30 April 2013

orphan justice



you might remember me mentioning the book Orphan Justice : How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting in this post?


I finally finished reading it and I wanted to encourage YOU to read it.

It is just that good.

I struggle to find the right way to encourage you to read it, because I am desperate for you to read it.

If I'm being honest, I used to think adoption was for people that:
  • a) had infertility issues, 
  • b) were specially gifted to manage the task of parenting a child from a hard place, or 
  • c) were wealthy and could drop $40,000 on the expenses easily.  
That was it.  Neither a, b, or c applied  to me and I didn't relate to the people that they did apply to.  When it came to "orphan care" I thought it was limited to adoption or nothing.  Now that I am an adoptive parent, I can see clearly how skewed my generalization of adoption was.  I wonder if there aren't a few others out there like me.

One of the great things about Orphan Justice is that Johnny Carr starts out with a humble acknowledgement that he is writing from a place of brokenness and not accusation.  He states,
My desire is to share with you what the Lord has taught me, starting with this truth: We can't say we love orphans while failing to address the social ills that directly affect their lives.
Carr breaks down orphan care into ten chapters - each one highlighting a specific area that impacts the orphan population.  It starts with True Religion: Orphans and my Family and ends with This is War: Orphans and Spiritual Warfare.  He weaves his own personal story throughout each chapter in a disarming and incredibly relate-able way.

Each chapter ends with a section called "What You Can Do."  Carr breaks down various action steps to get involved with orphan care.  He writes the action steps in a way that allows ANYONE to participate and then narrows it down to something MANY can do and ends with some action steps that A FEW can do.  By breaking it down this way, each reader has an opportunity to find an action step that they can take right now.  This, to me, is genius.

I told you before that this book totally lit Brad's heart on fire.  He emailed our former caseworker almost immediately to see how we could help.  Friends have jumped on board to give clothing, bags, finances to help fill the supply room for our local foster care office.  I feel like I have barely asked for people to give.  The donations just. keep. coming.  Its amazing.

This response tells me that Christians want to help and God is moving.   There are open hearts that are eager to be a part of orphan care, ready to participate when needs are known.  This book helps make those needs known in an encouraging and tangible way.

If you end up reading please, please, please tell me what you think.  

Also, there are a lot of other resources to go along with the book here.

29 April 2013

social media for good

During the media chapter of 7, I had a sense of refreshment...which surprised me. I already mentioned that I didn't find myself more productive necessarily, but noticeably more clear-headed. I wondered if perhaps I should just stay disconnected altogether. I mean, who doesn't want to feel clear-headed and refreshed?

But I got a couple packages in the mail. I also got a phone call and some texts about clothing for the foster care office. These are concrete, hold-in-my-hands, reminders of the good that can be accomplished through social media.  {Picture proof :: donations we received in the last two weeks.}



Of course, there are plenty of not-so-concrete examples too - rallying prayers for a tiny baby to survive, shared praise over plane tickets (finally) being purchased so adoptive parents can go get their children, tears of joy while looking over redeployment photos, even just a "I really needed to read this today".  These things matter.  Deeply.

The way I conduct myself online matters - just as much as how I conduct myself in person. The way I read my friends' words should mirror our conversations over a cup of coffee. I think its critical for me not to "read into" the words on the screen, you know?  The time away reminded me to be careful; but also encouraged me to keep using it for good.

What are some of your favorite things in regard to social media?

p.s. in case you are interested, here's an updated list of needs for the foster care supply closet.  I am totally humbled & amazed by the amount of support that has been shown!

GIRLS

  • 1 - 0-3 mos.
  • 1 - 3-6 mos.
  • 2 - 6-9 mos.
  • 1 - 18 mos.
  • 3 -  2 -  2T
  • 3 -  2 - 3T
  • 2 - 4T
  • 2 -  1 - XS (4/5)
  • 2 - S (6/7)
  • 2 - 1 - M (8/10)
  • 2 - 1 - L (12)
  • 2 - XL (14)

BOYS

  • 2 - 0-3 mos.
  • 1 - 3-6 mos.
  • 1 - 6-9 mos.
  • 1 - 12 mos.
  • 1 - 18 mos.
  • 2 -  1 - 2T
  • 3 -  2 - 4T
  • 2 -  1- L (12)
  • 2 - XL (14)

25 April 2013

7 :: the media chapter



If I could sum up this 12 day fast with one word, I think I would choose "refreshment."  Weird, huh?  And not at all what I expected.  I honestly thought "media" would be the hardest thing for me...mainly social media.. mainly because my social life is limited in this season.  So I thought I would really "miss out" on the interaction.  But I did not.

