Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Horrible Cicada Plague of 2011

The cicadas are out.  Can you hear them?  I should ask, can you hear yourself think?  Are you shouting to be heard across the table?  The 13 year cicadas have emerged from the ground.  They chose our yard to swarm in. 

I can relate to the Egyptians during Moses' time.  This is just gross!

This is our light pole.

The tree out front.

The base of the tree, up close and personal.

 Here is a new one that just emerged from molting.  
These have red eyes and fake black eyes on their back.

Some have found their way into our basement.  YUCK! 

They fall on you when you walk.  They crunch under your feet. The whole ground literally is moving.  I think I'll stay inside for a while.

It feels like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.

This, too, shall pass.

Blessings to you,

Friday, May 27, 2011

Five Minute Friday - On Forgetting



Head on over to The Gypsy Mama to find out what it's all about. 

Today's writing prompt:  On Forgetting.

So, here goes...

Sometimes I would like my kids to have selective memory.  I would like them to forget the weeks like this one, when their mom was a crazy-eyed screaming lunatic.  I pray that God would raise them up to love Him and walk in His ways in spite of my Grand-Canyon size faults.  I hope they forget the rants and the snarls and the growls, the rolled-eyes, sarcastic comments, and the deep sighs.  May they only remember the how much I love them, the genuine smiles, and deep connection.

That's it.  Five minutes is up.

Your turn to play.

Blessings to you,

Unintentional Consequences - Broad Application

You know I've been blogging about the negative side effects our giving sometimes has.  I've been doing a lot of thinking about it.  And then, things keep coming up.  More to think about.  More to consider.  Deep introspection.

So, I'm ready to wrap up my part, but I wanted to give you two more links if you are interested in digging deeper.

Lisa, at A Bushel and a Peck, wrote for a piece for Until Then a few weeks ago.  To sum it up, a group of well-meaning missionaries gave the village a water well that was not maintainable.  Lisa's husband and son are working with a group to go and teach the local men how to build a water pump from common (in Africa) available parts.  As they teach them to build it, it will also teach them to maintain it.  Great idea, huh?

And then Troy and Tara Livesay wrote another post about respecting the poor that really gets you thinking.  In short:  Would you be comfortable with strangers taking pictures of your children and your house as you go about your daily life without asking permission?

Getting back to my original intent, All of these issues are relevant if you are a short term missionary.  But I think they have a much broader application in regular life.  So, here are some things I think I know.

  • I don't know everything about everything.  
  • Be teachable, especially if you are in unfamiliar waters.  
  • Leave your pride and your agenda at home.  
  • Submit to others who have authority, wisdom, or more working knowledge than you.
  • Anytime we help someone, their dignity must be kept or restored.
  • People need love more than they need stuff.
  • Love does not necessarily look like what we've made it.
  • Poverty is complex.
  • Solutions will be multi-faceted.
  • Chronic poverty is not the same as an immediate crisis.  Each requires a different approach.  
  • Real solutions require long-term personal investment.
  • Helpers should be learners and listeners.
  • The more local and personal the help is, the more likely life-change will happen.
  • One culture can not overlay their way of doing things on top of another culture.
  • Throwing money at a problem will not make it go away.
  • The long-term must be considered when helping others.
  • The recipient of the help must be a participant in the solution in order to take ownership of it.
I'm sure there's more.

I just started reading, When Helping Hurts yesterday.  I like it already.  I'm sure it is going to challenge me.  I'll give a report with all my new insight.

Do you see things differently?  Do you have any more wisdom to add to my list?

Blessings to you,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The "B" Word

Not that "B" word!

C'mon.  This is a family-friendly blog.  :-)

Well, maybe the word you were thinking of described me last night, but today I'm talking about the other "B" word...


There.  I said it.


I new it was coming, but still.

Four days before my 47th birthday, my eye doctor stepped all over my dignity by declaring that word.  Right in front of me.  The nerve.


Well, technically, I don't need bifocals, since I wear contacts.  He gave me a mono-vision prescription.  I see long distance with my right eye and read with my left.  It's going to take some getting used to, but I think it's going to work.

I use mono-vision.  That sounds better.  I'm feeling my dignity return by the minute.  :-)

Blessings to you,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Words of Life

It's been tense and stressful ever since school let out amid tornado sirens.  The girls have been fighting viciously from the minute they laid eyes on each other.  Steve has been out of town all week.  We had to hunker down in the basement due to the weather.  Our basement is a horrid mess because the boys are painting the walls and everything is a jumbled chaos in the middle of the room -  not to mention the "normal" mess and the garage sale stuff we've been gathering, as well as college supplies that haven't found a home yet.  

So, my window of tolerance was shattered.  I blew a gasket.  Then I blew another.  And another.  I think you could call it a tirade.  I finally put the girls in their rooms.  

