Saturday, June 23, 2012

My dream for my children

The American dream: college degrees, successful careers, big houses and fancy cars...

Not at all what I dream for my children when they grow up.

I mean, I hope they can provide for their families one day. I pray that they won't have to struggle, because I've seen how destructive and traumatic poverty is. Of course I don't want that for my children.  But I can honestly say that if my children grow up and have wildly lucrative careers and live in big fancy houses and drive shiny fast cars; if they have all those things and consider themselves successful; and if they aren't doing anything about oppression, injustice, or poverty, I will consider myself a failure as a parent.

I pray every day that they will fall in love with Jesus. Not with Religion, not with Christianity.  I hope they don't grow up to be good Sunday church attenders. I pray that their hearts will be broken over the mess of this world they've inherited and that they'll have such a close relationship with its Redeemer that they'll seek out ways to bring justice and peace.   I pray they won't tell people about Jesus but instead will be so intertwined in loving others that their lives breathe out the love of Christ. I pray they'll choose the fast in Isaiah 58:

"Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

So if I am going to pray these things and hope for this life for my children, how am I to live? I can't expect any of that out of my children if I'm not showing them the way.  So my prayers for my own heart are the same as those for my children's.  I pray that God will break my heart; that he'll show me exactly how he intends for me to live out a life as a follower of Jesus.  And the more I read my Bible, the more I am convinced that if I want to call myself a follower of Christ, I absolutely need to be actually following him, not just going to church a lot and "becoming a better Christian" (whatever that means). If I am not hanging out with any of the folks Jesus was hanging out with, what I am I even doing?

So here's what we did this week:

Thanks Michele, for the picture!

Kind of hard to tell from this picture, but the kids finally joined me to visit my friends at one of the tent cities in Greensboro this week.  They've been begging me to take them out there for weeks.  Before you call DSS on me, let me tell you something: the people who live at this tent city have become my friends. I care about them and they were more gracious to my children than people I've encountered in other places in our lovely city.  Those of you who know me personally know how protective I am of my children (they are barely allowed to watch tv for goodness sake!)  I asked my homeless friends first if it was okay if the kids came out before I got them out of the car because this is their HOME.  Are there drugs and alcohol on the premises? What do you think? But guess what else? The man whose behavior is probably the least appropriate in the camp, the one who I admit I was kind of hoping wouldn't be around the day I came by with my kids, gave them a really cool toy, completely cleaned up his language the entire time we were there, and invited the kids to come back and see him again sometime.  One of the women who has always kept to herself when I've come out came right over, talked to the kids and started telling me more about her own children.  There is a therapeutic quality to being around little children when you don't get to see them often.

And this wasn't a poverty tour for my kids. It wasn't a "see how people live and think about how lucky/blessed you are." Not at all. They were there to help us bring out bags of much-needed supplies and snacks. They were there to love on and pray with the residents of that tent city. Because that's what Jesus did. Because I want my children to do the same thing when they grow up. Not because I said so, but because they love Jesus. And when you love him, you can't help but live it out.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Opposite Comments...

When I'm out and about with my kids (which is pretty much every day), I get lots of comments. 99.99% of them are nice.  Mostly, I hear "boy, do you have your hands full!" And I have two standard answers to that. Sometimes I say "Yes. The best kind of full," but if I'm feeling as if my hands really are particularly full in that moment, sometimes I just say "Yep. Always." And then smile so that they don't think I'm on my way to the zoo to drop them off there permanently. Not that I've ever threatened my children with that. Ahem.

But there are two other comments that I get that make me laugh because they are complete opposites from each other.

The first: "Oh, do you run a daycare?" Or "Do you keep kids?" (I only have three... maybe it's that they move so fast it looks like more?)

The second: "He looks like you!" (um, what? He's Ethiopian... I'm, well, some kind of mish-mash of western European plus Swedish maybe.)

One day I was out with my friend who also has three kids and our children are almost exactly the same ages. We were at Chick-Fil-A for an hour or so with all our kids. In that hour, two separate people asked us if we run a daycare!  Weird.  But I get that comment when I'm out with my three by myself. Or asked if I'm babysitting (I credit that one to how incredibly young I look... bahaha)

Today someone came up to me and was saying hi to Amani and once she established that he was mine she said, "Oh is he mixed?" I explained that he was adopted from Ethiopia and she said, "Really? I just really can see that he looks like you."  Because I still haven't come up with a good answer to that one, I just said "Thanks! That makes my heart happy!" Although I'm not yet convinced that's the most appropriate response.

