Friday, March 30, 2012

Foster kids

My heart has been wrenched lately and I feel a bit of a passionate post coming on.  I know, you frequent flyers to this blog are shocked(insert sarcasm).  Many of you are saying "Here she goes again, on a tangent, we know we know "orphans, materialism, and missions."  Sorry, no actually, I'm not sorry.  This isn't my soapbox, this is God's. You see, there are about 16,000 children living in foster care inTexas.  Followers of Jesus should be running to help this population.  I'd like to tell about some sweet kiddos to put meaning to the label "foster kids." My sister and her husband have fostered for 4 years.  I was over at her house yesterday helping with the newest baby.  So, this is all fresh on my heart.
They keep a 15yr old girl every once in a while to give her foster parents respite(Foster parents can only leave the children with approved and screened respite providers).  As you can imagine, this seriously limits outings without the children.  This young lady has been in foster care for 2 years.  Parental rights are terminated and she and her siblings are waiting to be adopted.  She has 3 other siblings. This sweet and quiet young lady is sad.  Her life stinks and my friends, it isn't fair!  She realizes that her younger siblings are likely not going to get a forever family to adopt them because of her and her older sibling.  Let's face it, how many people are willing to adopt teenagers?  This young lady told her caseworker to please let her and her older sibling age out of foster system, basically separting the older 2 from the younger 2, in order to give the 2 younger ones a chance for an adoptive family. Can you imagine aging out of the foster system?  Graduating from high school with no family to cheer you on?  Being a teenager is hard enough, but alone?

Then, there is sweet new baby A.  He is a week old and was born addicted to drugs.  He is perfect and tiny and beautiful. Here is his hand with my finger.

Baby A is going through withdrawals.  His birthmother made assinine choices that tragically affected her unborn baby.  Now, who knows where she is and this baby is shaking, screaming, and has chemical burns on his butt from excreting the drugs!

Then, there is this precious little fella. His bio family, well, that story is a doozy too.  My sis and her hubs would love to adopt him.  Unfortunately, the culture of the courts almost always thinks biology is what makes a family, not stability and love. 

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. James 1:27
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Proverbs 31:8

How can you help? Foster, adopt waiting children who are living in foster care, become an approved respite provider to give foster parents a weekend break--they really need this sometimes, or you can partner with great ministries in Texas like EMBRACE.  This ministry advocates for these children and helps kids aging out of the foster system feel supported. Also, teen foster kids need mentors. 

And, just to lighten the mood, here is Hudson and my neice, "A".  They both dressed themselves and looked ridiculous, but adorable all the same! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seasons change

It is now summer in Texas.  We only have 2 seasons here(really hot or really cold). Thursday evening it was really cold and windy, even used the heater and wore jackets.  By Saturday afternoon, it was almost 90 degrees.  I came out of our room that afternoon and proclaimed "It is summer!"  Mike said "she's wearing her summer uniform"  See below
Yes, this is pretty much what I wear every day of summer.  I do change out the tanks.  Abby told me I need to go back to Old Navy for some new shorts because I wear those same brown ones everyday!  Hmm, sounds like a good excuse to go shop a little.  And fyi, no, I do not get tan....ever. Thanks to genetics, I stay pasty and freckled.
The change to sun and warmth already has made a huge difference on my psyche.  I'm not so sleepy, I'm more productive.  In a few hours yesterday, I wrote half of my huge paper due Saturday, ran several errands, mowed my pregnant neighbor's yard(her husband is working out of town for many months and she is due in June), and cooked supper.  It is like a natural high.
You know what else makes me happy?  Easter!!  My favorite time of the year.  It is coming. Know what else is coming?  PINK Impact at Gateway Church in 1 month.  Whoohoo!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The long awaited for Photos

Worship time
Playing with the children
Carter holding his favorite little girl, Avwewe. She was 3 and they had a sweet bond.
Friday night at Youthworx.  9 teens made a decision to follow Christ!
Carter gets schooled in soccer by the locals!

At church today we saw the video our pastor made.  I'll try to share it later.  We also listened to several testimonies from the team members.  Over and over again we heard of the super sad race relations in South Africa even though Apartheid officially ended in 1994. Whites and blacks(yes, that is what they call themselves) simply do not mix still.  Our prayer is that the team showed the beauty of loving your neighbor as yourself, no partiality or favoritism for skin color or economic status. 

