Sunday, October 31, 2010

"The Lonely Place"

When we got back from Kenya, I decided that it was important for our kids to be more involved with serving others in our everyday life. One of the things we decided to do was get involved with a local assisted living facility. With our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers group) at our church we decided to create artwork monthly and then bring it over to the seniors to brighten their days. We started in September and each time we would go, B would talk about how were going to go bring pictures to "the lonely place." :)
For fall, we decided we would do a little activity with them as well, and we set up for the kids to go "trick or treating" during the seniors' lunchtime. The kids get candy and a chance to dress-up and the seniors get to see a bunch of pretty cute kids in adorable costumes. It seemed like a win-win. And, that, it certainly was!

The activities director at the home said she had never seen the residents smile so big, and the seniors warmed our hearts too as they all each tried to get the kids attention. Even though we provided the candy, many of the seniors insisted that they buy candy while on their group outings so they would have some of their own to give the kids. It was adorable! The only truly funny moment was when a man in a motorized wheelchair and a full-face mask came towards T and he ran for me as fast as his feet could take him. We had such a wonderful time, and are now trying to figure out what kind of caroling visit we can organize for December. Thanks to everyone who participated - you made it great!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Transracial Adoption Must-Read

So, you may have noticed J and I like to make a decision and then go for it. Well, a few years ago we went to Ethiopia, saw there were a lot of orphans, wanted to start a family, and started the adoption process. Sure, I read a book here or there, but most of the absolutely vital things we have learned about attaching with an adopted child and adopting a child of a different race (which are both HUGE deals) we have learned after the fact. I have read some pretty excellent books and talked with some very helpful people since then, however, in regards to the race-related issues, I just finished a book that should be a must-read for every transracially adoptive parent (or potential transracially adoptive parent). It is called In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories by Rhonda Roorda and Rita Simon. The book is made up of a small section of expert opinions, statistics on related studies, and then 24 interviews with adults who as infants or children were adopted into families of another race.

I held my breath at first, hoping that the book would tell me that transracial adoptees are happy and healthy and everything is okay. Thankfully, the empirical evidence and overall interviews did show that most of the children had a positive experience with their families ::sigh of relief!:: and would continue to recommend transracial adoptions. However, there were also plenty of parts of the book that were hard to read, such as the descriptions of the racism these children faced and the identity issues some of them struggled through.

For example one African American male stockbroker who was raised by white parents shares, "As I got older, I stopped being this cute little boy and others perceived me as this black teenager and a menace to society. Apparently I was liable to rape, kill, or whatever. I got pulled over by cops, I got slammed against the wall with a flashlight up in my face. The fact that I was able to go to my dad and see his pain and outrage, the same way as I was feeling even though he had never experienced it, was a support system for me" p. 296. The interviewer then shared that "When I do public speaking before parents who have dark-skinned sons, I tell them to prepare for the fact that their sons will be treated unfairly because of the color of their skin" p. 297. Talk about breaking a mother's heart! The stories that were shared in this book were so out of my realm of understanding as a white woman. Thinking about the fact that T may (and most likely will) face this type of injustice in his lifetime sickens me and makes me want to better educate myself on the issues he will face as well as how to prepare him. I want to give him the most secure start he can have, and this book gave some helpful insights.

The best part of the book was hearing from these adults exactly what they would have done differently or what they were thankful that their parents had done a certain way. Basically, most suggestions could be summarized in:
*Provide a loving home where the child can be accepted for who they are and are encouraged to develop self-confidence. Help the child to learn more about their ethnic heritage (celebrate black history, etc.) and explore their identity without feeling threatened. Openly discuss race and racial issues. Appreciate their culture and have items, dolls, books, etc. that do, too.
*Have an experience where you are the minority (so you can relate to how your child feels all of the time. I definitely think being in Kenya helped me understand the possible discomfort better. They suggest ethnic churches for a similar experience.)
*Recognize and validate the unique challenges that your child will face that you haven't. Don't pretend that everyone is colorblind. Instead talk through incidents as they occur. Although, race may not be a big deal to you, even though we wish it, that is not the case for the majority of society. We need to prepare our children to deal with such inequities.
*Raise them in a diverse community and with a foundational belief in God. Put a high value on education, too.
*Have friends who are of the child's race, or who have transracially adopted, and if possible, give the child a sibling of similar background. Give them role models of their race to look up to.

