Thursday, December 23, 2010

This Christmas thing is strangely exciting

It's been a while since we had a first Christmas with any of our children until this year. E was just a pup so his first Christmas was like most babies and he's since learned Christmas like any of our other children, by watching their siblings and following the societal queues and absorbing those first few years. We weren't really sure what to expect with F being that he's 3 and never been through Christmas, it's been hilarious to watch for sure.

A few weekends ago we began pulling out all of the boxes with decorations. He probably thought we were moving again already as he had just seen this whole boxes piled high in the living room scenario in October. Melissa began locating all of the stockings and each one has a child's name on it, but of course F didn't have one yet. Now he didn't understand what we were getting ready to decorate for, but he darn sure knew there wasn't one of these over sized puffy sock looking things with his name on it and he let us hear about it! "Where my stocking, where mine, you get me stocking"? Over and over and over again. Melissa knew if we didn't have one for him come the Saturday we got ready to decorate full force, we'd have a pint size hurricane blowing through the house for sure. So the Friday before she bought a stocking like the other children's and had it monogrammed. She even took it up to school when she picked up E and F that afternoon. Needless to say he was about to explode with pure joy! The kind of joy that most of us quite frankly have probably forgotten about. It was HIS stocking, not one he had to share, but his. When I got home, I got the play by play from him about every stitch on that stocking. Several minutes into his description of everything, and I mean everything on it, I of course wandered a bit in the conversation. He promptly stopped talking and said, "Daddy, look at me, look at me, look at me!" Upon eye contact he promptly picked up where he left off and continued describing each image, color, and nuance of that precious stocking that was ALL HIS. He played with that thing for 2 days straight! Oh to get such pure joy out of the simple things in life.

Getting the Christmas tree is always fun too. We go to the local boy scout lot and pick one out as a family. We usually get it one night, set it up, let it settle a bit after it's been wound up in string and still standing at attention that first night. This was more than F could take. "Why we put tree in house? What tree for?" Once we explained about decorating, he couldn't stand to wait, are you kidding me? "When we decorate Christmas? When we put Christmas up? Why we not putting up Christmas?" All night we heard this! Much to F's chagrin we didn't give in and waited until the following day to put up lights and ornaments and he was a big helper for sure.

A few days later D. had picked up some gifts at a school function for a few of us and C. helped him wrap them and promptly placed them under the tree. The next morning F. came and grabbed Melissa in a fit of excitement, come here, come here mommy! He drug her to the tree and said, what are those? Melissa told him they were presents. Wheels turning, wheels turning.... "they from Santa"? No those are from D. Wheels turning, wheels turning.... "I open them now?" No, you have to wait until Christmas day. Wheels turning, wheels turning... "oh, ok". It seems every day there is another question he asks and begins the whole processing piece again around what in the world this is all about. If you ask him though, who's birthday is it Saturday, he get's a big grin and exclaims "Jesus!" I think he's getting it.

Oh, and he loved seeing his name on hanging from the mantle along with everyone else's. He has a home to call his own, and it's all his.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

UConn Women’s Basketball and Jesus Christ’s Ministry

Last night there was a small ripple across the sports landscape with the women’s basketball team winning 89 consecutive games to surpass the 88  by UCLA’s famed men’s hoops team from the 70’s. There has been some interesting discussion around this leading up to the game last night and it struck me while running this morning some of the similarities of this team and coach to that of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Love or Hate
Geno Auriemma is either loved or hated, almost nothing in between. Apparently he’s loved by his university, administration, and players, he’s been there forever. Of course winning never hurts one’s longevity and covers up a multitude of dislikable characteristics. He’s almost unanimously disliked outside the UConn circles as a brash, arrogant, loud mouth and loathed so much in Rocky Top country for dissing the queen of women’s bball he’d probably not make it out of Knoxville if he crossed into the city limits.

Jesus was loved or hated throughout his ministry by those he came in contact with and caused disruptions for. He was loved by the common man and those in his inner circles, so much so they were martyred in his name. He was loathed by the religious leaders and too was labeled brash, arrogant, and outright defiant of authority. How could he claim to be the son of God, forgive sin, and talk to such characters he chose to talk too? Didn’t he know the laws of the land? How dare he?

Not the “real” thing
Some are arguing there shouldn’t be any comparison between the women’s streak and the men’s streak. How can you compare apples and oranges like this? Women’s bball competition doesn’t have the parity of men’s, it’s not as difficult to whip just a few decent teams over the years, etc… If the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater continues to win games at their current rate, there’s no way it would be compared to Oklahoma’s behemoth run of victories in the 50’s, right?

Many during Jesus’ time argued he was a fraud; he can’t really be God can he? The temple leaders, Sadducees and Pharisees were quick to point out Jesus wasn’t following the rules, he doesn’t represent “real” religion does he, surely not!

He said what?
The administration at UConn probably cringes every time they see a news story with Geno Auriemma as part of the story. They’ve got to be afraid just about every time he has access to a microphone around reporters. There are even pages upon pages of Auriemma quotes that I’m sure UConn would rather not persist in cyberland forever. After winning game 88 he went on a rant that likely had administrators looking for the delete button.
All the guys that loved women’s basketball are all excited, and all the miserable bastards that follow men’s basketball and don’t want us to break the record are all here because they’re pissed.”
You could just hear the breaks on the UConn PR machine screeching in the distance. One step forward, two steps back for Geno.

The disciples had to have just about soiled themselves with some of the things Jesus let loose during his ministry time. Filthy rich young successful guy wants to join up with Jesus and his merry men, and what does Jesus drop on him? Sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and then you can hang with us. Uh, do what?! The disciples had to have wanted to tackle Jesus! You know they wanted to rush to the rich young ruler who was slinking away and begin the spin machine to get him back on the team. This was a prize recruit, how can we let him get away? Surely they wanted to scream at Jesus, we’ll never be the fastest growing church in the tri state area without the resources and influence of a guy like that, what are you thinking?! Eat my flesh, drink my blood, let the dead bury their own, oh please Jesus, stop the insanity, we’ll never get anyone to follow us if you keep talking like that.

It’s over, this is it?
So the game is over, UConn has won 89 games in a row, now what? (no, there isn’t a Disney World promo here) I know, let’s get the outspoken, obviously mad at the world coach to do a drawing to give away a couple of Wii consoles after the game. That’ll make this celebratory moment a highlight and make some memories, right? I could only watch with what must have looked like that confused look a dog gives you with tilted head when I saw this, huuuuhhhhh? The coach is pissed about women’s basketball not getting the respect of men’s and someone in the athletic department thought it would be a good idea to do a quick raffle and give a way some Wii’s like it’s bingo night in Storrs, awwwwkward! Somehow I don’t see Coach Wooden, Coach K, Dean Smith, or heaven forbid Bobby Knight actually taking the mic and giving away video games after such a momentous moment! Heck, no one would even dream of asking them to. I could only scratch my head in disbelief.

