Thursday, July 30, 2009

Das not funny Friday - Dry Heave

I have been wracking my brains the past few weeks with not a funny tail in sight. And then the Heaven's opened and not one, mind you, but two hilarious editions floated down for the week:

#1 - Tony and I volunteered Friday night with a new church in Columbia "Awaken". They put on a park movie night with free popcorn, Pepsi, bouncy house (that deflated and threatened to trap a few small children), and tons of fun. After the evening, as we were helping to tear down and clean up - I introduced myself again to the pastor's wife and was having a lovely, adult conversation when "Invasion of the 3 year old and the 'peepee' dance" started previewing. I look to the rec. building - dark. I look for any potty houses - nada. So I go to option #3 - big brother. "Yeah, that's why I had ya first son."

Me - "Hey Seth, will you go take your sister to the woods so she can pee?"
Seth - "Braeden's gotta go!"
Me - "well, just all go, but hurry!"

I continue on my adult conversation, confident that our vast experience of camping (cough-cough) and southern life should suffice for minimal potty accidents. I then look over and see both boys, pants open and loose, standing at the very edge of the woods, not a foot inside - peeing in our direction. Great. Glad you both have such nice manners men. I then look over to see my daughter running in circles continuing to do her dance to the peepee gods and holding herself. I take off trotting to the edge of the field madly signing "turn around! turn around!" while restraining myself from yelling at full throttle. Run past the boys and hear, "Seth peed on me!!!" Obviously, cause mom told them to turn around and we all know those things don't have shut off switches. Ignore and take little girl deeper into the woods and help her squat to pee all over her legs and shoe. Glad I could be there to help ..

I return to the field and later catch up with the pastor's wife to apologize for, on our first meeting, having to tell my kids to take their sister to the woods to pee. How so-fist-if-icated I is. We then get in our '64 pickup, threw the chilluns in the back, and head to the shack. I take that back, we might have stopped at the 7-11 for some more chew, cause mama likes her late night dip. We are in South Carolina after all.. (Oh, and even though it was late - we DID get quick baths to wash off the urine smell. In case you were worried about us tipping off the deer while huntin' the next mornin'.)

#2. Last night at a dinner of fine dining of baked potatoes and soup ala can - Addison tells me she likes sour cream. Can she have some? "Uh, baby, you don't like sour cream." "Yes, I do, I want some. "

I place a dime size dollap (cause everythings better with a dollap), on a minut piece of potato which she snatches up and begins to chew.

Chew....Gag, dry heave.... Chew....Gag, dry heave.... Chew .... Gag, dry heave.....Chew ... Gag, dry heave. (gotta admire the persistence). She then swallows, looks to us quickly with a huge smile and declares:

"YUMMY!!!!" Oh, child. Your lying skills already are giving me nightmares in preparation for the teenage years.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A dropped call

You all know the feeling, you're driving down the road talking to your mom or dad on the phone and all of a sudden, you realize you are talking to dead air. Do you just keep on talking or give up and hang up, to try again later?

Now unless you really are just addicted to talking to yourself (which I might be accused of being...hmm) - most of us hang up, as it isn't worth the effort. They aren't listening anyway.

Now let's take prayer - if you are throwing up those prayers, and never get any 2-way conversation, do you just keep on talking? If God truly IS our Heavenly Father. A Father. A Parent. Wouldn't you expect Him to throw in a comment, a question, or some advice. Or do we perceive God as this big guy in the sky with a zillion iPhones to his huge ear just nodding and saying, "uh-huh, uh-huh". If our dad did that, and never offered suggestions or advice, would you keep calling?

My point: with this whole adoption issue. It may be just me and my paranoid and sleep-deprived self, but when I tell others about my little feelings of a whisper in my ear, random emails that are far from random, daily devotionals that fit perfectly for that day - THAT is when I get the little "uhhhh-huh". Like, "o.k., Tracy, you are far reaching on that one. Whispered voices... emails from God.... someone get the padded room ready." And especially because I already have three kids and am praying for a fourth, I think that is enough to declare insanity! Even one of the agencies, when they heard we didn't have any money saved yet (but expected God to provide), gave me the "uh-huh. Well it would be optimal if you saved first before beginning the process." Yeah, optimal. But how much fun would that be??

