Saturday, November 4, 2017

this old house

An ode--of sorts--to our old house.

This old house:  

It's not much to look at--particularly on the outside--but it held a lot of memories in the almost-six years we lived there.

We brought four babies home to this old house. Our first, who was born in Kentucky, lived with me in a hotel room and then in a basement in Kentucky, then in a basement in Springfun, finally found his first "home" in this old house. 

We redid nearly everything about this old house. 

Painted walls, ripped out carpet. Put in new hardwoods. Ripped out more carpet, acid-stained floors, painted trim, retiled, regrouted, redid an entire bathroom, repurposed a dresser into a vanity, built fences, created a garden, added barn-doored storage, painted cabinets, tore out a deck, changed light fixtures, redid stair risers, added baseboards, painted floors...we changed it all. 

We put a lot of sweat into this old house, and it gave us a lot of memories in return. 

We loved the trees, the garden, the roll of the land, the back deck, the privacy and security. I loved our big master bedroom, the way we could hear our kids snickering in their rooms at night, the peonies in spring and the big maple tree over the sandbox in autumn. 

We loved the craziness of this living room.

I loved other things associated with this old house, too: The busdriver (Roxanne, who Brody inadvertently and continually called "Rocksand") who loved our kindergartener with such great intention when driving him home in the afternoon. Our neighbors across the street who were so great to--and tolerant of--us in our ignorance of cows and building fences and general "adulting." 

After that first baby, we added three more within 5 years. The one upstairs bedroom just wasn't cutting it anymore. This old house began to feel small, not because it was really tiny but because the layout didn't work for our family anymore. We had to put the boys in the basement, not an ideal situation when one of them tends to be anxious. The second bedroom on the main level was grossly undersized for two kids. Our living room didn't hold many people, and the kitchen was extra-small with a bit of awkwardness thrown in, not great for entertaining.

We were no longer driving to two different schools, where we once worked, in opposite directions. Rather Brad was driving 35 minutes in one direction several times a day in his new role, and we weren't seeing much of him because of the meetings at all hours and his inability to get away long enough for the drive. 

We wanted to invite people to this old house, to offer them hospitality and rest and friendship, but often we felt too bad to make them drive all the way out to our house, particularly since we tended to be cramped once they got there. 

We had cows that were driving the neighbors nuts, I'm sure. (We struggled to keep them inside the fence--Insert eye roll.) 

We lost a cat to what I call a "bar fight" in the trees behind us. 

We felt the tug of a move in the future, just "not any time soon." 

We still loved this old house and we weren't quite ready to move, but after mentioning to my uncle (our realtor expert!) that we would sell to one of his clients if they happened to be looking for a place like ours, he mentioned that it wouldn't take much to list it. 

So, we did a few little touch-up projects (finally replaced some flakey gold faucets that were lingering in our bathroom) and put it on the market at a price that was substantially over the recommendation. "We know it seems crazy to list at this price," we said, "but we aren't really ready to move anyway." 

Less than 24 hours later we had 3 offers, one of which was substantially over our substantially-over-the-recommended asking price. 

People apparently liked this old house as much as we did. 

We accepted the offer and moved out less than 30 days later, at which time we blinked and wondered what had just happened. 

We loved this old house. We were sad to leave it. But it was right. God made it pretty clear that it was right. And I'll be back with what we did next. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

the loneliest year

I promised myself I would not be one of those people who write blogs in midst of adoption and then abandon their blogs when their children join their families, leaving their readers to wonder how everything is going with their new children.

But here I am. And I am sorry. But now I understand why parents abandon the blogs when their kids come home.

We have been trying to figure this whole thing out. We have been SO BUSY. Sometimes, we (I) have been so overwhelmed. Please allow me to lay forth for you what our 2016 entailed, why I call it the loneliest year, and why I wasn't on the blog to write about it (even though I probably needed to be here getting my thoughts and feelings sorted out through writing).


Obviously, you know that Clementine came home January 1, 2016 (technically, she began her trip home December 31, 2015, just as we'd been praying for all year long. God is so faithful and detailed; you can read about that here.)

So on January 1, 2016 we had four kids four-and-under in our family, along with a teenager who needed a family to love and support him.

