27 January 2016

You Fool!

The famous evangelist D.L. Moody was preparing to speak when an usher handed him a note. The evangelist thought it was an announcement, so as he took the pulpit he opened the folded piece of paper and found one word scrawled in large print: FOOL....

(I'm blogging over at CCFL today. To read the rest of the story, click here.)

12 January 2016

Feeling all the feels tonight

Today we received both good news and not so good news.

The good news from our adoption agency is that the regional authority who previously refused to sign off on our kids' adoption has been replaced by a new authority who sympathizes with our situation and says she won't oppose any appeals we make.

So our team in Ethiopia presses forward, working with their experts on how best to word their latest appeal. We expect to get news in the next few weeks on that. The team says they are "heartened," but they don't want us to get our hopes up too high.

The bad news is that our 10 year old girl has been very ill. In their last update, I noticed that she looked really thin, and her skin and hair had tell-tale signs of poor nutrition.

At the end of December she and other children at her school were given anti-parasitic medicine. Several kids got sick after taking the medication, including M. She had such a bad reaction to it that she ended up in the hospital, in the severe acute malnutrition ward. The combination of poor nutrition and bad medicine were more than M's little body could handle. Her blood counts were terrible, and she required two blood transfusions and a 6-day stay in the hospital.

She's back in the orphanage now, but she will stay home from school for a few weeks until she gets stronger.

If you have ever had a loved one hospitalized, you can understand a bit of what we're feeling. We're so thankful M received the care she needed. At the same time, having your daughter hospitalized for something that could be prevented with proper nutrition and clean water is frustrating. Being 7,000 miles away is frustrating. Thinking about your daughter being hospitalized, without any family to advocate and/or care for her is heartbreaking. Plus, she was in the hospital during Ethiopian Christmas. Alone. On Christmas.

It makes me want to punch something. It is infuriating and annoying and frustrating and disheartening and confusing and I just want her home so she never spends another Christmas alone. I never want her in the hospital again without a parent to advocate for her, I don't want her living in a place where anti-parasitic meds are necessary and yet unregulated.

So while we are glad there was a sliver of hope today in the adoption case, it's horrific that these children, our children, are still in Ethiopia when they should've been here 12 months ago. It's terrible that some people seem to care more about their pride and their politics than about giving kids a safe place to live with a mom and dad to love and care for them.

I could go on and on, but I know you feel the same way. It's maddening.

I don't know how this story will end. Just when I've given up hope, we get a glimmer. Just when I've convinced myself that they'll never come home and perhaps it is for the best, something like this happens, and I know the reason we're infuriated is because we love these children so much.

Love>7,867 miles
Love>skin color

10 December 2015

...and there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time...

This video was shot just 80 miles south of where our Ethiopian children live, 31 years ago. Their parents and grandparents survived this devastation. The U.N. has warned that the current drought in the Tigray Region--where our children live--could become comparable to this Famine of 1984. #BearingWitness #NeverAgain

I never imagined that another Christmas would be upon us and half of our family would still be across the ocean. The three stockings I bought last year for two young girls and an almost-teenage boy are still in storage. And little ornaments I made for them last December were hung on the tree two weeks ago with sadness in my heart.

Yesterday I opened the dresser drawers in the girls' room, and I found neatly folded shirts and socks and underwear--still in the package. A little jewelry bag that I had forgotten about caught my eye--gold necklaces with the initial of their first names. Christmas dresses and lacy sweaters hang in the closet, and D's brand new bike--the one he's been dreaming of--still sits in the garage, tags dangling from the handlebars.
Ready for school

And I wonder. I wonder if the clothes will still fit them. I wonder if D has learned to ride a bike. I wonder if they will have gifts this Christmas. I wonder if they have food to eat, medicine when they're sick, warm beds on cold nights, and hugs and kisses when they are sad.

We got our bi-monthly update on them today, only 2 months overdue, and I couldn't find a single picture where our now-10-year old girl is smiling. She's the more reserved, quiet one of the bunch, but still, it made me sad.

The report says the children frequently ask about us--when are we coming for them and why we aren't there aleady. D tells the orphanage manager that he's trusting God that someday, someday, he will meet us in person. And the orphanage manager confessed to the social worker that he often ignores or avoids their questions--because he doesn't know how to answer them.

And yet, there's still a glimmer of hope. Hope that the drought in the Tigray Region will force the hand of the regional officials who maintain they can take care of their own; that they don't need foreigners adopting their children.

So despite the irony, we continue to pray for rain. Rain to quench their dried-up land. Rain to nourish their fields and provide food for their people. Rain to melt the hearts of stone.

After all, isn't Advent a season of Hope? Hope in miracles. Hope in goodness. Hope in humanity.

And most of all, hope that the boy Mary delivered ... will soon deliver our boy and his sweet little sisters.

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.