Thursday, June 30, 2011

My (Super)Hero

Lamb is at camp this week--I am so excited for her!  We are very, very fortunate to have our church camp just 15 minutes away, and it is fantastic!  She invited our neighbor girls to go with her, and it is just "day camp" for now--we pick her up each day at 5:00... except today (Wednesday). This is her "optional overnight", and she (and the neighbor girls) opted to stay. Since this is the child who routinely gets up 2-3 times a night because she is scared in her own room, I wasn't overly optimistic... but it is now 10 PM and I haven't gotten a phone call yet, so it looks like we might be good!

While she's away this week, I've been trying to spend some fun quality time with the boys, and today I promised Monkey I would take him to the zoo.  We have a membership to our local zoo,  and we probably go at least twice a month while the weather is nice.  So this morning I packed Lamb's overnight bag (which, for the record, was probably the LARGEST overnight bag there...), then I packed up a bag of snacks & lunch (& a bottle & formula & baby food) to take to the zoo... which was still sitting right there on the counter waiting for us when we got home from the zoo.

So after I shelled out $20 for lunch (Seriously? For me & my 4-year-old??? Oh, and I did buy a little side of applesauce for Roo...), we had a nice beautiful day at the zoo.  Right up until we were at the play area... and there were some bigger kids there... and they told Monkey that he isn't a superhero.


Well... fortunately (or not), Monkey is pretty stubborn bull-headed determined and willing to fight for what he believes in, so he didn't back down.  No, he didn't actually fight them, but he yelled, "Yes I AM a superhero!" and then tried to show them his superpowers (which I think were supposed to be some kind of force field or fireballs or something coming from his hands)... but unfortunately that amused them more than it scared them.  I could see that he was getting a little desperate and wasn't sure whether to explode in anger or explode into tears, so I called him over.  He was fine until he opened his mouth to tell me about it... and then the tears came.

"They said I'm not a superhero!"

"I know, Buddy, I know.  But you know what?  That means you're doing a great job of disguising yourself, like Peter Parker. And I know you're a superhero.  You're my superhero.  I don't know what I would do without you around."

"OK, Mommy." "Can we go ride the train now?"

Mr. Fantastic and I have really worked hard not to lie to our kids... OK, aside from the whole Santa/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy thing... I don't tell them that we're all out of pop if I don't want them to have any, I don't tell them that the McDonald's Play Place is closed if I don't have time to take them there, I don't tell them that the law says I can't do any Mommy Work after 8 PM (an actual tip I read in a parenting magazine)... but I wasn't about to tell him that he's not a superhero.

He's 4.  He'll figure it out on his own way too soon.

But tonight, when I looked in his room and saw him sprawled out on his bed in his Superman pajamas... I couldn't imagine a better hero, super or otherwise.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Katy's Family Forest, Part 10

So much of the next few years, Danielle and I just spent time redefining our relationship. Who were we to each other, exactly? What were the expectations? The parameters? Honestly, we're still working on that, and I think to some degree it will be a lifelong journey.  (Because really, aren't all relationships constantly evolving?)

After all, to Danielle I have always been her daughter… but that was a bit weird for me at first. I mean, I have a mom (and a dad)... and it's not her. She was always a family friend, and someone who I really liked, but I felt no real connection to her, no familial love. It was difficult to just flip that switch. And I think we both struggled with how much we should expect to be in touch, how often we should see each other, that kind of thing. No real template exists for this kind of relationship, you know? We had no Robert's Rules of Order to follow, no Miss Manners to consult. So we muscled through, and though there were times that I was frustrated with her—and I'm sure vice versa—we managed. :-)

Now... are you ready for another twist to the story? A few months after Danielle and I had "reconnected," I started to notice a pattern. Yes, Danielle moved a lot, as I had mentioned before. But she also rarely lived alone. Most of the time that I had known her, she'd had a roommate—and not the same roommate, but a series of them. Honestly, this had never struck me as odd, that two single women might just want to share an apartment; but shortly after that first time she came to see me as my birth mom, she introduced me to her new roommate. Let's call her Pam.

The very first time that I met Pam, I knew. They weren't just roommates. And THAT is really when I started to think about the fact that Danielle had lived with several women in the years that I had known her. Now that doesn't mean that every one of them was a girlfriend, but looking back I'm pretty sure that Pam wasn't the first one.

