Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ending 2013 with a bang...

This is my 131st post for 2013. I had 3 posts in 2012. I'd like to publicly thank Ashley for calling me out...just the sort of pressure I needed to begin blogging again. And thank you to all of you who are reading/caring about what I have to say. I'm excited about the possibilities that lie ahead in 2014, and part of that is because I believe I have found a way to use a God-given talent (enthusiasm) to help others.

In my 131st post of the year, I'd like to draw your attention to this act: Children in Families First.
I'll write more about the legislative act later, but right now I want you to simply get some preliminary info, as I believe it is pivotal in helping get children into families quickly and safely.

Cheers!

Whale-watching

Six years ago today, Brad and I were on a plane headed home from San Diego. We had gone there to visit friends of Brad, people I had never met (and still have only met once, but who continue to be tremendous examples of a godly marriage and amazing parents).

Brad proposed to me on that trip, during a whale-watching tour off the coast on December 30. Did I have a clue a proposal was coming? Nope. 

I should have taken a hint when he kept asking if I was having fun. "You don't look like you're having fun," he would say. "Is something wrong?"

"No, this is fun," I said, trying to muster up every ounce of enthusiasm I could find within me. I don't tend to be a very giddy or expressive person...my extremes of emotional expression usually fall somewhere between a brief chuckle and a chin quiver or watery eyes. 

But I also tend to be a self-conscious person, so when he asked why I wasn't having fun (only because he was, apparently, a bit on the edge with nerves himself) I spiraled to a level of introspection that can't be exhausted or fully explained in a single blog post. Here's the gist of my inner turmoil on that day: Why doesn't he think I'm having fun? Do I look sad? Do I look mad? Are these people thinking I'm a jerk becuse I'm not jumping up and down in excitement? Should I be more excited about this? I smiled when we saw the whales...did I not smile big enough? Do I seem fake?

And when we went down to the front of the boat to get our picture taken by Brad's friends, I silently wondered why they were taping us with a video camera (Discretion was not an option at that time; There was not a video-capable iPhone to be found in our group six years ago, folks...). When I looked back to Brad, I found that he was suddenly down on the ground, on one knee, oddly enough. And people were looking at us.

"What are you doing?" I asked him in shock. "Get up." (Clearly, I'm not a fan of the lime-light.)

"Will you watch whales with me forever?" he asked. He said nothing before or after. Just that one question.

Let's be honest. This was not one of his smoothest moments. Before that day and since that day, his words have communicated profound love and grace to me via letter, email, phone, text, and face-to-face conversation. But that day, his words--for once--hadn't come to him the way he'd planned. Later, this man who has never admitted to being nervous in his life, admitted he might have experienced some nerves at that moment. When asked about the whales, he has explained, "It was all I could think of." 

When I said yes, he tried to cram the ring on my finger. It wouldn't fit. Neat. 

In the days before Christmas Break, I had jammed my finger while playing basketball with my middle school students. Of course, it just happened to be my left-hand ring finger. It swelled up so big and colorful it looked like a spoiled lime had lodged itself under my knuckle. I didn't think it was that big of a deal...Until we made a spectacle of ourselves trying to get that dang ring on. 

In short, it wasn't an ideal proposal--the awkward wording, the nerves, the swollen finger, my initial harsh reaction--but it was awesome. 

And so far, our life together is proving to be the same: Not the way we might have planned it out, but amazing nonetheless. Thank you, Lord, for knowing what you're doing. 

Here's to an amazing 2014. Let's watch whales together forever. 


(Thanks to Brianna K for the sa-weet whale-watching mugs!)

Friday, December 27, 2013

a thrill of hope

Several of you wrote to me or texted me words of encouragement after my last post, and I am extremely grateful for your words. I think some of you were worried about my psyche. I didn't mean to worry you; I'm not depressed, stressed, anxious or worried...just a bit weary. I share a lot about the Hope that we have, but in an effort for 'balanced reporting' I felt the need to be open with you about the struggles we experience, as well. It's not all sugar plums and twinkle lights in the adoption journey.

That said, I have some news to report.

I don't know how to explain this, but somewhere along the road from my admission of being weary to now, the thrill of hope found its way back to me. Or I found my way back to it. I'm not really sure which direction it was, but it happened nonetheless.

It might have arrived yesterday. Not because it was Christmas, per say, but because some of the 'wrongs' that had been weighing on my heart were finally made right.

We didn't set cookies and milk out for Santa or follow his progress around the world on Christmas Eve. We didn't even fill stockings or put extra presents out overnight. We celebrated our somewhat minimalist Christmas by letting the boys open their two or three presents when they woke up. One of their presents included clothes. (Woohoo, kids, CLOTHES!)

It's not that we are inherently against any of the hoopla that surrounds Christmas or that we are so spiritual we didn't want to dilute the true meaning of Christmas or anything; it might just be because we just weren't feeling it this year. Or because we realized that a two-year-old and a one-year-old are just happy to be l-i-v-i-n and wouldn't even notice that we didn't do any of the extras.  

Or because I'm a bad mom.