Is God really our Father? And wouldn't you expect your Father to speak to you? Little Samuel heard the voice of the Lord. David lamented when he was unable to hear the Lord speaking. The prophets spoke daily to their God. God even spoke to the servant girl Hagar, crying in the desert. Are we less loved than those in the old testament? Do we not rank high enough for a random phone call?

Or do we, with every search engine available to us, with 250 channels on a big box, with instant access to talking to anyone in the world through chat or an iPhone - are we content to know the words of God are written in a book on our nightstand and get our most intimate and personal information and advice from other sources. Have our stained glass windows and weekly sermons become enough of a connection to God? We worship, He says thanks, and we leave our relationship at that. Are we content to hold that 'line to Heaven' up to our ear just to voice our grocery list of concerns and praises and then hang up before listening to hear what HE says? I know I was, and still sometimes am. And I know that if I would have ignored that still voice, I never would have been able to see the miracles He is performing in Africa. I never would have signed up to volunteer with Compassion at all without His leading. And how much joy would I have missed out on if I hadn't listened and believed that MY Father is alive and moving? Just to slow down, be still, and listen - sometimes we forget to listen.

So, call me crazy, roll your eyes, but I'm not going to allow a dead connection to be enough. Get the padded room ready: but God told me there is a precious baby girl in Africa waiting for us to come and get her. And I may actually go crazy trying to get there, but I'm not crazy for trying.

Psalm 29:4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sunshine and Rainbows

I really think I am going to need medical attention. My rear end is permanently affixed to this office chair. My arms are permanently surged into 90 degree angles for proper keyboard usage. And good thing we finally just paid off my new eyes, or they might be giving me problems too.

Research... Who invented the internet anyway? Didn't they realize that the unlimited amount of information is really sometimes NOT a good thing? I have officially waded knee deep into the world of international adoption. And I'm pretty much blown away by it. What agency to choose? When do you start? When is the money due? Will we have money by then? Do you take the recommendations of people you know, or the vast amount of people on the bulletin boards who hate the agency you are looking at? You have to pick an agency first, and that is a really BIG deal as it determines how efficient, how long, and how ethical your adoption is. (from what I gather). And baby names - that alone has taken up at least 16 hours of today alone!

So here's what I know (or how little I actually know):
- We are choosing Ethiopia because I love the people. They are beautiful inside and out. I can't imagine trying to help a child from any other country.
- Also Ethiopia because there are an estimated 6 MILLION orphans in Ethiopia.
- 1 in 10 children die before their first birthday.
- 1 in 6 children die before their fifth birthday.
- Orphans adopted are usually healthy as health care is so scarce, that orphans with major problems die before being taken to an orphanage. How sad is that?? And that's a good thing?
- It takes from 12-18 months, start to finish, to complete a standard adoption. Many take longer.
- International adoption from Ethiopia is from $20-25,000. Wow. Remind me how big is our God again??

So me, with all my grand feelings, and those Neon signs.. I still struggle with my faith. This just seems too hard. This is a huge hassle. Our lives would be just fine if we keep truckin the way we are. I don't think we could pull it off. BUT.. and that's a big but... what joys and blessings would we be missing out on if we wait? Or cancel all plans all together?

Already today - I called an old friend to tell her about what has been going on. I haven't talked to her in about 6 months. I gave her the low-down on all my signs that God had so nicely erected in my life. And she started to cry. Not a little sniffle, but sobbing. She said that she had just sat down in her kitchen to pray for Satan to leave her alone today. That she was under attack and feeling as if God was so far away. She prayed for Him to show her how big and mighty He was and what good things He could do. And then I called. That is exciting. To know that in a universe so huge, with so many beings walking this Earth, that God has the time to listen to each...and every... prayer. Who knows what the next 1 to 2 years will bring us and what we will be able to witness as long as we stay on the right path.

So why not foster / adopt in America?
- Tony grew up in the foster system. And while I always thought we needed to 'give back' for all the wonderful parents he had that inched him along, one by one, to the wonderful man he is today; he is adamant he could not do it. He could not take in a child to love and then have it return home. Especially when he knows what they are going home to. In his words, he would "go postal".