The book ends with this paragraph, "All participants believe that transracial adoption served them well; all of them feel connected to their adoptive parents; and all except one, support transracial adoption, but with strong recommendation that agencies and prospective parents recognize the importance of learning about their child's racial history and culture and make that history and culture part of both their child's life and their family life" p. 192.

When we grow up in the family of our own ethnicity we never have to "learn" culture. However, when we adopt transracially we are no longer just a white family. We no longer blend in and we need to fully understand the impact and responsibility of raising a child of a different race. I don't think many people think through this before they make the decision to transracially adopt. I know we didn't. However, for T's sake I sure hope that we can now continue to learn and be mindful of this great responsibility. He is certainly worth it! And we gain some beautiful things ourselves: a precious son, a new richer understanding of another culture, and hopefully the diversity even in our home will fight our own ethnocentrism and make the world look a bit more like God intended. This is an excellent resource and I highly recommend it! Love to hear your thoughts, too...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Growing Up!

Right now, the kids are watching Dora as I take a brief pre-bedtime break. We have had a really great day today. We woke up and pretended we were at a camp out, then we played Memory which was really fun until the last couple of minutes when a fight broke out and preschool legs started flying. That's kind of our deal lately. We have lots of fun until they remember that they are brother and sister and should be doing something to antagonize/bother/injure the other one. I spend the majority of my day when we are at home as a referee. That is the primary reason why we get out so much.
So, once they started brawling I knew it was my cue to get us out of the house. We went to the gym where they happily went and played in the bouncer. Then we went to the mall and used a gift card for lunch at Wildflower bread company where we actually had a pleasant lunch together. They sat there with me and we talked and enjoyed our food and no one had a high chair or a difficult time remaining seated. We didn't use a stroller at the mall. They just walked with me (and ran, but not too far from where I was). We went to Barnes and Noble and read books together where no one flipped out about not buying anything. In fact, they happily left the mall empty handed. They enjoyed a bit of the survival of the fittest in the mall play area and then we headed home. We played pet store (which they came up with), ate dinner, took showers and laid down for a movie before bed. And all the while I was able to enjoy their cute comments and just feel so blessed that they are mine. One of my highlights was when we got into a kissing fight where we each tried to smooch each other as much as possible and ended up in big giggles. :)

This all may sound pretty normal and uneventful, however, it is kind of a milestone for us. The biggest accomplishment is that I don't feel like going crazy and we are only 2 nights away from J's return from Africa. Yes, we had a fun day together and we have been without daddy for 5 days. Don't get us wrong, we miss him terribly, but I am not on the exhausted verge of tears that I usually am at this point in his trips. The kids are growing up so very quickly! Not to mention we had some AMAZING help from grandparents on both sides earlier in the week as well as WONDERFUL friends who kept us busy and distracted. I guess I just feel really happy to see how much we can enjoy each other and do more than survive. I credit it to each child only waking up once per night on average, the incredible support system we have here, and the fact that these kids are really growing up. I love days like this...they really make this whole journey so wonderful, event he days that are not like this. And, I really love that we get to pick daddy up at the airport in only 42ish more hours. Even great days are even better when he is around!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Good Mothers Don't...

So, typically I am not a big fan of books about how to be a good mom because they usually make me feel guilty and seem too unrealistic anyhow. However, I have been reading this book called, Tender Mercy for a Mother's Soul, with a couple of friends, and I have actually been enjoying it. She has talked a lot about making sure you care for your soul because the care you give to your family overflows from that.