Still, I was only 19 and honestly had never known anyone who was gay, so I asked my parents if they thought that she was. They weren't sure either, but weren't ruling it out. I decided that at that particular point in time, Danielle and I had enough to deal with, and I was going to leave well enough alone. It didn't take long for me to be certain, though. I could just tell every time I was around the two of them. Sometimes I could tell by the way they talked and laughed together, other times by the way that they fought; but each time they interacted, it wasn't just as women who shared an apartment to cut rent in half. Oh, and then there were the matching gold and diamond rings that they wore on their left hands. That too.

I could tell that Danielle thought I didn't know, and I could tell she preferred it that way, so I still just chose to leave it alone. Still, it raised a lot of questions for me… I mean, obviously at some point she wasn't gay, so when did this happen? Why? How long ago? And yes (please remember, this is my story and you don't have to agree), I believe that homosexuality is a sin… So what did this mean for her salvation (as she was—and is—a professing Christian)? And how would it affect our relationship?

These are, by the way, questions I still ask myself. To this day I don't know all the answers.

In the meantime, my own personal life was getting back on track. After my big heartbreak the same summer I learned about Danielle, I had a few more rough months… but then God really got ahold of my heart, and fortunately He's never let go. Things turned around dramatically sometime around Christmas of my sophomore year. I realized that I was weary of being so darn stubborn, and I just needed rest in His arms and His love—as hard as life as a Christian can be, it's so much easier to let God lead than to attempt to do it on your own.

Fortunately, this also seriously changed the type of guy I was looking for. Whew! (That was me breathing a sigh of relief for myself.) I had one semi-serious relationship with an old friend from Bible quizzing, but honestly that was over long before we broke it off. Still he was a decent, intelligent, nice, respectful guy—nothing like anyone I had dated for the two years prior.

And then while I was home for Christmas break in my junior year, I got a phone call from my aunt. Her youngest daughter—3 or 4 younger than me—was making some bad decisions in the boy arena, and my aunt asked if I would try to talk to her. Ha, like I had been a great role model. At least I could speak from experience! So I called and asked if I could take her out to lunch. She asked me if I would pick her up from work to go.

Lynn was still in high school, but was also working… hmmm, now that I think about it, I can't quite figure out how that worked. Maybe she worked after school and during breaks or something, I don't remember. Anyway, her boss was a man named Jon. She had gotten the job because her sister was married to one of Jon's best friends, and her family had gotten to know Jon over the years… And by "her family" I mean both her immediate and her extended family. As in me. I had met Jon when I was only 12 (he was 17), and I had a HUGE crush on him. For YEARS. All through junior high and high school. The last time I'd seen him was when my cousin and his friend had gotten married—we were both in the wedding. I had a boyfriend at the time, and I cried the whole way home from the wedding, because I still had such a crush on Jon! My poor boyfriend had no idea what was going on. Poor kid.

No wait. I had seen him one time after that. Yikes, this is even worse. He was the owner of a teen club, and I went to it with Lynn… just to see him. YEAH, like the fact that I was still young enough to be admitted to the teen club that he owned would be real impressive……. (By the way, he does not remember that night. Just as well. Not one of my shining moments.)

Anyway, that had been two or three years ago. Since the wedding, I had graduated from high school (valedictorian of my class), gone to college (with a huge scholarship!), excelled in all of my classes (the only girl in my particular field of study!), and was doing just fine, thankyouverymuch. I was not nervous in the least to see this guy I had drooled over for a good six years of my life, and I of course had no interest in him now. That, by the way, was my pep talk to myself on the way to Lynn's office, where I was quite likely to run into Jon again.

I went in, anxious both about seeing him again and trying to have this serious talk with my cousin, who I was quite certain didn't even want my advice. I didn't need to worry about the second one. She had known what was coming and decided to avoid it by playing off of my first anxiety… she invited Jon to come to lunch with us.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Forward progress :-)

Yes, I know it's been a week.  And yes, I know I missed my adoption story installment.  And yes, I know I owe you a LOT more on my time in Mozambique.  But you're not getting any of that today.  In fact, you're not getting a big long post of any kind today.  Today I am here for just one reason.


OK, maybe "crawling" overstates it a bit.  It's not like he's zooming all over the house quite yet.  But this morning he CRAWLED.  He saw a toy, he got up on his hands and knees, moved one knee, then one hand, then the other knee, then the other hand, and so on... over and over until he got to the toy he wanted!

Have I always been this emotional?  I don't think so.  These tears are definitely new.

For the past couple of weeks he's been getting on his hands and knees, then lunging forward onto his belly, then pulling back up on his hands and knees, etc, to get wherever he wants to go. Then yesterday I saw him trying to slide his hands one at a time... and then today it just *clicked*!

I know I've said it before but... sometimes the milestones are just that much sweeter when you have to work so much harder for them!  :-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What a difference...