On the fun side, I also know -
- I hate all the names Tony picks and he hates all the names I pick. I am stuck on finding a name; as a name constitutes a goal. To be able to put a name to a little person makes them so much more real and the intensity to bring them home more motivating.
- the boys came up with a really good one tonight. Braeden suggested it, Seth loved it, and we even have her first piece of memory artwork ala Braeden. I'll have to wait to tell you the name as Tony is away for the weekend having some 'guy' time and it is only fair to let him know what the boys and I have named his 2nd daughter, first.... I guess. But I can share Brae's artwork, that would be fine, right??? (This is what I found on the fridge. No prompting at all. I didn't even know he was making it until he was done.) The front:

And this is the sweet, sweet inside:

So if my little man can see the sunshine and rainbows at the end of this tedious process - shouldn't I try to too??

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Neon Signs and Expectations

At one point in my life, I would hear others talk about how God had worked in their life and if I honestly and truthfully stood back and thought - I wouldn't be able to think about an example to give. Yes, I was blessed. Yes, I was a Christian. But did I have any instances where I personally felt HIM, up close and real?

Then a few years back, after the birth of my second son. After I had just quit my full-time job. After I had just told him one night how "comfortable" I was. Tony was laid off. He was then offered a sweet deal in Florida. I didn't want to move, I cried every night. But we got down on our knees together and prayed, "Lord, if you want us to move - you're going to have to sell the house. We can't afford two payments." The house sold. In two days. No sign up. No real estate agent. Neon sign in the front yard from God "Your tail is moving to Florida."

Fast forward more years, I start volunteering for Compassion. Start feeling God telling me to go to Africa. Just that little voice you hear that you can't really make out - "was that my conscious or God's voice in my head??" We make a commitment and give it all to Him praying, "Lord if you want me to go, you're going to have to help us get the money." I had the money. In about a month. With $10 to spare. Neon sign from God "Your tail is going to Ethiopia."

And now less than 6 months later, I have that little voice again. Can't really make it out, is it my conscious or God's voice in my head?? Saying: you need to adopt. You need to follow my commandment to look after the orphans (James 1:27). Um, hey God, I have three kids already. That's a-lot. I'm helping with Compassion. Helping lots of kids. Isn't that enough? And yet I hear the voice still. I kind of ignore it as just me. Keep it to myself.

I'm driving down the road to Columbia, by myself. Thinking of my trip. Remembering how excited I was and talking to my new friend Mike for the 16 hours over. I think to myself, "how cool would it be to be able to experience that with Tony? To be able to go back with him?" And then that little voice out of nowhere, in my head: "you will when you go to get your little girl." And right then, with a cloudless sky. Perfect Carolina blue sky - it starts drizzling just a little. And I break into tears. I can only describe it as the feeling of when you think you have lost your two year old in the mall and you see him, the feeling of that weight being lifted. Neon sign from God - "I want you to mother another of my children."

So I tell Tony and we agree this is huge. (understatement) We really need to pray about this. So for about 2 weeks I have prayed faithfully every morning. "God let me know if you really want me to do this. God please make it without a doubt clear if you really want me to do this. Please God, don't let me make the wrong decision for my family. By the way God, could you really let me know if you want me to do this?????" And then this week - I am looking at a normal blog. See an icon for "Ethiopian Coffee for Orphans" to the side. Click on it and read about the charity. See a mention of the couples dear friend's blog "Blessings from Ethiopia." I click and go on to read the post I mentioned to you earlier this week. But I didn't then give you the last line of that post as I was still too scared to acknowledge that Neon sign. It said, "Go. leave behind the life you planned. SEEK OUT the orphan. Don't ask God one more time if He wants you to adopt. Because... HE's been asking YOU, who WILL?"

Do I feel God? Absolutely. Am I scared out of my wits? Absolutely. And by the way, I had Tony read that post and he had the exact same reaction that he had last September when I said God really wanted me to go to Ethiopia, "Well, if God wants you to go - I guess you'd better go." "I love that man" would also be an understatement.