The clouds have rolled away and the breath has left Jesus. The disciples have to be looking around and thinking, this is it, where’s the bolt of lightning smiting these jerks, where is the phoenix rising up to squash all of these punks? This is it, what the heck? I left my family, my friends, my job and there’s no apocalyptic judgment reigning down on these heathens?! They had to be scratching their head in disbelief and thinking, great, what do we do now?

The good news obviously is that Jesus did indeed rise like the phoenix in triumph over death and sin just like he said he would. And oh yeah, Geno didn’t provide any further quotable moments in the midst of having that open mic last night. Whew!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Charter Customer Support Redemption and now Alabama Power Fail

I never like to have someone's good redemptive stories go unnoticed or unannounced so I need to take a moment and praise Charter customer service for stepping up. They apparently have a group of social media hounds in their customer support group and one of the snooped out my Twitter posting leading to my blog post and screen shot of my instance the other day. He subsequently left a comment on my blog with contact information and through a few email exchanges has been tracking down my issue for me. So in this instance I'd have to say nicely done Charter.

Now onto Alabama Power and their paperless billing system. I currently pay all my bills online and getting a paper version in the mail isn't all that necessary for me. At one of Alabama Power's promptings I signed up for paperless billing, which apparently has an infinite loop in the system and I now can't pay my bill.

I receive my first paperless bill email notification last month, click on the link to access my account online and dutifully make my payment. Alas I am met with the screen prompts above which are asking me to set up my account, including providing an access code that is only found on, you guessed it, the paper bill! I contacted support to have them activate my account so I could actually pay them, but I once again was met with the above screen today upon receiving my bill notification via email.

You'd think once you set up to receive your bill notification electronically it would pass you through to the account to let you actually pay it. Uggh, best intentions.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Charter Customer Support Fail

Seems like everywhere you look these days there's a fail blog of some sort around various topics. I'm thinking about starting my own customer service fail blog and this is my first entry (not really but this did happen to me today).

So we purchased a new tv after our hand me down one we've been using for at least 10 years finally broke. I was having issues with HDMI cable and getting sound. I had a few minutes and customer service chat is usually way quicker than wading through all of the phone prompts so I went that route to ask a simple question or 2 regarding the cable box we have and the HDMI connection. Apparently this was a question too difficult for whomever they had on the other end of the computer as evidenced by my screen capture here. I didn't even get an attempt at a response from this, ahem, customer support person.

So Charter Communications gets my first ever customer support Fail blog post for using really good technology simply to tell me to call them on the phone.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What kind of scary a%$ church do you go to?

I tend to ask a lot of questions. At work I'm always asking, is there a better way to do this, is there a better delivery method for this curriculum, are there better systems, better technologies, why do we do things "this" way when "that" way seems to be more efficient, bigger, better stronger? "Because we've always done it this way" is one of my least favorite phrases, gets my hackles up, and is an open invitation for a barrage of targeted questions and pinpoint accurate statements intended to unveil the errors of continuing to do it "that" way.

I have a bit of this in me when it comes to churchy stuff too, but I find myself in no mans land these days. While I do have a tendency to ask why a lot, I'm watching what appears to be a fad of intellectual church questioning that is beginning to look/sound like young hipster Christians with nothing better to do with their time than attempt to stick it to the man, err church, by nit picking anything and everything. So much time and energy seems to be spent in the blogosphere and twitterland marketing statements like, "i quit Christianity", "Calvin was a racist", dropping f-bombs in the middle of "keeping it real" Christian commentary, etc... I ask questions for better understanding, these folks seem to be asking questions for attention, to be disruptive, or just generally lost in their own self absorbed thoughts.

Reading some of these and the flood of pandering, look at me, you so "get" me and my plight comments does make me feel for some of these folks and their apparent doom and gloom outlook with their view of Christianity and life in general. You'll see, "oh so and so, as always you've made such a perfect posting about how the church doesn't get it", "i have felt so oppressed in the church all of my life and i can't tell you how refreshing your blog is to me", "i'm an outcast in my church and only you get me", etc... In a Chandler Bing moment I want to ask these Joey's of the faith, what kind of scary a#$ churches have you all been going to?

I just can't imagine being in line waiting to enter into heaven and see my name in the book of life and the guy behind me tapping me on the shoulder and asking me if I am a Calvinist, or Armenian, or Southern Baptist, or if I believe in whatever "-ism" is being heatedly discussed these days. While I find much of this movement interesting in as much as I love a good intellectual conversations, the amount of energy, passion, and complete faith in these time and emotional sucking discussions is worrisome. None of them exude a child like faith, unless your children are some super crazy intellectual freaks well versed in social justice by the age of 10. Mine are good if they can remember where they put their back pack let alone be able to argumentatively discuss the finer points of church doctrine and why the church is right, wrong, or otherwise. I was once discussing variations in bible translations with my wise old father and law and he finally stated, they're all good for me because I choose to have the faith of a child and the faith of a child doesn't spend time nitpicking the Greek translations and nuances and explaining why the English language doesn't do justice to the true meaning of blah, blah, blah. Hard to argue with that I suppose and makes a lot of sense.

It's also interesting to note that many of these avidly followed self doubters of "church", yet committed to Jesus, folks are also hawking their next new book or attempting to keep their brand relevant until the next book arrives.

It will be interesting to see if this wave of self doubting Christians goes the way of the most rebellious stages of life... trickling away once the "leaders" of these movements have made their money and eventually become "the man".

In the meantime, unless you're in the Pacific Northwest where choices are limited, find a bible teaching, loving church that "gets" you and is ok with you asking questions. While I will never be asked to be a deacon at my church, i'm comfortable in my skin there and will keep asking questions for clarity.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving at the beach

So this year we decided on Monday before Thanksgiving it would be a nice change of pace to take the kids and head to the beach for Thanksgiving. We did this 2 years ago and had a great time and the same can be said about this year! On Monday when I saw how nice the weather was going to be, I checked out some options and found a deal that was too good to pass up. Sometimes it's the last minute trips and plans that end up being the best as there are no expectations leading up to the point of pulling the trigger.  We hadn't been as a family in several years and the kids have been pretty good about not asking to go every summer as we went through another adoption process and other financial milestones over the past several years. Needless to say when I got home Monday night with the news, they were very excited!

We ended up at Splash in Panama City and to say the weather was "nice" would be an understatement. The water and beach lived up to it's name of the Emerald Coast this time around! We went down Wednesday and came back Sunday. We spent the majority of our time on the beach it was so nice. Thursday morning I got the turkey ready and in the oven, then me and the boys headed to the beach until lunch was ready, it was a great day for everyone I believe. A little turkey, dressing, thanksgiving, sun, water, and sand. The smell of Thanksgiving mixed in with the sights, sounds, and smell of the ocean had all of our synapses firing for sure, it was great! Here are some images of the gang enjoying our time together relaxing and decompressing.
Fisher running from the surf!