In one section, the author talks about how she had always tried to subscribe to this imaginary unspoken list in her head of what a good mother does. She goes on to list things like: always has a clean house, always has a healthy made-from-scratch meal on the table when dinnertime rolls around, does at least one craft per day with her children, has the patience of Job, etc... These things sound ridiculous when you read them in list form, though I find myself very guilty of making myself feel guilty with these weird standards of what a "good mother" does or doesn't do. I started to think as I went through my day about the things that would happen and what the apparent rules on my list were. Here are a few I came up with:
1. A good mother does not have a child who rolls around on the floor yelling in Ross.
2. A good mother doesn't have (or need) her kids to watch more than ____ amount of T.V.
3. A good mother doesn't have a child who demands a glass of milk before even attempting to simply ask for one.
4. A good mother definitely doesn't let her child have ____ amount of sugar (and she certainly doesn't let her child eat 5 mini-cupcakes in a day).
5. A good mother doesn't raise her voice to get her children to stop pouncing on each other.
6. A good mother can get tired, cranky kids to nap when they need to.
7. A good mother can keep the house clean without extreme efforts.
8. A good mother always has a fun, educational activity up her sleeve.
9. A good mother models patience and all that is good - even on mornings like this one....
As you may have guessed each one of those rules was violated by me in the recent past. And each time I violate one of those "rules" I hear in my head how very far I have to go as a mom and how I have probably ruined my children. And, as I see my faults, I get discouraged, because I have perfectionist, first-born tendencies I can't kick.

Then, I realize what I need to hear. I need to hear, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:9. And, I need to throw that list out the window for every other purpose than to remind myself that though there is MUCH weakness, there are that many more opportunities for his strength. I think I need to think a lot more about God and a lot less about me. And, hopefully, my kids will wear rose-colored glasses when they remember their childhood - maybe I will just order those now...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Eight Years!

J and I just celebrated our 8th anniversary last weekend with our very first night away from the kids! It was just wonderful and well worth the wait! I didn't worry at all, as I knew they were having a blast with their Nana and Papa. I would imagine it is much easier not to worry when you don't leave them until they are practically school age! Anyhow, we began enjoying our time away with lunch out followed by a movie. We saw Inception, and it was a good pick - a nice compromise between my affinity for redemptive or romantic comedy movies and J's love of action espionage movies. It was definitely the first movie we had seen in the theater together for about 2 years I think. We didn't even remember to put the arm rest up until halfway through since we were so out of practice!

After that we got gelato and headed to our hotel in Scottsdale. Yay for J's delta miles! We went for an evening swim and lounged around and talked. Then we got late-night Chipotle. We were able to be spontaneous and just have fun talking and laughing together. We brought Chipotle back and watched an old Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (super romantic, huh?) Then we enjoyed the comfy bed for a compete night's sleep! We even slept in until around 8:30!
We got some Starbuck's and leisurely made our way home to rescue the grandparents the next day. When we got there the kids weren't too excited to see us. It had been a lot of swimming, movies, and pure "grandparenty goodness" and I think they were sad to see it come to an end, too. T even punished me for a bit by shunning hugs, no "hi's," no anything. He got over it eventually. Then we got to experience our first post-sleepover attitude from our little princess the rest of the day. I completely remember when my parents would be so irritated that I was so grumpy the day after sleepovers (due to exhaustion) and I got to experience it firsthand. Thanks for wishing that on me, mom and dad. Sorry for all of those times... It's not pretty. Luckily, we were well-rested and happy to spend time with our precious kids, grumpy or not. :)
Overall, we had such a wonderful anniversary. I am so thankful for J and so very blessed to be on this adventure with him! And now we are plotting for our next night away....

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Motherhood is so extreme...