Friday, March 23, 2012


Carter is dealing with the typical post mission trip blues.  Re-entry frustration is very real.  I remember coming home from Haiti. People would ask "How was your trip?"  What they want to hear is "great!" and that is really it.  What you want to say is "awesome, heartbreaking, fun, scary, amazing, awful and every other adjective wrapped up...wanna hear some of my experiences?"  To which they get this glazed over look like they knew they shouldn't have asked.  It isn't that people aren't interested, they are and they mean well, I really think they do. See, after intense experiences like that, you are changed from the inside out.  The people here didn't experience what you went through--both good and bad.  They can't relate.  They mean well and want to, but it isn't the same.  He's frustrated because he has so much life that was lived out in South Africa, but little opportunity to connect with others about it.  He misses the team of 10 people that he was with every waking hour for 10 days.  That type of living in community is just not something you replicate in day to day life.  So, he is drinking hot tea with milk after school...."like we did in Africa."  He wants to leave the doors open to get a breeze..."like we did in Africa."  And, he is frustrated at shallow friendships after being so intensely connected with a group of people. If someone handed him a plane ticket to return next week, I know he'd jump on it.

Speaking of jumping on it, I have an incredible non-coincidence coincidence story to share.  Another unbelievable connection and opportunity dropped in my lap!!  Just make yourself available, be sincere when you say "Lord, my life is what you wish with it."  You won't believe the amazing things that come up.  However, I don't feel led to share it right now.  Later.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Carter left part of his heart in South Africa

As you can imagine, Carter is on a post-trip high!  He was grinning ear to ear when we picked him up yesterday afternoon. Big praise, the storms held off and actually seemed to push their plane--they landed 25 minutes early :)

Our son surely grew 2 inches the past 10 days.  He is zooming in on 6 feet. Mike, Abby, my dad, and I met him at the airport. Carter chattered about his experiences.  He loved the little children at the daycare/community center in Khula that they worked with.  He said they were so smart and fun. He was also impressed with the beauty of the landscape and the monkey eating a banana on the roadside.  And, he got to play in the rough waves in the Indian Ocean!
Khula is a very poor area that is highly impacted by the AIDS crisis.  According to Children of Hope (by Vernon Brewer), South Africa alone has 1.2 million orphans due to parents dying of AIDS.  In fact, this very morning our pastor sent an email from the woman in charge of the children at Khula.  Her friend died yesterday and left 2 children, ages 12 and 6. 
Carter's favorite little girl was a 3yr old named Samgen.  He said "she is the most beautiful little African girl I've ever seen."  It appears that she is the caretaker for an angry, traumatized 2yr old who is orphaned and living with  neighbors.  The child has scars on his face from another child intentionally burning his face. Carter said he tried to get the little boy to warm up to him, but the child was so angry at everyone.  Below is a picture of him hanging out with a cutie pie(the child seems to be thinking--who is this strange teenager!)

We have very few pictures at the present but will upload some good ones as soon as we can.  Our pastor said Carter worked his tail off, was so good with the children, and was very flexible(I preached to him before he left that the most important attribute one needs when going on a mission trip overseas is flexibility). He said he'd promised himself that he wouldn't complain.  The hospice center for people dying of AIDS was very sad.  He said he had a hard time talking to the people there because he knew that he had no idea what they were going through. Last night Carter told me "Thank you so much for sending me."  I asked what he thought about going without parents.  He said it was good because he had to be a responsible man.  He wants to return ASAP.  We asked him that for next Spring Break, if presented with a ski trip with friends or returning to South Africa, what would he choose.  He had no reservations and would choose S. Africa.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

flights delayed-boohooo

No biggie, just one and a half days later.  Carter's flight leaving Durban, South Africa had an issue so they didn't get to leave when scheduled.  The airline put the team up in a swanky hotel when they reached Johannesburg.  They should be at DFW tomorrow afternoon.  One little problem....severe storms are predicted here at that time(like hail, tornado warnings). We are really praying for no storms so he's not delayed even more. We are so excited to see our son.  Not being in control is really hard, but we know that God Almighty is in control and His ways are higher than ours.  Tomorrow will be 10 days since we dropped him off at DFW.  Whew, time for all the little chicks to be back in the nest!