We had a preschooler who was attending school for a few hours every other day. We had a 4-month old who still needed me to feed her at least every 3 hours and who loved to snuggle all of the other hours in the day. The teenager attended school 40 minutes from our house, and one of us drove him to school every morning and picked him up after basketball games late at night. Our 3-year-old got lost in the mix for a while as we tried to rearrange our life and our expectations.

All the while, Clementine tried to figure out what her life had become and what was going to happen next. She couldn't understand our language, and because she clung to Brad I spent many mornings saying, "Daddy i sousou, lisusu." (sp?) ("Daddy will be back again.") She cried and cried the first few weeks, and I often wanted to but didn't have the energy, nor did I let myself feel ALL OF THE THINGS right then because it was all too much and it wouldn't have helped anyway.

Our four-year-old, who was the most easygoing, outgoing and happy kid ever--particularly when playing with Legos or with friends--cried at preschool for the first time one day shortly after Clementine came home. He cried due to frustration over not being able to build well with Legos, his favorite toy. His teachers noticed he was not himself, and who could be with so many changes at home? His tears were obviously not just about Legos. We were all having trouble with such substantial changes.

We had an army of people around us to support us, bring meals, lift us up in prayer, babysit our kids, help us with the Lingala language, provide advice based on first-hand experience, and to allow us to vent and process together. I am SO THANKFUL for them and cannot imagine what it would have been like without them. They were immensely helpful, and they saw us in some pretty wide-eyed moments. In fact, when family friends brought us a meal and stayed to hang out a bit, I spent the entire time apologizing to them that they were forced to see us in such a chaotic and distressed state. If ever people looked like deer in headlights, it was us in the first few months after Clementine came home. (But our friends were so wonderful to act like we were normal and to continue supporting us.)

That said, we were the only ones living in the day-to-day, new-normal, crazy-mornings, exhausted-evenings, redeeming-the-past and making-it-new phase of life, and it was difficult to see how anyone could understand what it was like or how hard it was at times. (Please don't hear me throwing myself a pity party...I often had to renew my mind with Truth to remind myself that there is nothing new under the sun, that others have worked through trauma and managed multiple kids well, that "Lotzes do hard things" [as we tell our kids] and no matter how hard and long the days seemed I was never doing them alone, despite my sorry attempts sometimes to do so.)

At the same time, storms of change were beginning to brew in other aspects of our world.

Our friend who had been battling very aggressive breast cancer for a short but agonizing year--who had prayed for Clementine to come home as much as or more than she prayed for her own healing--lost her hard-fought battle with the disease. We were able to visit her--with our answered prayer, Clementine, in our arms--in the hospital one last time, and as I was feeling guilty and angry that God answered our prayers and for our family and not our prayers for her health, she praised Jesus for answering her prayers and smiled her bright brave smile of joy for us that our family was finally together. She gloated over the life and health and miracle of Clementine while we internally lamented the loss of her life. I don't believe will never meet a more amazing, encouraging, faith-filled and humble woman than Missy in all of our lives. Brad went to be with her family as she took her last breath a few days later, and I spent many bleary-eyed days asking the question with no answer on this side of glory: Why her? Why us?

Our church home was beginning to change, not in a bad way but in a way that is inevitable for a church of its size and demographic. My husband had just joined the staff of our church as a discipleship minister (from a coaching and teaching background and as someone who thought his next step was educational administration, no less), and the contemporary service we were serving was experiencing exponential growth that would not be sustainable much longer. We were essentially a church within a church.

Over several months of prayer and seeking wisdom, church leaders graciously and lovingly made the decision to move our church from within the bigger church to a different location altogether in order to reach more people. My husband became a co-pastor of that church plant (Hill City), and from that decision sprang more work--more nights away from my husband due to numerous planning meetings and such--but also more fruit than I could have ever imagined.

I was not thrilled with the decision to leave the comforts of relationships at our home church to do something new, to plant a church, to go out on a limb and trust that God would sustain us, would provide for four tiny Lotzes and fill the gaps where relationships would inevitably change due to proximity. I was not thrilled to make another change for our kids. We were building strong relationships where we were, and several amazing women at that church were encouraging me and helping me be a better wife and mom. And I knew that a new church would change those relationships because of the need to pour into people in our own church and their need to pour into their own church. I also knew this would be another big adjustment for our kids, and while we've always been a "roll with it" sort of family, I wasn't sure our kids were mature enough to roll with this on top of everything else. But it happened, and I chose to go with it despite my fears and sadness.

