Saturday, February 15, 2014

Patchwork Parenting

My husband has a patchwork quilt that his grandmother made The colors are eclectic and I can't quite say they match. But there is something that is very appealing about this patchwork quilt. Maybe it's knowing that someone created it by hand,-hours of painstakingly planning, cutting, and stitching. Maybe it's knowing that a family member thought enough to put it all together and give it to Jon without ever knowing everyone who would enjoy it. Maybe it's the fact that when you actually climb under it, it is cozy beyond all measures of coziness. There is just something about that patchwork quilt that is good. It makes me think of the journey Jon and I are just about to begin. We've initiated the process to get our foster care license. This is the beginning of what I will refer to as Patchwork Parenting. Our family will be pieced together piece by piece. Most likely, we won't match and we'll all look like an eclectic collection. However, we are confident that even this process has been planned and will produce love and comfort for those we don't yet know. We are excited to begin this journey. I hope to chronicle the journey here......

Monday, June 06, 2011

I get it.

When I lived in Swaziland, about 50% of the population was HIV positive. The life expectancy had dropped to under 30 years. It is expected that the Swazi culture will be extinct by 2030. And yet when you spoke to a Swazi about it, they often felt helpless to change anything. They knew a change in sexual practices could change these statistics, but also felt that these were radical changes in a culture where polygamy is still common, it’s accepted that married men have mistresses, and condom use wasn’t really popular.
I’d ask some of my female friends about this, and they often expressed a sad acceptance that it was inevitable,- sooner or later it would happen to everyone, there wasn’t much they could do to change an entire culture. And I agree, you can’t change other people. But if I was in their shoes, I think I would at least want to protect myself.
“Would you ever not get married?...or would you ever insist that your husband wear a condom if he was staying out at night?”
They would laugh off the absurdity of my suggestions. It was just their culture,-and you can’t really expect a woman to not want to get married, have a family, or that your husband would accept wearing a condom after all this time of being married.
I use to shake my head in saddened disbelief.
“We all die someday Christy. I’ll die of AIDS, maybe you’ll die in a car wreck. What’s the difference?” they’d say.
“You’re right. We all die someday. But you’ll die at 30 and leave your children orphaned, and I’ll die when I’m 90, in my bed surrounded by my children and grandchildren.
However, I’ve always said that Swaziland has the same problems as America, it just takes on a different form.
This month I’ve committed to a ’30-day challenge’ of healthy eating, and regular exercise. (My friend Nichole does it through Facebook.) I’ve cut out lots of sugar, processed foods, and fast food, and I feel good doing it. I committed to this to go along with my Crim training, but also committed to it because I knew it was only 30 days.
“You can do anything for 30 days right?” I said to myself. “Then after that I can go back to whatever. I mean, it’s not really realistic that I’ll never eat fast food again, or sweets? I mean that’s just part of life, you get busy and over stretched, and so you have to grab something quick and or processed, or on-the-go. That’s just part of the American culture.”
And the light bulb went off!
I sounded just like my Swazi friends.
I look around me every day and see the consequences of our food choices. Obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, high blood pressure ect. It is killing off our people, and shortening our life spans. And we often shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh well, what are we to do? That’s just our culture, and the way life is.”

My own acceptance of this was a bit startling. I think I need to make a change. I know I’m only one person and I can’t change an entire culture. But I can make choices for myself. I can make changes in my ways. Some of my choices might seem counter culture, but I think I’ll have to adapt some of these practices for more than 30 days.
Thanks Nichole,- I get it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

If Jesus is the Reason....

Every year when December rolls around I get reflective. Another year has come and gone. What happened? What did I accomplish? What are my goals for the next year?

This year the holiday season approached with lights and bells & whistles just the same as always. I was so excited but knew this year would be a challenge. Work, plus grad school would eat away at the weekdays as well as the weekends. Could I squeeze in shopping here and there between students? Would I miss sitting in front of my tree because of the hours I had to sit in my office studying? I braced myself for the holiday season which (just as I expected) would fly by in a blink making me wonder "Hey, where did the month go?"

And maybe it was because my favorite time of year was slipping through my fingers that I became so easily annoyed with those little thing that I would usually let slide,- but this year I found myself internally cranky.

No I didn't go off on anyone, but I really feel the need to vent.

Hence, the blog. (Warning, you might not want to read this)

My biggest pet peeve this year was this seemingly constant barrage (either in close vicinity or via facebook)of I-refuse-to-be-politically-correct-because-I'm-a-Christian greetings. These usually came in the form of Merry CHRISTmas, or Jesus is the Reason for the Season, or Join my facebook group to keep Christ in Christmas if you are a REAL Christian, or Don't write "X-mas" groups.