However you want to say it, it just didn't happen this year. Brody was happy he got his (fake) gun, which he has been pretty adamant about getting since we first told him he could ask for something. But he was equally happy with his Big League Chew (yes, we willingly ushered him into the 'gateway' for harder stuff like grape-flavored Big League Chew).


 Brecken was just happy.


And we were happy to see them happy. 

Then we set out for MeMaw and PawPaw's cabin. Here's where I will tell you that the boys got spoiled (so please don't feel too bad for them that their parents are awful). We ate our hearts out, read the Christmas story, sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, then opened presents. The kids (ah-hem, adults) used their new Nerf bows to blast eachother, which is kind of a holiday tradition in our family.

As the end of the day drew near, naptimes had come and gone, leaving a couple of tired boys in their wake. We all packed up to go to my aunt's house to see my grandparents, who are staying with my aunt and uncle until my Granny gets more of her strength and energy back.

Here is one of the 'wrongs' that had been weighing on me: Granny, who is 87, was in the hospital over a week after falling in the church parking lot a few weeks ago. She battled through a partial shoulder replacement, pneumonia, and some complications after surgery and was finally able to leave the hospital on December 23. During her time in the hospital after surgery, she wasn't herself. She was lethargic and confused, bruised and vulnerable. She didn't even look like herself, perhaps because I saw her aging body more clearly than ever--perhaps because usually the love she exudes has always prohibited me from truly scrutinizing her every wrinkle. My grandpa had been even less like himself. He loved that woman, and when her broken body was lying in that hospital bed it was as if he was broken and lying there, too. (Oh, the LOVE of those two!)

So yesterday, when we all walked in the door and Grandpa yelped in excitement that we were there, I felt it. He vocalized it: a thrill of hope. Grandpa, along with his zest for his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids, was back to being Grandpa. And Granny was back to being Granny. She was sitting, talking and watching the kids run around. She laughed. She smiled.

So there it was. Part of the thrill that had been missing before. The 'wrong' is now 'right.'

And when we went home and put the boys in bed, I did something else that had been weighing on my heart: I contacted Brody's birthmom. We had a lot of contact with her in the beginning, but somewhere after celebrating his first birthday with her at a Cracker Barrel in Kentucky to celebrate, we had lost contact. Maybe phone numbers had changed, maybe texts didn't go through.

Whatever happened, it just didn't seem right. So I contacted her, showed her a picture, and sent her this message:

Merry Christmas! We hope this message finds you and your family well. We have lost contact with you through the last several months, but we want you to continue to see how amazing Brody is and how thankful we are that you allowed us to be his Mom and Dad. We have created this profile for Brody in order to share pictures with you through the years (hopefully!). We tell him about you and that he is from Kentucky, and he usually says, "I want to go to K-tucky." :o) He doesn't understand everything we tell him, but he will soon. He is a handsome, friendly, talkative, and amazingly smart little boy who is growing up so fast we can't keep up. As you know, he will be 3 in March, and he is already taller than most 4- and 5-year-olds and wearing size 4 clothing! He is a great big brother to our youngest son...very sweet and caring. Again, we hope you are enjoying a very merry Christmas with your kiddos and family. We are so thankful for you and for the gift you have given us.

And she wrote back, with these words included in a longer message: "I am at a loss for words. This has truly made my day..."

And THAT was a thrill of hope, one more 'wrong' that is now 'right.'

Lastly, as we were resting our heads on our pillows, we saw confirmation of this: An international adoption gone right in so many ways. Our friends, the Huitts, brought their son (and the long-lost biological brother of their previously adopted daughters) home from Ukraine ON CHRISTMAS DAY after a difficult and daunting two-year-process! What seemed impossible was made possible, and considering all of the details and the timing, the only logical assumption we can make is that God clearly wanted the family together and home for Christmas.

And there it was again: The thrill of hope.

Isaiah 40:28 -- Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, [that] the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? [there is] no searching of his understanding.

Luke 1:37 -- For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Hebrews 11:1 -- Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Friday, December 20, 2013

the weary world rejoices

Branson has some great musical talent, and Wednesday provided an opportunity for students to exhibit their talent in a school-wide gathering. 

The music was amazing, as usual, and it was refreshing to see a select number of talented kids in their element of music (especially because I normally see them squirming or posturing in their PE uniforms). 

Full disclosure, I got a case of the "eyes brimming, chin-quiver" during one of the musical numbers. (But there were no actual tears, people. Let's not let it get around that I actually do have emotions.)

Here's when it happened: 

"A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices 
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn..."

A thrill of hope? I wish I was experiencing that. 

The weary world rejoices. The world seems so weary, or maybe it is that 2013 has been a somewhat weary year for me personally. I am extremely hard on myself and very passionate about a few causes that God has placed close to my heart. I'm not an overly emotional person, but this year has brought some significant challenges to mess up my emotional equilibrium (for better or worse, the jury is still out). 

