Friday, August 31, 2012

Now That I Have Seen {Friday Flashbacks}

via


Kevin Carter won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for this photo taken during the Sudan famine.  In 1994, he committed suicide.

“I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain, of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners.” - Kevin Carter, from suicide note

This particular picture depicts a starving child crawling desperately towards the United Nations Food camp, as a vulture stalks nearby.  Carter's duty as a photographic journalist was to remain separate from the story; he never intervened for this child.  But critics claim he shirked basic human kindness by seeing the desperate need of this young one, snapping a picture, and walking away.

Kevin Carter, via

Carter, via
via

Carter died under a weight of hopelessness.

Carter wielded the camera, but we view the photos.  We watch the news.  We hear the statistics.  We are therefore witnesses to a thousand needs and atrocities around the world.  News and social media grant us awareness; we choose our response.  We have a choice: to see, yet remain separate from the various tragedies around our globe... or to act as fountains pouring out God's love.

For Christians, there is always hope, even in the most desperate of situations.
Hopeless situations are ripe for God to redeem.  Will we take part?
Will we hoard our hope? our witness? our resources? our love?


“Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help. 
If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,” [i.e. "that's not for me"] 
will that get you off the hook? 
Someone is watching you closely, you know— 
Someone not impressed with weak excuses.” 
-Proverbs 24:12 
(The Message)


“Once our eyes are opened 
we can’t pretend we don’t know what to do. 
God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, 
knows that we know 
and holds us responsible to act.” 
- Proverbs 24:12

(This post is a hybrid of three posts I wrote in November of 2009: 1, 2, 3)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Evacuating to Uganda

Uganda is addictive.  No foot visits without longing to again tred on dry red dirt, feel the bustle of Kampala, even sleep sticky under mosquito nets.  Ugandan culture is warm, patient, sometimes confusing to this I-want-it-now American girl.

I miss Uganda.  I miss the perpective I had there.  Leaving the Western world reframed all that matters.  I need the reminder that the richest people are those good at relationship -- with God and man -- not those with Gucci sunglasses and massive homes.

When we "evacuated" from Isaac to Birmingham this week, we got something almost as good as a trip to Uganda.



To the far right in this photo is David. He was our driver in Uganda, and is still our friend.  He navigated us through one of the most pivitol months of our lives with the grace and love of Christ.  He'll never know how he ministered to our family.


David was in Birmingham yesterday! I never imagined we would ever again eat lunch with both him and the family we traveled with to Uganda.  My heart could have popped.

How I love those precious twins!


I can't return to Uganda any time soon, but my husband is working on getting me to a mission trip in Honduras with him in March!!!!  I will probably fall in love again.  It can't hurt to gain a touch more of God's heart for the nations. 

"God said to me, 'You are my son;
today I have become your father.
Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.'"
Psalms 2:7-8

Where in this world has God pulled your heart?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who are waiting:



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wimps {Isaac & Mobile}



So, uh...
*cough cough*

This is embarrassing.
We evacuated from Mobile.  (They told us to! They MANDATED it!)
But... our friends all knew it was silly. They rolled their eyes. They stayed.

Turns out... we evacuated from our home for... rain. (Knock on wood that it stays just rain for Mobile! Praying Isaac isn't severe for anyone else.)

So.
Yeah.
Caroline is traveling with her shower cap.  
Because if you leave your region at the threat of summer showers, you should at least have the necessary head gear. 


Monday, August 27, 2012

Your Beautiful Testimony: Is It Keeping You from Growth?

{Check out my other post at Mercy Ink this morning!}


I don’t want to be defined as an adoptive mom.


Wait, that came out wrong.


I'm proud to be an adoptive mom.  I write incessantly about my girls.  I attend and speak at adoption conferences, read orphan care books.


Still...

I don’t want to be defined solely by the fact that I am an adoptive mom.



Adoption, like most miracles, is actually very ordinary.  The most baffling things, after all, are those repetitive glories we take for granted.  
    Sun piercing night each morning, 
    hospital wings lined with crib after crib of newborn life, 
    salt smell so strong you can taste the ocean, 
    legs that walk, 
    eyes that see, 
    hearts that connect.


via

Adoption is just
ONE glory
that we experienced
ONE time.
ONE part of God's movement in our lives.


