Monday, July 23, 2012

White Bread World

This month marks the 10 year anniversary of our family moving to Birmingham Alabama. We moved here from Broken Arrow Ok in July of '02. I'm not sure if it was a leap of faith or just a leap of I Need Out of Oklahoma and now.  Chris and I can be pretty impulsive sometimes. It's gotten less so over the years but we really flew by the seat of our pants for a while.  New cars, new houses, have another baby, whatever.

We decided in March of '02 that it was time for a change of scenery so we took a spring break trip to B'ham to look at houses. I'm pretty sure we didn't pray too hard about that decision. Chris found a job pretty quick teaching computers at Vestavia High. Talk about a demotion. He was a doctoral professor at Univ of Tulsa and now he was going to teach keyboarding. But the Lord blessed that decision. Thank goodness. Turns out we love Vestavia, Birmingham and the south in general.

The only problem with our little world here is that we kind of live in a bubble. A little white bread bubble. Our neighborhood is white. Our church is white. Our school is mostly white. Our family is not white. Well that's not entirely true. Chris and I are white, our bio kids are white. E & F are not white. Any future kids that may join our family will probably not be white. I love that about our family. I've always loved lots of color.

What will it be like for E & F as they get older in this little white world? I really don't feel any need or desire to move to a more colorful part of town. I don't feel called to change churches or schools. So I guess we will stay and try and make things less white around here. But what will E & F have to deal with? Right now they are young and treated just like any of our other kids in church, hood and school. But what about middle and high schools? Will they be shunned by old friends or treated differently by teachers?

I hope not.

I'm not sure that's realistic tho'.

I think it's my job to let them know that their family will always accept them. Their true friends will always accept them. Especially Jesus will always accept them. They will always have Jesus to lean on and guide them through every difficult situation. I want them to be proud of their culture and heritage but I also want them to know that they belong here. Just like everyone else around here. They belong.

I know many people around here think that we are crazy. 5 kids, 6 kids, 7 kids? Who knows. When will you stop adopting? When God tells me to. Not when I decide. When He decides. What would I do with myself? Play tennis, PTA President, shop. No thank you. When I'm old I want to know that I did something worthwhile. Not just the bare minimum. I want to make a difference in the world and to my children.  All my children. Even the ones I don't know yet.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hi there.

This is Melissa writing this post. Chris has been doing it up to now but he's having a hard time finding time and inspiration so I'm taking over for a while.

Growing up I loved the idea of keeping a diary but could never keep it up. I would write for three or four days and then nothing. Every diary I had was basically empty but I kept trying every couple of years. I do write a Christmas letter every year. I thought about quitting but I skipped it a couple of years ago and caught all sorts of grief from different family members so I haven't let that happen again. I try not to be too braggy in the letter but since I can only get a few sentences in about each family member I don't feel the need to mention the negative aspects of each of my children.

I figured out today that there are 34 days left of summer. The summer has actually been going pretty well this year but I do love the school year. I like schedules and consistency. Loosey goosey days are not my cup of tea.  The kids have done pretty well tho'.  Bailey and Channing are old enough now to make their own plans and keep themselves busy with friends, church, camps and dance. Dutch has discovered D1 and football camps. He loves it up there and I love the fact that it's two minutes from the house. The little boys have done various church camps and church school. All they really want to do is swim though.

We haven't been to the beach or Oklahoma yet this summer. We probably need to squeeze both of those things in pretty soon. Fisher has only been to the beach once since he came home so he is dying to go back. Saying he loved it is an understatement. He loves all sorts of sand, dirt, mud etc. The beach is right up his alley.

I wish I could give you a major update on our adoption progress but there isn't much to report. We are STILL working on our homestudy. It's been about five months now. Basically Chris and I stink at homestudies. I can't believe how long it's been taking. We have made some mistakes that cost us some time. We sent in our fingerprints without getting the police officer to sign the cards. How stupid are we?!  Little things like that have really slowed us down. I'm finding it harder and harder to believe that we have actually adopted twice in the past. How did that happen? Apparently I am capable of getting paperwork done but you wouldn't know it by looking at things now. Maybe once the kids go back to school I can focus!

So there's the update for now. I'll try and include some pics with this post. Chris is out of town so I'll have to figure it out on my own so if it doesn't happen I'll try again next time.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Week of Chris

For those of you who were a product of the 80's, it seems just about anything we do now in life can always be referenced back to something from Sienfeld. Every year there is a week in June that I appropriately claim as the week of Chris.

The reason I've claimed it as the week of Chris is because our anniversary is on the 12th, my birthday is on the 16th and Father's day is that Sunday.  Unlike George, I at least like to try and find something better to do than try Frolf. Some years, the week of Chris comes and goes with little fanfare depending on that season of life, what the kids have going on, etc...