But I do have a theory I thought I'd put out there to see what y'all think.  My thought is this: we are all humans, so of course we have lots of similarities.  And we know that, biologically, children are a mix-up of their parents. So I think that our brains are trained to see pieces of parents in children.  Kind of like those optical illusions where the letters are missing chunks but you can read the words anyway.  I think, especially if it's just me and Amani, people are seeing our common human-ness and mistake it for him looking like me because of genetics.  And I think it's cool that God would make us all so different AND so similar at the same time.

It's just a made-up theory. But I kinda like it.

Can you see a resemblance?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Father to the fatherless

I blog a lot about being a mom. Probably because that is my full-time job. And I often write about how I don't journey alone because I am so blessed to have a village of mamas who are helping me raise my children.

But there is someone else on my journey. Someone more important in my children's lives than the moms in my mom-network: their Daddy.

Two of my children have no clue what life would be like without a Daddy. One knows all too well what it feels like to not have one. And, praise God, those days are over!

Hands down, the greatest tangible blessing I have on this earth is the man who is the father to my children. A friend of mine posted a quote from Matt Chandler on facebook recently. It was directed towards single women, but I loved this sentence: "Your husband... will have an unbelievable amount of influence over your sons and daughters in regards to spiritual things. If you want your children to love Jesus deeply, hold out for a man that is Godly." Amen, brother.

If there is anything I can say about my husband, it's that he loves Jesus. More than he loves us, which is exactly how I would want it to be. I pray that my children will grow up and love and serve Jesus like their daddy does.

And this Father's Day, his best gift is that his son is here in our home, here in our arms. Last year, we knew his face, knew his name but were waiting to be allowed to go to him. Little did we know we'd get a call with our court date only days after Father's Day last year.

The Bible says God is a father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows; that He makes it known that he protects the weak and disenfranchised and that they have a place in his kingdom. (Psalm 68:5).  I cannot say how much  joy it brings me that my husband wants to follow a God like that.

And I know Father's Day is not a joy-filled occasion for all.  Many have lost fathers; many have living Fathers but have no relationship with them or only bad memories to keep you company on this day.  My prayer for all of you is that you'll cling to that promise we have from the Bible. God is a father to the fatherless, he sets the lonely in families.  Family is not always flesh and blood, a lesson I learned early in my life. If this is a tough weekend for you, know that you are prayed for; that God is there for you.

I know because He's done it for me; He's done it for my son. A boy without a father last year has a Daddy for father's day this year.  God is good indeed.

Monday, June 11, 2012

An inside look at the 7 month fast

My kids will be participating in some of the months of the seven month fast - I know they'll be in on possessions, waste, and media months.  But for our first month - food - there was no real way I could only have them eat seven foods. First of all, one of them is three and she changes the list of foods she'll actually eat about every five minutes.  And while I feel like my list is really healthy, it's not really that great for growing kids to miss out on variety for a whole month.

That being said, my kids are VERY aware that my husband and I are only eating seven things this month. And we've been talking with them a lot about why we're doing this. So I thought I'd let y'all in on this month from my kids' perspective.

Amani - way too young to know what's going on, but happily eats the dinners I've cooked for the kids PLUS bites of whatever Rob and I are having. :) I think he'll miss the variety at dinner next week.

Riley - my sweet oldest child who, so far, is our most spiritually-connected kiddo. He routinely offers me some of whatever he's eating. When I say no, he asks "oh, is it not on your list?" Then proceeds to tell us that he's going to give something up too... cookies!

Allyn - my independent, sassy, give-you-a-run-for-your-money middle child.  Not to be outdone by her older brother, she also declares she will be giving up something this month: broccoli. So self-sacrificing, that one.

Well, at least one of them seems to get it! :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012


So... I've been interested in black hair a lot lately.  Partly because one of my children has black hair, but also because a dear friend of mine lent me the movie Good Hair and it was really eye-opening for me.  And she was gracious enough to text back and forth with me as I watched it so I could ask her even more questions.  And then I watched the Daily Show recently and Michelle Obama was on there and all I could think about was that she had relaxed hair... then I spent a lot of time wondering if it was a weave (since I now know exactly what that is and where they come from).  And I even asked myself the question, "I wonder if Obama would have been elected if his wife had natural hair."  (There's a part in Good Hair where several high school girls are asked if they will need to relax their hair in order to get good jobs and they all answer resoundingly yes.)

