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.





Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Care Package {for Sweet C}

We officially got word Sunday that we can send a care package to Sweet Little C, and my brain has been RUNNING WILD with all of the possibilities. Only problem: It all must fit into two gallon-sized ziploc bags.

Need a visual? Two of these:



Here are some things I'd like to fit in those two bags:

1. Sophie the Giraffe -- Our friends sent us one of these when we met Brody in Kentucky, and we have had it ever since. It's a toy; it's a teether; it's a cute animal. It's perfect.



2. A baby blanket -- I bought a pink blanket a LONG time ago, when we had just gotten home from Kentucky with Brody. I didn't care that I didn't have a girl yet. It was perfect (and it was on sale). I would use it ONE DAY. I'm not sure that I'll send the actual blanket overseas, but I'd love to send something like it. I've also read that sleeping with the blanket a few nights to get our scent on it before sending can be really good for bonding. I don't know if it's true or not, but it helps me feel good about it, so there.

3. Hair bows -- I went to my cousin's baby shower last weekend, and she got THE MOST adorable pink flowery headband for her little girl. I am not what one would call a "girlie girl," but Little C will definitely have some girly headbands and bows. (For one, I will need them to wrangle in the hair while I learn how to style it.)
Google images.



4. A recordable book -- Could this be any more perfect? We can record ourselves reading this book, then send it to African so C can hear our voices. And the message of each of these books? Perfect.



Photos courtesy Hallmark.

5. Photo book -- With plenty of pictures of our family, so she starts becoming familiar with our faces. Hoping to translate a few words like "mom," "dad," "brother," and "I love you" into Lingala for her.

6. Musical toys and other simple toys --

This thing will squish down AND our boys love the one we have. 


7. A onesie that says "I am loved" or something along those lines -- I haven't been able to find a cute one anywhere. (Anyone seen anything like that?)

8. Cute outfits and PJs -- In our last set of pictures (which we got yesterday!), C was either almost naked or wearing boy-ish outfits. I KNOW for certain that she is cared for very well in her foster home/orphanage, but this girl needs some cute little girly clothes! How many outfits can I send in a plastic bag? I will test my packing skills on this, for sure. And I am such a sucker for baby PJs. That's going to cause a problem.

9. A cute cuddly toy -- That girl needs something to snuggle.

Myself -- I (so) badly want to jump on that plane and go hold her. SO BADLY.

Am I missing anything? (I can also send hygiene items...anyone have any suggestions in that category?)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Adoption Dinner & AdoptTogether {tax-deductible donations}

FINALLY!

Did you see that new button over there? --------------------------->

The one that says "Donate with AdoptTogether"? That is an exciting addition to the blog (at least for us).

{{We have had some blog probs today, so it actually may not be there. If not, use this link.}}

Some of you have asked about making tax-deductible donations. We have set up a page on AdoptTogether.org, which is a non-profit funding platform that helps families raise funds for adoption. (If you'd like to know how it works, go here: https://www.adopttogether.org/.)

You should always be able to find the button at the side. Don't feel obligated, but we truly would appreciate any donations you would like to offer (and in doing so, Uncle Sam will just have to take a little less from you).

Also, if you are planning to come to our dinner on December 2nd, you can go ahead and use that button to pay for your tickets. In fact, it would be AMAZING if you all could pay before you come that night, just to keep our sanity (relatively) intact. (We only have space for about 200 people, which sounds like a lot but really isn't. This will help us keep track so we don't overpack the place.) If you do choose to pay early, the organization will automatically send us an email that you have donated through the AdoptTogether site and we can put you on the VIP list for the event, so please make sure to include your name with your donation. :o) Full tables of 8 are also available, so you may choose to do that and invite some of your friends (even if we don't know them) so you'll know who you are sitting by.

Here's a little Franz Family to give you an idea of the great music involved here.



More info regarding the adoption dinner event:
Monday, December 2, 2013
6:30 PM-9:00 PM
425 Downtown in Springfield, MO
$25 per person

A short description so you'll know what to expect: Get ready to enjoy a night of food, family, and friend (and Franz), and help the Lotz family raise money for their adoption from DR Congo. We will have a BBQ dinner while listening to the Franz family and Scott Hardwicke sing some tunes from all genres (with a wee-bit of Christmas music), and we will also have several silent auction items available on which you can bid.