Along with that decision came planning meetings at dawn, strategic meetings at dusk, lunch meetings, trips to churches in Texas to learn from others, and video conferences with other pastors around the country. These were necessary things to gather wisdom and create a strong foundation for our church, but these things all meant that Brad was gone A LOT. Brad was still the discipleship minister at our current church while planning for the church plant, which meant he was essentially working two jobs. And we still had 2 brand new babies in our household, 2 other kids who (I can only assume) felt somewhat forgotten, a teenager who needed to be around a man, and one me--an exhausted and limited human with no idea how to make this new normal function like a family.

I tried to go to meetings, tried to do something that could help with the church planting part of life. But my productive time was limited. Tiny Oaklee needed to nurse on a schedule. She needed to have diapers changed. She needed regular sleep. Clementine was still dealing with trauma and needed to be nurtured and loved by me, personally, nearly every minute. I had to earn my keep with her in order to earn her trust, and boy did she make me earn it. She continues to do so. I had to figure out how to do her hair (thank God for the teenager who was living in our house and said, "Um, her hair looks pretty dry. You need to condition it." We wouldn't have known!) Our days were full of meltdowns and misunderstandings and she would often be inconsolable for HOURS out of the day, and I totally and completely incapable of handling it all or meeting her needs with so many other needs to meet.

Our boys were still preschoolers who needed to be reassured that the big additions and changes in our family and world still left plenty of room for them. They still had faults and needs and desires and emotions to maneuver with delicacy but also with firmness due to our limited time and energy (and out love for them).

So we would go to gatherings with friends, to church events, to meetings together as a family, but I would often have to leave early due to any of the multiple needs listed above.

And it was lonely. Leaving parties early because of a newborn mess, dealing with trauma-torn kids, figuring out how to best love a teenager who wasn't technically "ours" but still living in our house and in need of direction and wisdom, or feeling that most people didn't understand the hurt in Clementine's cries or the level of sleep deprivation we were experiencing due to navigating such big changes left a lonely sort of pit in the deepest parts of my soul.

At the same time, we were also initiating a new series of fundraising musical events in Springfield called City Sessions. (Inspired by City Sessions Bentonville and promoting and supporting vulnerable people in DR Congo and in Zimbabwe through Help One Now.) This, too, required hours of planning, meetings, driving to Bentonville (which was inspiring because we met a host of amazing people there who we now call friends), babysitters (my family is THE BEST), and stressing over whether or not we would fail in this endeavor.

Added to all of the new experiences of our family, we also continued to have the day-to-day sorts of issues of any other family. Not to mention what I call "Single Mom Sundays."

When you're a pastor's wife, you're on your own on Sunday mornings. You come to church alone, except for the kids you've bathed, brushed, fed, clothed and possibly carried or pulled to the car with you. You drop kids of in classes, (then you ponder whether or not you should just run away to Target by yourself to spend money you don't really have), you go to the service by yourself, sit by yourself or with some other mother who makes sarcastic comments about motherhood that the two of you can appreciate (I see you Betsy H.).

You try to make conversation and connect with the people of your church while also acknowledging that you need to get your kids from their classroom soon, before their teachers go crazy. You gather your flock and attempt more conversations with your eyes darting here and there to locate kids and make sure they're not being ridiculous and then chasing at least two kids around the lobby area of your church while fearing that others are judging and staring awkwardly because you are a pastor's wife and your should have your junk together. You long to connect with friends for a few moments at church, but you simply cannot manage because you are on your own with a constant mess to deal with. So you just gather your kids and head to your car while trying to keep kids from dying in the parking lot. Then you go home or, if you are brave, out to lunch by yourself with your four small friends while your husband has meetings or meets with newcomers or navigates a sticky situation that one of the church members has found himself in. Obviously, you would be there with him, joining him in ministry if you were able but the kids make that virtually impossible (except in very rare cases), so of course you feel guilty for not doing more in ministry while also realizing that you are serving your family in this season and his work is eternally significant for hundreds of other people, so a few inconveniences are nothing when compared to that.