I've never been one to do much to my hair. Honestly, I used to get a hair cut once every 18 months, cut off 10 inches to donate to Locks of Love and then start it all over again.  I did this for five years or so.  I had no idea that ignoring my hair was a luxury given to me by my race.

There's a quote in the movie that really struck me. One of the women who keeps her hair natural/curly said this:

"The idea of keeping my hair the texture that it grows out of my head is revolutionary."

And that's true.  There is so much pressure today for black women to have relaxed hair that women who choose not to are the ones considered different or revolutionary.  There's pressure on all women in this way. I even do it. If I'm going to a nice event or if I want to look pretty, I straighten my hair.

But God gave me wavy hair. And he gave some folks curly hair. And others straight.  Why do we do this to ourselves and to each other? It's like another form of oppression: you are not good enough the way you are, so you have to change yourself to be like someone else in order to be acceptable.  It makes me mad. And sad.

And on the flip side, you know what comment I get the most about Amani? That he has great hair.  What's funny is that I usually get that comment from white people.  And lots of white people want to touch his hair. I've heard of this from the adoption community before.  I don't know if people just have never had a chance to touch black hair and can't resist the opportunity or what, but my poor child's head has been patted by more strangers than I care to admit.  I usually try to move him away as quickly as possible.

So why is crazy-curly hair not okay on grown women, but an adorable asset for a little boy?

Our culture is weird.

And by the way, in case you haven't seen this video. I love it. It brings tears to my eyes (plus, the man who wrote it wrote it for his adopted daughter... from Ethiopia!)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Halfway through month 1 - Seven Month Fast

It's two weeks in to the seven-month fast.  That means two more weeks of sweet potatoes, quinoa, black beans, spinach, apples, eggs and bread for me. Then we take a little two-week break and head into clothing month: seven articles of clothing for a month!

I wish I could tell you that I just rest in the peace of Jesus in the moments when this is hard. But that's just not always true.  I still struggle; I had an incredibly terrible day one day this week and I cheated and drank some lemonade (although now I'm thinking if I was going to cheat, I wish it had been with a milkshake).  I half-jokingly repeated "Jesus-is-better-than-hot dogs.  Jesus-is-better-than-hot dogs. Jesus-is-better-than-hot dogs." over and over while at a cookout tonight.  I did have a giant victory earlier today when I found sweet potato chips at the grocery store that had nothing but sweet potatoes and salt on them.  HALLELUJAH!  Rob and I ate the entire bag this afternoon. I promise I won't let that happen again. :)

What I've realized, though, is how much food is tied to emotions for me.  And how crazy it is that I live in a country where we have the luxury of tying food to emotions.  I would have told you before that I'm a stress-eater, but I honestly had NO idea how much that was true. It makes absolutely no sense to me that there are places in this world where people would be falling to their knees in gratitude for full bellies, yet I choose to eat junk food when I'm just stressed out and not-at-all hungry.

Something is wrong here.

And I know it's not that there are too many people in those countries. There is plenty of food on our planet to feed everyone... it's just not all distributed evenly.  And so we wind up with countries like mine where we have childhood obesity and laws are being made about limiting the giant-ness of our cokes at the same time that parents are mixing dirt in with their children's dinners in order to help them feel fuller because they don't have enough food. All of these things happen on the same planet.

As a mother, I cannot imagine the horror of having to send a child to bed hungry. Or abandoning a child because I knew I'd have no way to feed him and truly believing that was my child's best hope to survive.

My teacher friends tell me about students who show up to school on Mondays having eaten pretty much nothing all weekend. That's not only on this planet but it's in my county.

Why is this okay?

This makes no sense to me.  I mean, one of the more well-known passages in the Bible tells us that Jesus talks about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned and states " Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matt 25:40, ESV).

Let me tell you how often I've been feeding the hungry: until recently, hardly at all. And I don't mean donating money to someone else so that they can feed the hungry.  While I think that's a wonderful thing - to donate to good causes - it doesn't tell us to do that in the Bible. I think that's because God knows how humans work. He knows we need to see faces, get to know people, in order to really be able to help them. Poverty is not a money problem, it's a relational problem. But that's a whole nother blog post.

I think the largest complaint about Christians is that we're hypocritical. I want to apologize personally for the hypocrisy in my life. I am sorry. I am falling short of the life Christ has called me to live. But I am trying. Not because I want to follow all the right rules, but because I pray every day that God will make my heart more like His.

And it's working.