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?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

God's Eternal Family is Interracial

This image by Norman Rockwell has certainly taken on new meaning for us in the past 4 years. Adding a child from Guatemala and now China into our existing brood has changed the legacy of the Freeman family into an interracial one, forever. To say the least, being conservative Christians in the deep south adds a bit of irony to the story! Christianity in the deep south juxtaposed with deep rooted conservative racial views makes for some interesting looks and conversations some days. Note that I didn't say racism, but conservative racial views, I believe these can be mutually exclusive and not necessarily the same thing. 

Thankfully we live in a community that seems to have begun taking Jesus' calling of pure religion (James 1:27) at face value and not a mere suggestion. Every time we go to the pool it seems we run into another interracial family that has opened their hearts and home to an orphan or two from the far reaches of the globe. Of course this could be that new car purchase anomaly. You know the one where just about the time you've made a final decision on the type of car you want to purchase (or have just purchased), you all of the sudden become keenly aware of  how many of the same make/model are on the road already? I never paid attention or noticed how many of those old (late 80's, early 90's), white, 4 door, Toyota Corolla's were on the road until I had to drive one for several years. All of the sudden they were EVERYWHERE! It became known as the poor teacher/professor mobile in several circles of mine. 

I'd like to think it's more than this though. I'd like to think that Christians at large, especially those with "means" and access to resources are finally waking up and realizing we haven't been using what God has provided us wisely, or at all correctly for that matter. If we are adopted into God's interracial family, why would we hesitate to do the same with our family? I recently heard someone say that many people are certain to have a rude awakening when they get to heaven and realize those _____ people (fill in whatever race you want) are here too?!

Mine, MIne, Mine, Can it be all Mine?

 If your kids are anything like ours, this scene from Finding Nemo seems to play itself out nearly every day in our house! This seems to become exponentially true the larger the quiver of children. It has always been part of raising kids and dealing with who has what and what is fair for each of them depending on their ages and maturity level. It has come to the forefront even more since Fisher joined the ranks 5 months ago.

He is 3 years old and in serious competition with his 5 year old brother for everything! Every object in the house, even this silly pink hat of his mothers, becomes a conversation around, "can it be mine, all mine?" Of course we initially go down the path, of no that belongs to so and so, or no we all share that, etc... Only to be met with a few more pleas of mine, mine, mine, can it be all mine?

At times we are left contemplating is he just being a typically selfish 3 year old, or he is outwardly expressing some repressed feelings of belonging? Does he have a deep rooted need to "know" that something is his and his only for the first time in his life, or is he just wanting everything to be his, as is our sin nature?

Needless to say we try to find a balance between feeding his selfish nature to control everything, and everyone, versus his need to have comfort and ownership and control of something given the first 3 years of his life has had only a modicum of these things. This wasn't really an issue with Eli as he joined at us at such a young age and his age difference to the next sibling. We'll keep doing our best to balance hard wired longings due to his circumstances and normal toddler aged behavior. In the mean time, I'll keep trying to laugh as I envision the birds from Nemo attempting to make everything edible, theirs, and only theirs.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

...unless you turn and become like children...

I had the opportunity to see Matthew 18 up close and personal today. Several families in our Sunday school class have been organizing some items for what had been a homeless mom and three boys, attempting to get out of a bad family situation. This morning was the day they were moving into a rent free apartment that had been procured for at least the next 4 months or so.

Melissa and I had been saying for quite some time now we needed to have a serious garage sale and find a way to donate the money. This is always one of those task that sounds excellent in principle until it comes to actually organizing it, planning the date, putting an add in the paper, pricing everything, deciding what actually should be up for sale, etc... Whew, it's tiring just writing out what needs to take place. Then there is the whole back and forth of what should be drug into the driveway for the general public to rummage through. This is never fun as the merits and value of every item has to be discussed/argued, reminisced about (oh, remember that one day that was used for one time, and it was so sweet how the kids....) until I am ready to turn the garage sale into an estate sale, put a price on everything, and just see what happens.

After much procrastination and good intentions, like those of getting up early and going to the gym but just not quite getting there, God put us out of our misery. I guess since we were dilly dallying around so long about selling this stuff and donating the $$, He decided to simply march a family in need directly into our paths, hard to ignore those signs. We were able to contribute a fare amount of stuff to furnish their empty apartment this morning, I don't think they had much more than the clothes they were wearing.

It was good to see a handful of families we know all there pitching in along with a plethora of children there to help as well and play with the three boys moving in. It was so refreshing to watch the kids interact, both in wanting to help and interact with the three boys. It was as if they had known them forever and it was merely a family reunion with cousins. At one point there were a scattering of black, white, Chinese, and Guatemalan children ranging in age from 5 to 14, carrying items and playing like crazy together.

Not once did I ever see any of them pause as if to question each other's motives, intentions, thoughts, or hesitate to engage. At one point, Dutch broke into sharing about Jesus' love for him and them as well in the midst of just hopping through the apartment. While all of us adults know we were doing the right thing by attempting to provide for this families physical needs, leave it to one of the children to attempt and provide for their spiritual needs.

It was a great example of Matthew 18:1-6. It was a great reminder of how we should have a faith more like our children and refreshing to learn once again, we are all created in the image of God and His love is not spared for only those who look or act deserving.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Love Hate Relationship

I love my children, but I hate the destructive power of 5 that can inevitably demolish what we had just recently cleaned and/or picked up. The speed and voracity rivals the best of any SEC top notch defense (maybe Auburn will have more of this in the coming months). The cacophony of noise that rains down from all corners of the house during a full weekend of everyone being home is enough at times for me to simply wish to walk out the front door and melt into the draining heat.

While I am far from a type A personality, I do like order and believe things have a place, and that usually doesn't mean any randomly open spot on the floor throughout the house (i.e. How/why in the world is "this" in my bathroom!?). The real irony here is that it doesn't bother my wife too much, go figure. Maybe it's the math/physics background in me, every variable has a purpose and everything in nature has a formulaic approach to it and the study of chaos theory doesn't apply to household order/disorder.

The good news is I truly believe the kids all feel safe and comfortable and can explore their personalities in a loving environment. I also take comfort that eventually (hopefully before they all are put to bed tonight) they will chip in, do their part, and restore some order to the two days of playing, frolicking, fighting, fussing, laughing, and loving on each other to awaken tomorrow to a new week and some space to walk through the house without worrying about breaking my ankle.