Monday, October 15, 2012


Have you ever seen this bumper sticker? I'm not really sure what the original creator of this was thinking when he/she made it - it probably has some political implication that I don't even agree with - but for some reason this particular bumper sticker resonates with me.

Usually bumper stickers make me roll my eyes. It's silly to think putting an idea on a piece of sticky paper on the back of a car might make someone decide to think like I do. 

But this one makes sense to me.  I spent an hour at a meeting this week for folks who are interested in traveling to Swaziland with Heart for Africa next summer. That means I got to spend an hour talking about (and listening to others talk about) how much we love that country and the Swazi people.  And I was reminded of how much they are suffering; how much tragedy and poverty has been heaped upon a tiny country the size of New Jersey.

And in the midst of my general frustration that comes from election years, I came home pretty outraged.  Mothers in Swaziland are jailed for stealing food because they can't feed their children. Their children who are under three get to live with their mothers in prison (did I just say get? yes, those are the lucky children) but their other children are left to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, Americans are squabbling over which presidential candidate's policies are going to make sure they have more money in their pockets at the end of the day.

I'm a mom. I can't even leave my children for a couple of days without missing them. I had a big ole' meltdown the last time I was in Swaziland because I was so far away from my children and I CHOSE to go on that short trip.  There are mothers in Swaziland who are having to watch their little ones grow up in prison while their hearts ache for the children they've left behind at home, not knowing if those children even have enough to eat, much less any adult supervision. 

I keep hearing the amounts of money that the candidates have raised for their campaigns. I keep seeing facebook posts about how what matters most is electing the person who will make sure Americans keep getting richer.

And I'm outraged.

Why aren't people as willing to fund restorative programs as they are negative campaign ads? Why aren't we posting on facebook about the women whose children are going to suffer and die because they died of AIDS in an age when HIV is no longer a  death sentence?  Why are we not outraged that there are mothers who walk this same planet who feel that the best option for their newborn babies is to drop them down a pit latrine and hope for a quick death? This is reality in Swaziland.

My outrage isn't directed at those suffering. It's directed at me, at my culture, at my society.  That we are letting this happen.  My heart can't even imagine how the mothers of Swaziland are suffering, how they hurt.

I don't want to ignore this. I'm paying attention. I've seen poverty both here in my city and a country an 18-hour-plane-ride plus 5-hour-bus-ride away.  And I want to be outraged. I do. I don't want to stick my head in the sand and live my life as if I don't know.

I can't solve all the problems. But Jesus has made it pretty clear what role I am to have.  And I've hugged my brothers and sisters in Swaziland. They're trying so hard to heal their country. And a visit from someone from so far away brings them hope and encouragement.  I've held children who have no parents; who are raising themselves.  And a hug and a listening ear can bring an afternoon of healing to a child or a mother or father who has been struggling.  Helping a community plant a garden can provide food for the next several months.  And I've hugged the homeless men and women who live 10 minutes from my house, assuring them that, while they are in my presence, I will listen to them and give them grace and dignity, not judgment. I don't have to solve the problems - but I do have to love others as Christ does. And loving means doing, going, walking, planting, hugging. And it means sacrificing so that others may have when I have abundance.

So that's why I'll be returning to Swaziland next summer. Because I'm paying attention. And because the same God the Swazis are crying out to for help is telling me to go.  If it were me crying out for help, I would pray someone would be willing to go. If they weren't, it would be an outrage... wouldn't it?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Gold medals, tent cities, and kisses

Yesterday was an eventful day for Amani and me. Joey Cheek, US Gold medalist for speed skating, was in town to do some fundraising for the IRC, the day resource center that serves our homeless population here in Greensboro. He wanted to see where some of our homeless folks are living and so the IRC asked StreetWatch to bring him out to one of the tent cities.

SIDE NOTE: Have I mentioned that Amani has "third child syndrome?" ha! He does seem to get dragged along to a lot of events. He's such a great sport about it. Amazing kiddo. I totally would have left him home if Rob's schedule had been free.