For Roo's first birthday, I had these big plans to make a slideshow to share with you all, but I was a little overloaded at that particular point in time, and it just didn't happen. Then I had this great idea to make one for the one year "anniversary" of the date we found out that Roo has Down syndrome. I've been planning it in my head ever since.

And then... you'll never believe what happened next. I forgot about the anniversary. That day that I thought would be forever etched in my brain... it came and went just like any other day.

Down syndrome is part of our lives. It doesn't consume our lives. Wow... what a difference a year can make.

With every day that passes, I love that little boy more.  And I also see more and more how Roo is exactly who God created him to be... and what a blessing that is to the rest of us.

In case you're wondering, the anniversary date was June 15. I had to go look it up. And even though I technically missed it, I wanted to do something to mark its passing. I wanted to do something to celebrate Roo and our lives with him.

And so... I bring you this video. I have put far more time (and smiles and tears...) into it than I had originally planned, but I am so thrilled with the finished product. I hope you enjoy it...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Strong suit

I have to admit... as much as I love holding and snuggling a new baby... as much as I adore celebrating the milestones... as much as I melt with each belly laugh and sloppy kiss... the infant stage is not exactly my "strong suit."  To be fair, I've been a parent for 6 years, and I'm not entirely I HAVE a strong suit yet.  But anyway...

I love babies, but I don't know what to *do* with them.  It's fun to play for a while, but I run out of ideas after approximately 2.5 minutes... and then I really need to get back to housework.  Thankfully, that stage usually disappears around the time they can walk, and then they can entertain themselves a little bit better (at least while you're at home--when you're out & about, it's non-stop chasing).  And you can interact a little better and... it's just easier.  I just have to get through a few months of guilt over whether I'm spending too much time playing peek-a-boo & neglecting the house, or spending too much time tending the house & neglecting my poor child.

And then came Roo.

He is so sweet and so wonderful... and 14 months old and still smack in the middle of the infant stage.  I sit down with him to do 30 minutes of uninterrupted play/therapy... we go at it for a while... then I check the clock and realize that I still have 25 minutes left.  Are you kidding?!?    We've been doing this for at least an hour, haven't we?

Please don't get me wrong.  I am NOT complaining about spending time with my baby.  I just feel a little bit bad for the guy.  He's the youngest of 3, and none of my kids are exactly "self-sufficient."  His mommy is just barely clinging to sanity as it is, and she isn't exactly spectacular with infants.  And here's this baby, who is going to go through each stage of life more slowly than other kids, and who is going to need a little extra encouragement and play to develop... and his mommy totally sucks at it.  Wasn't God supposed to take this all into account when He put our family together?  And yes, I know that He did and that He knows what is best, but I'm just sayin'... I think poor Roo got the short end of the stick here.

So today my big kids are at VBS, and I'm trying to spend some quality time with Roo AND take advantage of a quiet house, and I just have one question... Any child development specialists out there wanna come over to play?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pride in Africa

So I have to admit… I didn’t have the best possible attitude leading up to my time in Mozambique. I was scared of stepping out of my comfort zone. I was afraid of the creepy crawlies… and the bigger stuff, too. I was nervous about traveling to that part of the world. I was unsure of my decision. I was a little upset with my husband for encouraging me to go. I was a little upset with God for not stopping me from going.

This mission was hard and scary and inconvenient.

It was about 24 hours after we arrived in Mozambique before I realized how proud I had been. This wasn’t hard and inconvenient. Nobody (including myself!) should be patting me on the back for making this “sacrifice” of going on this mission. No, this was a privilege. It was an honor to be allowed to be part of that team. Who am I that God would use me? Why should I get the absolute privilege of seeing a whole different part of His creation, of sharing and bonding with these beautiful women that He made? He is the God of the universe and He could have chosen anyone? Why me, especially with my crummy attitude?

I also realized that I had been prideful in my preparation. I had come in thinking that I was just going to be a fabulous teacher and God was going to use this to add to my repertoire of experiences and stories to use in future teaching/speaking opportunities. And as I sat in that teaching hut, it hit me how completely and totally self-focused I had been, and how very very very much this was NOT about me.

Unfortunately, God had to kind of hit me right in the face with it, in a bit of an embarrassing way. Our teaching sessions were 2 hours long, which is approximately 1 hour of actual teaching since everything has to be translated. On our first day, my teaching partner Carmen took the lead in the morning, and I was “on” for the afternoon. Before we started that day, I told Carmen that my greatest fear was that I would run out of stuff to say after about 25 minutes. I wish I had held my tongue. I started teaching at 2:00, and at 2:15 I realized that I was ¾ of the way through my outline. While Sonnet (our translator) was talking, I glanced at Carmen in an absolute panic and mouthed, “I’m almost done!” It was exactly 2:25—yep, 25 minutes—when I got to the end of the material I had prepared… and my mind was completely blank. I had NOTHING else to share.