Let me back up and tell you how I framed my "media fast."  I omitted Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  I allowed myself instagram, not exactly sure why I made that one "ok" but I did, and I don't regret it.  I decided to not turn on the TV in the morning even though we have a habit of morning snuggles while waiting for the local weather on GMA from 7:00-7:20am.  I also decided to not to turn on the TV or watch TV if I was the only one in the room. The fam opted out on this fast and it was ok.  A few nights, however, Brad and I just decided to read instead of watching junk TV and I think that is a habit that we might continue.

So that is what I did.

I hit a snag one day via instagram, when I tried to enter a sseko contest that was being held on FB.  I schemed a way for Brad to help me enter and then realized that it was much too complicated for it to go down that way.  I haven't yet checked to see what the actual rules are on the contest, maybe there's still time! {fingers crossed!}

So my overall impression was that I felt refreshed being off of social media and reading more.

  I didn't turn in to a crazy, productive person around the house - although I did make some awesome sugar cookies even without pinterest. 

There were other subtle but meaningful things I noticed as well.  I worked with Wilson on a school project, I try hard to be hands-off on projects so that I don't take it over.  I colored some cardboard brown for him and helped him turn his fish into 3D instead of one sided.  He told me "thank you for working on my project with me mom."  I realized that I might have just been reading twitter feeds, or FB statuses, or perusing pinterest for craft ideas if I weren't on this fast.  I also learned that it is possible to work with him and not for him

Another thing I noticed is that I seem to yell less.  I hate to admit that publicly, but its so true that it would be a shame to not share it.  This falls right into my word for the year - unflappable.  I realized sometime around when Lent started that there was a connection to when I yelled and that I was often holding my phone or iPad reading something via FB or twitter.  I would say, "let me read this real quick " or "hold on a second."  And inevitably when Lincoln or Franklin asked me for the 17th time to fix the door on the bus I would yell "enough already, I fixed it 16 times, rant, rant, rant..."  Gross.  So for the remainder of Lent I decided to take FB off of my phone & ipad, and only check it from the PC - usually once a day.  I haven't put it back on my phone and probably won't.  I noticed during this fast that I yelled less frequently and the flapping was less likely - probably because I was less distracted.

I'm still thinking over why I felt such refreshment being off of social media.  I am a thinker.  I like to think about things.  My strengths-finder test even said so --it also said it doesn't actually matter what the topic is, just that I think a lot -- so not necessarily a smart thinker.  Honestly, I think that is part of my issue with social media.  I'll see something on FB and then think about it off and on throughout the day.  This isn't always a bad thing, but more times than not I tend to stew over things... and not even necessarily things that impact my actual relationships. 

I tried to think of an example to share so you could get an inside glimpse to my thinking-thinker-brain but I don't want to make anyone feel like I am referring to a post they made in the past. The main impression I am getting is that it is my responsibility to reign in the thinking-thoughts when they begin to invade my day.  It'll start by adjusting some settings, and probably unfollowing some twitter peeps (I don't interact much on twitter but read a lot of links via various authors, speakers, and pastors).  I also sense an urgency to pray before checking up on my media and to pray when I feel the thinking-thoughts-tension coming - right then, not later. 

I think it is also critical to give myself space for creativity.  I can load up my limited "free time" with twitter and pinterest and facebook and often walk away with nothing to show for it.  I made this printable from a verse that really resonated with me after our Pastor preached from this passage a week ago.



I love making little printables like this.  It actually energizes me to be creative, but only if I allow myself the time and space for it.