Motherhood is so extreme. I feel like each day I experience extreme joy and happiness in celebrating the little things that are so big for the little people I love. I also feel like I experience extreme frustration, and subsequently extreme guilt, due to my lack of patience in certain situations. J has been out of town for the last 4 nights, and we have done surprisingly well. I mean, really, the kids are so much bigger that I can actually get them to sleep at a reasonable time, and I can entertain them with fun activities like drawing on the shower walls with markers (until they turned on each other), or playing hide and seek, or using letter stamps and coloring pictures (all of those things happened during the short period of 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. yesterday. I actually didn't cry while daddy was away this time nor did I feel like I couldn't make it another day. (My parents were also awesome with helping out. I am so thankful for them!)
However, with their age also has come fighting with each other - sometimes physical. I mean seriously, some of these altercations are like the WWF, there are just less spandex costumes and more rage. So, while physically things are about a zillion times more manageable, emotionally the fighting with each other and sassiness with me are really remarkable.
One of those situations that really tests my patience has been happening a lot these days. Perhaps, you can relate? It goes something like this:
Me: Please get in the car.
Preschooler: No, you go to the other side. I want to do it myself.
Me: I can't go to the other side, I have to make sure you are safe. Go ahead and climb in yourself.
Preschooler: I need to get my ____ . I think I forgot it.
Me: You'll be okay without it. Please just get in the car.
Preschooler: I NEED my ______!!
Me: Oh, look you actually left it on the floor of the car buried in crumbs and other miscellaneous plastic things. Here it is. It is very hot outside. Please climb in your seat.
Preschooler: I need to swing into my seat.
Me: Okay! Just get in. (Waiting) That's it. If you don't get in before I count to three I am putting you in myself. 1-2....
Preschooler: I'm in my seat. NO! You can't buckle me. I need to do it myself!
Me: Okay, do it yourself! Just please hurry! Mommy is sweaty because it is a 115 degrees out here and she is about to lose it. (For those of you not in AZ that temperature is literal, not an exaggeration.)
*5 more minutes pass while the "self-buckling" takes place before mommy can do the final snaps.
Preschooler (whining and apparently just realizing the temperature): It's HOT! I'm SOOOO firsty (thirsty!)
*Repeat this on the other side of the car with the other preschooler.
This heat is making me a very testy person. Nevertheless, now juxtapose that sweaty-car-seat-battle-for-independence with the sweetest moments watching T realize that he knows all but one of his letters or snuggling up with B as she explains to me the cupcakes she would like to make for all of her friends from ballet class. Or hearing them pray and thank God for their families and talk about how they know they don't have to be afraid because He is with them. Picture the midnight, "Mommy, I can't sleep. Can you please snuggle me?"And then you know why I let these little people force me to stand out in the unbearable heat in order to buckle their car seat for 15 minutes a pop. And still I wouldn't trade the job for anything.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ahhh, the desert...

This week we have been enjoying the "cooler" temperatures that come with monsoon season. It's only been in the mid-90's which has been an excellent reprieve from the 115 degree heat we had experienced last week. You should see the kids run to grab their umbrellas at the sight of two or three rain drops.

We spent the 4th of July up at my in-laws cabin which was a lot of fun! We saw fireworks (well, everyone except T who fell asleep), hunted for bugs and rocks, picked veggies from the garden with Nana, and rode a lot of go-kart with Papa. Not to mention we even needed to wear a jacket occasionally.

Even in spite of the crazy temps, we have been managing to stay cool enough with morning playdates with friends, museums, swimming lessons, splash pads, libraries, and so on.

In fact today we went with some friends to a tour at Coldstone Creamery where the kids got to help make ice cream and then of course eat some! My awesome friend, Tasia, set this up for us, and we all had a blast!