Fisher thought he was going to swim with the sting rays!

Dutch boogy boarding away

now how did Dutch make this thing work?

98, 99, 100, whew!

just taking it easy

Eli's favorite thing, just playing in the sand
sand castle number 20, at least...

how do we get off this island?

the 3 amigos!

my fair ladies

are these all your kids?

the whole gang

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chaos theory, the butterfly effect, and comfort

I am sitting quietly this morning on this corner of the couch as one of the few spaces not currently being occupied by laundry or some other object belonging to 1 of 5 children. I only say quietly because I am sick and the others shlept off to church. It's funny how disruptive 1 parent being under the weather changes the entire dynamic of what occurs inside the home, especially over a weekend.

It's a bit like the butterfly effect, made famous in 1972 by Edward Lorenz in a paper titled "Does the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?" In other words, do small changes in initial conditions of a system, in this case our household dynamics and me being sick, cause a chain of events leading to large scale phenomena? For the most part I spent the day yesterday holed up in bed, another location void of other people's stuff encroaching into my space, although I am only applying that to my half of the bed. Upon emerging from the cave this morning and attempting to locate a spot to sit upright in, I couldn't help but think of this butterfly effect and chaos theory. I know, call me weird, but it's just what I do sometimes. I have to try and justify all of those years in school and teaching Physics somehow, right?

Initially I am always totally frustrated by this chaos as I truly believe in being good stewards of what God has provided and being slovenly is not that in my system view. However, as I used to point out in discussions with my students around this theory there are often strange attractors in nature and after enough time what looked chaotic and random at first, begins to look like a beautiful pattern. This too is applicable to our household system as the kids know we have an unswerving faith in Jesus as our savior, they are comfortable in their own skin in this system (which is critical for our 2 adopted), and they know love will always be given, even in the midst of the chaos. So while I am sitting here bemoaning the state of affairs (as it relates to clutter) I know the attractors that are key to our household system will at some point reveal the overall pattern again of a picked up and functional home. Given that I am feeling a bit better today I am guessing that will be by tonight!

For now though I am going to sit quietly with a cup of coffee on this corner of the couch.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Orphans and the Windy City

This past weekend Melissa and I were fortunate enough to get some time away alone in Chicago on an invitation from Lifesong for Orphans. Each year they have a Celebrate Life get together for their partners in ministry and orphan advocates to get together, share experiences, share ministry updates, and pray with and over each other, etc... It was a great way for us to see where we might take our next steps in contributing to God's plans relating to James 1:27.

Some of the folks we had the pleasure to hear from included a really cool ministry called Both Hands. You HAVE to check out what they've got going on, it's simply amazing! They are a ministry example of "two birds with one stone". Check out their stories and see how an amazing idea has lead to taking care of the widow and the orphan all in a single project, what an incredible method!

We also got to meet and listen to Kendall, a 17 year total rock star when it comes to advocating for orphans and the least of these. Check out her own non-profit started when she was 11, Kids Caring 4 Kids. She's so good at what she does, she's been on Oprah, worked with Bill Clinton to raise over $1million, and is now working to raise funds for one of Lifesong's projects in Zambia. Needless to say we were pretty energized about the possibilities as we listen to God's persistent calling on our family.

It's always great when you can mix spiritual refueling with personal refueling so it was a much needed, albeit short, time together as a couple to recharge , discuss, pray, and plan some together, sans little munch-kins. Alas it didn't last long as within 2 hours upon returning home Sunday evening, all heck had broken loose and multiple children were sobbing and dragging their knuckles around the house in despair. My mom and dad couldn't escape fast enough! We do love them, but it was a shock to the system even after such a short respite from them.

It'll be interesting to see where God leads as He begins to uncover these paths for us, so stay tuned.

Oh and for those of you following, I did keep a pocket of $1 bills on me this time, unlike in Boston, while strolling the city.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Loveliest Village on the Plains

All of the kids are always jealous that I take Bailey every year to Auburn's home opener for her birthday, so I hear every week through the rest of the year, can we go to the game this week? Now keep in mind we don't have season tickets and they have no concept of market value as it relates to football tickets and when teams like LSU come into town. Not to mention Auburn's meteoric rise through the rankings this year driving tickets up even more, couple that with a family of 7 and well we now have a financial crisis on our hands. Thankfully homecoming this year fell late in the season and we could actually get something at face value from the ticket office, yeah! The whole gang took the trek at the crack of dawn this past Saturday to Auburn to watch the dismantling of a helpless Tennessee-Chattanooga.

As irony would have it though, after weeks and weeks of So Cal type weather we woke up to a freeze warning and it was a noon game, great! So where are all of those mittens and hats since we moved? None the less everyone but Melissa (her comfort zone is between 65 and 80; am already imagining the pleas to move to Florida by the time we hit 50 yrs old) enjoyed themselves as we hooked up with quite a few other families from church at the Covenant Presbyterian tailgate tent just outside the stadium. All in all it was a fun day for most everyone and boy has the whole rolling of Toomer's Corner improved since I was there. I don't think it would have ever looked like this for a easy romp over a DII school back in the day!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tank You!

So explaining to our 3 year old who's been with us since February that if you put this costume on, ring the doorbell on a stranger's house, hold out a sack, and they'll give you candy, was a treat in and of itself this year. I know very few 3 year olds have any real clue what this odd scene is about, but they at least have been immersed into this enough to know it's just something you should do, especially if they have older siblings. Some friends of ours have a newly adopted middle school aged boy and girl from Ukraine and I understand there have been some really funny conversations leading up to Halloween this year. Needless to say they were dumbfounded by what appears by all accounts to an "outsider" to be some strange and acceptable form of begging while dressed crazily.

F was so business like in his approach it's as if he had planned out some strategy in his head and was methodically ticking down the list as we went. He didn't run from house to house, he's more of a saunterer, taking in the scene, always forcing E to have to stop and wait, much to his consternation. He'd wait for E to say trick or treat, hold up his spider man pillow case, say Tank You, and calmly walk away. Just the facts ma'am, just the facts.

I can only imagine some of the folks around here wondering what in the world are these 2 foreign looking kids dressed as super hero characters doing in this neighborhood? They were quite the pair for sure, the international version of Phineas and Ferb.

Monday, October 25, 2010

32 Hours in Boston and Luke 6:30

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Boston for about 32 hours for work related purposes. I had never been to Boston prior to this and honestly wasn't really sure what to expect from this city. In my head I was thinking more akin to New York but was pleasantly surprised to find it much more subdued and ridiculously clean. Now I realize, after the fact, the population is not near that of NY, but I fully expected way more foot traffic and congestion, but I just didn't experience it when walking/traveling in the downtown area.