Miscarriage (early 2013).
Beating myself up about my job.
Losing twins we had hoped to adopt (They, along with 31 other children at their orphanage, died from the lack of clean water)
Resigning.
The increasingly difficult journey of adoption in Congo. (Just found out today that Congo adoptions may have been suspended...heart-break city.)
A second mortgage to pay on a house that won't sell.
A busy fall season that took me away from family far too often and left me "unavailable" on many different levels. 
Friends with sick babies.
A granny in the hospital.

But the thrill of hope is still here, whether I acknowledge it or not. It sneaks up on me at odd times, like when I get to be involved in showing DRC what our agency is really up to over there (not just taking their babies, if you want to know). The thrill of hope sneaks up on me when Brecken fake-laughs over and over again until everyone is belly-laughing, or when I envision the future, adopted and biological babies all tucked snuggly into bed and me working on changing the world or at least doing something to help it (a dream's a dream, right?).

Or when I hear a high school choir sing about the thrill of hope in a song I've heard one thousand times before, yet for the first time, I think about the baby in the hay--with the weight of the world on his back, scared parents, wise men and bright star shining just for Him. That baby that changed everything and left the world rejoicing. That's quite a thrill of hope. 

Right now, though, I'm weary, and the world seems to be very weary, too. 

But for today, thank you, Branson Choir, for reminding me of the thrill:

HOPE. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Taking offense

I bet when you read that title you thought I would be writing about how offended I am. How offended I am that people ask who Brody's real parents are. How offended I am when people ask why we don't adopt a child from the US. How offended I am when people assume adoption was the second-best way to add to our family. How offended I am when people refer to Brecken as our "real son."

But the truth is, I'm not offended, and I'd like to tell you why. However, if you are one who is easily offended, I suggest you pack up your ego and hustle on to another blog where people live on sunshine and rainbows, mmmkay? (Sorry, my sarcasm leaks out occasionally.)

Or you could stay here and learn why it's freeing to not be offended.

There might have been a time in my life when I would get offended (particularly when I felt people were trying to hurt me), even though I acknowledged that taking offense was an energy-zapper. BUT I AM LEARNING, and oh, what a relief it has been to learn how to handle those situations.

First of all, most people who express the sentiments mentioned above don't really understand the full meaning of what they are saying. Adoption, for one, is a tricky language of the mind. "Birth moms," "first families," "forever families," fees, timelines, referrals...it really is like learning a new language, so just because someone says something that lacks full truth, full understanding or full cordiality, it doesn't give me the right or reason to be offended.

People will say things that might strike a nerve, along with a host of other miscommunicated ideas, misconceptions, or misunderstood questions and comments. However, to be offended is to assume that people are saying things with a mean spirit. So what if they said something that was inaccurate? I've done it plenty of times! People will talk about things that they don't fully understand, and they will say things that they don't even know are politically incorrect, particularly in the adoption world. I can choose to be offended by those comments and get mad and swing my proverbial fists in anger, or I can do a few other things, such as kindly and gently steering them in the right direction or ignoring the slight if it's inconsequential.

Some Truth that has really helped me develop in this area is this from Psalms (119:165): "Great peace have they who love thy law: and nothing shall offend them." If you love the Truth, you will be offended by NOTHING. It's written up there if you need to see it again. Let it marinate in your brain for a while. You will have GREAT PEACE!

When you get offended, you are choosing to do so (often because of your own ego...let's be honest). It is not your right to be offended, it is your choice to not be offended. And therefore, it is your choice to be offended. Choose that course if you'd like, but doesn't that just weigh more heavily on you anyway? Additionally, getting offended really makes the situation more about me ("I have been offended," or "You have offended me.") than it is about helping people understand the truth of the whole situation. True, things can be offensive (like that time yesterday when one of my students said, "This is f-ing stupid,") but I don't have to be offended by them. (That kid was entitled to his own opinion, and I'm not going to make it about me.)

If you believe someone is TRYING to offend you, you can ask yourself one question: Is it true? (The other day I heard about an adoptive parent being offended when someone said that her son was black. News flash: He IS black. You cannot be offended by the truth!)

If it's true, people can say it (although this doesn't always mean they should). Sometimes, the truth of an "offensive" comment necessitates an evaluation of that situation. Trust me, I have adjusted quite a few things in my life based on a comment that might have offended me...except that the "offensive" comment turned out to be true, and I needed to change something. Brad's sister shared a great example with me once (one that she taught her young boys): If someone says you pick your boogers, and you do, you (1) can't be offended because it's true; and (2) should probably think about changing that characteristics for your own good. If someone says you pick your boogers but you don't, then you can't be offended because it's not true! Brilliant! Freeing!!

Sometimes people want to talk to us about our adoption. They say some silly things (things we would have said three years ago, honestly), but that takes nothing away from the fact that most of them are truly excited and/or curious and do not have the vocabulary to express it in words the adoption community would accept as "positive adoption language." I'm not knocking positive adoption language...clearly I want our adopted kids to know we are their "real family" and that adoption isn't second-best, but I'm also not ticked or offended in any way when people around is don't know about those phrases. (If you'd like to know more about positive adoption language, go here. But seriously, no pressure.)

We love talking adoption, and we love God's Word. We are not offended.