But Carmen, God bless her, took right over and did an amazing job of making it up as she went… and it all fit perfectly. Perfectly. I could almost feel God tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Katy, this is my show, not yours. I will provide the words, but you have to stop taking the credit or I’m going to take it away for you.” I was humiliated, but also truly humbled. I realized that I wasn’t there because I was so great. I was there because God was allowing me to be used by Him, to be part of the work He is doing there in Mozambique.

And guess what? That truth isn’t limited to Africa. No matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing… it’s not about me. (Is it just me, or does this sound familiar to anyone else? I am so darn hard-headed.) God doesn’t need me. He doesn’t think, “Oh thank goodness Katy is here—I wouldn’t be able to do it without her.” Ha! No, it is quite the other way around—I can’t do anything without Him, and every time He calls me to serve… it is an honor.

Once I found my proper perspective, the whole experience was different. My eyes were opened, and I was able to see Him and worship Him in a whole new way. The beauty of His creation, the love He has for his people, the way He is willing to work through us—because He loves us and wants to include us in His plan, not because He needs us. It was overwhelming… but in a much different way than I had been overwhelmed before. It was overwhelming in an indescribable, beautiful, amazing way.

Finally I was able to truly serve, the way He had intended for me to serve from the beginning. And the more I did, the more humbled I became. I served lunch to the women and church leaders who had come to the teachings, and it was an honor to do it. I realized the sacrifices the women were making to be present at the teaching—taking time away from the hard work they do just to survive—and I was humbled. I made a complete fool out of myself trying to dance with them, and I loved it. I held their hands, held their babies, held them up in prayer, and I was blessed. There was no more room in my heart for pride—it was too full of love.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Katy's Family Forest, Part 9

I think I was in a fog for the rest of the day, maybe the next several days. My mind was working overtime, putting together all of the pieces of my relationship with Danielle over the years. I may have come to the conclusion that she was my birth mom before my parents told me, but that doesn't mean I was really able to wrap my mind around it right away!
The next morning I decided to call Danielle and let her know that I had found out everything. This was not as easy as it may seem, though. The last time I had seen or talked to her was at my high school graduation, about a month before my 18th birthday. I am assuming that she backed off after that because she was giving me space—she probably figured that I would find out about her within a few days of turning 18, and she wanted me to be able to get in touch with her when I felt comfortable. I'm sure she didn't expect me to wait over a year to search her out.

Anyway, apparently in that time, she moved. The previous summer she'd lived with a roommate in Columbus, and we called that apartment first… only to find out that she had moved suddenly and not left a forwarding address or phone number. We had one other contact—the family Danielle had lived with when she was pregnant with me. We called them, but they didn't know where she was either.

This was getting more complicated than I was ready to deal with.

And then… are you ready for this? The phone rang. Guess who.

Yep, I hadn't heard from Danielle in over a year, and now, WHILE I WAS TRYING TO FIND A WAY TO CONTACT HER, she called. Out of the blue. She had no idea that we were trying to get in touch with her.

Honestly… I don't remember much about that first conversation. I know that I answered the phone. I know that I told her I knew she was my birth mom, and I know she was relieved. But that's really all I remember. I don't think we got into any great details that day, but we set up a time for her to come visit.

That is when we were really able to talk.

It's difficult to relay to you my full story without telling hers… but I really don't want to betray her privacy. So let me sum up a lot by saying… Danielle didn't come from a stable background. She'd had a lot of struggles as a child and teenager, and she finally decided to join the Air Force. She felt that would give her some stability, some discipline.

And then she met him. Danielle was a mechanic in the Air Force, and there was a crash involving aircraft from her base, so the Air Force sent an officer to investigate. The man who would become my birth father. I honestly don't know how much of a relationship they had—I know that she says she was very much in love with him. I also know that he lived in a different state. And he was married. Not the makings of a healthy, committed relationship.

When Danielle got pregnant with me, it was mandatory that she leave the Air Force—adultery is not allowed. My birth father would have been asked to leave as well, except that she wouldn't tell anyone who he was. So suddenly she was on her own again. She returned to Ohio, to a pastor and his family who had taken her in during her late teen years, and then decided to go to Bible college.