Oh, really cool story!  The doorbell rang this afternoon.  A lady down the street was standing there.  We've talked before but not since summer at the pool.  Anyway, she said(and I'm not making this up) "I know that you guys are into missions and that Carter likes to raise money sometimes.  We were wondering if he'd  like to be our lawn boy this year."  I'm serious as a heart attack.  I said "Well, in fact, Carter is on his way home from South Africa as we speak."  She said "then he's our man for sure."  She went on to explain how God was working in their family.  She relayed how she is going on a mission trip to Haiti in July.  Since I went to Haiti 2 years ago, I was super thrilled for her.  She told me "I was going to use that money for something selfish, but God showed me that I should work on my heart before fixing something my body."  PRAISE the LORD.  What an incredible story of obedience and priorities.  I'm floored by those "coincidences."

Friday, March 16, 2012

our mini getaway

The 3  youngers kiddos went to visit grandparents on both sides for a few days.  I did homework and Mike caught up on tons of work.  Then, we headed out for a day and a half getaway.  We went to Dallas.  Normally, we loathe Big D.  The only times we go there are for the rare Mavs game and to visit our fav Korean joint, Ko-Mart.  This time, we went off the beaten path.  You know, I'm a hippie at heart.  I dislike big box stores, chains, and typical big business.  Mike and I like to stay in quaint hotels.  For example, when we visited Boston many years ago, we chose a hundred year old, 3story brownstone that was a Bed and Breakfast over something like a chain hotel. So, we stayed at a very old and funky hotel, The Belmont.  It is cool and trendy, yet very retro.  Don't take kids, they'd be bored to death.  Our view of the skyline was spectacular. 

We spent most our time in the Bishop Arts District.  It was oh so cool!  This is an area that is old and revitalized.  Trendy little shops and wonderful little restaurants are the big attraction.  Yes, the lifestyles of the majority living there are not Biblical, but if you can get past that, this area is delightful.  I can totally see myself living in a 1940's house that is painted a vibrant green, walking to the trendy stores with  my kids, carrying reusable grocery bags(which I already use), and helping a church plant in the neighborhood that is unconventional, very big on outward focused life stuff, community groups and other hippie like church stuff, called something fun like Get Life!  Anyway, moving along, we ate like pigs.  There were so many cool places to choose from.  We had the most amazing pastrami sandwich at Bolsa Mercado.  Then split a great pizza at Enos.  We had the best gyro at Greek Cafe. We sampled odd and delicious home-made chocolate at Dude, Sweet Chocolates.  I recommend spending several hours roaming and eating in this neighborhood.  Yesterday, we went to Dallas Blooms at the Arboretum.   I grew up in the Metroplex and don't remember ever going to the Arboretum.  For one thing, it is very pricey for a large family.  But, for the Dallas Blooms event, it is worth every penny!  STUNNING.  It was like being in another country, or maybe a state that has pretty flora and gets rain(not like Texas).  The trees are huge and the gardens breathtaking. And, to top it all off, this year they feauture artists.  There were 6 children's playhouses fashioned to reflect famous painters.  My favorite was Monet.  This is the bridge and pond that is reflected in one of his paintings.

Our sweet Abigail likes art and especially Georgia O'Keefe.  Here is the O'Keefe house
And here are a few pics of flowers
Fyi, for all you frugal mommies, you can bring in a little cooler and picnic lunch.  If I'd brought a quilt, I'd have laid in the thick grass, under a tree for hours.

Oh, I almost forgot.  We found the best little resale shop in the Bishop Arts District.  Maria's is a tiny store with big names and deals.  Check out my never worn Steve Madden sandals that I scored for 18.00!!!