However, we do have to stay inside most afternoons because I can't bear to stand in the torturous heat while each preschooler insists/attempts to buckle their own car seats by themselves. The sun seems to beat down even hotter during those waits.
Even so, the kids have really gotten so old! I am realizing this in that they require much less manual labor than last summer. But, I do think they zap more emotional energy at this point. Between antagonizing each other (T is a pro!) and whining (B could give even the best whiner a run for their money) there are some days where I think I just might lose it. Thankfully, they make up for it with the ridiculous number of cute things they say. There are very few things that are better than snuggling them and reading together or seeing them enjoy some little activity we are doing. They adore each other, too. I peeked into their sports class the other day and saw them each keep picking each other in duck-duck-goose until the teacher intervened.
We have now been back from Africa for two months though it is very much still on our hearts. It is so strange for me to be reading travel warnings about potential terror threats and the danger of being in public places that we used to frequent just weeks ago in Kenya. We are praying for a peaceful voting process on August 4th in Nairobi, and thinking of all of the people we shared moments with while we were there.

As for our African friends here, we were able to take the refugee family we are working with to Walmart for the first time. I got to hold their little one year old baby boy as we walked around and he kept grabbing my hand and pushing it to his toes so I could count them once again. It was nice to be able to help a bit with some little things, like demonstrating what to do with air freshener and showing her that she didn't want swim diapers (that would have been a leaky disappointment of a diaper!) It made me remember what it was like to be in a foreign grocery store for the first time. It's pretty daunting.

I think they were surprised they could buy pineapples and shoes in the same place, but other than that they didn't display too much shock. The cashier accidentally dropped their can of fruit on the floor and it was very dented. She told the family that they would get a new one, but the family insisted, "No problem! No problem!" It was pretty interesting to think that this dented can was probably of not much concern when they had spent the past years living in a refugee camp after fleeing their war torn country. It's amazing the perspective you can gain even in a Walmart. Now if only I can keep that perspective...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

California Love...

This past week we were able to spend a few days in Pasadena while J held a staff retreat. We got to wear jackets! We enjoyed early morning "June gloom" cloudiness. We hit up all of our favorite kid hang-outs. And we did all of this while daddy was working away. Don't worry we took him to the beach one day. :)

But, the best part, was seeing all of our friends there. The kids adored reuniting with beloved playmates, and I thoroughly enjoyed the great conversations catching up with very close friends. It is pretty amazing to look back and realize how many amazing people God brought through our path while we lived there for two years, and it is even more special to know that almost a year after we moved we can still come back and have talks and fun like we never left at all.
So, my kids are pretty funny. They are saying and doing hilarious things at a rate which is much too fast for me to record them all. But, I felt like there was a concentrated amount of randomness this past trip which I have taken the time to document.
- T (who is now diaperless - yay!!) apparently had a little too much fun on our second night in town as he threw up as we took him up to the hotel room. He then woke up the next day and said in a very dramatic fashion, "I can't walk, Mommy, carry me!" before going limp. I got a little nervous when he preferred to sleep in the stroller than play at the park. But upon waking him after the park to get back in the car he just said, "I feel good, mom!" and it was over. So, apparently the boy who plays hard also rests hard on occasion. He wasn't sick, just tired. And I must admit I love the extra chances to snuggle my precious and very active boy.

-Unfortunately, the vomiting episode took place on B's side of the car. We tried to clean it up with hotel towels and hot water. Surprise - not all that effective at removing the smell. The next day, B starts gagging about it and says, "Ewww! I don't want to smell T's bacteria!" He luckily didn't seem too offended.
- We had a free hour during our trip so we stopped by our old Petsmart hang out. The kids loved it just as much as when they were one year-olds. At one point I did look over to find T mooning me, just for fun, but thankfully, I don't think anyone saw before I could explain why we don't do that in public. During that same visit, B was telling me again about how she is going to be an "animal carer" when she grows up which is super sweet. The only downfall is that it unfortunately sounds a lot like "animal killer" when she says it so I often need to quickly clarify when she tells this to friends, family, and strangers. She said she is also planning to be a doctor, vet, mommy, and princess. :) I think she should add writer to the list because she tells amazing stories, and never has enough time to finish each one, though she was hopeful when she heard we were a captive audience for our 6 hour drive.