I was absolutely amazed by the beauty and history dripping from just about every nook and cranny of the city. I felt like it was a living museum as so much of the historical artifacts are simply embedded into the existing DNA of the city, many of them still in use. Walking up to the Old North Church as if it were the 1700's was easy to imagine given the condition of the surroundings and period buildings still in place. I was shocked that most of these churches are still active today and open to the public during the week. Wandering around the flash point locations of the American Revolution unencumbered was a refreshing way to recall our country's history. I kept thinking, shouldn't all this stuff be roped off or something? Maybe middle school trips to Boston would make more sense than Washington D.C. given that so much of D.C. consist of memorials to historical events, not necessarily access or proximity to the events themselves.

While walking a fair amount of the Freedom Trail (a designated path through the city that leads you past most of the major historical locales), I found myself in an a spiritual quandary. As I was enveloped by the city's historical artifacts, my reality was slammed back to spiritual, current day reality as I found myself face to face with "the least of these", or as some would say, panhandlers. Through my deepening understanding of scripture and God's love/plan for those less fortunate, it has been relatively easy to deal with this where I live/work, because quite frankly it's not a frequent occurrence to simply bump into the least of these in my daily traverses.

In the midst of enjoying the beauty of Boston though, I was confronted by Luke 6:30 in a direct and palpable manner, probably 3 or 4 times within an hour time span. Was I supposed to help ALL of these as suggested in Luke without question? I'm pretty sure it doesn't have qualifying criteria or filters like, give to everyone who begs from you that you can determine isn't a scam artist, it simply says give to those who ask of you. I was unprepared for this, I failed miserably and didn't help any of these! I found myself asking, I wonder if they really need this or are they just lazy and don't want to work? Funny thing though, I never stopped to find out so I will never know.

I'm still struggling with this and my inability to take this simple scripture at face value without laying my own filters across it. I don't know if God views my inability to stop and give to these people as disobedience, disappointment, or what exactly. I do know that I believe I'll be more prepared the next time I have the opportunity to be a pedestrian in an urban area, I'll try to remember to have some ones in my pocket, a smile on face, and hopefully the heart to stop and at least acknowledge the least of these created in the image of God.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Challenge you to run the gauntlet (if you think you have the moxie!)

Here in SEC country there is always a stretch of 3 games for Alabama and Auburn that all of the talking heads and local homers look at the first of the season and say, if we can run the gauntlet of these 3 games… So far this year, Alabama tripped on their 3rd part of their gauntlet run and laid an egg against South Carolina. Auburn is heading into their gauntlet of 3 this coming weekend, if they come out the other side unscathed, it’ll be a truly memorable season in the making.

I recently ran through my own personal gauntlet of faith and came out the other side broken and spiritually wrecked! I challenge my fellow brothers and sisters to run this gauntlet in the near future, if you have the moxie! I referenced these books in some previous posts but want to call them out more specifically here as part of my and Melissa’s spiritual awakening in the last 6 or 7 months.

It began innocently enough when I picked up Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. Melissa had picked this up at a recent orphan ministry conference, I had briefly heard Francis’ name in some other online reading and seen a video clip or two of his on YouTube. Chan takes the reader down a path leading to a point of questioning if perhaps as Americanized Christians, we have been missing the proverbial boat as it relates to the Gospel and how Jesus desires us to live out our lives for Him? Something deep in our hearts should be bothered and troubled by the status quo. “It’s crazy if you think about it. The God of the universe – the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and e-minor – loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss.” There are some good examples in here of how “normal” folks have changed their lives to better align with Jesus’ example of living the Gospel. I began to reflect back over the past two or three years of our families’ journey and attempt to process and view our choices, decisions, and events through this optic of what Chan calls a Crazy Love. This was one of the catalysts to us quickly pulling together a trip to Guatemala with my two daughters in less than a 3 week period.

Part two of this literary journey took me to Tom Davis’ book, Red Letters. I picked this up a few days before our trip to Guatemala to read on the plane and while there. The premise of Red Letters is the following: those words written in red, in many Bible versions, are specifically red because Jesus spoke them, maybe we should do what they say. Now there’s a novel idea, Jesus said them, maybe we should do them?! If you don’t want to hear/read about the ravaging effects of HIV AIDS on our 3rd world brothers and sisters and the millions of unsuspecting children, stay away from this one. Davis has a huge heart for the plight of children caught in this terrible, deadly cycle of disease and poverty, and he uses many of their examples and his organization’s work in “doing” the red letters with these people groups. I will have to admit, my own pride and prejudices kept me from fully grasping what Davis was driving at in this one initially. For as long as I can remember, my general outlook on this horrific issue has been one of, you reap what you sew. Being truly honest, I have to admit that when hearing of the plight of AIDS ravaged countries and villages, I would internally say and think, “these people are being judged to earthly damnation for their immoral culture and behavior”. How hypocritical considering I too deserve earthly and eternal damnation as my judgment for my own sins. The syncing of Tom Davis’ message with our time in Guatemala, serving and working with some of “the least of these” was palpable in my heart. I was seriously beginning to question my own understanding and application of Jesus’ words, the ones in red.

The 3rd leg of my book gauntlet took shape the week after we returned from Guatemala. I picked up a copy of Radical by David Platt, a pastor here in the Birmingham area. The first two books were building to a crescendo of emotions and clarity of my spiritual immaturity and lack of understanding of living out the Gospel. Radical, as the name would suggest, pulls no punches and kicked the door down of my emotional/spiritual protective barrier I had so meticulously pieced together over the years. This book peels back the layers and layers of spiritual lies we’ve painted ourselves with over time; you regularly tithe, you support some missionaries, you volunteer for VBS every year, you’ve adopted an orphan, you’re doing just fine. In the end though, what I’ve been doing is keeping a debit and credit tally handy for my spiritual successes, comfort, and more layers of fool heartedness. The statistics in Radical are staggering, sobering, humiliating, and dreadful. Platt challenges those of us who are calling ourselves Christians to action and to do something with these statistics that are really human beings, many of them children simply looking for someone to hold them and comfort them. I haven’t done enough!

Needless to say, just like Alabama, and probably like Auburn over the next three weeks, I did not run this gauntlet unscathed. I am broken and wrecked spiritually and emotionally having run through this trilogy! I’m still processing it all and determining where we will continue to make changes as a family, what we will be investing our $$ and time in, and what it means for my job and other life factors. We have already begun making some changes and openly discussing these issues with our children and why we are doing what we are doing. We’ve since sold our home, begun sponsoring 3 children from Swaziland, jumped onto our church’s mission committee, and are exploring other avenues and Kingdom building opportunities to put our time and resources into.