What is YOUR one thing?
What part of your life most defines you? Most changed you?
Are you hanging on to one ancient part of your testimony?
Clinging to it as if it's the only taste of God you'll ever savor?

via
I get it, truly.  You have a story.  A big, amazing, God story.
The Creator of the world reached into your little life in a huge, tangible, unbelievable way, and you've never gotten over it.  Nor should you.


Your story is beautiful, I'm sure.  I'd love to hear it.  Please tell it.  Redemption is my favorite. Never forget that moment. Never forget when your Savior did what He does so well: saves.


God told those Israelites who'd seen their Lord's salvation to set up stones of remembranceBut these stones -- these old testimonies -- they were not meant to be carried around, weighing us down and delaying onward walks with Jesus.  They're meant to be monuments, which we can pass by as we move with Jesus, unburdened, knowing that God can still do things even greater than whatever He's already done in our lives. 




Hold a memory in your heart, but don't clutch it greedily in your hands; keep your palms open for more of Jesus.  The Eternal God cannot be confined to your moment.  He will move fresh again.

God isn't finished with you.
There's more in your life He wants to do.
(Spoiler alert: Your life in Christ will be an incredible story, and in the end, God wins.)

******************

With friends today.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mercy Ink

Guess what?




(Ok, I guess that button is a lie. It should say I WILL be featured at MercyInk. Monday/tomorrow. Check it out!)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Because I Love Redemption Stories

My favorite stories are...

... sinners turned saints,
tears to laughter,
sickness to healing,
hardship turned praise.

Our friends the Price's share their story of God's hand in the premature birth of their children.

Friday, August 24, 2012

I'm Blessed as the Poor {Friday Flashback-ish}



Years ago in small group, my husband forever challenged my definition of what a blessing is.

It's not health,
or comfort,
or ease,
or prosperity.

IT IS WHATEVER POINTS YOU TO CHRIST.

If we believe Jesus is THE greatest joy...
then ANYTHING that draws us closer to Him = a blessing.

Sickness.
Poverty.
Heartache.
Loss.
Joy.
Comfort.
Discomfort.

WHATEVER ushers us into the Presence of the Holy Spirit... into reliance on Him... that is blessing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Us on TV - Thank God for Good Editing


Thank God for good editing. Seriously.

The local news here aired a story about our adoption agency.  Several families were part of the shoot, including ours.  The news anchor plopped us on a couch, directed the girls to our laps, aimed the cameras, and...

the girls could not sit still.
They couldn't stop touching the microphone hooked to me.
And I couldn't think straight because of it.
They turned the cameras off and rearranged us.
It didn't help.
I stammered and stuttered and pulled Caroline's dress down repeatedly.

She really needed her dress pulled down.

Really.

She kept squirming, legs wide open, so that she flashed the camera repeatedly! 


Most of this was edited out.
Most of my distracted talk was cut, as well.
Like I said, thank God for good editing.


But...
In the closing scene of the clip that aired, they had to censor Caroline's little flashing undies!  Oh mercy.  My four year old child has been censored on television.  I was cracking up laughing when I saw that.   Good grief.

All in all, the clip turned out pretty well. The other families rocked it.  Lifeline's social worker rocked it.  The editing was magic.  And our family provided some comedic relief.

(Okay, okay, if you're only watching to laugh at Caroline's gaff, skip to the 1:54 mark.)



Of course, after this story aired, people began posting some negative comments on the WKRG Facebook link.  (There were also supportive comments, each of which I "liked" at the speed of light!)  I forget many people bristle at international adoption, seeing it as a threat to domestic adoption.  Here are a few excerpts:

WHY?WHY go out side the USA when so many in our own Country needs Adopting out


we need to think about those in the USA first!


Take care of home first and foremost.


Why not adopt the Children of the Appalachia Mountains first and foremost!!! We have a friggin 3rd World in our own backyard, that 90% of Americans seem to forget or haven't become aware of the problem. I would love it if people who had the
 money could adopt those kids first and be Mentor Parents who help pull those who want to have a better life out of there. The average age of giving birth is 12 Years Old...the youngest age someone can become a Grandparent is 25 Years Old!!!! It does happen. Please give these kids a 2nd chance. We need to take care of our own people first, and become fully self-sufficient nation before helping others. 




Too many in the great ole USA to be going outside to adopt





One comment called international adoption a "tragedy".  I addressed this specifically in my reply, and the tragedy comment disappeared. That helped my heart.