- While over at our friend's house I noticed T start to make a disgusted face at which point he asked me for a wipe for his tongue. I asked why and he said, "Because I licked that rock." I look and see a somewhat triangle shaped boulder (see picture below). I of course, ask, "Why did you do that?" "Because I thought it was pizza. But it wasn't." Mystery solved.
- When B had just finished a new activity at one of our former favorite Pasadena parks, T wanted to try. Before he did she warned him, "T, this might scare you,'s a cool challenge." My very brave boy took the challenge happily. This was also the park B's second birthday was at, and she excitedly recalled, "I have a lot of rememberies from my birthday here!"

I agree with her. We have had an awesome year with great family and friends in AZ, but we still have a lot of great "rememberies" from Pasadena and of the people there, too. :) So glad it's such a nice place to visit!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

It is heating up!

And now it is officially VERY hot here. Surprisingly, we haven't been too stifled yet. We either stay inside or stay wet. We have had to get a bit creative with things, like playing with dry pinto beans and measuring cups, and the kids are taking a couple of classes - a sports class (which we originally signed T up for alone, but he would have nothing to do with unless B went with him, so they thankfully let me add her in, too. They are so much like twins at times!), and a tap and ballet class for B. We have thoroughly been enjoying play dates with friends, and we spend a lot of time at splash pads - the best way to get wet without me losing my mind.

We also had the kids do their first swimming lessons. We did a parent-tot class through the city and would meet J after work 4 days a week for two weeks, which was a bit much for us. The kids loved it and did pretty well. T dunks his head with no problem but is not a fan of floating, and B is the opposite. J and I were happy they enjoyed them, but relieved when they were done. Below is a picture of the kids in their new goggles. Yes, they are wearing them at the mall, and no, there is not a pool there. :)
J and I got to go to the wedding of one of the girls who was in my small group when I was a leader for the junior high ministry. She is such a special girl, and in fact, I can very vividly remember her being at our wedding as a seventh grader. We so enjoyed seeing her and her husband so very happy and we loved getting to have a little date night of our own. It's sweet to see a young couple with big dreams getting married mid-college and to realize that we were that young couple just eight years ago. And, as I think about that I realize that over the last eight years God has led us on a path that has far surpassed even our "biggest dreams." Not to mention, I love the man I married even more now than I did then (and I even still like him more...well, most of the time :)
We have been missing Africa a bit, though God has seemingly been bringing Africa to us. We made some new friends from Ghana (yes, I am now the lady that talks to random people at Walmart and then has them over for dinner. After my mom's propensity to strike up deep conversations with random strangers and subsequently embarrass my brother and myself growing up I never thought it would be so. Aren't you proud, mom?!) We also started helping with a refugee family through Lutheran Social Services (check out what they do - I love it!). They are refugees from Eastern Africa and they have been living in a refugee camp in Kenya for years. They have a 3 year old daughter and a 1 year old son who are just precious. Their English was minimal but we were able to communicate a bit and they are very happy to be here. We are looking forward to helping them feel more comfortable in the months to come. Then we had lunch with some old friends from Kenya and had much to talk about.

It is strange that we have been home a month now already. We are actually praying for Kenya right now as they are having some political turmoil and recently had a grenade attack during a rally in a park in Nairobi (you may remember seeing pictures of the park from when we took the kids there). You can read about it here. The vote on their new constitution is set for August 4th.

Lastly, I wanted to share the link to a blog which a friend sent me. This woman recently appeared on The View to share about international adoption and in her post shares all of the other things she wishes she had been able to say. I resonate with so much of what she says and feel like she states it so clearly that I think you should check it out. I love her thoughts on the damages of institutions, the idea that family preservation should be the first choice, and how adoption is much more about hard work than it is about "saving a child." Here's a blurb...