So, if you are reading this, I challenge you to run this literary gauntlet, in this order, in relatively quick succession. Let me know how you feel coming out the end and what you think.

Friday, October 1, 2010

And now, the rest of the story….

Ever since I spent a summer in college in the Philippines with Campus Crusade for Christ I have wanted to do more short term missions and mission related activities. Like so many excuses we fall back on, life just seemed to be in the way of doing this. In May I was able to break this justification cycle and was able to take B and C to Guatemala for a quick trip to work with Hope for Guatemala. Somehow, we magically had enough $$ to purchase 3 plane tickets and didn’t have to pay for much else while there serving and helping at Hope. Just before going on this trip I had picked up Crazy Love by Francis Chan, which Melissa had lying around the house. It really got me thinking about what we were doing with our time, resources, lives, etc… It was a really thought provoking read and meshed nicely with the trip we were getting ready to take. In the back of Crazy Love are some examples and information of places that are doing Gospel powered work. Due to our “bent” towards orphans I was intrigued by the description of Children’s Hope Chest and I recognized the name of the director, Tom Davis. He had been mentioned in a note I read from a member of our church discussing orphan ministry and one of his books. So while looking for a good read on the plane, I ran across the one and only book at Amazon by Tom Davis, Red Letters (this was not the one mentioned in the letter above). Now, here me and my 2 oldest daughters are in the middle of one of Guatemala City’s worst neighborhoods loving on the most beautiful children and this book is talking about doing the things that Jesus said, you know, the ones that are written in Red in your bible? There’s a novel idea, if Jesus directly said them, maybe we should pay attention and actually do them! Now I’m REALLY beginning to question what the Freemans have been doing the past 3 or 4 years with our finances, resources, houses, etc… as we spend our days “ministering” to these children of Hope. Funny who really got ministered to, huh?

There is local pastor here in B’ham really making waves in the Christian community for his outspokenness and uncanny ability to teach the bible like you’ve never heard it. I had heard he recently published a book called Radical. While looking for more Tom Davis materials, once again I ran across a single copy of this book while at Amazon. I’m beginning to wonder about these single copy books just sitting by their lonesome waiting for me to come along and find them, God is sneaky like that you know. Coming off our trip to Guatemala, Crazy Love and Red Letters, I devoured this book in 2 days I think. I was visibly crying at times and Melissa was really freaking out! When I started reading some of it out loud to her, I could hardly contain my emotions, she knew God had snatched a hold of my heart and wasn’t letting go! It was going to be a wild ride; you could see it in her eyes as we talked through all of this, God was capturing her heart anew as well.

We knew we had to sell our house for sure then, no doubts about it. Note, it had been for sale for a year already, but it wasn’t really for all of the right reasons. I then had to pay the electrical bill for this house and said enough is enough! Even if making the mortgage payments on this house weren’t an issue, I could no longer justify the utilities for it when there are sooooo many more things I should be doing with those financial resources to help the poor, the orphan, the widow, etc… I came home from work on a Monday afternoon and declared that we needed to be out of this situation, asap. This was not only for our financial stability, but for our spiritual stability as well. We called our realtor and dropped the listing price $100k.

I won’t say how much less this was from what we paid for it, but remember the time machine? You can go back and do some figuring, based on the market flopping like that annoying gold fish on the psa commercials, between 2007 and now. We had a contract in hand 48 hours later! God finally quit laughing at us with Jesus rolling His eyes and wondering when we’d ever “get it”. On that Monday afternoon He finally saw us grow up, and He responded! We closed on this house that has been an albatross around our necks for 2 years and has stifled our ability to live in a Gospel powered way this past Tuesday. We are moving into the house we had unknowingly been “flipping” for our own family to move into next Monday. I mean seriously, who has ever heard of a nearly 3 year flip project? Only God and only Chris and Melissa!

We will in essence be debt free for the 2nd time (excluding a modest mortgage) and will have lost well over a year's salary in the process. WE are humbled, broken, saddened, and so freakin overjoyed in God's glory and love, all at the same time! It's hard to explain, but we feel awash in God's love and power in a way our family has never known. I can't wait to see what's in store after closing down this chapter and beginning a new one next week, just down the street from where we are leaving this weekend, but spiritually and emotionally a million miles from where we have been "living" the last 4 years.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Obey My commands, check, downsize house, check, give more resources to those in need, check, serve on missions committee, check, "lose" more than a year's salary in the process, che..., Hey wait a minute, come again Lord?!

Hop in the DeLorean with me for a moment, pull down the door, buckle up, wait for it to hit 88 miles per hour (we've been watching all of the Back to the Future movies lately) and go back with me 3 years. Ah, it's 2007, we have 4 children, I have a new job with massive amounts of upward earnings potential, the real estate market is solid as a rock, the birds are singing, and the planets are all in alignment for the Freeman's and our pursuit of the Christian-American dream/lifestyle. During this year we are debt free, have a house at the lake, are tithing, enjoying life as we know it, and dreaming about bigger things. Bigger things morph into a bigger house and a flip house project, all projections/systems are looking good for leveraging our assets into more "things" and more money. Bigger house comes, some creative financing, some real estate speculation (hey, the market is rock solid and stuff in our area is selling great), and another adoption process begins for number 5. On all fronts we are the picturesque Christian-American family (don't look at me in that tone), doing things by the book, tithing, consistent at church, helping orphans by adopting and wife starting an adoption ministry at our church, all systems go!
You can see where this is headed, right? Do the math on the years, when did that pesky housing crisis begin? Ah yes, smack in the middle of leveraging our real estate equity into other real estate! Smart move Chris, I can just see God poking Jesus in the arm on the throne and saying, watch this unfold, it should be a doozy while rolling His eyes. You know, just like I might do with my wife as one of our children says, hey watch this, while doing something we just know inevitably won't end up well. But hey, we all have to learn sometime or another, right?

Fast forward a bit to Fall of 2009 as we approach finalizing our adoption of F from China. We now have 4 mortgages (1 is a rental) and a looming trip to China that we can't pay for. The thought of telling our adoption agency and the Chinese officials upon approval to travel, sorry, we'll have to wait a while before we can afford that trip, was nothing less than sickening. So... we sold our lake house to free up some funds. Keep in mind this was my sanity control and haven from all things stress related. Hmm, now that I type that, perhaps it was a bit of an idol and worshipful and took away my attention from the one truly deserving of my worship and attention. Of course I don't mean my beautiful wife, although she's running a good second place race on this one. All the while we had full intentions of selling our "flip" house, making some money to make up for some losses, and pressing on. Remember that image of God and Jesus coyly watching things unfold and how we'd react? Flip house is now going on 2 1/2 years to complete and our primary house has been for sale for a year with no takers, all the while the real estate market shriveling up like a (place some funny analogy here, use your imagination). Needless to say, while the outward Christian-American dream was looking good on the cover, inside it was crumbling and becoming a sad, sad story.