I'm only giving you the negative excerpts so you can get your blood pressure up like I did.
Misery loves company.
Muah ha ha ha.

Perhaps soon I'll do a post about the misconceptions represented by some of the comments I saw.  There is so much faulty information.  I truly believe that as international adoption grows, so will domestic... and vice versa.  These two paths are not in competition. I know so many families who first adopted internationally, then later adopted domestically, or the reverse.  Adoption inspires more adoption, often within the same family. 

It's a lot to think about.
One thing is certain...
We've got to teach Caroline to keep her dress down.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who are waiting:


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

12 Luxuries I Shouldn't Take for Granted


I recently found a list I wrote while in Uganda.
It was a list of things I said I'd "never again take for granted when we get home."

I read the list and a) chuckled and b) smacked my forehead.

I do, in fact, take most of these things for granted now.  Except #11.  In Uganda, I washed every article of clothing by hand for weeks.  Mine. Brad's. Amelia's.  It qualifies as manual labor.  Don't laugh at me until you've tried to scrub red African dirt out of a white t-shirt.  I still hug my washing machine and give it Valentine cards.

12 Things {I Thought While in Uganda} I'd Never Take for Granted When I Returned Home
  1. quilted toilet paper
  2. tap water safe for brushing teeth, washing dishes, making formula, and cooking
  3. air conditioning
  4. being able to drive myself around
  5. that most other drivers around me aren't nuts
  6. good roads
  7. mosquitoes that don't cause malaria
  8. that my gas stove lights itself
  9. cooking pans that have actual lids and are made of something other than cheap aluminum (I have a blistering steam burn on my arm from trying to peel an aluminum cooking sheet off of a boiling pot of water with an anxious baby on my hip!)  [Update: Today, this is a weird purple scar!]
  10. canned soup and other convenient lunch food that takes less than 2 hours to cook!
  11. washing machines and dryers
  12. my hair straightener
Yep. Next time I go to Uganda, I'm bringing my hair straightener. :)
Too bad the washing machine won't fit in a carry-on!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Arms and a Heart that Ache


I recently braced my two sleeping girls against me while riding the helm of a speeding boat through choppy water.  The three of us were sandy, wet, exhausted, skin tender from a day in the sun.  My arms ached as we bounced.  I absorbed as much of each jolt as I could for them.

In every direction, I saw expansive, glittering water and felt as though I were shrinking in light of God's bigness.  He creates endless oceans with a mere sigh.  My arms and heart were equally full and sore in the beauty of that moment.

Dear God, 
may You always fill my arms 
with burdens sweet 
until I can lift no more.

May You load me heavily with Your good, joy-giving work... 
while simultaneously showing me how tiny I am... 
how reliant on You.

Don't strip me of responsibility.
Don't leave me empty, selfish, without purpose.

Show me my tiny place in Your Infinite Plan.
Heap on all You'll empower me to take.
Good work that points to You.
Give me that joy.

Allow me always 
arms and heart so full 
that they ache 
as I gaze at Who You Are.

 On In Around button

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Links for Your Weekend


Some great reads for you:

  • Because I hardly make it through a week without directing you to Ann Voskamp's blog, read this.  Chills.  Here's a taste:
"How can we who are saved, who are resting on the wood and righteousness of that Cross, look at a whole world out there drowning in a veritable storm of darkness and just breathe this happy relief that we’ve been plucked out to safety? [...No one can earn salvation in Christ but don’t we spend our lives thanking Christ for it?"


  • A T.V. preacher said some pretty terrible things about adoption... especially adopting kids with special needs.  I think this video is a fantastic counter arguement. It's not about adoption.  It's about loving life, from the perspective of a woman with Downs Syndrome. Phenomenal.



  • One last incredible quote...
"God 
does not promise 
to lead us in paths of 
prosperity or popularity
paths of 
comfort or temporary happiness
He promises to lead us in 
paths of righteousness, 
which means 
God will sometimes lead us into 
pain 
and 
discomfort 
for our holiness. 
And this is good for us. 
It is good because 
in those moments 
we hold tightly to Him 
and in those moments 
we are conformed more 
to the image of His Son. 
This results in our joy.
-- Eric Geiger

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What's God's Plan for Your Life? {The Answer}

With a best friend, not writing!


I took last week off... no writing.
It was an attempt to clear my mind, focus on God, and determine a direction for my life and ministry.  (Because, of course, if you're a Christian, "life" = "ministry".  They are synonymous.)