And you'd better believe that with all of this happening the alone time with my husband was non-existent. We likely had 6 meaningful conversations in all of 2016, and it's hard to converse with meaning with 4-5 kids in the minivan. We were in quite a season of life. (Which is something we acknowledged often, because the fact that it was just a season was an encouragement to our weary souls.)

Um, we also added 3 cows to our crew and Brad became an MSU football chaplain in the Fall 2016, which means that he and a co-chaplain lead chapels and travel with the team for games, as well as meeting with several players and coaches for the important task of discipleship and leadership developmentu. This has been a great opportunity for Brad to influence young men--which he is incredibly talented in and passionate about--and I wouldn't change a thing about his involvement with the team because of the amazing ways God is moving there, but it does take him away from our family even more often than he was before.)

Oh, and I got a job that was meant to be part-time but has nearly turned full-time work-from-home. It's a blessing and a curse because it helps fill the gaps of living on a pastor's salary with 6 mouths to feed, but it also takes a lot of time away from my kids and tends to stress me out at times.

As I mentioned, we have such AMAZING friends and family. We have no idea what we would have done if not for the help of so many amazing people around us. They were there for us, they supported us and prayed for us in the very best ways a village ever could. They hung around, even when all aspects of our crazy were showing. My parents watched kids for hours and hours so we could continue to function and get all of the above done.

But due to the circumstances of 2016 and the speed at which we were all moving, along with the difficult days at home (coupled with the outward cuteness and big pleading, smiling brown eyes that everyone else experienced outside of our home), the loneliness was inevitable and found its dwelling place deep within my soul.

I don't loneliness is inherently bad. For me, it was a time of processing, praying, relying on strength and grace that only a loving Father who knows every detail of my life and saw all of the meltdowns I was managing and all of the insanity we were experiencing could provide. It often wasn't pretty. It revealed a lot of my selfishness. It continues to do so. But ultimately it was good for me.

I'm not certain why I felt the need to write about the loneliest year at this point in my life. I guess I needed to do it for three reasons:

1--Because I still feel that loneliness at times. Life with four kids is nuts. Church life is nuts, with Brad gone A LOT for various ministry activities. (He makes time for our family in other spaces...I am amazed at how hard he works for his family, friends, and church. It's unbelievable, really.) But being a mom is lonely sometimes (AMIRIGHT?!). I'm not able to just pick up and go meet friends (nor are my friends able to do that at this point, either). I don't get out much, and when I am my eyes are still darting to and fro to check on kids. We still experience meltdowns and I'm trying not to beat myself up for not being able to manage and facilitate healing hearts better. I still feel like people don't fully understand the hurts that Clementine has experienced and how those hurts affect the rest of us. So there's still a tinge of loneliness every now and then. But, again, I don't think that's bad. It just is.

2--Because I need to thank our friends and family for sticking with us through the crazy. They're still here. They still invite us--the 6 of us--to their houses and onto their boats and on their vacations. They're insane and awesome like that. And I'm so thankful for their prayers and support and GRACE.

3--Writing helps me process it all. I've known 2016 was lonely for a while now, but I didn't realize how lonely it was until I started writing about it. No wonder it was lonely. It was rapid-fire, no time to talk, hands dirty, child-driven chaos. But it was good.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The wall of WeVana

I've been thinking about that wall. The wall in Musha WeVana. We usually build walls to protect ourselves, to hide what's ours, keep people out. We build real walls of brick and mortar, and we build walls of fake smiles, immunity, silence, "I"m tough," and "Don't bother me." I blame no one for building a wall for protection (I've built them for years), but it's incredibly inspiring to see a wall that protects AND simultaneously allows children to be vulnerable in sharing their wildest dreams. 

Zimbabwe was a trip that, frankly, almost didn't happen for me due to what could have been serious health problems for two grandparents and due to my ability to take amazing gifts and opportunities and turn them into points of stress and anxiety. (Shall I dive into that topic at another time? Maybe, but here's a glimpse into my psyche: I left Brad home for nine days with our four kids. Four kids 5-and-under. The words that carried me through Clementine's long adoption journey rang true again as I left for this trip: "Don't dig up in doubt what you planted in faith." I had to trust that they would be fine and Brad's sanity would remain intact while I was away [and while my mom, 90% of our childcare bullpen, came with me]. He basically had to kick me out the door to catch my plane.)