In the meantime, by the way, my birth father was not offering any help to her… until a friend of hers basically blackmailed him. She threatened to tell his commanding officer that he was the father, which as I said before would have ended his career in the Air Force. So he started paying for her medical bills—although he didn't know that she had insurance that was already covering that. (Remember way back when I said my parents had wanted to help with her expenses, but she didn't need it? And the judge said if they had given her any money, he would have taken the baby away? Yeah, God works in mysterious ways……….)

And that was really all she could tell me. She knew his name, where he was stationed when the two of them met, and… well, that was pretty much it. Not much to go on if I wanted to find him… but then again, at that point, I really didn't. Right then I already had enough on my plate.

We had a good evening of just catching up and exchanging memories and filling in some gaps. And we promised to be in touch more.

But believe me, the story is far from over.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It’s a zoo over here… oh wait, you already knew that…

Those of you who are Facebook fans (And if you're not, why not? Have you not realized that I thrive on acceptance & affirmation???) know that last week I posted that I was going to feed Roo his breakfast and then blog… but then I never did. I lied. Well, it wasn't so much a lie as it was wishful thinking. I actually had every intention of blogging, but it just didn't happen. Shortly after I posted that, I realized that I only had 2 days to plan 1 end-of-the-school-year celebration and 2 birthday parties, and suddenly errands jumped to the top of my to-do list. I'm sorry. But I'm here now, so can we be friends again? OK? OK. Whew, I don't know about you, but I feel much better.

So let me catch you all up on what's been happening at the zoo since my return from Mozambique. Roo staunchly refuses to say "Mama", despite Mr. Fantastic's self-proclaimed non-stop efforts while I was gone. He did, however, become quite proficient at "Dada", so you be the judge on what happened there.

He now has 4 teeth, and he can go from laying to sitting up all by himself.

He still isn't crawling, but he manages to wiggle, squirm, and launch himself just about anywhere he wants to go. He has suddenly decided that 5:45 is the PERFECT time to start the day, despite my adamant protests, but he is also going down to one FABULOUS nap—and if I'm lucky, I can get him to wait until after lunch for it—which has made life a lot easier during the day.

Lamb's last day of school was Thursday, so Monkey and I threw together a mini-celebration for her and our neighbor girls.

(We carpool with them, so it worked out perfectly. When their mom brought Lamb home, we had a little party set up for all three of them.) We baked chocolate chip cookies and made lemonade, and we set up a little snack table outside,

along with my oh-so-special banner

(It says "School is out!" if you can't see it) and some squirt guns, which the girls promptly ignored. But that's OK, because they still threw on their bathing suits and ran in the sprinkler. J It was nothing major, but it was a fun way to end the school year.

On Friday we celebrated Lamb's birthday with our family. She turned six while I was in Mozambique, which was quite hard on this mama, so we had to wait a little while for the parties. The cake was quite a fiasco. She originally requested a castle cake for her family party (something I made 2 years ago for her) and a Justin Bieber cake for her friend party (which was the next day). Well, I started on the castle cake, and it just completely fell apart. It was a total disaster. So at the very last minute, we went to a local bakery that makes unbelievably good cakes and requested a birthday cake for 20-25 people. Unfortunately, on one day's notice in the middle of graduation & wedding season… they couldn't accommodate us. BUT they had a single-layer round cake there that already had "Happy Birthday" on it, so we grabbed that and asked them to add her name to it.

Then I just whipped up a batch of strawberry cupcakes (since strawberry cake had been her original request) to help feed the masses.

You might think that buying a Justin Bieber cake would be relatively simple… but you'd be wrong. None of our local stores that sell "character" cakes carry a Justin Bieber one, so I was on my own. So I improvised—it's not exactly what I would call a fabulous cake, but Lamb was happy. J

So aside from the cake issues, the parties were both big successes. Lamb had tons of fun with her cousins & friends, and got completely spoiled. At her friend party, we made guitars…

…and danced & played games…

…but most of the time, the girls just wanted to play outside. (Note to self: Why waste time worrying about crafts & games, when all they want to do is swing? Next year, cake, presents, and swinging. Simplify.)

As for the post-Africa adjustment, it was much different than I expected. For the first few days after we were back, I was up SUPER early—typically around 4 AM—but felt pretty good. And then on Wednesday… Yikes! It hit me big-time, and I felt like I had been hit by a truck! Bad timing, too, since that was about the time I realized I needed to start getting everything ready for the weekend! But I managed to get through, and then on Sunday we played hooky from church my dear wonderful husband realized I needed a little extra sleep, so he got up bright & early with Roo and let me sleep in until 8 AM, which is fabulously late for me. And as an added bonus, I woke up to kisses from my big kids, who then led me downstairs to fresh waffles and "fruit chutney" (mangos & strawberries cut up with a little sugar on them—but Mr. Fantastic wanted to call them something fancy). We ate breakfast together, read books together, played together, and just enjoyed a nice, quiet family day. It was heavenly.