Here are a few Silent Auction items we have already announced on the Facebook event. Also, if any of you reading this are unable to make it to the event but you still want to bid, you can do so by emailing me at lotzfam@att.net with your highest bid BEFORE 3 PM December 2.

iPad Air
(Photo courtesy Google Images)

4 passes to Silver Dollar City
(Photo courtesy Google Images)

A large hand-painted canvas by Christie Snelson (WHOA...she is good0



Art prints and cards by CKDesigns. This one, amongst others: 

(Photo courtesy Etsy/CKDesignMission)

We are just about two weeks away from this event; can't wait to see you all there! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

WHW 12

What's this? A real "What's Happening Wednesday" post? Yep. I haven't done one since August, but I'm jumping back on the bandwagon and plan to post about Lotz-home happenings regularly.

{{HALT. This actually isn't a real Wednesday post because it came to a screeching halt when I had a small crisis last night in attempting to fix my iPhone. (The screen has been broken since last May.) Long story short: I no longer have a working phone, and just about everything else that could go wrong did go wrong yesterday. It was a rough one. I give the day a C-.}}

Adoption Update: The Department of State held an open phone call this morning to discuss adoptions in DRC. It basically amounted to no new information, so things stand where they were: No Exit Letters, which may last 12 months, and people who were SOO close to bringing their kids home continue to wait and wait and wait. Some people who had visas and approvals have actually been permitted to exit (HOORAY for them!!), but others remain, and still others seem to be a long way off from the final journey to Congo to return with their kids. HO -HUM.

Related to adoption, here is the most recent post about the orphanage in Kasai where our twins lived and died. It details the upcoming short- and long-term plans for getting clean water to that village. It also contains a few more prayer requests for a very sick little boy and a widowed mother who is trying to keep her family together. Please continue to send this country your prayers and your cares.

In other news, Brad went hunting "up north" for a few days and--without spoiling the details of a post he will probably share on here--I am pretty sure he shed a few tears over the outcome. (I'm going to be honest with you here: I don't understand the mentality of a hunter. I get bored in a deer stand, and I do not get excited to listen to people whispering on camera in hunting shoes...BUT he does and I can accept the fact that I don't get it.) In fact, he is kind of on a hunting show, as an extended member of Hallowed Ground Outdoors, which is on the Sportsman Channel. He and his buddy are even in this episode (Have I shared this before?). So basically, I'm married to a TV star (who doesn't get paid as a TV star...in case you are wondering).

Lastly, two different sets of parents traveled this week to get their little ones through adoption: One set traveled across the US to get their newborn little boy who they just learned about (sounds a bit familiar) and the other traveled to Ukraine to get the biological brother of the two sisters they adopted about a year ago. YAY for them!! Read up here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

cleaner water in Congo {a thank you}

AHH! We should have known it already, but God had big plans when He brought our attention to the remote village of Congo where those sweet twins lived and died. If you want the back story, go here.) Our agency asked for only $15,000 to provide clean water and supplies to the orphanage, and I believe they received TWICE that amount. Can you imagine what they can do for kids with that amount of money!? I am beyond thrilled.

WOWZA.

Got this message in my Facebook inbox last week (Thank you so much, J!):

Hey Jenny -

It has been quite a long time! I wanted to send you a message. I had been keeping up with your blog, thanks to [friend]'s facebook links.

I just want you to know that we are praying for you and I want you to know you are such an encouragement to me. Thanks for sharing Christ's love with the world.

I also wanted to let you know that we will be sending a check to All Blessings for clean water. I know that you don't need to know that...but I know the Lord had his hand on this money for All Blessings. In April of this year I was the race director for our third annual 5K for clean water in Uganda. Through a series of events, our partner is now starting over in a different location in Uganda (near Congo), and as of right now, wells are not in the ministry plans for him.

Once I read about Omba and Shako I knew where the money needed to go. So we have a $4,000 check coming in the mail to All Blessings. I know you had posted that you thought the funds were raised, and if so hopefully this will benefit the agency in another way.

I'm thankful for God's plans and how he works things together for His Good. I can't wait to see pictures of your sweet little girl!



We are so blessed and thankful to know such GREAT people. Huge thanks to all of you for your support and interest in what is happening in our lives and in the lives of children you don't even know. We can't wait to introduce you all to Little C!

Friday, November 8, 2013

free falling

I went skydiving once. I was on a "2-4" (24-hour) break from working at Kanakuk, and my friend and I decided to do the craziest thing we could think of in our 24 hours off so we could go down in K-history.

Skydiving seemed like a great choice. 

I called my parents the night before we planned to jump so my mom could see me one last time before I died. (And so she could take pictures, of course.)