I didn't--still don't--feel worthy of experiencing Zimbabwe and its people in all of their joy and optimism. The gift of the invite took me by surprise. I had nothing to offer. But for some only-God-knows-why reason I said yes, and I used a large chunk of the money I've earned through hours and hours of working from home to hop on a 16-plus-hour flight to the "house of stones" and the most friendly people you'll ever meet in your lifetime. That money, by the way, was money I maybe should have saved to ensure that my kids can do a few fun things and eat something besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the rest of their childhoods before we have to start selling our body parts for real money to feed them.

But, as I'm learning, that money was never really mine to begin with. What we have was given to us for a purpose. (Also another topic for another time.)

Through prayer and chocolate, I pushed my anxiety aside in the hope and belief that God had a plan for this trip, and now it is with humility and excitement that I introduce you to Musha WeVana and the inspiring, difficult work that is done there for vulnerable children.

We stayed at the home of Pastor John and Orpah, local leaders in Zimbabwe who continually lay down their lives for the children of Musha WeVana and for their church congregation. (John and Orpah were first introduced to me in Doing Good Is Simple, written by Help One Now founder Chris Marlow. Get it on your nightstand for an enlightening, encouraging and challenging read. Also, props to Orpah for being the kind of pastor's wife I aim to be. I immediately had to write Brad a letter committing to pray and encourage more. Ministry is hard work, and he carries the heaviest of burdens with the best combo of humility and strength, but I fail to tell him that as often as I should.)

Pastor John and Orpah (Photo cred: HON)

Pastor John's congregation began financially supporting Musha WeVana, a children's home, when it was struggling to cover costs at the height of a national financial crisis in 2009. Because of the generosity of the people of Pastor John's church, numerous children were clothed, fed, and held close in a time when parents died, struggled to feed other children and cast them away in hopes of something better for them. (I will pause here to say that it is TRAGEDY that parents have to choose which children to feed or even keep in their families. This is a reality that is far too common. Orphan care that seeks to prevent orphans in the first place is the very best kind of orphan care, and Musha WeVana is that.)

Pastor John's church stepped up for them. These were not rich people with money to spare; however, they realized the importance of the mission, thus living out the words of 2 Corinthians 8:2--"for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part."

They became partners in this great mission.

Pastor John's church is still doing this today, giving out of their abundance of joy, and around 80 children are currently being cared for through the work of Musha WeVana, Pastor John and Orpah, their local church, and the Global church through Help One Now. 

I have mentioned the joy of Zimbabwe, the welcoming spirit and the happy hearts. Nowhere is it more evident than it is at Musha WeVana. On that first bright Saturday morning, the kids spilled out of houses, nooks and crannies to greet our van, eager for more adults to hold them, take their pictures, and tell them they're beautiful. House mothers welcomed us and our muddy feet into homes they'd just mopped, and they proudly smiled and showed us the rooms of "their" children. Light spilled out of their gleaming eyes as kids showed us how to play their games and drew in the dirt outside.

Nearly 80 children are organized into family groups with house mothers, homes, clothes, and beds of their own. They're given freshly prepared meals, a place at the table, an outlet for dreaming. All of this is provided for them so they will not just be products of "institutionalization" for the rest of their lives. They truly do have a hope for the future, and that's evident on the wall of a home in the community where they've written their biggest hopes and dreams. Within the walls of safety and protection around the community, this wall stands as a beautiful representation of hope, and their leaders are doing everything in their power to provide them with the support and resources that are needed to help them attain their goals.

This is not an orphanage where babies no longer cry because they've resigned to the fact that no one cares about them. House mothers care for children like their own, and a married couple works with the children to be sure that children see a godly marriage played out before them and have easy access to a father figure. Older children carry young ones on their hips and wipe tears and help babies to not be afraid of strange white women (us). This is no institution, and this is why it's a cause worth supporting.

We worked a LONG time for that smile. 

