01 December 2015

Why I Was Angry Today

This is a re-post from September of 2013.

Today, Ken and I attended a CPR and First Aid training class. The presenter was a firefighter/EMT from our community. And I liked her. She was funny. Really funny. Did I mention likeable? She made the training enjoyable...even at 8 am on a Saturday morning.

However, part way through the training, something was said that really upset me.The trainer was talking about CPR and the new recommendations for compressions and mouth-to-mouth. She said something to the effect of, "As a non-medical professional, you are considered a Good Samaritan, and you aren't legally bound to give mouth to mouth. And if I were you, I wouldn't. Why? Because people are gross. And you never know what gross diseases people have. They might have hepatitis, TB, or AIDS. And although the experts say you can't get AIDS from saliva, I don't believe it."

I'm sorry. What did you say? Surely I must have mis-heard you. But no, you keep talking. You aren't joking. You actually believe what you're saying. STOP.

I have several dear friends who are HIV-positive, and this stigma has got to stop. It's a lie. It's a fear-based lie. I was shocked and disappointed that this medical "authority" would disseminate false information. I was so stunned at the time that I didn't speak up. I wish I had. But now I will...for my friends with HIV, for children with HIV, for anyone touched by HIV. I have to speak up...as a Christian, as a promoter of the truth, as a human being.

First of all, people with Hepatitis, TB, and AIDS are not gross. Some of the symptoms of their disease may be gross, but they are not. They are human beings, dearly loved by God and created in His image.

Second, this woman appeared to have misspoke when she used the term AIDS. I believe she meant HIV. HIV is not AIDS. HIV is a virus, that if left untreated, can cause AIDS. Because of advancements in treatment and testing, it is uncommon for a person with HIV in the United States to progress to having AIDS. In fact, people who are being treated with antiretroviral drugs usually have an undetectable viral load, meaning the virus can not be detected in their blood. Therefore, transmission is very unlikely under any circumstances, and most of them live out normal life spans with minimal health issues. With regular treatment, they can marry, have babies, and do just about anything an HIV-negative person can do.

How is HIV transmitted? A person can contract HIV through mutual blood or semen contact. This most often occurs during unprotected sex or by sharing needles during injection drug use. There are also cases where a mother passes the virus on to her newborn or transmits the virus via breastfeeding. These instances usually occur with people who are not receiving ongoing antiretroviral medications.
If you aren't having sex with an HIV+ person, sharing needles, or being breastfed by a person with HIV, the risk of becoming infected is virtually non-existent.  

Can HIV be transmitted by saliva? No. In some persons living with HIV, the virus has been detected in saliva, but in extremely low quantities. Contact with saliva alone has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV, and there is no documented case of transmission from an HIV-infected person spitting on another person. 

Can a person get HIV from casual contact with an infected person?
No. HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, church, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body.

Let me repeat: HIV does not survive well outside the human body. You cannot catch HIV through saliva. You cannot catch HIV by touching HIV+ blood unless you have a gaping wound or open sore and it enters your blood stream. If you do have open wounds, you should be using gloves when dealing with anyone's blood.

Friends, PLEASE end the stigma. If the Church is not proclaiming the truth, showing love, and giving compassion to those affected by HIV, who will?

I got this information from the CDC.gov, TheStigmaProject.org, and TheBody.com. Some of it I copied and pasted; some I paraphrased. For more information, visit any of their sites or gather your own research from reputable sources.

Today is World AIDS Day. Feel free to share this post if you want to end the stigma.

11 November 2015

Little Ones

I wrote this piece months ago, before the Enemy tried to tear my little church apart at the seams.

He wasn't successful, but we lost some people who I love and respect--friends who helped me with an all-important, God-given task.

I will always be grateful to them, and I pray they will find a new place to touch the lives of little ones.

And for those who stayed, and for those who have stepped up to meet the challenges of a church that's struggling but still breathing, I say thank you, thank you, thank you.