We did the training, paid our money, got our gear on and were soon on our way up into the clouds on a tiny little semi-safe airplane. I looked out the window when we were a few miles up. Crap. We were high and we were about to jump out of this thing with a piece of nylon keeping us from blasting our faces against the ground.

I remember moving over to do the door before our leap. I was attached to a professional, of course, so I could blame him if I bit the dust. I didn't need to be responsible for pulling a cord to save my life. I looked out at the patchwork ground below us thinking, "This is unreal. I cannot believe I am jumping out of this relatively safe airplane. I don't really have a plan, but since I'm already this far I guess I might as well do it."

Then we jumped, and it was the most exhilarating, frightening ride of my life. I felt sick to my stomach for a split second, but I knew I just had to do it. Then it (quite literally) took the breath out of me.

I sort of feel like that now.

I have recently taken a huge risk, and I don't have a plan of attack. This is EXTREMELY unlike me. I PLAN things!! I still have a PAPER PLANNER so I can plan my life out in advance for fun. It's a weird sickness/hobby of mine: Planning.

But now, I have no plan. It's like I have just jumped out of a plane, and I am exhilarated, frightened and breathless about what will happen.

I just resigned from my coaching job (which took me away from my family far too often AND I failed miserably--MISERABLY--at, by the way). My heart has very quickly been drawn in another direction, and I feel that it is not fair to the girls on my team to continue coaching when I cannot commit a great deal of my heart and time to the success of our team. In short, I loved the girls, but I know that someone else will do a better job. This coaching job is connected to my teaching job, which means, essentially, unless something crazy happens in my district and another teaching job comes open, I will soon be looking for a way to make money (i.e. continue to fund and adoption, feed our children, etc.).

I know this is the right decision, that God has a plan even if  I only know the first leap. However, the first step, this free fall, is leaving me a bit more scared than I'd like to be. But I can't wait to see where I land. I might land at home with my two kids (or THREE, hopefully sooner rather than later), and that would be okay except for that whole "pay the bills" thing.

(PS--If you need to hire someone to help get kids in forever families, write to increase awareness about orphans and third world problems, help people improve their fitness, or serve others in mission, I know someone!)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

30 abes

In my post the other day about ways to help orphans without adopting, I cannot believe I forgot one of my favorite ways to help orphans. It's only fitting, then, that I dedicate a single post to 30 Abes, an organization that helps provide meals to orphans in Haiti. The name "30 Abes" indicates the 30 cents it takes "to provide a meal of rice soy, dried pinto beans and a vitamin/mineral substance."

One reason I love this organization is that it was founded by Amy, a genuine (She has cried on-air, people...RESPECT), fun-loving, orphan-loving and adoption-loving host on the Bobby Bones Show, whom I have only tweet-annoyed her about adoption/orphan care a few times, and she was kind enough to respond.  (By the way, I listen to the Bobby Bones Show in the car EVERY MORNING on my way to school at 6:30 am, despite my tendency to dislike talkative radio hosts. I have never loved a radio show so much!)

Anyway, every 30 Abes shirt purchased helps feed orphans in Haiti. I bought one a while back, and I wear it every chance I get. I'm actually wearing it now, as it is the hands-down softest and smoothest shirt I've ever owned. I'm not exaggerating, people. Your other shirts will get jealous. You can buy one here.

That's Bobby. He likes dogs and admits to being nerdy, which is admirable. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

you don't have to adopt

November is National Adoption Month and last Sunday, November 3rd, was Orphan Sunday. Some of you who attended church Sunday probably heard an amazing message and/or saw some incredible stories about orphan care, adoption, foster care, or respite care. Some of you who attended church heard absolutely nothing about any of the above.

A vast majority of you probably experienced something in between--something along the lines of "There are orphans in the world. Let's love them." Or you saw pictures of adorable and filthy little faces staring deeply into the camera. Some of the kiddos might have seemed like they were staring into your soul saying, "PLEASE ADOPT KIDS LIKE ME," but most of you might have been left wondering, "Do we all have to adopt in order to help? I am not ready/able/called to adopt. How am I supposed to love orphans with this being the case?"

If you are someone who experienced the questions above, this post is for you. Adoption isn't for everyone, only the truly awesome.

Just kidding.

Adoption isn't for everyone, and we don't think we are special or extra-awesome just because we feel called to it. The truth is, not all of us are called to adopt, and that's ok. However, all of us who call ourselves Christians are called to care for orphans (widows, too...but that's another post for another day). Some are called to adopt (and if you are, then do it already, by golly!), some are called to support people who adopt, and some are called to support orphans physically, emotionally or financially.