So StreetWatch arranged for us to have a little breakfast party at the tent city. Biscuitville, Krispy Kreme, and Harris Teeter donated food and we bought some coffee. And my homeless friends got to meet Joey Cheek and his girlfriend, Margaux Isaksen, who is an Olympic pentathlete (yeah, I had to google that one).

And I stood back and watched. The news crew wasn't there about StreetWatch, plus Michele knows infinitely more about homelessness than I do, and I was very happy to stay away from cameras and reporters.  And my heart filled with joy as I watched an Olympic Gold medalist make his way around the camp, sitting down to talk with my friends, LISTENING to them. Allowing them to have a voice for the morning. I'd check in with them from time to time to ask what they were thinking and they all talked about how great it was, how much fun they were having, what a blessing it was.

I do realize a two-year old in a tent city is not what you'd expect to find. Plus, we are that "visible family" after all, so I got a couple of questions about Amani and adoption.  And Margaux loves children, so she was all about talking to Amani. She asked to hold him and I am proud to announce that Amani has had his first crush: on an Olympic athlete, no less! :)  She really is super-sweet and she was so kind to him all morning. You know how that makes a mama's heart happy.  And it kept him so content that I didn't even have to bribe him with the 2nd half of his Krispy Kreme doughnut (now THAT's an an achievement!)

So here's the funny part. When it was time for them to leave, Amani went to give her a hug goodbye... and planted a kiss right on her lips!! She was really gracious and sweet about it and everyone started joking to Joey that he was losing his girl. He said something like, "I was always afraid that would happen, but I never thought I'd lose her to a two year old."

Thanks Michele for getting a picture of this! :)
Big day for Amani: first crush, first kiss. Leave it to my child to pick an Olympic pentathlete!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The best worst year of my life.

A year ago today, I stepped off a plane with my third child in my arms, finally home forever. It was almost two years after starting the adoption process. Two years of waiting, paperwork, praying, waiting, praying. I thought those years were hard. I had no idea.

I will never forget coming down the escalator at the Charlotte airport with Amani in my sling after over 30 hours of traveling and seeing my husband, seeing my two older kids running to me, seeing so many of our friends there to greet us. It was amazing. My only regret is that we didn't get a picture with everyone there.

Allyn's first Big Sister kiss

Our first family picture (remember, 30+ hours of traveling - I am looking rough!)

And then we drove home from Charlotte to find this in our driveway:

That day was crazy. Amani and I were exhausted and dirty. He was so sick (we had no idea he'd be having surgery 8 days later).  And our friends and family surrounded us with so much love and support. I get teary thinking about that day and how much we love the folks who shared it with us.

And that was a year ago today. Three hundred and sixty five days.

Those have been the hardest three hundred and sixty five days of my life. And the best. And the most stressful. And the most amazing.

Adoption is not for wimps.

Looking back on this past year, I am so glad to be moving forward.  And I cannot get over how different our family is from a year ago.

If you haven't seen it yet, there's a blog post from Jen Hatmaker (have I ever mentioned how much I love her? oh, I have? a million times? right, sorry) and it sums up the first year home with adopted kiddos:

In the past year I have cried tears of joy and tears of despair. I have wanted to shout from the rooftops and praise God and I have wanted to throw myself down a flight of stairs.  Seriously.

But today I look at my little brown boy who runs to me when I walk in the door yelling "Mommy Hoooome!" and I want to cry tears of pure joy. I know what his life would have looked like if he weren't here. I know the struggles he's been through over the past year. He's my fighter, my survivor, and he is, quite possibly, the sweetest of my three children.

And as hard as it has been, I'd do it again. I'd do it all again to have him be my son; I hope to get to do it again for another child someday.

But for now, I am really looking forward to year two with our amazing Ethiopian son. He is truly a blessing to our family, temper tantrums and all! :)