A few minutes later, I walked into Cupcake's room to explain that I'm the one who needed the time-out, but since I can't leave them alone together while I lock myself up in my room, this was the only way to make sure everyone was safe.  

She was writing on her white board.  

These words. 

I can be nis to my sister.
(I can be nice to my sister.)

I am sry for not o baing you.
(I am sorry for not obeying you.)

I love you.  <3

Ples for giv me.
(Please forgive me.)



This is a first.  A huge first.

Good using your words, Baby.  :-)  

Good using your words. 

Blessings to you,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Unintentional Consequences - Don't Get Me Wrong

As I've been writing about the unintentional consequences that short term missionaries have caused, I understand that I may sound like a disgruntled naysayer who only points out the faults of others.  You might think I'm an armchair quarterback.  I look at it more as a "Monday Morning Debriefing".  I'm a huge fan of learning from others' mistakes, in order to avoid as many "Ouchies!" as possible.  I'm just trying to figure this stuff out and this is my place to think out loud and process my thoughts..

Please hear me.  I am not saying that short-term mission trips are bad.  I am not saying we should just forget the whole thing and stay home in our nice comfortable churches.  It's really quite the opposite.

I think short-term mission trips can be a good thing and very worthwhile.  If done right, I'm sure short-term missionaries can work alongside long-term missionaries to accomplish big goals and have meaningful interaction with the locals.  In some cases, short term missions are necessary.  For instance, medical mission trips and emergency assistance/disaster relief trips provide acute care for an immediate problem.  I have been the thankful recipient of "just the right help at just the right time" more times than I can count.  I believe people can touch others' lives in a profound way in a moment just by being the one who cares and helps in a crisis.

But I also believe that long term life-change takes long-term commitment and personal involvement.  A complicated problem cannot be fixed in a jiffy.  It requires sacrifice, time, and hard work.  You must invest your life into other peoples' lives if you want to make a difference.  There is no short-cut.  There will be a personal cost.  Your hands might get dirty.  You might be in over your head.

But it will be worth it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is:  For any kind of "help" to be helpful, you must empty yourself of pride and lay aside your agenda.  Submit to those who have a better understanding than you do.  Be teachable.  Prepare your heart to serve - even if that means not doing what you were hoping to do.  Be ready to die to yourself so that Christ may live in you. 

Then take a  deep breath.  Jump in.  Do something.

Blessings to you,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Six Years

Six years is too stinkin' long for kids to wait for a family!

It's too long for aching arms and anxious hearts to wait to hold them!

Please join me in praying for Rod, Dawn and their kids, Ronaldo and Julia.

Tomorrow (May 18th) will be 6 years since they committed to adopting these two.   

I hurt for my friends.

I hurt for these kids.

It's not fair.  It's not right.

 18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
   therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
   Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18, New International Version)
Let's pray for justice, mercy and compassion for these two innocent ones and the family that waits for them.

Blessings to you,

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Unintentional Consequences - Short Term Missions to Orphans

A friend recently brought up a point that I had not thought of as it relates to her child and the short term missions teams that came to his orphanage.

He has a tough time in his attachment to his parents. 

She mentioned that his experience with white people was that they were really nice people that loved you well, and then left after a week, never to be seen again.  Over and over and over again.

No wonder he has a hard time trusting that she will always be there. 


I see the other side of the story and it fits with what my heart wants to think. 

The orphanages are under-staffed.  It's better to know love for a week than to not know love at all.  If a baby is never held, the attachment will be difficult in a different way.  At least the general feeling toward white people was positive, though associated with loss.  These missionaries were doing their best to share the love of Christ with the kids. 

But was it the best thing?

I know that each situation and each child is different, and that God may lead someone to a particular orphanage at an exact time for a specific purpose.  I don't deny all the "God-moments" that people have had as they worked with orphans.  I just want to step back and look closely at the benefits and consequences of the way we're doing things, so that we can do better.

It's not a perfect world and there are no perfect solutions.  We have to do the best we can with what we have. 

Would it be better to save the airfare and give to organizations on the ground, so they can hire permanent staff?  Maybe God is calling a  generation to step up and give of their lives in a whole new way? 

I do know that a lifelong, permanent, committed relationship with an orphan will impact their lives far more than a one-week mountain-top experience.  Of course, it's a lot harder, and requires dying to yourself daily.  But does Jesus Christ deserve anything less (than dying to yourself daily)?

What do you think?  I'd love to know your thoughts.  I realize this is hard stuff to think about, but I appreciate input from all perspectives.  Just trying to figure this out as best I can.