Cheers to all...Christmas is almost here! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

drum roll please...

Final numbers are in from our big dinner-music-silent auction fundraising event. Ready? We received a grand total of $10,000!!! Whoa. We are blown away by the generosity of our friends, family and people we don't even know. We even received a few $1,000 checks from individuals. Unbelievable.
We hope you enjoyed some good music, yummy food and great company if you were in attendance, and if you weren't there...well, you missed out. ;o)
{This is a crummy phone pic, but you get the idea for now...}
 {insert more mental images here for now...my computer
is seriously having some troubles...}

Some huge THANK YOUS we wanted to share online: 

Stephen Owen -- Fundraising genius/the man with the plan. Seriously, he was THE MAN when it came to planning this whole thing, as it turned out to be an even larger undertaking than we originally thought (but worth it!). I believe he is single, ladies, soooo.... (Brad and I can vouch for his godly character and awesomeness.)

Lizzy Cohen -- Atmosphere director. She designed the "feel" of the event, and boy, did she do an amazing job. She has design ideas coming out of her head at all angles, and she did a great job of pulling it all together. (I believe she is also single, guys, sooo...) (Also, a quick shout out to my sis-in-law and her boys for creating 115 spinning pinwheels for table decor. Props for the props!)
Jon and Jacqueline Rush -- Was the food amazing or what?! Thanks so much to these two for pulling together an amazing meal for us. We enjoyed every bite, and we know you all did, too. Watch for their traveling BBQ venue in the months to come. (And thanks to their their small group, too, who helped dish out the food.)

Emmett Franz, his family, and Kevin Cott (who jumped in at the last second for a very sick Scott Hardwicke) -- If you enjoyed the music--and I think we all did, AMIRIGHT?--please support these guys (and gals) by checking out their respective websites. They performed for us FOR FREE, and we are extremely thankful you all got to experience their soul-pleasing music. 
A few more thank yous for some people who donated very large items or several items for the silent auction:
  • The Baumann families - (By the way, Melissa B. MADE the adorable doll that was swinging in the corner. The hair of that doll looked a bit like what I expect C's will be like when she comes home. Seriously, loved that doll!)
  • Jeff and Shannon Britton
  • Christie Snelson - See more of her CRAZY-GOOD works of art here. She is seriously SO GOOD. 
  • Brown Derby
  • Silver Dollar City
  • McAlisters Deli (Sweet Tea for Sweet C!)
  • The Mike Green Real Estate Team (He's a pro, folks. A pro.)
  • Nixa Crossfit
  • Chris Kuykendall (If you liked the cool art prints and cards, see the rest of his stuff here.)
  • Dr. Chris Boschen at Sunshine Eye Clinic
  • Lori Breedlove Photography
  • Teri Roy Photography
  • Baglady Boutique
  • (If I missed you or your company, please don't hate me.)

I should also mention here that in the total we included donations from our AdoptTogether site, which included a few anonymous donations and donations from people we know who could not come to the event. (We also received a donation from the great people at the company my parents started many years ago, ESC, Inc. Consulting Engineers.)


MANY THANKS to those of you who came or supported us in an way, financial or otherwise. Big or small, your support has meant the world to us. Please continue to pray with us that Sweet C and all the other orphans in Congo will remain healthy and safe and will soon be able to join their families.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Imara update

Many have asked for an update on little Imara, the three-year-old who was beaten, whipped, and burned by her extended family in Congo. (You can read more about her situation here, here and here.)

Our Congo adoption coordinator should be in Congo as we speak. Her trip was planned long before anyone knew about Imara, and she was supposed to leave Sunday. However, with the bad weather expected in Chicago she took off earlier than expected, leaving Springfield Saturday morning. Imara needs a passport first, then they can make an appointment to try to get her an emergency medical visa. Please pray that all of this can happen in a timely manner so Imara can get the care she needs as soon as possible.

I also got the opportunity to work on a little booklet to show DGM what the agency we are adopting through is doing in Congo. Essentially, the purpose is to show that the agency is not simply exporting babies from the Congo without caring about any of the problems the people in Congo face. I wish I could show you that booklet, as it is full of great humanitarian work that is being done by ABI. A few examples: saving Baby Joshua's life, widow support for a mama who thought she would have to place her children for adoption because she couldn't support them, family assistance to keep a family facing financial hardship together, dysentery relief for the devastated orphanage that lost 33 of 52 children (including the twins we hoped to adopt...read up here), and the latest, providing emergency medical care for Imara.

Here's a visual of Joshua's progress:

Joshua right after he was found, weighing in under 2 lbs.
Joshua a few weeks ago. He finally has the muscle strength to smile!
 And this is why our agency is awesome!

PLEASE pray that Congolese officials will see that we truly want what is best for the children of Congo and that they will soon allow adoptive parents to bring their kids home.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

an amazing mom

I am pretty sure I drove my mother crazy when I was younger. I stressed her out. I made her stay up late. She had to bail me out of a lot of trouble.

My high school years were not my finest. I was a perfectionist. I was (am) an over thinker. I stressed about such little selfish nothings that I don't know why my mom didn't just kick me out in the backyard for a while until I figured out what was truly important in life. But she didn't and I suppose that's what makes her a good mom.