Everything I wrote remains true. Now, more than ever.


10 November 2015

Those Pesky Red Cups

Donald Trump said yesterday that Starbucks should be boycotted because of their red holiday cups, and that if he is elected president, everyone will be saying Merry Christmas.

Aww. Another appeal to the Christian right by a man living the antithesis of a Christ-like life.

But what about all the decent Christian people out there who just want to keep Christ in Christmas? Some are worried because so many forget Jesus is the reason for the season. They avoid phrases like "Happy Holidays" and "holiday trees" and "seasonal decorations." They make a point of wishing others a Merry CHRISTMAS.

For me, keeping Christ as a central focus of my Christmas celebration is important.

Our family does have fun with the man in the red suit, but we place higher importance on the Child in the manger.

But if you don't believe in Jesus or follow His teachings, I don't mind if you wish me a happy holiday, decorate a holiday tree, or display blow-up yard art of the reindeer with the neon red nose.

In fact, I might wish you a happy holiday. I might send out cards with cutesy snowmen. I might sip a chai tea latte from Starbucks while wearing an ugly Christmas sweater with a green-velvet Grinch trimmed with white faux fur.

(Actually, I won't do the last one. I don't do holiday sweaters.)

It’s not my job or responsibility. nor that of Donald Trump, the cashier at Target, the maker of “holiday” trees, nor the designer of Starbucks cups to keep Christ in Christmas.

Christ was there at the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth. He made EVERYTHING out of NOTHING. (Ponder that for a minute.)

The entire universe is held together by His powerful word. He is before all things, and by Him all things exist. He is the Alpha, the Omega, the beginning, and the end. 

He doesn’t need you or me or any presidential candidate to defend Him, stand up for Him, or proclaim Him by saying Merry Christmas. 

By definition, Christ-mas is a celebration of His birth, but if you replace Christmas with holiday, it doesn't negate His birth.

He was. 

He is. 

And He will be.

So don't worry your pretty little self about Jesus. He'll be OK. I promise.

Instead, go and show His love to someone who needs it. And stop acting like a pious jerk who gets upset because your coffee is contained in a red cup, Menards is selling holiday trees, and/or someone had the nerve to wish you a happy holiday season.

Orphan Sunday

Orphan Sunday was observed this past weekend. It's a day when churches around the world acknowledge that we as Christians are called to defend the fatherless…to care for the child that has no family…to visit orphans in their distress.

Almost three years ago our family decided to adopt internationally, and 1.5 years ago we learned about a sibling set of 3 who needed a family. The moment we learned about them, we knew we wanted them to be our children. We weren't sure how it would all turn out, but God kept saying, "Just take the next step." 

And so we did. We took a lot of steps. And so many of you held our hands as we moved forward. You supported us financially, emotionally, and spiritually. You prayed for us and encouraged us. And you all became a part of our story, a part of our children's story...a part of the story God is still writing.

I wish I knew how the story will end. We want M (age 8), M (age 10), and D (age 12-almost 13) to be a part of our family. And they say they want to be a part of our family. But pride (on the part of their government), politics, and corruption have way-laid our best attempts to bring them home.

I'm not going to lie...it's the most frustrating, heart-breaking, complex, confusing, difficult thing we've ever gone through. It makes no sense. And it's possible we will never realize our dreams, nor theirs. But we won't give up until the last door is slammed shut, locked, and bolted. Because three little kids need a family, and we love them with all our hearts. 

Will you pray for our children and the millions of other orphans around the world? I can't even imagine what it would be like to grow up without a mom and dad to love me, care for me, protect me, teach me, and kiss me goodnight. 

Thanks for all your love...on behalf of our family here and across the ocean.


03 October 2015

Open Wide

We have had a somewhat stressful week around here, so on Wednesday night, when we dropped off Jack at Awana, Ken and I discussed what we could do that would be relaxing and fun.

Go for a massage?
Death by chocolate at a local restaurant?
A visit to our dentist?