Blessings to you,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Unintentional Consequences - Short Term Missions in the Orphanage

A few weeks ago, I was looking for pictures of a particular orphanage in Guatemala.  I was hoping to see a little boy that Cupcake really loved.  In my search, I found a video of a different orphanage - one whose name is inscribed on my heart.  Two very precious children are cared for at that orphanage.  This was a 10 minute video of a short-term mission trip.  This church spent the afternoon at the orphanage at the end of a week of missions.  I watched the footage with intensity as I tried to catch a glimpse of these kids.  Once I saw one of the kids, I watched the video over and over trying to see every shot of her, straining to see if the other child was in any scene.  This video looked like many other videos of Christians serving orphans in third world countries.  Nothing would have stood out to me, except that one of those kids is not some orphan.  She's my friend's precious daughter, and someday she will come home and try to function in a family.

And suddenly, what came into focus made me angry.  Well, not only angry, more like sober and sad. 

One of the ladies brought out a box full of bubble jars.  It's fun to give a bunch of orphans bubble stuff.  When she brought them out, the kids mobbed her, everyone pushing and reaching and grabbing like a mob of animals.  The woman was clearly overwhelmed and gave a "Phew!" when the last of the bubbles was gone.  It was a sweet and well-meaning gesture.  She was trying to do something nice for the orphans.  Instead, she encouraged them to trample on each other to get what they thought they "needed".

They don't need bubbles.  They need love.  They need someone to show them how to function as civilized human beings.  They need dignity.  They need a family, but that's another post.

So how could it have been handled differently?

Three months ago, I would have done just what that woman did.  In fact, I have done that sort of thing when I've taught kids in VBS.  But now I have experience and (hopefully) some wisdom.  The team would be trained and prepared ahead of time.  I would have given each missionary 5 bottles of bubbles.  I would have gathered the kids into groups of 5, I would announce that we have bubbles.  I'd make it clear that we have enough bubbles for everyone.  Each missionary would go to a group.  I would announce that the smallest children get to go first.  Each child will get a bottle when they look at their missionary and ask politely.  (Some kids would not be able to do all that, but I would encourage them to make eye contact through their fingers if they need to.  The bar has to be set pretty low for some of these kiddos to succeed.)  Each kid would get real loving contact with another human being and bubbles to boot. 

You use what they want to give them what they need.

Eye contact and respect for others - these are the basic building blocks for self-worth and attachment.

Blessings to you,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Unintentional Consequences - Short-Term Missions in the Community

Well, it seems that what started as a post has grown to a series of posts.  I think each of these thoughts about short-term missions has a broad application in a number of situations.  I'll see if I can tie it all together... 

I've been doing some thinking about missions and unintended consequences.  I've never been on an international mission trip, but I would like to someday.  Recently, I've come across some things that have made me very cautious about jumping in without forethought and wisdom.  Doing what feels right might not be what is right..  I want to do the best thing for the people I strive to serve.  I do not want to contribute to their difficulties.

It all started when I came across  this great post by Troy and Tara Livesay in Haiti.  The Livesays are long-term missionaries.  They've been in Haiti for a few years and they understand cultural things that I just never knew or thought about.  Troy tells stories of how it plays out in real life.  The comments are also enlightening.

A short-term missionary has no idea what the cultural dynamics are.  The long-term missionary has a better grasp on who could use money/help/items and how to distribute the goods.  They know the culture, community, and individuals in a way that short-term missionaries just can't know.

I don't want to just feel good about what I'm doing, I want to actually help.

This makes me want to be wise in a different way than I have ever considered.  If I were to organize, plan, or go on a short-term mission trip, I would humbly respect and heavily rely on the long-term missionary to know what's best for the local people.

I don't want to unintentionally make things worse for the very people I am trying to help.  I don't want to detract from the effort that is already being made in the community.  I don't want to make things harder on the families that have packed up their lives to go and pour into the lives of others.

The book  When Helping Hurts was brought up repeatedly in the post and comments.  I had heard of it a few times before and was intrigued by the title.  It will be one of the next books that I read.  I'll let you know what I think of it.  I'm pretty sure it's all about unintentional consequences in our giving.

I know when we were in Guatemala, the need was so great and I was overwhelmed with choosing who to help and how to help them.  I'm sure I did some things that were not helpful and other things that had a significant impact.  (At least, I hope so.)

So what do you think?  Do you have any words of wisdom?

Blessings to you,

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wounded Children Healing Homes

Wounded Children
Healing Homes
How Traumatized Children Impact 
Adoptive and Foster Families
Jayne Schooler
Betsy Keefer Smalley, LSW
Timothy J Callahan, PSYD

I recently finished this book.  It was recommended at the Empowered to Connect conference.  I found this book to be a good read that I could readily identify with.  So much so that I felt I could've written most of the chapters from my own personal experience.