On our first day, I met the boy I call "Pastor." His real name is Simba, and when we asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up he immediately said he wanted to be a pastor, which struck a cord with me because I am married to one. Over the next days, it became clear that he was already a leader in Musha WeVana...young kids seemed to look up to him and he stepped up to draw pictures of American flags, Zimbabwe, maps, and animal prints. He even led them in a spirited and ambitious version of the Dab. We were told that he sometimes preached at Musha and even while we were there I heard him quote scripture with authority and conviction for which grown men, 40-year vets of Bible Study, would have envied.

Myself and "Pastor "Simba. 
And there's Blessing, whom I affectionately referred to as Little Stinker because he was a mess of a boy. He walked over to us with a sad face and acted like he was having the worst day of his life, only to spin on a dime moments later and start running around, poking us and making weird noises into our ears and then sprint away with this big ornery grin spread wide across his face. He was a stinker, and he reminded me of a few little stinkers I happen to know very well in Missouri.

And Nancy, who CRAVED attention and hugs and screen time to see pictures of our world. :o) Who can blame her? It's what most kids her age want.

And there's Ortrude, a bright (in every sense), ambitious college student who was concerned for her country and for her future attending college. She explained the politics of Zimbabwe to me while asking about the political climate in the US and lamenting the upcoming elections of Zimbabwe (that's a story for another day, too). She smiled as she told me her hopes, and when she was called in to help distribute school uniforms, she nodded and went to help, knowing that others had helped in the same way when she was young.

Ortrude, smiling in red, with her friends at Musha WeVana.

We helped distribute school uniforms, backpacks and shoes, and I have never seen kids so happy to be getting school supplies to return to school.

And there's Talent. A grown man now, he was abandoned three times before the age of two. (I will be sharing a video of his story as soon as it's ready, and you don't want to miss it.) He told our Help One Now trip leader that he recently had a dream in which he remembered that many years ago, as a child at Musha, he was writing down his hopes for the future. His dream reminded him that it was Musha supporters that allowed him--even asked him--to dream of his future. "That's why I have a thought for my future," he said. He is now attending college and playing in the band at Pastor John's church.

That brings me to my next point of admiration: The local church. I've already mentioned that Pastor John's church financially supports the work of Musha WeVana, but they don't just throw their money at the problem and wish it away. They warmly invite Musha WeVana kids to church (and the kids will walk long distances in the rain to attend). They pray for the children daily. Several church members are board members for Musha, and many use their talents and skills to serve the needs of that community in some way. 

We attended church on Sunday, and along with the beautiful genuine worship we experienced, my favorite part was that children--all of them, orphan or not orphan--were prayed over by the whole congregation. What a gift. They were held close while words declaring them to be special, loved, cherished, created in God's image, planned, and worthy were prayed over them in ways they could hear, feel and see. The local church has stepped in to love these children in little and big ways, and I was happy to witness just part of their commitment to caring for the vulnerable and cherished.

If you know me or you've read this blog before, you know that I will not paint a pretty picture without telling you about the dirty paintbrushes. Like most stories born out of hardship, Musha has gaps that need to be filled, small hearts that need a great deal of mending, some resources that are still out of reach. And like all great leaders, Pastor John and his people dream big and work hard to meet daily needs. The big dreams come with great vision and wisdom, but they also come with big price tags. His church supports Musha as well as they possibly can (and even more than one would ever think possible), but they are also building a new church building, one that will also serve as a hope center for their community to meet the needs of vulnerable families and individuals in crisis (with the hope of preventing the creation of more orphans). They're stretched thin. Through local support and the financial support of Help One Now and its donors, they're able to help provide for minimal needs, school uniforms, food, shelter, beds and workers to love well. And they do all of this REALLY well.

However, they are dreaming and praying for a vehicle to help find and reunite vulnerable children with their families, take children to school in he rain, bring children to church, and seek medical treatment. They're also dreaming of hiring a dedicated social worker to help children deal with the trauma of losing parents, being abandoned, being abused and gearing up for a hopeful future. They need a new gate, safety equipment and first aid kits. Kids need new shoes. (I can't keep up with the eight growing feet in our house, and I have no idea how they keep shoes on 160 feet!) After years of providing safety and security to hundreds of kids, their houses need major maintenance. (Don't judge me for noticing, but there were some big smells, ok? They're doing the best they can, but even bleach and a tank full of Febreeze won't cover the years of water damage and decay. They need some structural help to get buildings water-tight.)