" I wanted to talk about the literature on institutionalized children, and how passionately I feel that the love of a family is a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT. I wanted to talk about the effects of institutionalization I am seeing in my own home. Even though my son is only three, and even though he was in an amazing orphanage. I wanted to talk about how deep my love is for my adopted children. I wanted to share the way I love them every bit as much as the daughters I have birthed.... I wanted to talk about how poverty is not a reason to remove a child from their birth family. I wanted to talk about how adoption should not be seen as a way of moving children from an "inferior" to a "superior" culture. I wanted to talk about how children can grow up happy and loved in any country if they form secure attachments. I wanted to talk about how a lack of affection is the most disgusting form of poverty, and how that happens right in our own backyard, even in the wealthiest of families. I wanted to talk about the reasons women place their children in orphanages, and how we need to be looking into family preservation when possible."
Here's where you can check it out for yourself...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Back in the Game...

I have been dragging my feet on posting. Why? Because for one, we spent about a week getting over jet-lag, and two, anything I write now will be a complete letdown. Not that life in AZ is fact, it really is quite the opposite. We have had a great time reconnecting with family and friends, playing, driving, etc... :) But, it just seems so commonplace compared to posts about the slums, and sweet orphans, and petting baby elephants. But, all good adventures must come to an end at some point, or you wouldn't have know them to be adventures, right? So, to fully contrast I was going to make this post about the fact that our family is now diaper-less (definitely NOT accident-less...serious-patience testing over here!) for the first time in over three years. I could lament about the painstaking process that potty training my precious, and very headstrong little boy is, but I'll spare you those details and attempt a post that is somewhere in between.
As we have been adjusting back to normalcy, there are a lot things we miss. It's funny how our trip has changed us in little ways. For example, T dropped his spoon from his sample on the floor of Trader Joe's and I just told him to pick it without even a courtesy "wipe off on my shirt" and use it again. The clerk looked at me horrified, and I just replied, "We just got back from spending two months in Africa." She didn't realize that the floor was far cleaner than the bath water T kept injesting in Kenya. So we are a little more laid back. I have also been a lot more mindful of people who are from other countries and have tried to be more friendly. I spent a while talking to a Bangladeshi Walmart clerk today and gave my email to a family from Ghana with a three year old. Pre-Kenya, I probably wouldn't have noticed them or taken the time to talk, and it has been a blessing to be more intentional. I love hearing about others' experiences and countries, and I know what it's like to be the foreigner now, too. It can be pretty isolating.
We are also strategizing some ways right now to keep our family involved in serving the "least of these." I have been reading The Hole in The Gospel by Richard Stearns and it has been rocking my world. I have learned unbelievable things (like the fact that if you make $50,000 per year you are wealthier than 99% of people in the world) and I have more importantly been reminded of God's heart for the poor and vulnerable, and how my faith requires a response from me regarding the suffering of people in our world (both here and across the oceans.) This bringing of the kingdom is the essence of the gospel, and if I really believe it then I really need to act. Stearns addresses the passage of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46) and how the passage doesn't say things like, "I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes" p. 59. Ouch!

I feel more moved than I did 3 months ago because now I picture actual faces when I hear statistics and read stories. I am excited for the documentary they filmed while we were there to be released, so others (hopefully including you) will be able to picture faces as well. Because all of the numbers we hear about really are people, vulnerable people like us. Anyway, I would highly recommend you read the book, but here are a few quotes he used to whet your appetite...

"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity." - George Bernard Shaw

"Sometimes I would like to ask God why he allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when he could do something about it." "Well, why don't you ask Him?" "Because I am afraid he would ask me the same question." - Anonymous

"Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours,
yours are the eyes through which
Christ's compassion for the world is to look out;
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now."
- St. Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Parting Shots...