One of the things I really liked about Jen Hatmaker's take on media in 7 is that there is a balance to be found.  Sure, sometimes its easier to just abstain than try and make reasonable boundaries for participation.  Here's a portion of what she wrote in the companion guide to 7:

In Corinthians, Paul wrote: "Everything is permissible, but not everything is helpful.  Everything is permissible, but not everything builds up."  (1 Cor. 10:23)  I can no more decide what this looks like for you than figure out my apple TV.  This is no place to compare and judge.  We assess beauty and struggle and creativity and stories differently.  Some messages roll of you like Teflon, but they lodge in my thoughts for days.  Others don't affect me in the slightest, but they plant ideas in your head you can't shake.  And still others are probably a bad idea for all of us.  Just because we can, doesn't mean we should.

Once again.  It boils down to the heart.  Asking God to guide your boundary making will always bring good results. 

I am hoping to write a post tomorrow (?!?) about one of the awesome benefits of social media.  If time allows. ;)

11 April 2013

7 :: the possessions chapter



This chapter was a tricky one for me.  So much so, that I felt prompted to make a totally awesome vlog for the book club members.  Or totally dorky, depending on who you ask. ;)

I hit a couple of barriers with wrong-thinking.  I can see now that the wrong-thinking was bleed over from other areas.  As Brad and I keep opening our hearts wider to what God has in store for our family, my brain starts to circle around old, familiar lies - you know the ones that accuse or discredit or stall.  Somehow, I was on a not-quite-good-enough-streak which even carried over to my thoughts about what possessions I could donate.  God carefully helped me identify those lies, but it was slow-going there in the midst of these 12 days. 

I have a lot of stuff to get rid of or pass along.  I came to peace with the conclusion that it won't all be gone at the end of my 12 days (today).  Part of it will be combined with the used clothing from the foster care office for a garage sale in a few weeks.  We'll then use those proceeds to buy more outfits to stock the donation room.  I sent an email to a local organization to see if they could use some crafty-supplies.  I'm also going to see if any of my fabric scraps will be useful for Sole Hope.  I might even host a shoe-cutting party. 

Once God brought me to the other side of the wrong-thinking, He was able to lead me toward the right places.  It is so critical to capture those wrong thoughts.  The verse I am memorizing right now helps:
"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ," 2 Corinthians 10:5
 I also want to leave you with a quote from 7.  It is really the heart of the possessions chapter and I think regardless of which tax bracket you fall into, these are important things for ALL of us as North American Christians to consider.

We top the global food chain through no fault or credit of our own.  I've asked God a billion times why I have so much while others have so little.  Why do my kids get full bellies?  Why does water flow freely from my faucets?  Why do we get to go to the doctor when we are sick?  There is no easy answer.  The why definitely matters, but so does the what.  What do we do with our riches?  What do we do with our privileges? What should we keep?  What should we share?  I better address this inequality since Jesus clearly identified the poor as His brothers and sisters and my neighbor.  What if we tried together?  What if a bunch of Christians wrote a new story becoming consumers the earth is groaning for?  I suspect we'd find that elusive contentment, storing up treasures like Jesus told us to.  I'm betting our stuff would lose its grip and we'd discover riches contained in a simpler life, a communal responsibility.  Money is the most frequent theme in Scripture; perhaps the secret to happiness is right under our noses.  Maybe we don't recognize satisfaction because it is disguised as radical generosity, a strange misnomer in a consumer culture. (italics are Jen Hatmaker's, the bold is mine).

I am repeatedly blown away by the blessings I am getting from going through this book with the book club {of awesome people}.   The creative ways in which God is driving home the lessons for each lady/family is just beautiful.  I am thankful that we are trying together!

08 April 2013

pray for your pastor

Did you read this post by Beth Moore?  I retweeted it and I posted it on FB.  I think its worth reading if you are a Jesus Follower. 

It resonated with me so deeply and, of course, Beth Moore is going to write it better than I ever could. 

After Brad told me about Rick Warren's son on Saturday I cried a little (of course).  I prayed for their family as I made dinner.  Sometime later in the evening I told Brad, "if one person posts something hateful on FB about this, I swear I'm gonna quit facebook.  I'm quitting it for good." 