However, in seven days, God did not write an answer across the clouds, or send visions in my sleep.  Once again, God reminds me I am seeking Him as a Person, for relationship, rather than some inanimate Magic Plan.  

I don't get to have answers; 
I get to have Him.  

He 
wants
me!  

My relationship to Him will grow as I grope in the dark, stepping only where His Light warms the Way.



My youth minister was right...  
When I was 16, I met my youth minister at a church camp cafeteria to ask HOW WILL I KNOW if God is really calling me to be a missionary to Africa... 
(Instead, I went to college, broke faith to fall flat on my face, and was redeemed by a God who brought Africa to me in the shape of my baby girl Amelia.)

But my youth minister had told me then, when I was 16, the key to knowing God's will for your life.
I didn't believe him then.  His answer was too ordinary.
It lacked excitement. Lacked magic.
It involved no fireworks or impressive acts of faith... only small, steadfast, daily obedience.

In that cafeteria as we perched on pastel stools and talked above the clatter of dishes washing...
my youth minister told me,
"The way to know God's path for your life is this:  Follow Him in the small daily steps.  Obey Him moment by moment, day by day.  At some point, you'll look up and realize that in the long run, you've gone far in the path of His will."

It's not dazzling, but it's truth.



5 Specific Things That God Wants from You {Knowing God's Will}

  1. God wants you to praise Him.  Verbally and non verbally.
  2. God wants you to know Him.  Our family praised a lot of Olympic athletes recently.  That doesn't mean we know them.  We need to KNOW the God you praise, intimately.  
  3. God wants you to know His Word.  We're insane: we seek God's particular plan for our tiny little lives without even striving to know the Master Plan He breathed into a Book for us to study and know.  We have unprecedented access to God's precious, holy Word.  Learn it!
  4. God wants you to support your husband (if you have one).  You'd think I'd have this one nailed... I have a smokin' hot preacher husband.  Even so, it took me a week of concentration to be reminded that I should give Brad the same encouragement I give any girl friend... and more.  We all have to kill selfishness and be loving, thoughtful, interested cheerleaders for our spouses, whether they "deserve" it or not.  I'm talking about basic friendship.
  5. God wants access to your whole life.  What's the point of worshiping a God bigger than the universe if we confine Him to a teeny corner of our lives?

God, guide our daily steps.
Let us be more interested in knowing You than knowing Your plans.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who are waiting:



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Toy Kitchens & Greedy Worms {When Jealousy Creeps In}


I'm guest-posting at The Uncontainable Truth today!
______________________

My four year old daughter's shoulders are sagging as she tugs my shirt and stares at me with round, pleading eyes.

"It just makes me so sad," she moans.

I'm sad, too.  Slightly amused at her, but sad for entirely different reasons.

"Did you see her toy kitchen? It was pink!  She has an apron!  I'm just so sad about my green toy kitchen. It's not so cute and pink like hers."   She's been moping for a full ten minutes.

Caroline's toy kitchen is green, and so is she, with jealousy.  My generous, joyful girl has, for the first time, been bitten hard by the monster of envy.  I wrap my arms around her and tell how Mimi and Pal gave her the green toy kitchen for Christmas when she was tiny.  I tell her how her beloved Pal pieced it together, while bald, tiny Caroline trailed behind him, scattering screws and making the task hard and sweet.  

Within moments, Caroline is belly laughing and ready to pretend cook.  While she stirs make-believe stew, my own thoughts brew about envy.


How skinny girls make me want to lose weight.

How spacious floor plans and tall ceilings make me miss our old house.

How fashion magazines make my own closet depressing.

We compare ourselves to others constantly.  Where we win, pride festers in our soul.  
... at least we're thinner/smarter/nicer/wealthier/more stylish/more holy than her.

Where we lose the comparison competition, jealousy breeds.  
Our green toy kitchen is no longer nearly as fun, now that she has a pink one.
Our house/car/body/abilities are no longer worth gratitude, since hers are better.

And how do we pick whom we compare ourselves to?

When I chastise myself for gaining five pounds, 
I'm neglecting to compare myself to the woman overtaken by cancer.  
I bet she'd prefer my body.

When I call our home small and cramped, 
I forget to compare myself to almost half the world (3 billion people) who live on $2.50 each day. 
I wonder what their homes are like.

