Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Princess and the Queen

This past week, I was getting Junia out of her carseat and said something in passing about her being my princess. I don't often use that language but for some reason it fit in that moment. She looked at me, laughed and said very frankly, "No, Mommy. You're the princess; I'm the queen." And so it begins. The story of mothers and daughters negotiating for who will be Queen in the castle. I laughed and told her "Honey, Mommy is ALWAYS The Queen." It has now become a bit of a running joke where she tells me in the middle of whatever we are doing "Mommy, you're the princess and I'm the queen!". This is followed by an outburst of giggles stemming from her sheer delight with herself and her fine joke. Shall I remind her that there is certain to be another claim to the throne from her little sister who is bringing up the rear?

In just a few more days, Her Mini-Majesty, the Princess/Queen, will celebrate her fourth birthday with a rootin'-tootin' cowgirl party complete with two miniature ponies for her and her little cowboy and cowgirl friends from church to ride on. Yes, the ponies are a bit much but I just couldn't help myself when I found out we could have real ponies in our backyard. It sounded like WAY too much fun for a little girl who loves horses and just two years ago didn't even have enough to eat. We are so blessed to have her in our lives, even if she is already engineering a coup d'etat.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Enough said.

Aviator sunnies on an almost four year old rock. Enough said.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Keynote Speaking, Outrageous Nonsense and Elvis

I fear I am in danger of falling off Planet Blogosphere due to my lack of blogging of late. I feel like it is becoming the norm to begin my posts this way. The truth is that I have been so busy with things with our orphan ministry that I just have not had the time to get back here. I hate to have my on-the-ground work completely eclipse my ramblings here in cyberspace as my participation in blogging has really been instrumental in my entire experience with adoption and orphan advocacy. I feel blessed, however, to be seeing how God is moving in my local community for orphans and if that means some a few more absences in my blogging attendance record, I guess I'm ok with that. I'm hoping that as things slow down for me at work this summer that I will have more time to share about all that we've got going on around here.

This weekend was a busy orphan advocacy weekend for our little family. I had the opportunity to represent our orphan care organization and speak at an orphan care seminar held in an outlying town on Saturday. Davis also got to lead worship for the event. Somehow I ended up being the keynote presenter asked to open the entire event! I was flattered to be invited and given such a position of prominence but also a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of having such a featured role in the event. I couldn't help but feel like people might be thinking "Who does she think she is?", particularly other professionals who were there from the adoption/orphan care culture who could have probably done as good of a job or better than me at presenting on God's heart for the orphan. All that to say, I really gave the event to God knowing my own shortcomings were many and asked Him to move in people's hearts through my words. The presentation went really well and I got lots of great feedback from people who attended saying how their hearts were touched by what I shared. I guess I can't ask for more than that! With nearly 100 people in attendance, I can only pray that many forever families will be birthed from seeds planted at that event by all those who spoke. We also were able to sell some more of our fun We Heart Orphans products and made $500 at the event. We will only keep a fraction of that but every little bit helps with funding real adoptions here in our community. Part of what our ministry in doing is setting up a community adoption grant fund that will be open to all Christians in our region. The money that our events and We Heart Orphans parties bring in all goes to help with building up this fund. The more we sell, the more families we can support financially. The more families we can support financially, the more kids get homes! Part of our proceeds are also going to fund the great work that Children's Hopechest is doing on the ground to feed, educate and nurture orphans in Africa.

Today, we hosted our National Foster Care Prayer Vigil event at a local park. We had horribly high winds today and it was freezing (strange for us this time of year) so we cut our event short but we did have 10 people show up from various churches to lift up foster kids and those who care for them in prayer. We ended up going to dinner with one young couple after the event (who we have known since the couple was in high school!) who is feeling called to adopt. They are drawn to adding to their family of four by embracing a child from the foster system. They have many questions but willing hearts. Even though our event today was smaller than I would have hoped (I made 4 dozen cupcakes!), all it takes is one couple to give a child a family. If all that came out of today was encouraging one family to move forward as they give hands and feet to their worship, then it was worth it. We have two We Heart Orphans parties scheduled in the next few weeks and we are excited to see how God is going to stir the hearts of those in our community for the cause of the orphan. I was encouraged to hear that one woman who received the invitation emailed our friend who is hosting the party to say that this was the sign she needed to move forward in pursuing adoption. Evidently, it was already on her heart and she just needed a little push. All it takes is one family. One by one by one and we will find homes for these precious children.