Maybe you've noticed there can be a whole lotta snark up in there on the FB?  It greatly affects me when the latest "controversy" gets everyone fired up.  I'm a feeler.  I get all twisted up in my gut when hateful things are posted and the arguments that erupt in the comments.  Gah.  And these are on my Christian friends' pages.  Double Gah.  

I try to keep FB "friends" down to actual friends and/or family members... people I would share a meal with if the opportunity arises.  Even still, there is diversity in my friends' list and there are just days that I don't spend much time there because there can be some downright ugliness.  I hate that part of FB.

 I feared that some idiot somewhere would write an awful, accusatory post about the Warrens and I was worried that one of my "friends" would share it.  And then I was gonna quit.  Thankfully that hasn't happened.  All day today I have been thinking about this Facebook-hatefulness-phenomena and it occured to me that it really isn't new, its just more obvious. 

I think about Pastor Rick Warren and his family, of quietly caring for a child with mental illness while also carrying on the work that Lord has called him to; then publicly asking for prayer in their deepest time of grief.  I think of the words that Beth Moore wrote about Christians hating-on one another and I can't help but think about all of the pastors and their families out there. (Shout out to Pastor Dan in ND!)

They need our prayers.  Desperately. 

One of my favorite things about our church is the Pastor's Prayer Partners ministry (P3).  Our Pastor started it some time ago and as he celebrated his 30th anniversary at our church yesterday, his only real regret is that he didn't start P3 sooner.  I've often remarked to Brad that I think the American Church would be unstoppable if every congregation prayed earnestly for their pastor.

Brad grew up a pastor's son.  I don't think its my place to share his family's personal stories of hurt via congregants; but I will tell you that Brad nodded emphatically the first time we heard pastor talk about P3.  He gave some examples of things a pastor might hear:
  • you don't dress you/your family well enough
  • you spend too much money on the clothes you/your family wears
  • we pay you all that money and you drive a clunker
  • we must pay you too much if you can afford such a nice car
  • you shouldn't preach so much about -----------
  • you should preach more about ----------------- 

Absurd, right?

Our Pastor wrote a book called Pray for your Pastor and he included some statistics in the first chapter...
  •  1500 pastors in America leave the ministry every month due to moral failure, burnout, or trouble in the church.
  • Of pastors and their wives, 82% are discouraged in the work because they are told daily of someone who is displeased with them.
  • 97% of all pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused, or hurt by their trusted friends.  And as a result, 78% do not have a close friend.
  • Of all pastors' children, 80% have a low trust of people within the church.
Here's a quote from the end of that chapter:
Ministry is an undeniable calling on the life of a person.  A person who is called to ministry knows it because they are unable to do anything else with success.  A person doesn't choose ministry, ministry chooses a person.  It is that fact alone that makes the life of a pastor a difficult one.  Pastors are imperfect people, who need the grace of God and men.  Sometimes we forget that.  We forget that pastors don't walk on water, they walk beside it.  When a congregation forgets to protect their pastor with prayer, that pastor is more vulnerable to Satan's attacks.  If everything rises and falls on leadership, it is clear why the devil attacks the pastor and his family the most in the church.  Jesus taught in Matthew 26:31 that if you strike down the shepherd, the sheep will scatter.  Jesus uses this metaphor often in the Bible to describe the people and their leader.  He often described people with no leader as "sheep without a shepherd" (Matt. 9:36). The devil will target a pastor not only because he wants to damage a ministry, but because he seeks to destroy the people under that ministry.  Your pastor will be satan's top priority, and that is why praying for him daily must be your congregation's top priority as well.

I wonder what it was like for pastor to stand before the church the first time he introduced P3.  I wonder if his critics were uncomfortable.  I wonder what kind of fury was happening in the heavenly places that day.

I can't tell you what a blessing it is to pray for our pastor daily.  I can tell you, though, that you will experience those blessings if you begin praying daily for your pastor. 