So now I finally feel like we're getting back to life as normal. It's a whole new normal, partly because Lamb is home for the summer and we're trying to figure out a new routine, and partly because I feel like I've been changed by my time in Mozambique. I'm excited to share more with you and have started on several posts. My plan right now is to post twice a week about the trip for a while… I'm not sure how long it will take me to share everything I feel like I learned… maybe it'll only take a week or two, maybe it'll last all summer. Either way, I hope you stick around for this new part of my journey, along with hearing about my past (I forgot to post the Family Forest installment last Wednesday—sorry about that), and of course the continuing stories of life with the three wild & crazy animals.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mozambique, in brief

Good morning!  I'm HOOOOOOOOME!  I have missed you all and wish I could have blogged while I was gone--although honestly, we were so busy that I'm not sure I would have had time anyway.  But I am so so so thankful to Patti, Jamey, and Erin for keeping you all entertained while I was gone.  I hope you enjooyed their posts and checked their blogs out as well--and if you stopped over from one of their blogs and decided to stay a while, welcome!  :-)

Mozambique was amazing.  Incredible.  Unbelievable.  Life-changing.  At times heartwarming, at others heartbreaking.  It was truly an experience that I will never forget, and one that I hope changes me for good.  I am still trying to figure out the best way to tell you all about it--there is so much to share!!!

For this morning, though, I just want to give you a little peek.  On the way home, the pastor who led our team asked if we would each write a brief summary, explaining what we think is "the big deal" there--why our church is/should continue to be involved in the villages in Mozambique.  I'd like to share with you what I wrote, and a few pics too...


“Have mercy on us!” the woman cried. “This is the water we use for drinking, cooking, bathing, and eating! Have mercy on us!”

To me, those four words sum up our entire reason for being in Mozambique. Mercy for physical needs—not wealth, not handouts, just some help with getting clean water.

The people in the village of Macalawane, where we saw this woman, are “lucky” to have a source of sweet (not salt) water… but it is dirty and full of bacteria. Cholera outbreaks and alligators are deadly predators in the drinking water throughout Mozambique. Water, one of the most basic needs of mankind, is a source of fear and desperation.

Women walking with huge jugs of water on their heads prove that they are willing to work for what they need—they just don’t have the resources to get clean water for themselves. They need a little help, a little mercy.

But they need mercy for their spiritual needs as well. Traditions, witchcraft, and ancestor worship leave them deeply fearful. They work to please their family members who have passed on, they strive to please the spirits. They need to know that Christ has set them free—that He doesn’t require their works for their salvation. They just need to accept His free gift of salvation, His mercy.

Providing sources of clean water takes hard work and money. Wells or ditches may need to be dug, tanks may need to be installed—it’s not an overnight solution. It’s the same with leading people to Christ—convincing them to let go of their time-honored traditions, that they don’t need to appease an angry God, is slow going. But the opportunity to provide someone with clean and living water is priceless.

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place. –Psalm 28:2

At the end of our time in each village, they held a farewell for us and presented us with gifts.  The material wrapped around my shoulders is called capulano and is what they use for their skirts, for tying their babies on their backs, for carrying loads of stuff, and just about anything else!  The head scarf is also something that they traditionally wear.  Both of these were incredibly sacrificial gifts from a people who just DON'T HAVE extra money.

Our team!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Guest Blogger: Erin

Disclaimer: I posted this over on my blog a few months ago, but in re-reading it recently, I was reminded afresh at how much God wants to wrap His hands around my life and help steady it if I will just allow Him. Did you know we matter to Him? Did you know we can build amazing towers with our lives if we ask for His support? I pray you’ll be blessed by this today.

Levi is my now two-year-old (Someone please tell me when that happened and how to stop the train. I can't believe the chubby cuteness I love is TWO. It's just not possible.), and we are noticing more and more of his personality growing and coming out. He is utterly and completely enchanting. Since I am an oldest child, I am seeing so much of my own personality coming out in him and usually I just laugh, but more often than not, lately I am taking pause and really watching. And through it, God is really teaching me not only about Levi (and our relationship), but myself and our relationship (mine and God's).

A few weeks ago, Matt and I were getting ready to go somewhere and Levi was playing in our room with his blocks. He LOVES to stack them and then cheer for himself and then make us cheer for him. ("Mo-mma? Yay! [while clapping hands]") Because he's just a wee man, he doesn't always get it right because his foundation isn’t solid or he's building his towers on the rug in our room, so they topple over after only a few blocks being stacked upon each other. This particular morning, he got 3 three blocks stacked before the whole thing came crashing down.