I was inspired today by the lyrics of the song Fade With Our Voices by Jason Gray. Evidently, everyone seems to know it but me! I think it is profound. If we are to do anything as believers, let our worship be that of love in action. As The Message translation of James 2:17 puts it: "Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?" I love that. If we as The Church are truly going to be resonant in a broken world and change lives for the Kingdom then it's time for, as the great theologian Elvis once put it, "a little less conversation, a little more action".

Fade With Our Voices

Does our worship have hands?
Does it have feet?
Does it stand up in the face of injustice?
Does our worship bow down?
Does it run deep?
Is it more than a song
That fades with our voices?
Does it fade with our voices?

Lord it's you we long to please
Make our lives a melody
That we proclaim when we live in Jesus name

So if we raise our hands high
Let us also reach them out
And if we lift our voices up
Let it be the sound of love

Let our worship have hands
Let it have feet
Let it stand tall
In the face of injustice
Let our worship bow down
Let it run deep
And be more than a song
That fades with our voices

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day #2...and HIV/AIDS

My how we have all changed in a year! Some of us are bigger. Some of us are browner. And life is good - albeit fairly exhausting a good deal of the time (thank God for oversized sunglasses!). As hard as motherhood is - and it can be really hard - I would not trade even one second of being Junia and Eden's mommy for the carefree life I used to lead. They are now a part of me, stitched into the fabric of my soul, by the God who knew we would need each other.

Sweet Davis tried very hard to make today special, including coordinating some very cute toddler handprint artwork and making arrangements for a special brunch at a favorite restaurant. Two smaller guests made the brunch (and the pre-brunch "let's actually try and get out the door of this house") a bit of a trainwreck but he gets a "A" for effort. He told me he had thought about lining up a babysitter so we could enjoy a quiet brunch together for Mother's Day sans the toddler tantrums that have been punctuating our days with relative frequency of late. He said he didn't because he thought I might feel bad if the Little Ladies weren't coming along since it was Mother's Day. I told him ANY TIME he wants to line up a sitter for brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee, tea time, light appetizers - you name it - I am in.

While the AM was a bit of a wrestling match, we did have a lovely afternoon with friends at a very swanky hotel in a neighboring town. This hotel is really fancy but there never seems to be anyone there so they don't really care what you do. They just assume you are rich and famous and should be catered to. Works for me! The girls and dads spent time on the putting green while the mamas sipped drinks under the shade of a tree on the green. It was truly delightful. Davis and I have decided it might need to be a weekly event.

On the note of things going on this week, Friday was World AIDS Orphans Day. This topic is close to our heart as the issue intersects with our lives in an intimate way. I had hoped to post about this on Friday but was busy with some event planning for our orphan ministry and just didn't get to it. (Are you going to be a part of the National Prayer Vigil for Foster Children? Join us and many others in just a few weeks!) Sadly, there are many children all over the world today who do not have mothers because of AIDS. At a seminar I attended at the Christian Alliance for Orphans conference on HIV/AIDS and orphans, the speaker, who was a leading AIDS researcher at the CDC (and a mom of 8 adopted kids, 10 kids total - and I complain about my workload?) suggested that orphan crisis and the HIV/AIDS crisis are synergistic epidemics meaning that AIDS is creating more orphans and many orphans in turn end up with HIV/AIDS as they move into adolescence. She indicated that the growth in the orphan population may in turn double the global HIV/AIDS population which currently stands at roughly 33 million cases worldwide. She also put out a frightening statistic that I have not yet heard saying that global orphan population, in a large result because of HIV/AIDS, now stands at closer to 163 million rather than the 143 million figure we often hear talked about.

I share this because on a day when we celebrate mothers, it is so important to remember that adoption, the amazing experience that made me a mother, is often birthed from the pain caused by much larger global issues, like poverty and disease. While I believe that adoption has always been a part of God's grand design, I also know that in this world we inhabit it is not The Answer. It's a small part of addressing a lot of broken things that need to be fixed, kind of like putting a bandaid on a really big wound. If we are going to pray as Jesus did asking that God's kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven (Matt.6:10), then we, as Christians, need to be on the front lines of doing all we can to eradicate the spread of HIV/AIDS. To learn more about about HIV/AIDS and how we can all get involved, it is well worth reading Erin's post on this. She is an adoptive mother of an HIV positive child and advocates for this vulnerable population.