This book is a compilation describing the dynamics of bringing a traumatized child into a home from several different perspectives.  It delves into what actually happens when a child can not fulfill expectations or when a parent has unresolved trauma.  It describes the dangers and pitfalls that are so common among "trauma mamas".  The impact affects not only the moms and dads, but their extended families, friends, church family, and other networks.  It covers the different ways that a difficult placement may affect the other children living in the home.  The anatomy of an adoption disruption is also discussed, as well as how to avoid going there.  Common school issues are explored followed by a chapter on working with the school for the best possible outcome.  The importance of parental self-care and some ideas to achieve that are presented.

Having already had the experience of bringing home a daughter with trauma, I can agree with the content of this book.  The authors are right on target and have a very good working understanding of the dynamics involved.  Most of all, Wounded Children Healing Homes validated my experience.  I am not alone and I am not crazy.  :-)  It led to some thoughtful introspection about my own past and what I bring to the table.  I gained some valuable insight into my older kids' perspectives leading to several "ouch" moments.  However, I had some "A-Ha!" moments as it related to the school issues and learning.

All in all, I think it would be a very valuable book for adoption agencies to suggest or require for prospective adoptive couples looking at older child adoption.  It would be sobering and enlightening to those who have not truly thought through the implications of committing to a child from hard places.  It would also be useful for those just starting on the journey once their child is home. 

Blessings to you,


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Dear Mom,

I miss you.  I miss your phone calls and your crazy run-on, no-punctuation emails.  I miss your voice.  I wish we could talk one more time and you could call me "Jewel" just once more.

I hope you know I love you.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Your Daughter (Julie) 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Letter to Cupcake's Birthmother

Dear G.,

Mother's Day is coming.  Does that make you sad?  Or have you numbed yourself to the pain, because it's too much.  I wouldn't blame you.  I can't imagine the raw emotion that you have felt.  I can't imagine your loss.  All the reminders that you are a mother are gone.  There are no little hands tugging on your shirt, no cries of "Mama" in the night.  No one will bring you flowers this weekend.  But that does not change the fact that you are a mother.  You will always be a mother.  Cupcake's mother.

 Do you think about her?  She thinks of you often.  She has questions that I cannot answer.  I can only guess.  From the facts that I have, I can only deduce that life is hard for you.  Whether it was choices you made or things that were forced upon you, makes no difference to me.

I only hope that you will one day meet the Healer of Souls.  I pray that He would seek you out and restore your life.  He will forgive you and give you hope.  May He redeem all the ugly, awful evil that has happened to you and make it a thing of beauty.  His name is Jesus, and He loves you with a pure, everlasting love.

As for your daughter, she is safe.  She is loved.  She is growing like a weed.  She is learning to read.  She can count to 240 and go even higher.  More importantly, she is learning to trust, to ask forgiveness and to forgive.  She is beautiful, inside and out.

Thank you for being her mother and for giving her a chance at life.

God bless you,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Stash

That sounds like an alternative rock band.  The Stash.

But around here, it refers to the ridiculous amount of junk food that was purchased today.

We picked up Tim for the summer today  (YEAH ME!)  :-D

He informed us that he recently discovered that he had about $200 left on his meal points.  If you don't spend them, you lose them.  So, he took us to the food court for lunch.  We ate heartily.  Then we bought everything we could take with us.  And it was all so nutritious.

This is...drum roll please...The Stash!

Blessings to you,

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Some Days

Most days, I am encouraged by the progress that Cupcake has made. I look back on those early days, and I'm so thankful that she is no longer held captive by insecurity and pervasive shame.  I marvel at how much healing has taken place.  Most days, I'm confident that she is well on her way to becoming a healthy, well-balanced adult.

Most days.

But not today. 

Today we found ourselves back at the beginning.  Struggling against all the evil that ever affected her.  Looking into orphan eyes that are wild and lost.  Anger, rage, insecurity, disobedience, self-loathing, fear, sadness, flashbacks, and regression.


Add to that, my reactions.  Selfishness, anger, weariness, fear, frustration, bossiness, inflexibility, sharp words, eye-daggers.  Yeah, it was not pretty. 

Some days are like that.  :-(

Just when I'm ready to have a pity party, I remember that these difficult times are times of healing. 

When I got home from Youth Group tonight, I was determined to bring her in close and gentle.  I fed her some sweet stuff.  We looked in the mirror and discussed each of her precious features.  I held her in my arms and looked deep into her eyes.  We snuggled close and enjoyed each others' company.  I carried her to bed and thanked the Father for my baby.  She was asleep in under 5 minutes. 

The end of the day made up for the first 13 hours. 

Tomorrow is a new day.  Thank you, Jesus, for tomorrows.

Blessings to you,