But here's what makes her an amazing mom: She knew that getting good grades, being a good athlete and doing my very best in all situations was important to me, so she supported me while also reminding me that her and my dad's love was not based on performance (something that continually has to be drilled into my head even today).

She stayed up late to proofread the papers I procrastinated on until the night before they were due, she played volleyball with me in the front yard, and she woke up at 3 am to drive me to club tournaments. She acted like she enjoyed it (and maybe she did, but some of the things she did for me were not enjoyable, I assure you). But she sometimes let me deal with consequences of procrastination, overthinking and forgetting things, I am grateful now for her willingness to allow me to deal with some struggles in those areas without jumping in to fix everything every time, although I'm sure she wanted to do so.

These days she is still here to support me and my new family, just in different ways. For example,  she and my dad traveled to Kentucky to visit several times when Brody and I were stuck there so we wouldn't be alone, and when little Brecken tried to arrive 11 weeks early and eventually came 9 weeks early, they watched 16-month-old Brody while I was in the hospital and then did everything they could to help while Brecken stayed in NICU for 5 weeks.

And not only is she there for me and my family, she is also an encourager and helper to hosts of other people.

She is an amazing example of a generous giver, an encouraging supporter, selfless sacrificial love and a Christ follower, among many other things. (So is my dad, in case you are wondering. Equally yoked they are!)

So, yeah, you could say she is an amazing mom, but she is also an amazing Memaw, friend, example, giver and woman of God, and I am incredibly thankful for her. (She is also y favorite shopping partner, but that's neither here nor there.)

Happy birthday, Ruthie B!! We adore you!!

This is my mom and my Grandpa Green just a few years ago. (And happy birthday to my Grandpa Green, too! He turned 90 on Friday, and we couldn't be more blessed to have him in our lives!!


Did I mention she was also named "Most Beautiful Girl" in her high school yearbook? She's still got it!)

Friday, December 6, 2013

feel good Friday


I pretty much love this commercial, partially because I have this for single older people.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Miracle for Imara

I am so thrilled to share that Cox Hospital in Springfield, MO, has agreed to provide care for Imara! The very fact that Imara now has the promise of care is amazing, but the amazing details just add to the whole ness of this plan. Once again, God is in the details.

Springfield is the home of ABI's secondary office.
Springfield is the home of the family who had already agreed to sponsor her visa and be her foster parents.
Cox Hospital is an amazing hospital with truly caring doctors (but I know that most of them are).
Springfield is my hometown. Yay Hometown!

Anyway, I will not share evey detail of how it all came to be (honestly, I don't even know every detail), but everything lined up in ways you would not believe unless you are a believer, really.

I should also point out here that I received over 100 emails and several additional texts and social media messages regarding Imara's situation and offers of help. You people are amazing! We also had at least one other hospital and several doctors from over who had agreed to provide free care; it just happened to be that Cox is right here!! To those of you who worked tirelessly to help this precious girl, THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Next steps for Imara: visa paperwork submission and hopefully an approval so she can travel back here (with her sponsoring visa provider, who was already planning to travel to DRC next week...coincident??) ASAP.

I plan to keep you posted as more details are known, but I couldn't keep this news in much longer.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Help still needed {and fast}

I'm going to post a fundraising update sometime, because I'd call our adoption dinner/silent auction a huge success, but since I have your attention I need to tell you more about Imara, the 3-year-old orphan who has been beaten, burned, whipped and possibly poisoned by extended family in Congo. She still desperately needs help getting to the US, and she needs it fast, as a number of medical issues she is dealing with could kill her.

Her physical injuries: Burns in and on mouth, making eating and drinking extremely difficult, and Congo does not have equipment or expertise to even asses this sort of problem. Her stomach is alarmingly distended, invoking worries of internal swelling. She has two possible fractures in her arms. Her 3rd-degree leg burn, which was cut out of her leg, will definitely need a skin graft, and her double black eyes and cerebral swelling indicate a skull fracture. And let's not even talk about the emotional trauma right now. You can visit abicongo.blogspot.com for even more details about her physical injuries and situation.

The most important thing we need right now is a commitment from a hospital to provide free care for Imara, or a commitment to provide greatly reduced care along with commitments from organizations who can provide payment for the remaining balance of care. The purpose of these commitments is to show government officials that we have the funds necessary to take care of Imara's medical needs. 

We are not concerned about finding an adoptive family, host family, or even funds for her visa or plane ticket at this point. We will cross those bridges when we get to them. We just desperately need hospitals to say "YES" to providing care for free, and we need it quickly. Visas take a while to acquire, and the paperwork required to even submit a visa request will take a few days. If a hospital says "YES" tomorrow and people bust their tails getting everything done, we will still probably be a week-and-a-half away from getting Imara here for care she desperately needs today. 