We spent our last days in Nairobi saying goodbye. We went to the orphanage, and 12-month-old Daphne made my day by blowing kisses back to me as I laid her down for her nap. The kids bought some teething biscuits for our favorite little banana stand baby girl, Nellie, and they got to give her a couple of last sweet hugs. We also brought a few things for our apartment complex’s security guard and his family (some flour, sugar, coloring books, etc.) He had been so incredibly nice to us during our stay. I didn’t even know all that much about his background, but in fact learned more after we returned when I had internet enough to read about him and his family on an incredible blog kept by Bob Davidson, one of the film team members. It is worth reading Bob's thoughts, as he is an excellent writer and clearly portrays much of our experiences. His interview with our security guard tells so much.

The neighborhood boys came over and we gave them each some sweets in little goodbye gift bags which B and T put together. They all told us of their plans to come to America and how they would see us again. We told them we hoped so, and that we would do our best to come back and visit. B explained she’d be back for her birthday so they’re expecting us. J We will definitely miss this place, though I don’t think we will realize just how much for some time to come.

I packed things up though the clothesline wasn’t working too well, since rainy season had commenced. I actually microwaved a few pairs of underwear to see if I could speed the drying process. Though no major disaster happened during said microwaving, there were little results to report.

Then we spent the last couple of days at a retreat center in Limuru, which is a gorgeous area just outside of Nairobi, with lots of green, a nice little play area (the kids had been having withdrawals from running about freely!), and an unbelievable infestation of enormous grasshoppers (these things put our moths to shame.) We were there for a board retreat for LIA so we were joined by about 15 other board members, most of whom were PhD or medical doctors from different countries in Africa who passionately believe in the holistic development that LIA is carrying out in countless communities. It was a pleasure to interact with them and very humbling!

On Friday night, we began the trek home which was surprisingly not as awful as expected. The first leg from Nairobi to Amsterdam the kids slept…the whole way! We tried to sleep as much as we could as well. Then upon our arrival in Amsterdam, we took a train to the city center where we saw a bit of the city and took an hour-long canal tour before rushing back to the airport for the next flight. This was a fun little rendevous!

The next flight was long, but full of movies and a few naps. I have such a deep appreciation for “seat-back-select-your-own-movies” on flights. I also can’t advocate enough for the car seat on the flight, though it is extremely painful to lug the gigantic seats through multiple airports (sorry, J!) it was amazing to have them contained during the flights. I repeat, amazing. Upon arrival in Minneapolis we had to go through a lot of customs and immigration what-not and at this point, we were feeling pretty done. Then to the final flight. This surprisingly seemed to be one of the longest portions of the journey, assumedly because we were tired, and we were almost done…though not quite. We were very happy to see J’s parents and siblings at the security gate in Phoenix!

And, surprisingly we were even more happy than I expected to be home. I really feel like I had forgotten the comfort of “home” during our two months in Africa. This speaks a lot to the adaptability of people, but it also worries me terribly that I will just as easily forget our experiences in Africa. I can see myself so easily slipping back into a lifestyle, which revolves around my children, husband, and most worriedly, myself. Here it is so safe, so neat, so private, so comfortable...

I keep seeing myself hesistate as I start to dip my toothbrush under the sink water and then I remember that I live in a place where I can drink the water and not worry about a parasite or contamination from sewage. I see my kids infatuation with their “stuff.” I see myself heading to stores tomorrow to stock up on groceries and being tempted by the consumerism, which so easily does just that, consumes. And, so I am left with more questions than answers. I am trying to figure out how our family can still focus on the kingdom of God and loving the poor as we are called to do, when so many of the needs are not in sight or are at least well-masked. I won’t have a maintenance worker coming to our door to ask for painkillers and help to get to the hospital to treat his severe malaria, but I will hopefully remember that there are people across the world who used to be on my doorstep. And hopefully, this will change me…how I allot my family’s time, and when I use my family’s money, and where our family spends our thoughts and prayers. Because, what we experienced on our trip was much too precious to forget, and much too important.

Thanks for following along on our journey. Our experiences has been even richer because we have you to share them with.