Wait, did I just say "dentist" in the same breath with relaxing and fun? Well, yes. Yes, I did. You see, our dentist is pretty extraordinary, and his office is off the charts.

I am super bummed that I didn't take more pictures, but you guys. There is a Game Room. We're not talking Checkers and Monopoly (although those are fun too). We're talking mini-arcade. Pac-man. Centiped, Galaga. (I had to ask my hubby about that last one. Apparently it's his favorite game.) Old School. Fun, retro arcade games. And a kiddie play bus. How cool is that?

There is also a room for grown ups only-- a quiet relaxation room. I stole this pic off their website, but it doesn't do it justice.

Imagine a room where almost one entire wall is a waterfall, with relaxing lights, soft music, and comfortable chairs. And Dr. Dino and his team encourage you to come early and spend as long as you need getting relaxed for your appointment.

Once you go into the treatment area, you are treated to the lastest technological advances. I won't mention the dental ones, because I have no idea what that stuff is called. I do know, however, that the treatment chair has a gentle massager in it. A massager. In the dental chair!

And of course there's a TV. If you're a kid, Dr. Dino's favorite shows are kid shows. (Jack has asked me several times this week: "Mom, did you know that Dr. Dino loves kid shows?!") If you're a guy, Dr. Dino loves to watch the Cubs. If you're a woman, Dr. Dino likes to check out Real Housewives or sappy Hallmark movies. But he'll act like he isn't interested, so don't tell him you know the truth.

Did I mention that my kid, who was alternately terrified and excited about seeing the dentist, is begging to go back? Yah, between getting to brush "Chompers" big ole teeth (see above pic) and getting to choose prizes from the Treasure Chest, Dr. Dino's office was a big, big hit.

I'm saving the best feature of this office for last, but before I tell you about that, let me tell you this: We were greeted at the door with hugs. Hugs. Dr. Dino and his receptionist wife, Celeste, both hugged us. Now granted, that might be due to the fact that 20 years ago my dad was their best patient. But still. My dentist. And his wife. Hugged me. And my child. And my husband.

If you're not the hugging type, don't fret. They probably don't hug until it's at least your third or fourth visit. Which won't take long, because you're going to want to go back. Why? Because of this: The Happy Ending. (No, not that kind of happy ending! They aren't weirdos, you guys.) I"m talking about THE AQUA MASSAGE BED.

You lay down in this contraption that looks like a tanning bed. You pop on some headphones with soothing music. 

You put your head down, close your eyes... and it rains on you.

Friends, it rains on you! And you don't get wet! (Unless it springs a leak, and they assure me this has never happened. Not lately anyway.)

This thing-a-ma-jig relieves muscle pain while giving you both a deep-tissue massage and a lymphatic massage. It helps with circulation, promotes relaxation, and is a great reward for going to the dentist, even if you did have a few cavities.

Oh, and that's really the best part of going to Dr Dino. He NEVER makes you feel bad about having been absent from the dentist for an extra six months...or six years. He never scolds. He is just plain encouraging. In fact, this cartoon is on his Facebook page, which proves just how much he gets it.

Dr. Dino's Dental Oasis is located in Lombard, right across from Yorktown Mall. Wherever you live, it is well worth the drive. They accept all insurances and will work with you to make your dental treatments affordable.

And no, they did not pay me, reimburse me, or even ask me to write this review. I'm purely doing it because I think everyone should go there.

(And I'm hoping for a few extra minutes in the aqua massage bed next time I visit....so be sure to mention my blog if you visit.)

30 September 2015


Conclusion of the Adoption Journey.

Haha. Just kidding.

You know how when someone says they have reached a decision in a matter, you kinda think they have reached a decision? Like yes or no. Yes, the kids can go with you. No, sorry, the kids are staying here.

Well, we've been told a few times now that a decision would be reached. As you'll recall there were vacations, rainy season closures, appeals from the other side, new arguments, unexpected national holidays, too busy, not enough time to review, etc. etc.