Here are some ways to get involved in orphan care, even if you aren't called to adopt. (You will notice that some of these organizations work hard to preserve original families when possible, not just to help orphans find new ones.)


WAYS TO HELP WITHOUT ADOPTING:



World Vision -- You can sponsor a child or select from a wide range of gifts (live animals, anyone?). Honestly, there are so many ways to get involved that you almost need to just visit their site to see it all! Also, they are now working in Congo, so you can go here for more details on that venture.




Compassion International -- Sponsor individual children who are in high-risk areas and areas of poverty. I especially like the fact that you can read detailed information about each child, and they are accountable for their financial decisions, which you can see clearly on their website. (From their site: "Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults...Compassion began providing Korean War orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training. Today, Compassion helps more than 1.2 million children in 26 countries.")




Generation Next (links to Twitter account)  -- I just bought this shirt for $15. If you want one, email Riley (a student at my school with a heart for orphans who is doing amazing things. Her email is Africa.bound@hotmail.com. This organization provides school supply backpacks and hygiene backpacks for children around the world (mostly Africa). You can read more about Generation Next here. So inspiring!



Bring Love In -- "Creating new families from widows and orphans in Ethiopia." This organization helps place truly orphaned kids with widowed women, who can then become mothers to the orphans. Cool, huh?? You can also sponsor their "Keep one home" initiative to help prevent children who are at risk from being orphaned. This non-profit comes alongside families who are living on the financial brink and supports them with resources needed to keep families together. "As much as we love creating new families, we feel that there will never be a family like the one you were born into.

Convoy of Hope -- One of my favorites, possibly because they are near us, but also because they do so much good in the world. This would be a DREAM JOB for me, too. Convoy has "a driving passion to feed the world," and they specialize in children's feeding initiatives, disaster response, and community outreach.



  
Mercy Branch -- A new ministry with a "passion and heartbeat for serving and discipling the 150,000 children living on the streets of Addis [Ethiopia]. We are burdened for these children, and are seeking to extend the gospel and mercy of Jesus to them."


Project Hopeful

Project Hopeful -- Provides support to parents of children with HIV/AIDS. "Every orphaned child hopes for a family and a home. The reality for many children with HIV/AIDS and other special needs is that the chances of having that dream materialize are slim. Time and again, Project HOPEFUL has witnessed that with education, encouragement, and assistance families and individuals can be enabled to advocate for and adopt overlooked children."




Agape4 Congo -- This ministry outreach "exists to raise funds to provide humanitarian aid and compassionate ministry to vulnerable children living in under-resourced orphanages in the Democratic Republic of Congo." (And, boy, do the orphanages in DRC need the help!)

Rafiki Organization -- Rafiki established 10 villages in African countries to "provide orphan care, Bible study, classical Christian education, and teacher training through Rafiki’s five programs: ChildCare, Education, Rafiki Bible Study, Advanced Learning, and Widows."

Some other orphan-loving organizations I love: Lifesong for Orphans, 147 Million Orphans, Show Hope and, of course, All Blessings International. 

Looking for even more tangible ways to support orphans, adoptive and foster families? Take a gander at this blog post from Katie Mohr.  PLENTY of practical options from which to choose.


Have more ways to help? Comment below!!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Beauty for ashes

We have some good news to share with you, but before we share it I need to unpack some things. (Stay with me.)

We still hurt for the twins we lost in Congo, and we will never forget them or the strong conviction they have given us to fight for orphans. The pain of loss comes at awkward times. Sometimes it comes when I'm scrolling through my camera to find a picture of the boys at home. My eyes flash across the pic of the twins and I hurt for what might have been. Sometimes it comes when I see twins in public. (I don't feel like I have ever seen so many twins in my life...they seem to be everywhere. I must say, though, that my friend had twins--a boy and a girl--recently and I was THRILLED to finally meet them Saturday.) I felt so strongly that siblings--girl and boy twins!--were perfect for us because they would have each other for support through the difficult process of adoption and the ups and downs of life that stems from heartache (losing their birth mom before ever making it out of the womb and enduring the loss of playmates and friends from their orphanage, for starters) and being "different" in their family. (Let's face it, we were white parents adopting African children...they would look different!)

But God is completely in control and holding them now (and really, that's so much better for them, despite what we wanted). He has given us an adjusted and new dream, and in the midst of losing our grasp on the old one we were able to be a part of something bigger than we could have ever imagined. Our adoption agency raised $15,000+ for an orphanage we never would have known existed if we hadn't chosen to get outside our comfort zone and say yes. We were able to help, as indirectly as our help may have been. And we are thankful.