However, through this process, God really began to work on our hearts and our heart's desires. Through this fire, we have been shown how truly foolish we have been. We have seen that the Christian-American dream is in direct contrast to Gospel living, that we were saved by grace so that our works can glorify Him and help the many, many in need around us. We had become "house poor" in attempts to have more stuff, and could not help anyone but ourselves, and only barely at that. We were now spiritually poor in so many ways because of these things that we had placed our time, energy, and resources in.

To be continued......

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A week in limbo

If you have ever moved you know the feeling of the week before moving day. Moving prior to kids or doing so in college when everything you own can be jammed into your hatchback and plastic garbage bags doesn't count. That entire time of life is in limbo, a prelude if you will. Like one of those Pixar short films you sit through before the full length movie begins. Like one long transitional period in an alternate reality before "real" life begins as a grown-up, with little humans who's entire existence is dependent upon you!

So we're down to one week before moving day and the house is obviously a partially packed up disaster. While I am far from a type A person, this mess and disorganization makes the hairs on my neck stand up like soldiers waiting at the ready to do something about this! Alas it's just part of the process and a week of being in limbo, what to pack that won't be needed during the week, what isn't worth boxing and unboxing because we are only moving 3 blocks away, etc...

Makes me wonder if we have too much? We do a pretty good job of regularly purging, but.... Also makes me think of the orphan and poor, do they inheritantly feel in limbo and unsettled because they have so little or nothing, or is it possibly freeing to some extent to not have much "stuff"? I would like to think I would feel content with less stuff but great personal relationships. As Jesus said, the foxes have dens and birds have nest, but the Son of God has no place to lay his head. He had everything wrapped up in relationships and others, never in stuff. As we simplify and attempt to give away more, I am praying we too will be able to invest in more personal relationships for kingdom building purposes and put less energy and time into stuff.
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Monday, September 13, 2010

The President must be encouraging devil worship...

I admit I have pretty much been on a news fast for a while now, choosing to read more wholesome materials like my bible and other more uplifting literature like Jamie the Very Worst Missionary. In my attempts to avoid vast amounts of wasted ink and electrons from the news drones, did I miss somewhere that the President is going to attempt to indoctrinate our children with cult like propaganda in his back to school speech, or attempt the Vulcan mind meld via the television in attempts to make them all march out of the house and prostrate themselves facing Mecca?

I have to ask because D brought home a permission slip for us to sign to "allow" him to watch this recorded speech from the leader of the free world. Note I didn't state the permission slip was for excluding him from participating but rather the reverse, implying that the norm is to not allow them to watch our President discuss staying in school, staying off drugs, etc... unless the parent ok's this activity.

For those of you that know me, don't think someone has hijacked my blog and is now writing in jest on my behalf as if I have had my brain melded and suddenly become a raving fan of big O. I do however believe our culture has absolutely gone haywire and pure respect and civil discourse has gone the way of Mayberry. While I admit I have a difficult time watching/listening to this man, mostly because of his speech giving skills, or lack thereof anymore, I truly can't believe I am having to sign a piece of paper that states, yes, I give permission to let my 4th grader watch the President of THE United States in his annual/traditional back to school speech. The mere fact I am having to do this speaks volumes to what we are "teaching" our children, they are watching us you know, right?

If I truly believe the theology I proclaim, then I have to let my kids see that I KNOW God is at work, through all things, for those that call him Lord, Romans 8:28. Or that the Bible for Dummies was summarized by Jesus by providing the 2 greatest commandments, Love the Lord with everything you have, and love your neighbor as yourself, Matthew 22: 36 - 40. There's a ton packed in those 2 versus, but it's really that simple. The command for us, especially Christians, to love our neighbors as ourselves seems to simply be dismissed anymore as fairy tale. We teach our children the Golden Rule, in just about every world religion, but apparently this doesn't apply to adults. Os Guinness wrote "The Case for Civility" a few years ago and addressed this inability to have civil discourse in the town square anymore. I do believe as he does, if America can't bring this back, it's down hill from here.

So while I do not like our President's policies, I do respect the position, and the man as my neighbor, and I will "allow" my son to hear/watch him during school time. My small contribution to civil discourse in the town square as he is watching me during these ridiculously partisan times.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

One on one meetings, you never know what will be discussed

Whew what a great 3 day weekend we had. It was the weekend of Bailey and according to her FB status, at one point it was the best weekend ever! I will admit it was a pretty splendid weekend all the way around, great weather, football kickoff, friends, and fun activities. For me though, what made it great was the one on one "meetings" I had with the 4 oldest. At this point in my career I am fortunate enough to have a fair amount of folks under my oversight. For those that report directly to me, it has become more and more important to have regular one on one meetings as we've grown larger and I can't possibly meet with all of the front line staff individually with any regularity. It's during these meetings that all kinds of things get discussed from long range plans to how to deal with the day to day petty stuff that sometimes can swing the floor one way or the other. You know, the really important stuff like why our break room didn't get the standing monthly birthday cake like other break rooms, one time. It's amazing what can distract from the mission at hand.

The same can be true for our families and especially our children. Their world is so self revolving, it doesn't take much to have things perilously close to spinning off axis and into a crisis. I wish I could say I was more regular with these one on one times, but I at least try and seize the opportunity when I see it coming. This long weekend was one of those times.

It started Saturday with most of the day spent with my oldest going to the Auburn game, 2 hours down, 7 hours at Auburn, 2 hours back. You can cover a lot of topics in that amount of time, and we usually do.
Due to having yesterday off and some great weather, I picked up the schedule with number four, E. I can tell he's been wanting some Daddy time lately. 
In the morning before going to work, Daddy when you get home will you play Star Wars with me? When I get home, before closing the door behind me, same question. He's really been wanting to go bike riding but usually ask immediately after I've returned from a 30 to 40 mile ride as I'm sprawled on the floor under the ceiling fan. Needless to say, due to the timing, I have to decline. So yesterday morning he asked and I immediately said yes, to which he lit up and added, can it just be you and me and not number 5 too? So off we went, just the two of us. E loves to discuss what he will do when he grows up, so we spend a lot of time talking about his grownup dreams, like having his own house he shares with his brother, being able to drive to the playground on his own, whenever he wants, and other "dreamy" ideas. He was sufficiently worn out after what was a fairly lengthy ride for him. It never hurts to take a pit stop for ice cream in the middle though to refuel.
We made it home just in time for me to tag out with E. and grab D. for a run to the dollar movie. The place was packed! I took the opportunity in the car to discuss some school related issues and how the things we stress at home like first time obedience, respect for others, I'm 3rd, do all to the glory of God, etc... apply to school and not just home and church. It wasn't a long drive to the movies, but just enough and just about the right length for a 9 year old attention span to discuss "life". Movie was fun, we were silly and hopefully some of that serious stuff followed by some laughs will stick.  Got home, realized we had plenty of time and good weather to hit the pool for one last time before they closed for the season. So me and the 3 little pigs hit the pool one last time and we closed it down. Dutch will love being able to tell everyone, and I mean everyone, that he was THE last person to go off the diving board and swim in the pool for the season. It's always fun to be THE person at something or other I suppose, at least in the world of a 9 year old.