Ugh!

Let me make myself clear. I am a Christian. I know Christmas Day is the day we observe the birth of Christ. So in the future, if I bump into you at church on Sunday and wish you a "Happy Holidays" it's not because I'm ignorant, nor is it because I'm trying to be politically correct. It's because between Nov. and Jan we celebrate many many holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day (for those of you Brits)New Years Eve, and New Years Day. My wish if for you to have all of them happily. So please save me the lecture about how I'm supposed to say "Merry Christmas"

Secondly, I have no problem writing "X-mas" because I know the history behind it and I'm not actually removing Jesus from Christmas. No matter how many facebook groups protest it, I'm still going to do it guilt-free.

You, however are welcome to write it how ever you'd like and wish it however you'd like. It's a free country and I don't mind if you say "Merry Christmas"

But it does bother me that these people who insist on making everyone keep "CHRIST in CHRIStmas" do little more than post annoying stuff on facebook.

(Disclaimer: I do have many beautiful friends who spend the holiday season serving, giving, loving, blessing others, and sacrificing in ways that would truly honor Jesus in remembering his birth)

But for the others, if the focus is still on presents, Santa, spending money you don't have to buy presents for people who don't really need anymore, gorging yourself on food 'till you're sick, throwing a couple of left over coins into a Salvation Army kettle, why do you pat yourself on the back for writing out all of the letters in Christmas instead of writing an abbreviation?
Perhaps you think you are doing baby Jesus a favor by honoring his holiday. But if your attitude, and actions are no different than those who don't recognize him, have you really honored him?
Yes, Jesus is the reason for the Season, but he's not the reason for mayhem incorporated into it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Scared Hands

I watched an interesting story on the news this morning. A man named Richard Edwards recently had a double hand transplant.
Now he reports that he's amazed by his new hands and often stares and contemplates them.
He said, "I just look at them to learn them. They have these scars, and I wonder. What did he do to get these scars?"
A great question to ask ourselves.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Creepy Crawlies and other Central American Excitements


This is the Scorpion that Shannon and I found in our room. Very big and very scary.
Guatemala also has some giant spiders, snakes that like to sleep on warm computers, and even offered us a small earthquake.
While we did miss a tropical storm, a hurricane, a volcanic eruption, and flooding, we did get to witness (and thankfully escape)the beginning of a shoot out on the way to the Capital, and a crime scene complete with yellow tape and corpses.
Yeah, definitely had some excitement on this trip.
I was happy to be home in Flint where we have neither critters nor shootings. lol

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Living a Better Story

Back in college a friend once asked me, “What’s your biggest fear?”

I remember my answer clearly. “I’m terrified that someday, I’ll be 90 years old, laying on my death bed and realize I’ve never done anything great in my life.”

Something within me way back then knew that life was meant to be something significant. And you’d think being able to articulate that at 20, that I’d be intentional about the things I’d do.

But maybe not.

I think perhaps at that age, we might all idealistically approach life that way,- That we are here for a purpose and our lives will make a difference.
But like so many others, I guess I thought that an exciting life would happen to me, while I was doing the routine, mundane, daily grind. The daily college life led to the daily career life.

Mondaytuesdaywednesdaythursdayfridaysaturdaysunday……lather, rinse, repeat.

Before I knew it, years had slipped by and nothing great had happened to me yet. Perhaps I would just need to wait a bit longer…..

Then I had my epiphany: I was bored in life.

While I loved my friends, my family, and even my teaching job, I recognized that if life was going to be exciting, I was going to have to make it exciting.
So, (much to my father’s chagrin) I sold off everything I owned, packed 4 suitcases and moved to Africa.

If you’d asked anyone around me, they would have all told you I was living this big, adventurous, life! I ran a major schooling program for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children! I slayed giant insects! I ate chicken intestines.

And while the years I lived in Africa were great and provided me (and you long-time readers) with some hilarious blog-fodder, after the initial excitement wore off, I saw it was simply a new location to spend Monday thru Sunday.

Eventually I came home.

Now working and enrolled in grad school, …well, same thing, new city.

More years have passed….Early 30’s… Still nothing “great”.

So last February I read Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and it really spoke to me. It’s the only book I’ve ever read where I thought to myself, “…damn...I should’ve bought this instead of just checking it out at the library.”

I read half, and then started again from the beginning because it was too good not to. And while I finished the end chapters, and read through the second time, I also started at the beginning again. I had to have 3 bookmarks throughout the book to keep my place for my multiple readings.