But this year... the stars and planets must have aligned up correctly because it was one of the best weeks of Chris I can remember.

It started with Melissa and I actually getting to go out to dinner ON our anniversary, it just doesn't seem to happen all that often. We had a great evening just hanging together over dinner and doing a bit of shopping for new bedding. I know, not terribly exciting, but hey, you take the wins when you get them after 19 years! To be clear, the bedding search was for a nice new down comforter as I think we were sleeping with bedding that we've probably had the entire 19 years we've been together. We were stoked, and that's what counts, right?! What actually made it great is we went through an entire night out and returned home without 1 single text or phone call from anyone at home crying, telling on each other, asking us to tell so and so to stop being so mean, etc... It was the first time we could EVER remember leaving all of the kids home together and this happening!

The very next morning I was up at the crack of dawn to catch a plane to a conference for the remainder of the week. Normally this would be a total drag given that it IS the week of Chris after all, but would you believe it? The conference was in Park City, Utah! So while I did spend a decent amount of time inside at some sessions, we had enough time to do and see plenty of this:

The Canyons just outside of Park City was beautiful. For those of you that know me, being in the mountains does something for my soul in a way that is hard to explain. I'm probably the only person you'll ever meet that moved away from Vail to Oklahoma, twice! So while I was there for "work" it was the most refreshing conference I've ever attended!

Saturday the 16th is my birthday and I spent all day traveling through airports to get home Saturday evening. For some reason, getting to the western 1/4 of the country is relatively easy, getting back always seems to take twice as long due to flight schedules. So while my birthday itself was nothing to write home about, one of my sweet daughters, C, mashed up some pics and I was pleasantly surprised when I received this as a text message while sitting around in the Memphis airport for 3 hours:
Now how awesome is that?!! She is now 14 and this might have been one of the sweetest gestures anyone's done for me that I can remember.

The next day was Father's day and we got to do something I've wanted to do with some of my kids for a long time after church:
We went kayaking on the Coosa river! It was such a great time with my Dad, B, C, and D. It's only about an hour and half away and we spent about 3 hours on the river together. I couldn't think of a greater way to have spent Father's day afternoon. It had it's adventures and trials as getting dumped in the rapids and rocks can be a bit daunting for the kids first time, but in the end I think everyone really enjoyed it. They are still laughing about some of it this week.

It will be hard to live up to the 2012 week of Chris, but anything close to this will be hard to beat! It really was an amazing week and I'm so thankful for the variety and joys received through all of these events this week.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

21 Take Aways from Honduras

Here are 21 things I learned from our mission trip to Honduras this past week to work with students at Plan Escalon just outside of La Entrada.

1. United Airlines out of Birmingham is absolutely awful! (We're sorry to intrude on your time by wanting to actually fly somewhere...)

2. UA workers in Honduras are pleasant to work with and seem to enjoy/appreciate their jobs

3. Moving with the groove and a conga line are requisite items for praise and worship

4. From 10 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. when that close to equator, it's hot as blazes!

5. Sidewalk chalk is great in any language

6. Not everyone heeds the one wipe in the toilet policy/warning

7. Today's kids have no idea how to easily open/close the windows on a school bus!

8. Was reminded why I don't miss dealing with this on a daily basis

9. The current use of the word "cougar" in the U.S. gets a bit lost in translation

10. Some people still call Birmingham, bombing-ham, who knew?!

11. Sara L. has mad plumbing skills (see number 6)
12. Young boys can indeed wash clothes

13. Honduran kids can do amazing things with a ball and their feet, but they can't throw a football worth a darn

14. The answer to the riddle of "how many Hondurans can you get into the back of a truck" is... one more!

15. All kids love to play and get hugs!

16. Guys like girls with skills, you know, like riding a burro with kickin shades on

17. I can barely get cell coverage in my house with a cell tower in our backyard, but in Honduras you CAN get cell coverage here...
and here...
and here...

Oh yeah, and if you are the read while you do your business type, here...

18. We found some help for Ingram the next time she needs to make chicken salad for thousands of people

19. We are all adopted into God's family and created in his image

20. God is doing some amazing work in some of the most remote places on the planet

21. I have some amazing brothers and sisters in Christ in my church!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A butterfly flapping it's wings in South America can effect the weather in Central Park

Image from Trey Ratliff -
We received a great update today regarding Xiao! Apparently one of the larger adoption agencies who works a ton with China has a family matched with Xiao. We received a call today from our agency with the news.