If you have any leads regarding options for Imara, please contact those people directly and share Imara's story, this blog post, ABI's post and anything else you feel would be important, and then contact me (lotzfam@att.net) if you receive very positive information from them. I have been busy answering emails, texts and messages about this ALL DAY, which is amazing, but I simply cannot contact people unless I have strong reason to believe they are on board and absolutely ready for the next step. Not enough time in the day (or battery power in my phone). 

(By the way, hospitals may be more interested in helping if they believe some positive press will come of it. I believe that is a strong possibility if we can get her here for care! Doctors and nurses, especially in the Springfield, MO, area, please speak up for Imara!)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

URGENT: Imara needs help

Friends, we are in the middle of pulling together the loose ends for our big fundraising event tomorrow, but over the weekend we learned of more tragedy in Congo, and I must share the info with you NOW in order to hopefully save her life.

A 3-year-old orphan girl, Imara, who was staying with extended family was beaten, burned and whipped (possibly even poisoned) by that family until she admitted to being a witch, at which time she was shunned by the community and taken to social services to be placed in an orphanage.

You can read about her whole story here (WARNING: IT'S GRAPHIC), but here's a quick and detailed description of the incomprehensible abuse she suffered:
Imara was beaten with a whip on her arms, legs, stomach, buttocks, and back, hit with many objects, punched in the face and kicked all over her body.  She is assumed to have been forced to eat a poison, but was not otherwise fed or given anything to drink for three days.  She was tied up during this time, now having rope burns on her arms and legs and her hand was crushed with a hammer-like object.  She was burned with a candle that was held onto her leg and then up to and inside her mouth until she finally admitted she was a witch, although she has no understanding of anything that happened to her or what she was confessing to.
Please DO go to the link above to read the full details about the horrible abuse this child--whose name fittingly means, "strong"--has suffered. The post has more pictures, as well as information about the strange phenomenon of witchcraft accusation in DRC. The pictures are some of the most horrifying visuals you will ever see, but you do need to see them to understand what has happened here. 


I can't help but notice Imara (above) is holding a baby doll in this picture. She is snuggling a baby doll the way she needs SO BADLY to be snuggled and loved. It's just so hard to understand why this has to happen to innocent children.

BUT...there is good news for Imara: The adoption agency we are adopting through has again stepped in to offer help to this precious girl. DRC does not have the resources needed to treat all of her conditions. (Did I mention she also has double black eyes, which means there is a possibility of a skull fracture requiring immediate medical care and possible intervention to prevent severe long-term effects on her brain, hearing, vision, or neurological functioning. ) BUT the US does have the resources, equipment and expertise she needs. In order to get to the State, Imara needs $100,000 of promised medical care coverage in order to help her qualify for a medical visa or humanitarian parole authorization. This will require two aspects of medical care assistance: 

1 -- A hospital that will agree to care for Imara and provide free- or low-cost care for her. If you know of a hospital that could potentially help with free- or reduced-care, please contact them and, after their initial agreement to evaluate her case, contact me at lotzfam@att.net.

2 -- Proof that the potential $100,000 is available to cover her expenses. One organization has already committed $10,000, but we need other organizations to join in to help with this feat. Insurance may (or may not) be able to cover some costs, BUT insurance does not come into consideration in the DRC officials' consideration of issuing her a medical visa or humanitarian parole authorization. Only commitments from organizations will be held in consideration for her assistance and hopeful visa issuance. Therefore, (taken from the ABI Congo blog) "We would need a letter on the organization's letterhead (hopefully by Monday evening) that says the organization will cover a particular dollar amount of Imara's medical care if she is granted a visa to come to the U.S. The funding will be run through All Blessings International, Inc. which is a 501(c)3 and will be tax deductible."

If you would like full details, including a detailed update on Imara and specifics regarding the quest to provide her with medical care, please read this blog post.

And if you are able to help in ANY WAY, please contact me as soon as possible at lotzfam@att.net, as I am helping ABI gather resources for Imara. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Light

Some of you might know that I'm reading this book:

 

I tweeted something about bawling my eyes out in the first chapter, because it was so incredibly sad. I had to stop reading the book for a little bit (weeks, maybe) just to regain my composure. My psyche has been a bit off lately, anyway, as it's been overloaded with much to think on: the twins, moving on from my job, what I'll be doing next year (because I don't know exactly...), the girls I will not get to coach, the people who dislike me because of my coaching decisions, the students who need their parents to be parents, and (mostly) that orphanage in the path of dysentery and all the lives affected. It's all been messing with me. Truth be told, it's probably messing with me in a good way, but it has not been what I would call "enjoyable." There were a several days when I had a hard time finding the joy I knew should be everywhere.

For sure, my students have noticed it. I have been on edge. Jokes have not been funny. I have been annoyed at their little "crises" about getting dumped or having friend fights. I'm not saying their problems aren't a big deal, but I had a hard time caring about some minor high school problem when I knew the weight of big problems worldwide. (Here I feel it's important to point out that I do understand the high school psyche is very me-focused. Let's not even talk about my crises as a high schooler...."I got a 96%? Why not 100%? Everything I do MUST BE PERFECT, and I will stress about it ALL DAY LONG and into the night...")