His response was to kick and hit out at the blocks, then cry and drop to his bottom very hard. I was really taken aback, but I calmly (for once, go Momma!) dropped to his side and said, "It's okay, Levi. You can just try again. Here, Momma will help you." But he didn't really want to try again. UNTIL he saw that the two blocks I stacked weren't falling over. Then, with my hands steadying his wobbly tower, he got every single block stacked. And he was so proud.

It was only then that I felt God saying to me, "Don't you react to things the same way sometimes? Don't you cry and kick out when you try something ONCE and then decide that you'll never try again? Don't you think I am right there waiting to help and steady your wobbly tower?"

There have been so many times in my life that I've either never even tried or tried once without success that I say, "Never again." Especially spiritual things. "Oh, I'll never finish this Bible study. I might as well just give up. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to get out of it, anyway." "Oh, well, see, I tried exercising, but it was just so hard and I felt so awkward and uncomfortable that it's just useless. I will always be this way." “See? I tried opening up to that person/reached out in an uncomfortable situation and now look. They don’t want to be my friend.” Or it could be something that God is calling me to do that I feel incapable of doing; inadequate ("Are you sure you have the right girl, God?" Just call me Moses.)

But God says "no" to that. Just like I wouldn't let Levi give up and admit failure, He won't and doesn't let me give up or admit failure. He is right there and He will drop to my side any time I need Him. Isn't that comforting? My little wobbly towers matter to the King of Kings. He wants to see me succeed and flourish. Just like I want to see Levi succeed and flourish. Incredible.

I know I've been a bit redundant, but I am still mulling over and marveling at the lesson God taught me through Levi and his alphabet blocks. If we are open to the Holy Spirit and looking for Him during our day, God will show us amazing things.

I am praying that God will show you your own wobbly towers that He is just aching to steady and help you erect.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Guest Blogger: Jamey

I've been thinking a very unoriginal thought lately (my apologies to those of you were suffering from the delusion that I was bright or creative).

There are seasons to life. This season that I'm in will not last forever. When I just totally do a parenting-face plant and I just act wrong wrong wrong then I'm relieved that 'this too shall pass'. At other times when kids are collaboratively playing peacefully makes me start to feel wistful and like I should just squeeze them to pieces before they're too big.

Also what that means is that this season of my marriage will not last forever. We will not always be playing "pass the child" because someday, despite my inability to really imagine it, we will have a house without children. When my husband is stomping around in the morning because he can't find his cover I'm ready for the season to change. When he's the one who proposes in-home trick or treating for our kiddos who can't handle "real world" trick or treating and goes to Costco to buy the candy and when the kids stampede each other when he comes home at night and they all spend ten minutes before he's even ready to leave in the morning screaming "bye daddy!" from the breakfast table then I never want the season to change.

This season with my lack of career will not last forever. I might have changed four poopy diapers today, but soon a time is coming when it will be four days then four months, then four years, and then I won't even remember when the last time I changed a diaper was. My season will change and there will be time for a graduate degree, a "real" job, or whatever else I choose to do with my time.I don't have to do it all now. That's something I struggle to remember because as soon as I decide I want something to happen I want it to happen NOW. If I want to write a novel then surely I'm supposed to do it NOW. If I want a child then I should have one NOW. If I want to go a great vacation I should start planning it NOW. But really, training to run a marathon may not happily coexist with three preschoolers. I don't need to to do it all now, really. There will be times in my life when I cannot even imagine the things that I will have time to be able to do. I cannot wait!

Seasons will change. My life will change. I will change. My family will change. I'm trying to worry less and enjoy more. I'm trying to look at today with the perspective that I'll have tomorrow looking back at yesterday. (It does make sense) It changes things.

I'm taking my feelings of nostalgia, longing, fear, and regret during this challenging season and I'm giving them to my King because he promises rest for the weary. When I stop focusing on everything else, and train my eyes to see Him then I will not necessarily ease or luxury, but contentment. Do I want to teach my children to be stressed, harried, rushing multi-taskers? NO! But how often is that what I demonstrate to them.