As for Carter's trip.  Who the heck knows?  No email,  no call.  Our pastor did send a sweet text on Wednesday saying "Carter is doing amazing.  You and Mike would be proud."  So, sorry if you've been wanting to read and see about the trip.  I'll post some next week.  It will be a tad anticlimactic, but it hey, we will have Carter's perspective when sharing the details. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

still waiting to hear

Nope, nothing, except that the heavy rains predicted yesterday did not materialize.  This is a praise because the children would not have come out if it was raining heavily. 
I didn't sleep well last night.  I had a dream that Carter and I were in his car driving somewhere and we were fighting,  like yelling and screaming.  Our family isn't a yelling family.  If we are angry, we are much more versed in silent treatment.  Our home is generally not a loud home.  In this dream, Carter and I were fighting badly.  I woke up about 4am and prayed for him and the team.  I know he is fine.  We totally trust the people he is with-completely and utterly! But, as a momma, it is hard on day 5 when your firstborn is around the world and you haven't heard from him.  God's teaching me a lesson on trust.  Do I really, I mean really, trust Him?  I have no control over Carter right now and that is uncomfortable.  We dedicated  him to the Lord as a baby, but do I really trust Him?  What if he did get sick or hurt?  The story I keep thinking about his Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel.  When faced with bowing down to the king's command and performing idol worship, they chose certain death.  They trusted their God.  In fact, they trusted their God so much that they told the king "even if He does not deliver us, we will still not bow down to  you."  Of course, anyone who grew up in church knows that they were thrown in the flames and God rescued them!  But, that begs the question, what if life doesn't turn out perfect?  What if you aren't healed, what if something bad did happen to my child, what if you never get that husband, what if you never experience healing from infertility, what if your loved one never acknowledges Jesus as his/her Lord, what if you do lose your job?????  Do we really trust God, in the good and the bad?  I'm choosing to walk in trust.

Monday, March 12, 2012

One picture!

Proof that my son is really there and doing well!!  I'm so excited that I've gotten 1 whole picture :)  The internet at the place where the team is staying hasn't been working.  Pastor Wes relayed that the team connected with the kids and did us all proud.  Here is the top of Carter's head crafting with the children at the feeding program/community center outside of Port Shepstone, South Africa.

Praying for this trip to be one of the defining moments in his life:  pre-Africa and post- Africa!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

No word yet :(

Sorry, all we know is that the team made it safely to South Africa.  Can't wait to hear some details.  Today our pastor preached at the church they are partnering with all week.  Tomorrow starts the Bible clubs and work at the community center and children's feeding program.  Carter is leading worship for the children.  I know he will light up when he has a guitar in his hand and lots of smiling children in front of him.  So FUN.  Oh, I wish I was there.  Alas, I have to work this week and continue my stupid stupid schoolwork(Nursing Research stinks).  Ahhem, excuse my bad manners.  I mean, I'm grateful to have a great job and the opportunity to continue my education--I know I'm blessed!

Friday, March 9, 2012

And he's off!

Look out world, cause a sweet, funny, and Jesus loving young man is a coming.  We dropped Carter off at DFW this morning to fly to the opposite end of the world.  He is with our youth pastor, some young adults, our pastor, and a fellow friend/dad.  We will miss him like crazy, but we know he will have a wonderful and life-changing time. I did really well at the airport.  Carter said he was nervous, but excited.  Reality hit a bit later this morning.  I was gathering dirty clothes to wash.  His flight was pulling away at 11:22 and that is when the lump crept into my throat and my heart had a hole.  I'm not fearful for his safety.  He isn't going to the bush in Uganda to fight the LRA or anything.  He is with people we know and trust, going to an awesome ministry(shout out to amazing Pastor Trevor in Port Shepstone, South Africa) at a place where Mike has been.  My biggest hurdle is knowing that if he needs me, I, the momma, cannot be there--without at least 2 days travel time.  That is what hurts my heart. Alas, we trust our God!