Help One Now works best through child sponsorships and partnerships. Right now they have around 75 sponsorship slots filled with 300 remaining. (HON uses a 5x sponsorship model for orphans. Read about it here.) With help from Pastor John's church, that means Musha WeVana is operating at half of its optimal budget. They have hopes and plans for the future that include community development and empowerment to projects, all of which will make their community of Marondera and Musha WeVana itself stronger from all angles. Think about what they could do if they were 100% funded!

This is where YOU come in. Sponsorship is $40/month. I realize that's just a drop in the bucket for many of you, but that requires our family to let go of something we enjoy. Forty bucks is two after-church meals at McAlister's for our family (because of the free kids meals on Sundays...boomtown). We have let go of that in order to help one now. For you, $40 might be 8 Starbucks coffees or a nice shirt. Some of you might have to join together with your friends or City Groups (I'm looking at you, Hill City) to make this happen. DO IT. (I might even be able to persuade Brad to shave his beard for your sacrifice to sponsor a certain number of kiddos. Win-win-win!) Can you let go of something to help give hope to Musha WeVana?

Please visit the Musha WeVana sponsorship page to see those bright smiles that shined back at me last week in Zimbabwe. Read through their bios, see what they hope for. Pray about your possible commitment to them. You will find the kids I spoke of above on this page, and if you are looking for a certain type of child with whom you can connect, let me know and I can direct you. 

This will not go away. Don't look to other people to do this work. Become Gospel partners (conveniently Daniel spoke on this last Sunday--Phil. Part 2), people who give generously and joyfully because Christ's love compels us to build the kind of walls that protect and nourish dreams for the vulnerable and (all the praise hands) the formerly vulnerable.

(Read more about this trip from the perspectives of my friends Jenny and Vickie here and here. I haven't read them yet in order to keep my perspective entirely authentic, but I am 99% certain their posts and pics will be 199% more awesome than mine. You're welcome for the tip.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

the hardest part

Here I am again. I could make so many excuses about my absence in the blogosphere, but that would be a long blog in and of itself. Long story short, I was weary. Weary of mothering and working (I have a part-time J-O-B, and my spare moments during the day are spent working from home), weary of writing about myself, being a pastor/church planter's wife, trying to do serve big for the least served, and trying to figure out how to train up these people who are under my care and experiencing big milestones and sometimes displaying lots of emotions that I can't decode.

Therefore, I have a lot of thoughts but minimal time to organize them, let alone write about them.

Someone asked me a simple question a while ago, and since it apparently struck a chord with me--chin quiver, you know--I thought I'd share my answer.

What was the hardest part of the adoption process for Clementine?

The hardest part was that I knew--even while I prayed my heart out into the wee hours of most nights--God could still say no. And I would have to trust Him in that, even though it would have crushed me and left me utterly confused about how he could make that no a good thing.

I know the truth: "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." However, when you are told no, when things don't work out the way you wanted them to despite the best intentions, it's hard to trust that God has "goodness" in mind.

But He does, which we know because His word says so. And even while the answer was "not now" for a lot longer than we'd ever imagined, we had to trust that He was working all things together for good. He was definitely drawing us close to Him, causing us to speak with Him nearly every minute, causing us to consider circumstances outside our realm, causing us to ask ourselves what we could do to even make a small dent in the issues faced by hundreds of thousands of families around the world.

We know that was all good, and we are hopeful that those dark days while we waited will push us to bring Light to the vulnerable families we learned about in that wait. We don't think it's enough to adopt and move on, although some days even after bringing her home we felt like we couldn't handle anything else.

The weariness is fading, and we are thankful for that. God said yes, and we are thankful for that. There is still plenty for us to do, pray over, and seek God's goodness in.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

six-month checkup

Guys...whoa. I cannot keep up with the pace of life. I'm a few weeks behind on posting Clementine's six-month checkup status. I trust that you can forgive me. Life with these Lotzes is absolutely insane, and in taking time to write this I am neglecting laundry that's stacked in the corner, a stack of dishes in the sink and a shower.