It was presented to us as a "not so good" update. We however are totally stoked! Our intent was to advocate on this little boys behalf, share his story with others, bring awareness to HIV+ babies in China, and get people praying for him. Us becoming the forever family for him was really way down on the list. So as I look over the reasons why we blogged about him and shared his story, I can say, check, check, check, praise God! 

I think we often feel like if we aren't the ones to resolve an issue or step up and simply just do it ourselves it won't get done. I think this discounts what God is doing with his flock and our role within His larger community. I have no way of knowing if anything we did had anything to do with Xiao getting matched with a family, but that doesn't hamper my enthusiasm for what God is doing and what the power of prayer may have done from those who read about him and simply included him in their prayer time. 

I often think of this in term's of Edward Lorenz's butterfly theory which is always covered in chaos theory:
A butterfly flapping it's wings in South America can effect the weather in Central Park
 As a part of God's larger community, it's not a stretch for me to apply this notion from chaos theory to my spiritual walk. My small prayer in Alabama can effect the trajectory of a little boy in China in need of a loving forever home. Now that's something I can get excited about!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Living on the edge

With the girls out of town and some moderate temperatures, it was a good day for the boys to get out and explore. We ended up at Ruffner Mountain checking out a few of the trails. It ended up having some terrain I was a bit nervous with as can be seen with D hanging his legs over, and yes it was straight down from there! F kept crawling on his knees to stick his head over and look. I couldn't hang out at this spot too long needles to say.

It was good getting them out to get dirty, throw rocks and sticks, pee in the woods, and generally let their inner caveman out for a while. You should check out the slide show and see how primitive they got.

We topped it off with burgers and shakes and I think I saw one of them loosen their pants and collapse in front of the TV. The girls are still gone so the inner cavemen can hang around a little longer I suppose.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Can Doing God's Work Screw up your Kids?

I can honestly say this is probably not something most Christians ever even wonder. I think most people I know would say of course not, how could that be possible? I bet if you ask a missionary though, you'd get a response like, "Well.............." If they were being honest anyway. Very few of us are ever put in a position of even thinking about this. We are never pushed to think perhaps there is even a chance of us doing something that might not be in the best interest of our children or even thinking God would ask us to do this.

This had been weighing on my mind a bit lately (more as to why in a bit) when I received an update from a missionary family our church supports. Within it was the following:

It was one of the harder letters I’d ever written. The gist of it was this: “Boarding isn’t working for your child, despite all the support you and we are offering.  You need to make a change.”

Let me clarify what a “change” implies: For a bush missionary whose child doesn’t “make it” at boarding school, almost everything about life must change. It may mean bringing that child back to the bush/village and homeschooling them, which may require one parent giving up part or all of his/her ministry. It may mean the family needs to move to a different location where the child can be a day student – giving up home, ministry, church, and friends. It may mean a return to the home country, giving up all the above as well as “Africa”. Whatever the cost, letters like mine are among those missionary parents hope never to get.

You can imagine, then, why this family’s humble and open response brought tears to my eyes. The gist of what they said was: “Thank you for sharing this. What should we do? We are praying for God’s wisdom and help in meeting our child’s needs.”
Seriously? I mean, I can't quite fathom having to wrangle with God on this. Here this family is doing what they believe God called them to do in the middle of stinking no where Africa for a people group they've been lead to, and it's wreaking havoc on their child. How could this not be screwing up their kid, and their family? Just think if they end up leaving and this kid knowing he/she is the reason their parents had to stop doing what they thought God wanted them to do. Holy smokes, that's heavy!

I had been thinking on this just a bit myself because I have been spending a decent amount of time organizing some missions opportunities for our church and I found myself telling my little boys, "no I can't play right now because I have to get this trip organized and some information out tonight!" I immediately felt bad about it, but then told myself this is what God has asked me to do right now, surely it won't hurt my kid's feelings too bad. Will it?

Please don't think I'm at all comparing my few Sunday afternoon and evenings of short term missions planning instead of tossing the football in the yard or playing the Xbox for the umpteenth time with my boys anywhere near this families struggle. It just got me thinking as both events occurred within the same week and as I dive more into short term missions, orphan/adoption advocacy, another adoption, and other generally "Godly" endeavors on top of my regular work a day life.

I don't have any answers other than God has my family and this missionary family in His hands and His grace is so overflowing that it will be ok, I hope, it will, right? So how does one balance God's callings and kids?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

C'mon man, this is crazy!