And so on Mother's Day, in our family, we remember the brave and beautiful woman who made me a mother and made us a family through the gift of sacrificial love she gave to her precious girls by putting them up for adoption knowing she could no longer raise them. And in her honor, we say that we will do what we can to fight a disease that is creating so many orphans. As with the issue of sex trafficking, we must acknowledge that we stand at a unique moment in history, one that calls for us to say with the actions of our lives "Not on our watch."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This Will Make You Cry...And Call Your Social Worker

It appears that, post-conference, I am now the most unmotivated person on the planet at work. I want to be working on my 8000 ideas for our orphan ministry (!!!) and yet I will be spending tonight snuggled up with 70 term papers (notice how small the dent in the stack has been...see previous comment about no motivation). Even given that I have tons of work to do, I could not NOT share this story that happened today as Davis was driving the Big Bear to preschool. Junia told him how she had taken a trip to Gammy and Poppa's house while we went on a trip to talk about kids who have no Mommies and Daddies. She then told him very frankly and out of the blue:

"Daddy, I would share my Mommy with someone who doesn't have a Mommy."

Talk about a tear-jerker. We both got watery just talking about it at the dinner table - and we aren't those "watery" kind of people. If that doesn't make you want to call your social worker (or hop in your green van and drive right down to her office) to start another home study, I don't know what does. How many more kids can we fit in that van?

Now back to work...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Orphan Summit Was Fabulous!

We just got back from the national Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in Minneapolis. It was truly an amazing experience. To be with over 1000 people from 37 states who are as passionate about orphans as we are was an absolute treat. There is so much to say about all that we learned at the conference. I feel like my head is going to explode with all of the ideas I have for our orphan ministry. We also came home very tired after two very full dawn-to-dusk days of seminars. (Can you tell how wiped out we are in this pic from day 1 of the conference? We had arrived at 1am the night before only to have to be at the conference at 7:30am the next day. With the time difference that was 5:30am for us. Ouch.)

Sadly, I also arrived home today to 100 term papers awaiting my attention so for now, all I have time for is some fun pics of the people who made this such a special weekend for Davis and me. Here goes:

I finally got to meet my blogger friend Brandi who works for Hopechest. What a joy to meet this ebullient girl in person! I only wish we'd had more time to hang out.

We also got to meet Christina, another blogger friend and fellow Gladney mama. We were suppossed to be travel buddies to Ethiopia but our court delays meant that she got to pick up little Nate almost two months before we got to go get our girls. Christina and Jeremy were kind enough to take care packages to the Little Ladies and even sent us video of them during that difficult wait time. We got to spend a wonderful lunch together brainstorming about our orphan ministries. I also got to meet a few of her cool Texas friends. Very fun.

We even got to catch up with some friends from our own little corner of the world (about 30 minutes north of us) who were also at the conference. Jenna and I have known each other since college and are now both adoptive moms. We also went to college with the the President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. What a small world! How amazing to be a part of how God is moving nationwide on behalf of orphans.

Another highlight from our trip was getting to stay with one of Davis' best friends from college and his adorable family. Jason and Heather Jo (HJ, you made the blog!) just happened to live only 2 miles from the church where the conference was held. We so enjoyed spending time with these dear friends who are also adoptive parents. It was inspiring to watch them pouring the love of Jesus day in and day out into their precious 11 year old daughter who joined their family of four (they also have two biological daughters ages 4 and 6) from foster care just 2 years ago. Challenges remain but they are so faithful. It was an honor to watch them parent. They also fed us really well - thanks guys! Davis also got to relive the glory days with a night out with Jason, Heather Jo and Jason and Elle, another couple he has known since college. A great dinner on the town followed by much laughter around a firepit on a balmy night. What could be better?

For all the fun we had during almost 4 kid-free days, nothing beat seeing my beautiful daughters run through the door tonight after their long stay at Gammy and Poppa's house. Being away from your children reminds you how much you absolutely adore them. I look at them and sometimes can't even believe how much I love them. My girls have taken over my heart and something is just missing when they aren't around. It's good to be home.