Now, let me tell you about an amazing story:
How the money "happened"
What do I always say(that I stole from our former pastor, Jim)?  Where God guides, God provides.  So, here is the story of how we gathered the funds to send Carter to South Africa, with only 3 months notice.  The cost was 2500.  We needed to turn in a 500 dollar depost by January 1.  The last week of December, we knew Carter was going, but we weren't clear as to whether Mike and I would go also, or just me.  I came across a check from our insurance company in our "bill drawer."  It was for 2800.00!  I was thrilled.  Clearly, I was headed to South Africa with Carter.  Whoohoo.  We turned in the 500 deposit that week and also tithed out of that 2800.  Since it wasn't regular income, we tithed in a more fun way(tithes go to your local church body).  We gave the cash away to some people who needed it badly--secretly of course.  That is the most funnest--sorry, I've been reading Junie B. Jones books-- we love to secretly bless people.  So, within a few days, 800.00 out of that check was gone.  Then, the bank called.  The insurance company had put a stop payment on that check and the bank withdrew all 2800.00 from our checking account--nicely leaving a negative balance!  Seems that the insurance company had made an error back in July when we got our hail damage checks.  I made an error as well when I kept the check and didn't shred it.  Silly me!  We went from Yeehaw to holy cow, Lord, what are we going to do??  We were now 800.00 in the hole.  There was our answer, Carter would go sans parental units.
So, we forged ahead, trusting God for the rest of the money.  We felt impressed to not send fundraising letters out or to ask people to help. Carter did a few jobs for a friend and my parents and got paid very generously.  A few sweet friends have contributed to his trip and several family members gave him birthday gifts and cash to put towards the trip.  The rest, well we just seemed to always have a 100.00 cash in the South Africa envelope that has been hanging on the refrigerator since January.  We make a payment and somehow, another 100.00 scratched out of our week and we make another payment.  Then, came the big surprise!  I got an unexpected bonus in February at work!   South Africa here he comes!!!!!!!  Really, we haven't even missed the money.  Sure, we could have spent that on more junk that burns up when Jesus comes back:  food, clothes, entertainment, things we don't need and that don't bring happiness.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

You is my mother

Could be a phase, could be working through some adoption realities.  Hudson keeps looking at me and saying "You is my mother." Anyone got a thought?  He was 21 months when he joined my family, so certainly, he could be thinking about that.  He's also brilliant, verbal, and curious (think Curious George meets Junie B Jones meets litte Einstein).

Tomorrow:  we drop Carter off at DFW airport to fly to South Africa.  Pics and posts forthcoming.  I will not cry, I will not cry, I will not cry

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How many words?

Now Abby is sick.  Today is day 2 for her to be home.  This morning she, in all her nonsensical and dry wit proposed a good question.  After being with Hudson several hours she said "I wonder how many words the average person says in a day?  Then, I wonder how many Hudson says?" I'm betting at least 500,000 for the adorable squatty body!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Speaking is done

Now we have Abby's volleyball tournament in 1 hour, the school dinner and auction at 6(I've got cash and I'm ready to blow it on a good cause), and Carter gets to go to Gungor concert in Dallas--Again!  He's been before and adores Gungor.  As for me, I'm feeling better slllloooowly.  This flu kicked my tail.  My boss told me not to come in on Friday.  I wanted to, really, I didn't want to miss.  But, I'm so glad I didn't work.  I was sick as a dog yesterday(do people outside of Texas use that expression?).  Anyway, I worked on homework(Nursing Research-such joy!) and my speech for today.  At 5am the coughing fit hit me.  I decided to do some prep work and rework my Power Point a bit.  My brain has been in a snot-induced fog for 5 days.  It was much clearer this morning.  Driving up and walking in to the church I missed my sidekick in women's ministry crime--Susie.  It was rather lonely.  But, I was greeted so warmly.  Carter set up my laptop to the projector and screen(then I farmed out his help and he did the same for the lady in the workshop next door).  The first workshop was not so bueno.  Only 3 ladies stopped by.  Apparently, the masses prefer learning about "scent-sational crafts" and rekindling romance over my presentation.  By the way, my title was "Me, Myself, and I:  train yourself and your children to live with an outward focus."  The small group was sweet and interested.  We had a good time and I got my nerves out of the way.  The next session was much better attended and more lively.  A kindred spirit was in there and we chatted later about churches spending thousands of dollars redecorating for no good reason when every 16 seconds someone dies from starvation.  She'd read Radical and The Blessed Life and had heard Craig Greschel and Christine Cain speak before--Love them!  I was so excited telling her about Jen Hatmaker and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.
Lunch was yummy and the ladies were sweet.  It was good practice for me and I prayed that the Holy Spirit would speak through me to someone who needed the message He'd given me.  Probably shouldn't quit my day job though ;)
And, just for my sisters:  I wore a white shirt, light pink scarf, hair down, eyeliner AND mascara, skinny jeans, and my new red fake Toms that I absolutely adore.
The little boys are at Nana's for the weekend--Thanks Nana! They are sick of me being sick and tired all week.