Do you ever find yourself asking, how did anyone live without the global connectivity and speed of the interwebz? I mean, coordinating a group outing by actually calling everyone on their home phone is so 2007, right?! I even recently pondered, how in heaven's name did missionaries actually get anything done in terms of communicating their activities, vision, and fundraising? How did anyone ever plan a short term mission trip for crying out loud with a missionary in the field? Are you serious, pick up the phone at some predetermined time to call half way around the world to have a sketchy conversation at best and try and organize something? Or God forbid have to do it by writing letters back and forth! How did God mobilize his armies and people around the world? How did He do that without all of this technology? I mean, seriously? C'mon man, how did all that stuff actually get done?! I seriously want to know how Moses created the first flash mob to make a run for it out of Egypt?

Just this week alone I've coordinated a mission trip to Honduras in 140 characters or less, Skype on my cell phone connected to a public wireless access point, and a crap load of email blasts. This alone was exhausting, I'm on the verge of carpel tunnel. I think I'd have to take the pencil to my eye if I had to have written everything i've digitally composed this week with said pencil!

Annnnd, we received a most amazing update on our advocacy for Xiao. Through the last blog post and a few emails from that, we received the following from someone on the ground, in China!

Last night we spoke to a US family living in Xi'an who are willing to bring him into their family as a foster child (and in this way we can get the right investigations done, get their immunisations done to international standards, and get them on ARV's (which they almost certainly are not on when they are in their orphanages)
Seriously, how crazy is that?! Now I'm not saying just because I was killing time surfing Google+ late one night in bed, and emailed an article to Melissa about a boy in China with HIV being neglected, then wrote a blog post about it, which had Melissa bumping around the interwebz for all things China, HIV, orphans, etc... to then run across someone on the ground there, who she emailed, who read our blog, who posted some feedback on our blog with another contact, who we emailed, and then began digging a bit, is why Xiao might be having a family to foster him... but C'mon Man, this is craaaaazy!

What an amazing example of how all things we create, dream up, build can be used to God's glory and to accomplish His mission. Keep praying for Xiao and we'll keep blasting emails, tweets, FB posts, and blog posts until we know he is where God wants him to be.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

You are ONE

What If?

You were misunderstood, isolated, never held, never educated, had to wash your bedpan, had no concept of mom or dad, weren't allowed to touch anyone else, but were actually perfectly normal by all appearances (except one unseen diagnoses)? As crazy as this sounds, this is the story of Xiao Ling, a 3 year old from Zhonshan, China.

For many reasons, beyond being discussed in this blog post, HIV is not something China has a lot of experience dealing with. Subsequently, many of the same misconceptions, misunderstandings, and unjustified fears of years past are the norm. Xiao is HIV positive but is being dealt with as if he has leprosy and can't be touched or isn't worth educating. Through a random posting I encountered this article about Xiao and it has touched something deep within me and Melissa.

I should probably back up and explain why. In November we attended Lifeline's annual fundraising banquet which we always thoroughly enjoy. It's extremely encouraging to be around so many like minded people wanting to defend the fatherless. The theme was ONE, that you can help one, it only takes one person to make difference, etc... is something we've always shared with people who ask why we've chosen the path we have for our family.

Heading into the banquet Melissa and I were at the point of praying for where God would lead us next on our orphan advocacy journey. We both had prayed and agreed we were not supposed to go down the traditional adoption path again; fill out application, pick a country, wait for a referral, etc... We simply agreed we knew we were to be at the ready when God calls to act, and this is where we've been for many months.

In the midst of the banquet while David Platt was speaking, our new path became apparent to me. We were to advocate and seek for the orphaned in China who have been diagnosed as HIV+. I didn't mention this immediately to Melissa as I needed to make sure this "stuck" if you know what I mean. We've all been swept up in the emotion of an event to only wonder later what in heaven's name were we thinking?! The clarity around this never subsided in the coming weeks so I finally shared my heart with Melissa at the next opportunity. I told her we should tell Lifeline we are willing and ready to help ONE child in China who has been diagnosed HIV+, she hardly blinked and said YES.

Very shortly after while searching adoption and oprhan stories in Google+ I found the above article and simply sent it to Melissa because it was in line with our discussions. Not so much to say here is a child, but to begin the discussion around the apparent need. If you had read the article it states this boy is not adoptable (which isn't correct) and it didn't state what orphanage he is in. Through some internet sloothing I believe we've found the orphanage and have talked with Lifeline, who has previous experience getting HIV+ children adopted into the US. They have indeed been able to help us locate him and we are now waiting to hear what can be done for him. At the minimum he needs someone to go there and love on him. So at this time we are advocating for Xiao. Whether he is to be a Freeman some day is unknown but we are trying to see if there is a foster family near him willing to take him or anything to get him out of his "jail" like conditions.

He is ONE boy, made in the image of God, who needs ONE person to make a difference. Please join us in praying for Xiao and how God can use us to help and advocate for him.