So now - we are scheduled to attend a workshop with an agency on August 1st just to learn the basics. And we really thought about not writing or telling anyone until after we had all the facts and could make an informed decision. But then - when you have a Neon Sign from God, is a workshop going to make a difference? As I have told others now, I am much safer living in God's will than out of it. So I think I should be more scared to disobey Him than to dive right in head first. One glance at the Old Testament will tell you that disobedience comes with a hefty price.

So I guess in a way we are expecting baby #4. But I am still paralyzed. I have the feeling of a woman pregnant with baby #3 who just found out she is pregnant with twins. what did I just get myself into. We don't have the money. We don't have the time to figure out how to get it. We aren't the most patient people. And a year or two of worry is a long time.

I am expecting much pain.... I am expecting much fear......I am expecting much impatience...... I am expecting much cost........ But I also know that in Jeremiah, God says, "
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

So to all my friends, I am expecting a little girl.... So please pray for Tony and I. I would really love to have some more Neon signs up to tell us which way to go from here...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wish I could tell you

I'm Speechless....Yeah, I know - not me. Just in case you haven't guessed, I am a blog freak. I spend most mornings browsing anybody and everybody's blogs. I think one of the reasons is because it is kind of like a pretend world. You get to peek into others lives and experience their experiences without the pain or the emotions involved. (Usually) Since my trip, I am often clicking around on blogs about missions, about Africa, about Ethiopia. Once I see an interesting title on someone else's reader list - I jog on over.

Well this morning, that lack-of-emotion thing? Yeah, it flew out the window. I clicked from somewhere and wound up at this amazing post which hit me in the face:
Blessings from Ethiopia - I Wish I could tell you

From her post:
Loving the fatherless. Loving the abandoned. Loving the seemingly hopeless. The narrow road requires sacrifice.The narrow road. It's lonely. It's long. It's difficult. It's full of suffering and struggle and sacrifice. But isn't that what following our Jesus is all about? If you're following a Jesus that doesn't demand sacrifice of all earthly endeavors, than I don't know what Jesus you're following. Didn't Jesus, after all, sacrifice all earthly endeavors for us? What did He sacrifice so that He could love YOU? How much more, then, should we sacrifice in order to love Him? And if loving HIM means loving the unlovely and the unloved, then what does it mean if we live in comfort while the unloved go on unloved? While the orphaned stay orphaned? While the street kids still roam the streets?

Ouch. Guilt. And I'm not really sure that the writer meant to inspire guilt. She meant to inspire action. Which is what I am guilty of with most every post I write.

Let me side-step by showing you a picture I took last week:

This is exactly one week after a mani/pedi I received as a birthday gift from Tony. It was really, really sweet, and very appreciated. The massage was like HEAVEN. But in that 2 1/2 hours I spent at the spa, and got to feel like a queen, about $150 had flown out of our checking account. And one week later? The crick in my back had returned and my fingers were in the sorry state you see above.

And we do this EVERY DAY. The flowers we buy and forget to water, that are dead in a month. The video game for the kids, that is scratched and thrown away in 3 months. The mega-sized package of pork chops that gets thrown into the freezer, pulled out in a year with frost-bite. The huge dinner we make, but then end up throwing away left-overs as everyone gets sick of it.

Do I think God judges us for wasting money? I don't know. But I do know, to put myself in the place of a parent : when I give my children allowance money, or birthday money - how do I feel when they buy $5 worth of candy and eat it all by themselves the first day? Or buy silly Pokemon cards which are left out in the rain? Ticks me off. Stupid purchases! Why not spend your money on something that will last? Or a game where you can share the enjoyment? At least something you could learn from!

So what does our Heavenly Father say or think when he sees us spend the money he gave us on painting our fingernails red, only to have them chipped and broken in a week? (Stupid purchases. Why not spend your money on something that will last and can be enjoyed by others? At least something you could learn from!)

While on my trip, someone mentioned feeling guilty for all that we have. The country coordinator - a man managing 8,000 Compassion children but who had once grown up as a poor shepherd - told us: "Do not feel guilty. God blessed you so that you could bless others. You are doing what he wanted you to do. If you had little, you would not be able to give."

So I wish I could tell you that we are selling everything and going into missions - but I can't.
I wish I could tell you that I'll stop buying shoes I don't need or another pair of shorts - but I can't.
I wish I could tell you that I have all the answers and have God's will figured out - but I can't.