I've been posting updates as Clementine hits certain time-related milestones at home. (Four-month checkup here, two-month checkup here.)She has been home over 6 months now (I can still hardly believe it!), so it's time to share more of our progress.

AT SIX MONTHS HOME, Clementine is:

  • Sassy. Sweet, but oh-so sassy, which is probably good because these boys have some strong opinions and continue to sometimes have trouble adjusting to her presence in our family. 
  • A wee-bit codependent with Brecken. These two are the funniest...they love eachother, miss eachother when one is gone, and also fight amongst themselves the hardest. 
  • Slowing down on the food front. For a while there in those first few months she ate and ate and ate, and she would sit at the kitchen counter waiting for more food all day if I would let her. She has slowed this down and even must be told to finish her food at times, which is quite a switch. She has grown up, not out, a few inches.
  • Loving jeans. Her favorite pair features little white hearts, and she likes to pair them with her new horsey t-shirt EVERY DAY. 
  • Doing better with the hair thing. She even requests for me to do her hair, even if Brad is home. BUT at times--when she feels like it--she still carries on like it's pulling every shred of hair out of her head when I brush it. So here I am rolling my eyes. 
  • Very snuggly. If I'm sitting, she's snuggling. 
  • Still throwing a few fits, but WOW has this improved. She is more likely to throw fits--crying and stomping her foot--when she is tired, but she hasn't done this in such a long time. She does pout (by dropping whatever she is holding, crossing her arms, and dropping to her bum on the ground) occasionally when I tell her no, which is hilarious and annoying at the same time or depending on what sort of day we've already had. Sounds like a pretty typical two-year-old, huh? 
  • Learning to ask for help instead of crying. This has been our biggest battle lately, as she would rather start crying than say "Help me please." Also pretty typical for a 2-year-old...she can drag this battle out forever, but she's learning that asking is easier. 
  • Loving 90s rap music and "All I Do is Win." She is actually dancing to this stuff. Hilarious. 
  • Looking older and stronger. Gone are the weak little arms that hung around Brad's neck in the airport on that first night. Gone is the need to be lifted onto our bed (her core was so weak!). Gone is her desire to be carried EVERYWHERE. Her face is looking older, she is stronger, and even her walking and running is looking more coordinated, almost even athletic. (When she starts running she pumps her little arms in the cutest elbows-out sort of way.)
And now I must report to you how I'M doing in this six-month checkup. Moms often need a psychological checkup at about this point with a newborn, am I right? 

I will be honest...this bonding process has been entirely more difficult than I ever expected. I LOVE this sweet and sassy little girl, but I sometimes must choose to show her love in moments when she is testing me. Sometimes, to be painfully honest, I resent her because of some of the ways she has acted around me and not around Brad. I have resented her because of fits thrown in the store, crying during hair-brushing sessions, struggles over saying "Help me please," crying incessantly when all I wanted was peace for our other three kids, and nearly anything else for which a two-year-old can cause stress and anger. Yes, I have resented Brody and Brecken for these same types of things, but with them I also had two sweet years full of motherly bonding beforehand to back me up on the love quotient. 

I love her dearly, but I am also still in the process of forming a bond with this daughter of mine. I feel TERRIBLE sharing this truth, like I'm less of the mom I'd like to be or should be, but I also think this is something that a lot of adoptive moms have struggled with, and--if anything--I want this blog to be an authentic voice and an encouragement to others. I wish I could snap my fingers and feel fully bonded to Sweet Clementine, but the truth is there are many days and moments in which I must choose to love despite my annoyance, aggravation, and stress related to her actions. She has made it tough on me--much tougher on me than on Brad--and I think that's good, but I also think that my bond with her is forming at a slower pace than Brad's bond with her, which is kind of due to my own selfishness. She moves on after a tantrum and I am slower to put it behind me. I am working on this, often praying for Christ to rule in me where I would normally want to hold on to my grudge. 

I don't think this is her fault or mine. I think she has been doing what she needs to do to protect her little heart from another crippling experience of being torn from everything she knows, particularly a mama's love. But now it's time to get settled in, and we are making so much progress. She is teaching me so much, and our slow bond might be the very thing--strong and secure--we both need.