I'm learning to slow down, to smile more, to skip the critique and begin and end with encouragement. I'm turning the tv off and and snuggling my babies up with a stack of books and blankets. I'm not fussing at them from across the house, but laying on the floor with them and being there with them, even if it's just to break up the squabbles more intimately. I'm biting back the "hurry up!" which seems to come unbidden and instead smiling and encouraging them as they try to climb into their carseat, get their arms through the straps, and finally get the buckles latched. There will be a time for me to walk out of the house and be backing out of the driveway in 60 seconds, but it's going to be awhile! I'm swallowing my tongue when I want to shout "be careful! Stop it!" Because what's it going to hurt? I'm joining in the fun more and sitting on the sides less because no one can show me where the rule is that says "moms can't have fun".

I want to take this season for all that it has to offer me even if that is diapers, whining, and being tied to naptime. It's okay because along with those things comes being greeted with joy every morning, the hysterical nature of the things preschoolers say, and witnessing my children learn their way into the world. I also want to give my children everything that I can give to them during this season of life.

I'm starting to see our lifetime unfurling before us and it's going to be incredible. I can't really even fathom what secrets the seasons in front of us will hold, but I believe that each age and phase we experience with our children (and their en masse ages!) and the phases that Andrew and I will go through as a couple. It's good stuff though and I will try really hard to take it as it comes.

What have been your favorite seasons of life as a mom or a wife? Were you ever surprised that you actually loved your kids' middle school years even more than preschool? What mind tricks do you use to propel yourself through the colder seasons and back into spring?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Katy's Family Forest, Part 8

I can't remember if I mentioned this at the beginning or not, but I feel the need to break in now and tell you that I have changed the names in this story to protect... well, everyone.  ;-)

So my parents decided to reach out, to give my biological mother a chance to be part of my life.

And that—basically from "part 5" to now—is what they shared with me that Sunday afternoon in August of 1998. No, they didn't just leave me in suspense… but when they got to that part, I knew. "It's Danielle, isn't it?" I said.

They just stared at me. "Did you know?" my mom asked.

No, I hadn't found out early. I hadn't known when they started or when they talked about the connection with my aunt or at any specific point in the story… it had just sort of come to me, throughout the course of the talk.

I think I mentioned early in this whole story that I had wondered about my biological family as I was growing up. I think it's only natural, knowing that you're adopted, to wonder. I would wonder about the cashier at the grocery store or the lady crossing the street in front of us or even (and in some ways, especially) people we would see when we were traveling—on a bus in Seattle, in a restaurant in Colorado, at a hotel in New York. It's not that I was obsessive about it, it's just one of those daydreams that flitters through your mind when you're not thinking about anything else. "Could this be…?"

And throughout my life, I would wonder about certain people we knew, especially single women with no kids. They just seemed to fit the mold of possibilities, and Danielle was one of them.

Danielle had always been a "family friend" as far as I was concerned, and although she was younger than my parents and didn't really live close by, I never really questioned her connection with my parents. I knew that she had gone to the same Bible college that they had at one time attended, and it never really occurred to me that they wouldn't have all been there at the same time.

But now, things were clicking. I was making connections in my head—phone calls on my birthday, Danielle coming to a piano recital… my graduation… things like that. They hadn't stood out to me as odd before, but now they made sense in a whole new way.

And then they explained how it had all come about. Now at this juncture I need to explain that there is a chance I am going to get some of the details wrong on this next little bit… I am purposefully not going back to my parents to ask them to confirm every little thing I am about to tell you, because I want it to be my story, the way that I remember it—or at least, the way I remember hearing it that day.

I believe I was about a year old before my parents made contact with Danielle. They called my aunt who had helped put them together in the first place, and explained that they wanted to meet her. They went out to visit, and I think that they met at church the first time. In fact, I don't think Danielle ever saw me that day—I was in the nursery, and I don't think she felt ready to go back and see the baby that she had given up.

Shortly after that, my parents extended an invitation for her to come to their home. I don't know who all was over that day, but I know my mom said that Danielle held me and went outside, and she carried me as she walked all the way around the outside of their house. I can't even imagine all of the thoughts and emotions that must have been inside of her that day as she held the child she never thought she'd see again.

And that's how it started. Over the years, Danielle really did become a family friend. She had a lot going on in her own life—although that's her story to tell, not mine—and I think my parents felt like they had adopted both of us at times! She moved a lot, most of the time within Ohio, but at one point I remember her living in California, but we would usually see her at least a couple of times per year.

I liked Danielle (I still do, of course J), and it was neat to hear the story and see it all come together… but it was still a lot of information. A lot of emotion. A lot of confusion. My parents gave me some papers that they had been saving for me—the card from my hospital bed, letters from the attorney, my adoption certificate, medical information on my biological parents, and a letter that Jan had written to my mom the day after I was born. It was so great… and yet so much.

My head was spinning, and my body was literally shaking. I just couldn't take it all in.

And then, it was time for me to go to work.