It just made sense to me.

Maybe it’s his simplicity of writing, maybe because he’s talking about things from a writer’s perspective, maybe it’s because I see myself in him when he’s “living the life he always wanted” and still recognizes something is missing, but I could relate to it.

There’s a scene when he writes about living as a writer and making up stories for a living. Then one day he goes to a coffee shop and sees a couple with a family and it occurs to him that while He’s been making up stories, others have been living their stories.

I think that’s the part I started to tear up.

I recognize now that the life I’ve been desiring to have all along is not simply about doing stuff, or even having an adventure, but an living an intentional life. Yes inevitably, it will include the daily grind, and living this way is bound to bring about some adventures, but it’s caused me to reflect on what I actually want to start doing in the midst of my Monday thru Sunday.

A few months ago Donald Miller posted the “what if” challenge on his blog. I thought to myself,” What if my character stopped saving random cats, and started to progress the story forward?”

This is what I’ve been slowly moving towards,- focused on the thing that has been heavy on my heart. “What if I actually started reaching out to some of these teenage girls in class who are slipping through the social cracks? What if I broke that unspoken rule that students and adults don’t mix? What if I started being an influence in their lives? What if I gave them the chance to live a better story?” This is the direction I’ve started as a short term story.

So I’ve been really hoping to attend the Living a Better Story seminar (with Donald Miller) in Portland in September. I’m thinking that it would give me additional encouragement to continue in the direction I’ve started to baby step. Maybe it can help me lead these teens along the way.
At the same time it terrifies me. I told my best friend “I’d like to go to this seminar… but I’m afraid it will mess me up. I’m afraid I’ll be wrecked for the ordinary.”

But isn’t facing conflict the best part of the story? You’ll root for my character won’t you?

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.


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Flood damage


I shot this picture down the ravine. You can see that shorts are were left behind as well as shoes and toys. Just evidence of all that was washed away in the flood.

These are picture of the damage done in the recent tropical storm and flooding. The edges of the river have just been destroyed, taking homes, and lives.


This is the water line, 1/2 way up the window. It lets you see just how bad the flooding was in the city.

temporary housing


So these are some of the temporary houses we helped with to allow these families a roof over their heads. A far cry from what they will have in a year, but it is 4 walls and a rood that keeps the rain out better than black plastic.

This is Baby harrison. His mother is 16 and she was found on the banks of the river, freightened and alone. Her house and all of her belongings were washed away. They were living in a "house" made of tree branches and black plastic.


So many people were living like this,- a tent city.

The widow's home



We spent a few days building and painting a house for this younge widow. She lost her husband in the flood, and now is living on the compound withher two small children. She's been given this house as well as employment to provide for herself, and protect her from men who might pose a threat to a younge woman.

Colocha


This is Colocha, a beautiful little girl at the mal-nutrition center. She was abandoned at birth and rescued.
Her name means "curly" and while she is a happy healthy baby, thriving at Hope for Life, still holding her in my arms made me cry.
She is doing well, but what about all of the babies who have yet to be rescued?

More More More

The Lord has really been pushing me to ask him for "More." I'm trying, but to be honest, I don't know what "more" is.
It reminds me of a story I read about Katheryn Kuhlman as a little girl. She'd stand behind her father and say "Daddy, give me a nickle." He'd pretend he didn't hear her and she'd ask again and again until he'd swoop around and pull her into his lap and give her a nickle. As an adult he recounted this story to her, and said, "My precious daughter. I would have given you anything you'd asked... you only limited yourself because you didnt'know to ask for more."
I can see this in myself,- like a little kid who things $100 is the biggest amount in the world,- enought to buy a candy bar and a house and a car.
But we all know there is so much more than $100!
God is telling me there is more than I've been asking for, more than I've been willing to accept.
I don't know what it is, but I'm asking for it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Representin'

Okay, I'm not done with the Guatemala stories, but I read this today and thought it was interesting.

1 Chron 22:7 "I wanted to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God," David told him. "But the Lord said to me, 'You have killed many men in the great battles you have fought. And since you have shed so much blood before me, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honor my name. But you will have a son who will experience peace and rest. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon and I will give peace and quiet to Isreal during his reign. He is the one who will build a Temple to honor my name......'"

David, was a man after God's own heart, but at the same time, God didn't want someone with a reputation as a killer to be the one to build his house of prayer,- he wanted someone with a reputation as a peacemaker.

Do you think you are building in the kingdom of God?
What is your reputation?