But today was THE DAY. The day when all questions would be answered. Would M, M, and D be permitted to have a loving family, a mother and father to care for them? The waiting was over.


Or so we thought.


Maybe it's a cultural thing? Maybe something gets lost in translation? I don't know because even our agency, which has worked in Ethio for a long time, says this is the most complicated, never-ending, frustrating case. It seems so clear to all of us. Four kids need a family (our 3 and 1 other.) Their orphanage is closing. Their is a drought in their region. They've been in orphanage care practically their whole lives. No one, NOT ONE PERSON in their country has volunteered to step up and give them a loving home. And here we are. Approved by the state of Illinois. Approved by the U.S. Federal Gov and Immigration. Referrals from pastors, community leaders, friends, employers, doctors, psychologists, social workers. And we've paid money. A lot of money. Much of it donated by you, our friends and family. More money than many American families earn in an entire year.

And the Judge's decision today was to wait and see.

He wants to see legitimate, documented proof from the children's region and from their orphanage manager that efforts to find an adoptive family in country have been made ... and nothing is available.

What will this look like? Will they post an ad in the paper? Will they hang posters in the town center? Will they make phone calls and interview extended family members for the second or third time to confirm they are unable or unwilling to care for these children? And how long must these efforts go on? A month? Three months? Six months? A year?

We don't know the answers to any of these questions. We will try to get more information in the coming days, but for now, we know this:
  • M, M, and D (and their little friend S) will not be coming home to us in the near future.
  • The case is not closed, and there is the possibility that they will come home to us at some point in the future.
  • The Judge said orphanage care is no longer an options, so a family in Ethio must be found for them, or he will give them to us.
  • We love these children with all our hearts, and we are saddened by this news.
  • We won't give up on them, no matter how long it takes. They deserve a family. 
  • God is still good. We get frustrated with Him sometimes. (or a lot.) But He's our only hope. As we look back on our lives, we see how He has orchestrated so many things for our good and His glory. He has said no to some things we desperately wanted, and it was maddening, annoying, heartbreaking. At the time. But later it all made sense. And sometimes He has made us wait for something. We get upset with His timeline...until later when we see how many things were being worked out behind the scenes. So we cling to the hope that this is the case once again. 

So many of you have reached out to us with phone calls, texts, emails, posts to FB, and private messages. Please know that we read and appreciate every one. We truly want to respond to everyone, but we are taking some time to process this latest twist. And we still have jobs to do...Ken with his fulltime work, me with my partime freelance and fulltime mommy-ing.

In all of this, we don't want our work to suffer or our son to suffer. We also have things going on with Ken's mom, who was recently re-diagnosed with cancer. We had hoped that her chemo and radiation the past six months had taken care of it, but unfortunately it has come back. Would you please pray for her -- that God will comfort her, that her pain will be alleviated, and that the doctors will make wise decisions concerning her care?

And please pray for M, M, and D. I asked the social worker today to please report back on what they are telling the children. I want them to know that we love them so much. We haven't forgotten or rejected them. And the only reason this is taking so long is because they are such wonderful human beings that everyone wants them. <3

Thanks, friends. We love and appreciate you.

27 September 2015

The End

You guys. Did you see the see the moon last night? It was freaking amazing. But tonight will be even better.

A Super Moon, also known as a "Blood Moon" will appear tonight!  Do you know what it means?

It means the End is here. Jesus will return on September 28, 2015.

Ummmm...that's tomorrow. Tomorrow!

Great timing since I have a dentist appointment tomorrow evening, and it's not my favorite activity in the world. Also, we're supposed to get news on our adoption on Tuesday, and since we don't know if it will be good news or bad, Jesus pre-empting the judge's decision would be cool. Oh, and it's my niece's birthday. Happy Birthday, Savannah! (Not to ruin the surprise party...but...I hope you like harp music.)

(I recently blogged about this Blood Moon over at CCFL. To read the rest of the blog, click here.)