When I groan at a closet overstuffed, partially with clothes I don't like, 
I'm forgetting our church asked me to thin that closet by sending items to international refugees who move to our city with nearly nothing.
They're thankful for clean clothes to cover their backs, even if it's not the latest style in Vogue.



Who do we think we are, anyway, that we should always have more and better?

Didn't God Almighty call us "worms" in scripture? (here, here, and here)  Do worms dare pout for better cars, careers, and figures?

Our merciful Father, even as He calls us worms... He promises to help us.

"'Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,' declares the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel."
Isaiah 41:14

He knows how weak we are.
How prone to sin.
How wrecked with jealousy.

The God who laughs as His worms send space ships 352 million miles to Mars yet still cannot fathom the hugeness of their Creator...
He humbles Himself by living with us...
in the hearts and lives of mere worms...
healing us of our jealousy and sickness and sin.


Monday, August 13, 2012

They'll Know You're Sisters By Your Love


Before you learn bias…



Before you learn about race…


Before you learn what divides “us” from “them”…


Before Civil Rights History class…


Before “black” and “white” mean more than items from the crayon box…


At the truest level, minus the baggage of years…


People are simply people.
Sisters are completely sisters.
Best friends are the very best of friends.



Dear God, let my daughters always love as they do now, with simplicity.

Let them always extend their arms as they do now, with inclusiveness.


Let them remember the holy truths they know now:

     ...sisters don’t have to come from the same belly.
     ...skin brown or pink, curls silky or tight, we celebrate God's expansive creation.
     ...my daughters, you'll never have to explain you are sisters as long as you keep loving each other well.  Even strangers understand you are sisters by the love you have for one another.



"Your love for one another 
will prove to the world that 
you are my disciples."
John 13:35

Dear God, may our love for Christian brothers and sisters be so great that others immediately understand who  and whose we are.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

End: Helpful Facts About HIV/AIDS

Click here to read more about this picture.


Facts about the manageability of caring for those with HIV:
  • HIV is now considered a chronic illness, rather than a terminal disease.
  • HIV+ individuals who are receiving treatment can live INDEFINITELY without developing AIDS.
  • HIV+ individuals who have access to treatment can live close to normal life expectancies.
  • HIV+ children can grow up, get married, have babies, etc. 
  • With prevention medication, HIV+ mothers do not have to pass the virus along to their biological children.  (However, one article said that they should not breastfeed. -- if this is no longer the case, please correct me!)
    • The HIV specialist we met with has actually testified in court that it was medical malpractice when an HIV+ mother in the U.S. did pass HIV along to her baby.  She did not know she was HIV+, but it is now U.S. law that all OBGYN's test all pregnant mothers' blood for HIV, because when HIV+ mothers are medicated, transmission to the baby should never happen.
  • With treatment, HIV levels can become so low that they are undetectable.
  • HIV will NOT be passed to family members, unless there is direct blood to blood contact, one of the other few ways HIV can be spread.
  • HIV can ONLY be spread through:
    • pregnancy,
    • birth,
    • breast milk,
    • sexual activity that mixes blood, semen, and/or vaginal fluid, and through
    • blood to blood contact.
  • HIV can NOT be spread through:
    • sharing food, drinks, utensils, or dishes,
    • changing diapers, or touching
      • urine
      • stool
      • mucous
      • tears
      • sweat
    • sharing a swimming pool or bath tub
    • mosquito bites
    • sharing classroom or office space
    • contact sports, fighting, playing
  • Treatment for HIV+ children usually requires pills twice a day.  It also requires 4 appointments with an infectious disease specialist each year.







Facts about how deadly HIV/AIDS is worldwide, where proper treatment is not usually available:
  • There is no vaccine and no cure for HIV/AIDS.
  • Without treatment, HIV becomes AIDS and leads to certain death.
  • 40.3 million live with HIV/AIDS worldwide. 
    • The overwhelming majority of these people live in resource-poor countries.
    • 1/3 of the are between the ages of 15-24
  • As of December 2002, over half a million people in the U.S. alone had died of AIDS. 
  • AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since 1981- more than four Jewish holocausts or 22 Rwandan genocides
  • In 2005, every MINUTE there were 10 newly infected people worldwide.
  • Africa has 12 million AIDS orphans
  • 43% of those infected with HIV are women.
Some links for you:



This concludes my series on HIV.  Now you know.  GO DO SOMETHING!