So when I regrouped and picked up the book again, I was relieved to read this line:
“I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives. Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy, even in the here and now, they are change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world."
You mean I can live joyfully in the midst of darkness and suffering? For over a month, I had been weighted down with the knowledge of heartache, suffering and loss in the world. I didn't know how to handle it. I didn't know how to continue living life normally when so much darkness was engulfing the lives of others. 

But this little gem--his nugget of Truth--was good for my soul. It gave me permission to live fully, to enjoy my boys at home without worry, to relish my run in the "feels-like-6-degrees" morning air. How freeing to be told it was possible--that it is GOOD--to live joyfully! Voskamp (the author) makes a great point...standing with the suffering will not prohibit them from suffering. Should I ignore their suffering? Heck no. There is a time to mourn and to stand for injustices, but I don't have to feel obligated to suffer when there is a reason to be thankful, and there is always a reason to be thankful. 
I am joyful. I am thankful. I am sometimes very sad about the darkness (dysentery, for one) in the world and I will do my best to shed a light in and on that darkness, but I choose joy when it's all around me, particularly when it can help "bring the fullest Light to the world."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

import

I mentioned yesterday that I would try to explain the notion of the word "IMPORT" in the title of our adoption dinner. 


(PS -- Here's additional info for our dinner if you need it!)

Here we go. Hang with me as I unpack it. 

Obviously, the idea of purchasing a child does not sound appealing. It sounds ugly, and wrong, and demeaning. And that's not really what we are doing...but it kind of IS. We are paying international fees, medical fees, visa fees, investigation fees (to make sure Sweet C is truly an orphan in need of a family), home study fees (to make sure we are fit parents), and a whole spectrum of other fees. We are paying quite a price (and really, we are getting a lot of help from YOU to pay that price). So, really, we are paying a LOT of money to IMPORT a child to our home. 

But there's this:

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

BACK. IT. UP. Does that say we were BOUGHT

YEP. We were bought with a price. What was that price? BLOOD. LIFE. CHRIST. We were not just God's afterthought, "Oh, I guess I'll add these kids to my kingdom." No, we were BOUGHT, and we were expensive. Because of the price Christ paid, we were imported into his kingdom, given a new life, given a future. 

And isn't this what we are hoping to do for C? Yep. Of course. 

Obviously, we would never refer to adoption as purchasing children, because that doesn't incorporate the fullness of the gift of adoption. However, we are paying a price for a valuable import into our family. And we think it's worth it. 


import {from Latin importāre to carry in, from im- + portāre to carry}

Monday, November 25, 2013

one week away

Ok, people. We are ONE WEEK AWAY from our dinner/silent auction adoption fundraiser! We still have A TON to get done by next Monday at 6:30 PM; little did I know when we thought up this idea that the process would become almost as big and intimidating as planning a wedding. Decorations, food, order of events, videos, MCs, servers...we've got it all going on. And I am hoping it goes well.

But if it doesn't, let's just all smile, relax and enjoy ourselves nonetheless, mmmkay?

Here's a short little film featuring two of the musicians (Emmet Franz and Scott Hardwicke) who will be playing at the event. They are pretty cool fellas, and you can find more about Emmett and his (Franz) fam here and here. Scott is apparently not yet cool enough to have his own website, but he does have his own fan club, I assure you.



Again, you can pay ahead of time (which would be amazing) by going here and then clicking on the green "Donate Now" button. We only have enough room for 200 people, and we want to make sure we have an accurate count of who is coming so we don't have to turn thousands away at the door. :o) If you are coming, don't want to pay yet, and haven't already done so, please respond to the event on Facebook, as well.

The event is named "IMPORT: A dinner for adoption" in case you missed it in Facebook. (Why the name "IMPORT?" when it seems to contradict my statements in this post? I'll attempt to explain tomorrow. You are all hanging on the edge of your seats now, right?)

In case you missed some of the silent auction items, we have an iPad Air, Dixie Stampede tix, Silver Dollar City tix, 31 bags, a Francesca's handbag, a stay in a Branson condo on the lake (with an indoor pool), a few rounds of golf, photography packages, and some amazing art prints (to name a few things) to auction off. (If you can't come to the event and one of the items strikes your fancy enough to bid on it, contact me by 3 PM on December 2 to place your bid.)

We cannot wait to see you all next week! Don't try to lose the Thanksgiving weight before next week, by the way. We are going to have some great BBQ for you...might as well enjoy it!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

National Adoption Day {a celebration of the Gospel}

It's National Adoption Day, and I am celebrating by refusing to be brought down by some of the negativity surrounding the adoption movement. It seems to be a tough time to be an adoptive parent, but I suppose it's always been this way; it's just that experience--as usual--has become my best and most personal teacher. 

First of all we've got this whole DGM Shutdown, which is forcing a lot of kids to unnecessarily wait longer in Congo before coming home to their families. Along with this shutdown we have received a few somewhat discouraging pieces of information relating to the adoption process in Congo--that it's "changing" or "might" soon come to a complete halt. (Thanks again, to Reuters for your deplorable investigative reporting insinuating that adoptions go wrong more often than not and to the FEW adoption agencies who are not following up with checking in after are adoptions are completed in the US to be sure the children are safe, loved and cared for. You have done more to hurt orphans than we ever imagined possible.)