I realized that during all of this one on one time I hadn't yet squeezed in my 2nd oldest. This isn't something she would likely overlook either and I'm sure I'd hear about it sooner or later. Just like employees, the one person you inadvertently forget to say good morning to will come back to haunt you down the road. So I checked in the 3 youngest, said tag your it, to C. and off we went to walk to the yogurt shop.
I'm continually amazed at where our conversations go some days. Last nights ranged from general silliness to wanting to be a missionary some day. We somehow got on the topic of The Declaration of Independence, pulling it up on my phone and discussing, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", and how God never promised us happiness and what this declaration means through the lens of Jesus and what He desires for/from us. I can honestly say, for a 12 year old, I was blown away with her thoughts on these things! You never know where these one on one meetings will lead, so parents, you just have to have the radars up, take the queues, and go with them when the opportunity arises. 

Now, I think I need another day off!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Daughters and Traditions

Finding common ground for Dads and daughters is sometimes a tricky path, especially as they grow into young women. Finding traditions they will cherish into their adult life is even more difficult. One such tradition that I totally fell into, I wish I could claim some long range purposeful plan, was one with my oldest daughter 5 or 6 years ago. Having been away from Alabama ever since graduating from Auburn in '92, I was determined to go to some football games once we returned. Oh, and some Nascar up the road in red neck central, Talladega. You know, as in Talladega Nights, "momma i'm going fast", in a car and in life? Yeah, that's the one, but I digress.

It just so happens that opening weekend of the college football season falls on Labor Day weekend and B's birthday is on the 3rd (it's also opening of dove season in Alabama, but I chose the football route as I didn't envision her pining for the days of sitting in the middle of a hot field waiting for birds to fly over when she's married with her own children). So, a handful of years ago I grabbed 2 tickets and we headed to the Loveliest Village on the Plains for her birthday. Well, it's now a tradition and one that she inquires about every August, we ARE going to the game, right dad? No pressure on me to find tickets that are reasonable, not in the blazing sun, etc... or anything.

There have been some close calls in finding some decent tickets but we've managed to make it 5 or 6 years running, we've been debating on the exact time frame. This weekends trek was an especially fond one for me mainly because of how God provided this time. Money for anything extra has been very tight as of late, one of the reasons we are downsizing, and we've been extremely purposeful with our funds and giving as God leads. To be honest, I just didn't have the $$ to purchase tickets, gas, food, gift, etc... this time around. I was really not wanting to break our tradition that has become one of our great memories together. Once again, God's providence reigned, and we were able to get 2 tickets for free this year, in the lower deck, in the shade! We had a great trip down and back, spent some time with some church friends, and B ran into more friends in one afternoon at the game yesterday than I think she had combined in years past. It was one of our more enjoyable and easy going games we've been to. We stayed until the very end, which we normally don't, because it was such a beautiful night and we were enjoying the moment. She got to see Toomer's Corner in full glory afterward for a change. 
I'm thankful this tradition and this uninterrupted time with my daughter. I pray God allows us to continue on this tradition. Now, don't ask me about my other 4 children, I'm still working on falling into a tradition with them too. Oh and believe you me, they let me know about this shortcoming every September as B and I head out the door.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

MIssion Minded Conversations with Kids

It's been an interesting weekend of emotions around the house varying from normal teenage and pre-teen emotions, to toddler discipline and training, to discussions about what it means to follow Jesus and the gospel. On Friday it started with the oldest feeling down about high school, not making the squad of the activity she had her heart set on, and watching said group preparing for the first game of the season. This obviously brought back a lot of emotions from this past Spring regarding disappointment and the feeling of defeat. This quickly morphed into general conversations regarding us selling our house to move into a smaller one, what's "fair", and change in general. Earlier on Friday I had run across this moving reminder of how blessed we are and where our focus should be as it relates to our culture around us and what Jesus would have us do with the resources we have, and how we should be responding to those times when we don't get the things we want.

At some point Friday night the two oldest watched this and needless to say it put just about all of the things they had been whining about in check. I didn't show it to them to shut them up, but it was a good visual of what we had begun talking about as part of what we deserve versus what we actually have and whether what they were emotionally struggling with was founded in anything other than self pity and selfishness. C told me tonight I should just bust out this video anytime they start whining about stupid stuff as a reminder, hmmm. Nah, couldn't parent out of that much guilt, at least not all of the time anyway.

Later that night I also showed the girls some really cool mission trip opportunities through Adventures in Missions. Before long some really animated discussions broke out regarding the pros and cons of going on the various trips coming up next year; that place is too humid, i can't go into the Amazon jungle, I think ministering in the Amazon jungle would be the bomb!, we wouldn't want to go to Guatemala because if we go there we HAVE to be going to work with Jose and Erin at Hope, Ireland would be a tough place to minister, etc... While we certainly don't encourage arguing, this was some really great "debate" on the merits of who would potentially attempt to go where on one of these mission trips in the future and why.

On a side note, C recently said she thought the house we're hopefully downsizing into was painted a boring color and she wished we could have it painted something fun, like turquoise. Melissa of course attempted to point out the inherent issues this might cause in our ultra conservative, well to do area of Birmingham (sometimes referred to as Vestopia), why it wouldn't be prudent, respectful of the neighbors, blah, blah, blah. To which C responded incredulously by stating, it wouldn't be an issue where she would be living one day. Puzzled, Melissa asked if she had plans to live at the beach? Again with much consternation as if to say, Mom, duh, Guatemala, doing mission work! What ya going to say to that? Keep dreaming big sweetie!! 

The rest of the weekend was sprinkled with eternal facing discussions, attempting to weave the gospel into various disciplinary opportunities (including the one going on behind me right now about disobeying your mother), and a discussion at the dinner table about the sermon we heard this morning about Isaiah getting his lips seared with a lump of coal by an angel and promptly raising his hand to go on a mission for God. This might translate into E's rear end getting seared by his mother in a few minutes in hopes he'll raise his hand to be the first to obey next time.

Whew, trying to lay gospel centered decisions and instruction across all that we do with our children can be exhausting some days. It's so much easier to simply say because I said so! I even asked Melissa at one point today, what is the gospel centered response/correction to pain in the a#@?! I'll let you know if we ever figure that one out.

