our half awake ears, crunching cereal loudly... except to hear that our parents knew He was worth this effort.
I am from spacious, hilly suburbs, shiny shopping malls, clean schools. I am from "mind your manners," and "don't be in a rush to grow up." I am from a mama who bought quality at a bargain and never thought I was too old to sit in her lap to cry when life crashed down.
I am from at least five hot, balanced home cooked meals per week around the family dinner table. I am from "eat your vegetables" and later sneaking cookies from the pantry.
I am from an area budding with the beginnings of diversity and racial reconciliation. I am from classmates of every ethnicity as my grammar school friends, but I am from a world of white friends on the weekends.
I am from a family who loves books and words and metaphors and stories. I am from The Monkey's Paw as a children's tale. I am from dinner table discussions where Encyclopedia Brittanica is pulled out and word origins are discussed.
I am from a God of grace greater than my mistakes. From a family who taught that being perfect is not what matters, but only hungering for the Perfect One.
Feel like joining the conversation? Where are you from?
Friday, March 9, 2012
|2005, child soldier, Uganda|
In 2006, Brad and I watched a documentary about the atrocities of war in Northern Uganda.
forced to kill their own families,
turned into child soldiers and child prostitutes.
The video embedded below is sobering, inspiring, exciting, and makes me hopeful that, if enough people care about this issue, the pressure to arrest Kony as an international criminal will stay strong. Watch it. Repost it. Link to it. Facebook it. Tweet it.
The organization making this video is now being criticized for neo-colonialism, a desire to be more famous than even Joseph Kony, and for uninformed idealism. Criticize them if you want. The truth is, thousands more people today care whether Joseph Kony ends his tirades of terror than they did a decade ago. Spread the word. Make Joseph Kony famous for his hatred in 2012.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
I (think) I love it!
I would say "tell me what you think," but my ego is still a little fragile from the drastic change. I don't think this former-blonde could handle brutal honesty YET. Maybe next week. After I stop doing double-takes when I walk past my reflection.
If you hate it, lie to me.
Is that a normal request?
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
"With regard to patience the Lord says, 'You will gain possession of your souls through your patient endurance' (Luke 21:19). He did not say 'through your fasting' or 'through your vigils'. It refers to the patience bestowed by God, which is the queen of virtues, the foundation of courageous actions. It is patience that is peace amid strife, serenity amid distress, and a steadfast base for those who acquire it. Once you have attained it with the help of Christ Jesus, no swords and spears, no attacking armies, not even the ranks of demons, the dark phalanx of hostile powers, will be able to do you any harm." - Gregory of Sinai
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
You who are adopting, despite the fact that God has blessed you and your husband with the ability to conceive.
You who feel called to adopt your first child, before ever even knowing whether you and your spouse can become pregnant.
You who understand the pain of waiting ONLY because you PICKED the adoption process; not because you’ve stumbled upon the aches of infertility.
I need to talk to you, because you and I have been hurting our sisters in Christ.
I need to talk to you, because every time we qualify that “we’re not adopting because we HAVE to, but because we WANT to,” we may be violently rubbing salt into the very open wounds of those battling infertility.
Please hear my heart; I do love the Christian adoption community. We adopt because God adopted us. We feel humbled into passion. We are so blown away by the beauty of adoption that we are insulted when “others” assume the ONLY reason for adoption is infertility.
We know that adoption is the gospel, and so we declare, “Adoption is NOT plan B!” And as if to prove that adoption is not plan B, we disclose just how fertile we are.
We are so blind.
Was adoption “Plan B” to the mother who always wanted to both adopt and get pregnant, but found the door to biological children closed to her? No!
And to really challenge us…
Is adoption “Plan B” to the mother who never fathomed adoption… who still has trouble imagining adoption because it feels like a betrayal to her desire to become pregnant? Really. I am asking you. Is it “Plan B”?
You, Christian, who know that the Bible says each child was knit together by God in the womb… even if it’s the womb of a birth mother rather than the permanent mother.
You, Christian, who rejoice that God has ordained each of our days before one of them came to be… including the day a child will enter the arms of her adoptive parents.
You, Christian, who believe that God’s plan is always Plan A, regardless of whether we saw it coming… regardless of the tears and pain that brought us to the beauty of His will.
Is adoption EVER “Plan B”?
If you or I ever comprehend the beauty of adoption, it is by the grace of God alone. Sometimes that gracious eye-opening comes through infertility, or a deeply implanted passion, or the example of another adoptive family. Regardless of how we are awakened to the gospel and how it relates to adoption, IT IS GRACE.
We have no grounds for bragging.
Except, maybe, to boast in our weaknesses... in which case we can boast if we ARE infertile if God has done a mighty work through that!
Infertility is shown throughout the Bible as something very near and dear to the heart of God. Perhaps as dear to His heart as the orphan. I have said this before and I will say it again: Trials are often a gift and the favor of the Lord.
Infertility is a trial. Therefore, infertility and all that is learned through it can often be seen as the grace of God. Painful grace, but grace nonetheless.
So can we make a deal?
Can we do the following?
- When we talk about our choice to adopt, can we stop clarifying just how fertile we probably are?
- Can we allow our Christian sisters to grieve infertility, even if they are simultaneously excited about an adoption process?
- Can we stop inferring that infertility is a lesser motive for adoption? (There are children who are old enough to understand this logic… children who know they were adopted as a direct result of infertility. God had a plan for these little ones and for their parents, and he wanted them right where they are. Can we stop unintentionally trashing their parents and challenging just how desired they were?)
- Can we humble ourselves and drop the pride we carry for having adopted despite being able to get pregnant? There is no room for pride in Christianity. Can we realize that we have seen the beauty of adoption through grace alone, just like those who came to that same beauty through infertility?
Ladies, am I missing any bullet points? Are there any other deals we should make?
(My writing was inspired by my friend's honest post.)
Monday, March 5, 2012
|the starting line|
Brad and I had an incredible weekend in Florida. We laughed, we ate delicious seafood, we dreamed up big plans for our not-so-distant future, and finally, we ran the races we’d come for.
Thank God that this “race” of Christian faith is beautifully different than the race I ran in Florida yesterday. Thank God that my inherit traits, my abilities, and my stamina have nothing to do with all God wants to do through me. Thank God that, even when I am less than disciplined in the Christian life, Jesus remains my hope and my assurance that I will finish. HE will complete it in me.
Maybe I am still just exhausted from yesterday, but that truth makes me literally cry as I type it.
I stumble. I get sore. I forget to practice. My flesh is weak.
So can I believe that God will make me SOAR as I try to glorify him? Thank you God, that the race of a by-faith-life is in your hands.
(A friend of mine is living in Zambia without her husband for several months as part of the process to adopt two daughters. She wrote a post that blessed my heart about “striving to rest”. Ah, this Christian race where we strive as God does it for us! I’m sure you can tell that I’ve been thinking deeply lately about how striving and resting/trusting fit together in this faith of ours. Her post is here.)