All I can tell you this morning is that I'm speechless. So now where do you go from here?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Power of a Potty (or Power of a Smell Part II)

Let me start by explaining my absence in blogging... one word: sleep. I have figured out that my body actually likes this phenomena and have temporarily adjusted my 1 am bedtime. But don't worry, I'm sure my mind will once again race and I'll be back at the computer writing out meaningless babble more frequently. That and the fact that I am DVR watching one of my two TV shows I still allow myself to watch - "So you Think you can Dance?" It's a sin, I know. Cause one shouldn't covet. And not only am I wishing my body could do the things those girls can do, but I'm wishing my rear could just fit into some of those costumes. But then again, I guess that would involve exercise, which we all know I am allergic to.

*If you are wondering, the other show would be American Idol. Can't sing, can't dance. So why not torture myself watching people who can? I made a moral decision to refrain from my old favorites of Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, etc. - as I can only take so much political correctness packed into a prime time hour. Can't say I have missed them much either.

So finally to this post - I am SO proud of myself. The city girl has done went and gone country. Or back to the country I guess. (O.k., so I've never really been city unless you count the 3 minutes we lived in Columbia.) For July 4th, we decided that since all family was MIA, we would look into campgrounds. As long as they had showers and bathrooms, I was game.

At the last minute, some friends invited us on an annual family camping trip. And the worry begins: What if there are no bathrooms? what if they don't like us? What if we starve because I have no idea how to cook without my internet recipes???

But - truth be told - we had an excellent time. There were about a zillion kids for the children to play with, and they pretty much made themselves invisible in the woods, streams, and on the field playing ball. I actually got a book read which was a major accomplishment. We even did fine in our tent, my first tent experience.

Our new friends had planned a birthday party for the 3 kids that had birthdays that week and the boys had an excellent time playing party games. However, I was emotionally damaged by the disguises as they brought back memories of my four-eyed elementary school pictures. And the nose - my grandmother once asked me where I got my big nose from, no kidding. It still hurts to think about. With the big noses, I can actually see a resemblance of myself in the boys.
(Minus the furry eyebrows. I didn't grow those until after high school)

The kids then got to hit their first pinata. Do my kids never get out of the house? Where have pinatas been all our lives??? (If you look closely, the Hawaiian print shorts up front belong to little Braeden's behind. Smart boy - if you're too short - just leap over everyone else to snag some candy!)

I also learned that my middle son is destined to be a pyromaniac. At least he wasn't one of the kids putting crawdads on stakes to watch them roast alive and later eat them. Ewwwww. To go along with his new pyromaniac status, a tattoo was in order. I might give him the goth clothes and the black eyeliner for his next birthday if his interests persist, supportive mother that I am.

So I know you are just itching to know - what about the POTTY?? SO - we were lucky to have little quaint "potty houses". Let it be known - I have squatted in the woods plenty of times in my past. From my childhood on the farm, to some pretty wild ECU Pirate football games and Jimmy Buffet concerts that I would rather not think about. So being able to sit vs. squat was high on my list of luxuries.

These little potty houses were quite charming with their expertly designed sunroof and matching his/her labels. Also expertly designed was the depth at which the hole under those toilets was dug. About 1 foot short of "being within the point of gagging you from the putrid smell". Their smell was so inviting as to waft it's way down the hill to where you were camping, just to remind you that they were available. How sweet!

Those pottys got plenty of laughs and jokes and was the general conversational starter in meeting our new camp associates. And what a great 'IN': we would talk about our facilities and the conversation could quickly be turned to how NICE they were in comparison to the outhouses I visited while in rural Africa. Which then led to my trip, which then led to my volunteer work with Compassion, which then led to Compassion's amazing work in leading children to Christ, one child at a time. All because of a stinky potty. Funny how God can use anything to spread His word isn't it? I think I may have 2 children sponsored as a result.

Maybe I should look into doing a workshop to train other Advocates? Not many people can make that leap from toilets to Christ. I may have found a new calling....
Sponsor a child through Compassion , without having to see and hear about my potty experiences... Believe me - you don't want to know.