If you don't know specifically what to pray, then pray this:  Ask God to protect your pastor physically, morally, mentally, and spiritually.  I pray this for our pastor and his wife, for each of their sons and their daughter-in-law's and their GRANDangels as well.  I pray for their marriages to be strong and well protected.  I pray that their communication with one another is open, honest, and easy. 

I urge you to pray for your pastor.  Use your words carefully and your prayers powerfully. If you might be interested in our pastor's book, you can click here.  Maybe you will even be moved to begin a P3 ministry at your church!  THAT would be awesome!  

*p.s. our church is classified as a mega-church, our pastor has no idea I am writing this and I am receiving nothing for linking to the book.  I just wholeheartedly believe in this ministry of praying for our pastors; I truly believe it is crucial for a church's health and growth.

02 April 2013

give a little bit

Remember the part about organizing some donations for our local foster care office? Here goes...

{Oh, and there are two opportunities for YOU to get involved if you would like!}

When children come in to state custody they often come with very little. Caseworkers sometimes have to bathe the youngest children and scramble to find some clean clothes to put on them. Older children might be handed some toiletries and directed to the shower - in an office building downtown. Meanwhile, caseworkers attempt to find a suitable foster home placement. This is a difficult time for the children. Depending on the family size (number of children in care) it can be difficult for the caseworkers as they try to keep sibling sets together in foster homes. 

One small thing we are doing to help is organizing the donations in the supply room. Currently, caseworkers might spend a half hour or more trying to locate the right size shirt, then another half hour trying to find pants. After all that searching they then have to hope it's clean and that it matches -somewhat.

I spent some time last week sorting, thankfully I had a helper - which was a real blessing for this organizational-skill-challenged girl. We put outfits together, we made hang tags to separate the racks by size. We separated the used-clothing from the new clothing. We tallied our racks and I finally made a list of what is still needed. My goal is to have 3 outfits per gender, per size, up to 4t; and 2 outfits per gender, per size for the older kiddos. I can then easily inventory the racks in the future as items are used.

Here is a current list of clothing needs, by gender & size:


GIRLS

  • 1 - 0-3 mos.
  • 1 - 3-6 mos.
  • 2 - 6-9 mos.
  • 1 - 18 mos.
  • 3 -  2 -  2T
  • 3 -  2 - 3T
  • 2 - 4T
  • 2 -  1 - XS (4/5)
  • 2 - S (6/7)
  • 2 - 1 - M (8/10)
  • 2 - 1 - L (12)
  • 2 - XL (14)

BOYS

  • 2 - 0-3 mos.
  • 1 - 3-6 mos.
  • 1 - 6-9 mos.
  • 1 - 12 mos.
  • 1 - 18 mos.
  • 2 -  1 - 2T
  • 3 -  2 - 4T
  • 2 -  1- L (12)
  • 2 - XL (14)
{INVOLVEMENT OPPORTUNITY #1:}

If you would be interested in donating an outfit let me know in the comments here or on FB.  You can pick a size/gender if you would like or I can "assign" one to you.  (Sometimes I like to pick a match for my boys so they can shop).  The caseworker has requested that the clothing that is donated be new. After sorting it, I understand why - I found a lot of "pretty nice" used-clothing, but also found more stained and weirdly shrunken used clothing. The caseworker added that they cannot become "a dumping ground" and I know first hand that they do not have time to dig through bags of junk. Truthfully - ain't nobody got time for that!

There is also a need for new towels, blankets, and bags.

{INVOLVEMENT OPPORTUNITY #2:}

Remember the children often bring very little with them. We'd love for each child to have his/her own bag to carry their few possessions with them.  The caseworker said in our class that sometimes children have to carry belongings in shopping bags or trash bags.  When Brad asked what the current needs are for their office, she told us they need bags.  I mentioned this to my book club a week or so ago and my friend Jana was off & running with ideas for getting bags for the children. She has offered a Thirty-One Gifts fundraiser and will continue to encourage shoppers at future parties to purchase a bag to donate. While I was organizing the supply room, I found a few bags, but only 1 that would really be suitable for a child.   Click here if you would like to check out the fundraiser.

Jana and I both thought these cinch sacs would be a great choice for the kiddos.  Click here if you would like to purchase one.