On top of the situation in Congo and the media's "help" in keeping kids safe, we have a lot of ignorant people making excessively ignorant comments. I talked to a woman last week who has adopted and cared for more kids than I have in my entire extended family. She and her husband recently brought home four siblings from Ethiopia, and the oldest ran away from their home in an act of fear that can only be explained by a life lived in deprivation of a loving family. This story made its way to the news, and people felt compelled to make ignorant and ridiculous comments about the situation. Need examples? Here you go (And thank you Dawn Young for your kind comments and shared truths):
  • Maggie Watanabe Who writes your stories? The child is not African American. He is an African child who was purchased by Americans and brought from his home to meet their needs.
    • Dawn Young He is African-American, once his passport is stamped he has full rights of citizenship here. And he wasn't purchased. The fees for the adoption pay for the assurance that this child is an orphan and they insure that he isn't being purchased. As for "their needs" if these people felt a need to be a parent, and went through the long, tedious and uncertain process of adoption, than it really isn't anyone's business but their's. Shame on you for being so callous and rude. This story could have had a very different outcome.
  • Joanne Reed One can only hope someone thinks to inquire why a child so young would run away without shoes on their feet in this weather.
Oh, Maggie. I can only hope that you truly don't know what you are talking about.

And then there was this comment on my post about the twins' deaths due to dysentery in their orphanage. Comments this hurtful, hateful and rude do not require a reply or a second thought (and I am thankful that I have developed thicker skin in the last few years), but I'm reposting it in case you missed it (because you wouldn't believe it if you didn't see it):


Little does Alisha know that the twins' birth mom died in childbirth and their birthdad's other wives probably tried to raise the child until they realized they couldn't handle it, their birthdad dropped them off and relinquished his parental rights to the orphanage so his kids could be loved and taken care of. Little does she know that our adoption agency is now sending nearly $30,000 worth of equipment and supplies to provide clean water for kids without families to protect and provide for them, that our agency is also providing help to a single mother in Congo who thought she was going to have to leave her kids at the orphanage because she could not provide for them, that our agency is providing short-term support and long-term planning so she can care for her three kids, and that our agency (along with the prayers of thousands and God's own grace) SAVED young Joshua's life by getting him to the USA to provide emergency medical care for his less than two-pound little body. (Read about it all here.)

But little does she care, I assume.

I totally understand that some aspects of adoption are hard to understand, that some agencies are corrupt, that some countries are corrupt. But we didn't jump into adoption in ignorance. Do we understand every aspect of it? No. But we do understand that millions of children need families, and we can change that for at least one of them.

On top of that, we have seen the results of our agency's work, we know several of our agency's workers personally, and we believe that our agency is GOOD, is doing GREAT things, and will continue to change lives for the better.

We have an amazing two-year-old (who was adopted himself) at home who is excited to meet his baby sister, who kissed her picture on my phone last night, and who is sending some of his old clothes to Congo for the children there because they don't have mommies and daddies or anything else.


We will continue to celebrate the joys, successes and Gospel of adoption. I will personally celebrate the fact that adoption has changed my understanding of the gospel. It is an aspect of Christ's love for me that I never would have understood if my eyes weren't opened to the plight of orphans and my former state as someone like them--without hope.

So obviously when we sang this song in church last Sunday I immediately thought of Sweet C with her arms raised up to us when we get her and bring her home:

Love came down and rescued me
Love came down and set me free
I am Yours
Lord I'm forever Yours
Mountains high or valley low
I sing out and remind my soul
I am Yours
I am forever Yours


And that is why the negativity, the discouraging days, and the ignorant comments don't matter.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

WHW 13

So much has been happening around here that I haven't had time to blog about it all! A list of the happenings:
  • We are keeping up with the adoption stories of friends who are traveling to get their kiddos;
  • building a headboard for our master bedroom (when I say "we" I mean I am helping with the "vision" and Brad is doing the hard stuff);


  • finalizing plans for our BIG FUNDRAISER that is quickly approaching
(SHAMELESS PLUG: 425 Downtown--December 2--$25/ticket--Music--BBQ--Franz family--Scott Hardwicke--Silent auction); 



"I am loved!"
  • organizing VB paperwork for club season;
  • gathering some of the boys' clothes to send to the orphanage;
  • delivering t-shirts and 31 bags (earned $321 + silent auction items for adoption!);
  • teaching;
  • and of course, wrangling in the Littles in our home.




Another plug: BERCH (a local band that had a cult following at Missouri State University in its hay-day a few years ago) is RETURNING for a reunion show at Nathan P. Murphy's tomorrow night. AND they are such cool and gracious guys that they will be doing a "name your own price" gig in which all proceeds will go toward our adoption and the Castro's (domestic; recently MATCHED) adoption! See, I told you they were cool guys. If you'd like to come hear some great music, bring whatever kind of cash you'd like and enjoy it with us at 9 PM tomorrow night.