Obviously, we are still dealing with the loss of a dream we thought would come true, but we have been given peace without fully understanding God's plan (and it is ok that we don't understand). We also have some evidence for the truth of Isaiah 61:3...God gives "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified."

And we pray He is glorified in our choice to continue our adoption journey. When we learned of the deaths of Omba and Shako we were so disheartened that we had nothing to say on the phone with our program director. One of the only things I actually remember hearing Brad say was something along the lines of this: "I can't speak for Jenny here, and I may be naive in saying this, but doesn't it make sense to move forward on another referral--if one is available--so we can get another child or two out of there as quickly as possible?" I agreed with this assumption, and so did our program director. We ended the conversation by saying we'd be in touch regarding our openness to another referral in the near future.

Twelve hours later we had decided that's officially what we would do, and after a day of double-checking with God I texted our director to tell her our hearts and minds were open to another referral. It just didn't make sense to wait any longer when we knew there were kids who were dying on the other side of the world as they waited for families. The quicker we got started, the quicker we could hopefully get one or two of them home.

Our director immediately asked if we would consider "C," a 3-month-old girl whose picture I had already seen posted on our agency's Facebook page. I hadn't paid much attention to that post except to say a prayer that the little sweetie would find a perfect family soon. (She had some unusual arm movements that might indicate a neurological problem, and I hoped families would be open to her.) She was beautiful. So would we consider her now? Yes! She sent us more pictures and additional information (including the fact that she was abandoned). We said yes.

I showed Brody her picture. He asked, "Where's two babies?" He was asking about his brother and sister, whose picture he had seen a thousand times. I couldn't answer. He's two and simply wouldn't understand, and I couldn't put into words what had happened, anyway. (Christian Parent Fail #372: Not explaining to your two-year-old that his little brother and sister are being cradled by their Heavenly Father.)

So we've had this referral for a short while, but we struggled with the timing of sharing the info in the blog world for a few reasons (although apparently Brody keeps spilling the beans about "my sister"). First, we wanted to make sure we could effectively communicate the needs of the orphans deep in the African jungle without distracting anyone with information about our personal story. After all, we know God writes our story, and we want it to glorify Him. We (I) also didn't want anyone to think we simply forgot about or replaced Omba and Shako. Of course we haven't. They will forever be in our hearts and on our minds as motivation for continuing through the tough times in adoption, and I will still cry for them at times. They were perfect little babies who died far too soon. Lastly, what if the story of sweet little "C" ends in heartache, too? We thought about waiting until after we had passed court or something more "official" to decrease the chances that this would end poorly, too. However, when I set out to write this blog, I wanted to keep it as transparent and real as possible; otherwise it's not really painting a true picture. I feel that we must share most details of our journey so people can see every bit of it--dips, highs, curves, mountains, valleys, and the lowest of lows included. So come alongside us and see where this journey leads.

We've got a sweet baby girl waiting for us on the other end, and we need your support and prayers to get to her.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Good News Friday

After a few rough weeks, I am happy to have some good news to share.

Good news #1: I have strong reason to believe that our agency's goal of raising $15,000 for the orphanage in Congo has been met! GREAT JOB, WORLD! Seriously, those kids will be in a much better position with clean water to drink, new beds on which to sleep, life-restoring medicines and food to put in their hungry bellies. We cannot thank you enough for your big hearts in this battle against dysentery.

More good news: This little guy, Joshua, was found abandoned in Congo late last summer, but he is doing well now and even mustered up a smile for a picture. (I'd be smiling, too, if I had been rescued and cared for with the intensity our program coordinator and several others have provided!) When he was found and brought to the orphanage/foster care (different one from above), he weighed less than 2 lbs, his organs were failing, and he could not even smile because the muscles on his face weren't strong enough. Now, after a trip to the States with our amazingly selfless program coordinator and a helper, an emergency resuscitation, surgery for a hernia and plenty of nourishing food and monitoring, he looks like this:


YAY JOSHUA!! 

(His progression...what a different a month makes!!)


Joshua's journey has, obviously, been very MIRACULOUS but also expensive. So if you were looking to help the orphanage you might consider going to Joshua's Rally page, found here:  https://rally.org/allblessingsinternational. (You can also find more details about Joshua's Journey at that page.)

So how's that for some good news? I needed it, and I bet you did, too.