Just glad some of these stories we are attempting to be involved in are taking some roots and hopefully will keep us mission minded where possible.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child...

Some days I wish I could remember the pure joy of running through a sprinkler. I'm sure God wishes we would remember that too as He has provided so much for us to enjoy. He even told his disciples that we should receive what He has provided us like a child would, with whole hearted abandonment. It took my boys and a friend about 2 seconds to whip on some swim trunks and begin zipping through a sprinkler today once they heard I'd hook it up for them. They didn't question me, they didn't question or weigh the merits of having to change, dry off afterward, change again, stop playing legos in the interim, they just went big baby once they knew I was serious.

I ran into a friend today I haven't seen in quite some time, who is the epitome of what God was trying to teach His disciples in this verse. She seems to live life to the fullest and experience everything and everyone God puts in her path, and I mean everyone! I can only imagine her dear husband trying to get anywhere on time with her. In the end though, she has the most amazing stories! Been reading a lot about stories lately, and she has some of the most awesome encounters. I can remember times when she would in SS class hijack a conversation or get so rapped up in someone's encounter and I'd just want to move on already. But as I become more aware of what a child like faith looks and feels like, I think she has it, and I want more of it! Thanks Liz for always being you and trusting in God in such a child like manner, one that we should all emulate more.

So while I may find myself trying to run through the sprinkler like these boys are, you might find me looking more like this, but hey, I'll be doing it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Decline of Self Sufficiency

One of the things we were amazed about was how self sufficient Fisher was at the ripe old age of 3 years and 1 month. He could do so much for himself we were constantly amazed during our three week time with him in China and would quite often find ourselves looking at each other, mouths agape, with a look of, "did he just do that himself?"

We were discussing this with a couple at the birthday party on Friday who have 2 young boys from China as well. When I asked them if their two were self sufficient when they got them, their eyes lit and up and they immediately blurted, "Yes! Scarily So!" We immediately began laughing at some of the stories, folding their own clothes, brushing their teeth better than my dentist does during a cleaning, tearing off the lid of a sippy cup because it's just annoying and limits the flow of liquids, throwing away trash, etc... We then  bemoaned the stories of today which lead to, what the crap happened after we got them then?!

For example... On the second day in China with Fisher, he finally had to go poop. He hopped right up, no stool, no special seat. I hung around to of course make sure he didn't fall in. When he was finished, I did like any good parent of a toddler would and began getting ready to clean him. This was instantly met with screams and a flurry of Mandarin that could only have meant, No, I do it myself! To which he did, tore off the correct amount of toilet paper, folded it just so, wiped, checked himself and repeated until he was clean. Fast forward to now, 5 months later. Door flung wide open in the hall bath of house, Fisher's voice reverberating throughout the entire house announcing, "I'm doooooooone!" As if to say, the royal highness is finished with his business and someone better come quick or their WILL be consequences. Oh my how we have digressed.

It does lead us to believe two very important things; these children were treated like little adults and if they didn't do as expected, there would be harsh consequences, and secondly, toddlers are capable of way more than we think and can be accountable for more than we presume. Our tendency is to enable inability and dependence on us too much, when in fact, within the correct loving boundaries, they can quite often wipe their own tushes just fine thank you, all by themselves.

Wondering if other adoptive parents have seen this behavior?

Friday, August 13, 2010

United Nations of Vestavia Hills

Went to one of our friends houses tonight up the street for their sons 4th birthday. He happens to be from the exact same orphanage in China as our most recent edition. They traveled and came home several months before we did. We arrived back home with Fisher in time to celebrate Chinese New Year with them and another family this past Spring. It's a bit ironic that in this upper middle class, white, suburban area of Birmingham, Alabama how many ethnically adopted children we encounter. It's like our own little children's United Nations around here between, China, Kazakhstan, Gautemala, South Korea, Romania, biracially adopted, etc...

As you can see, Fisher is quite the dare devil at the age of 3. He bolted out of the car and immediately did his best Superfly Jimmy Snuka into one of the wading pools. 

Our own little Phinas and Ferb posing just long enough before off to do the next mischievous activity they can dream up together.

You'd think as much "junk" as this boy eats he'd be more than the stick and bones that he is!

It's such a blessing to be able to share so many of our stories with other families nearby; cultural adventures in foreign lands, hurdles with government agencies, speech classes, issues in school and the overall experience of living out James 1:27 as best we know how. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Defensive Scheme Are You Running?

There are a fair amount of different defensive schemes or strategies a football team can employ depending on a myriad of factors. These might include overall philosophy, athletic ability of players, how much depth is available, down and distance, time of the game...

There are 3 basic defenses:

Man-to-Man: each player is assigned to defend and follow the movements of a single player on offense

Zone: instead of each player guarding a corresponding player on the other team, each defensive player is given an area, or a "zone", to cover

Prevent: A prevent defense backs up the coverage so far that it will often give up long yardage, but it makes scoring a touchdown in a single play very difficult

As our family has grown, it's funny how the defensive strategy so closely aligns with these three general football strategies.

Child 1 - this doesn't really count, is more like a practice game, and no particular defensive scheme is required, simply understand that whomever is closes to said child defends at that particular time. This is sort of like having a pet, just make sure you feed/water/change it, surely between two grown adults this can be handled without much fuss.

Child 2 - ok, now we're getting down to a game plan, for sure you can play man-to-man on this one. Honey, I'll take number 1 tonight and you take number 2. If things get too messy we can switch on the screen and pick up the other one, just don't forget to switch on the screen.

Child 3 - you are now out numbered and are forced to play a zone defense for sure, make sure you cover your area (chores, homework, carpool, etc...) and keep open lines of communication so as to not get confused with your area. And by all means don't get the hand signals mixed up or someone will be running free in an uncovered area of the field.

Child 4 or more - this is prevent defense the vast majority of the time, just drop back, keep everyone in front of you at all times, and don't lose eye contact, whatever you do, don't let that fast sneaky one get behind you! Again, communication and eye contact with each other is vital on this one as you are attempting to "herd" multiples in an area without hanging your teammate out to dry with unfair numbers.

Even within these schemes there are slight variations. Last night after coming home from work, it was evident I needed to run a cover 2 (ok, this isn't technically a cover 2 but it makes sense for this illustration) and drive Eli and Fisher to another part of the playing field as far away from mom as possible. While this did leave Melissa having to defend 3, they were fairly pre-occupied and not "in the play" too much while she was preparing our fixins for the evening. It gave me a chance to just go be silly like a 3 and 5 year old away from everyone. Sometimes culling a few from the herd is good for the spirit, laughter, and self preservation on my part when mom has that Ray Lewis crazy eyes thing going. I love a great defense, but a personal foul penalty usually only hurts your teammates and is detrimental the overall strategy.

What kind of defense are you running most days and under what circumstances does it change?