Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tween Bible Study: The Initiation

Last spring, I felt a heavy burden on my heart to do all that I could to not only build a positive relationship with my 8 year old daughter, Alex.  Our strong willed, fiercely independent, energetic girl and I were butting heads, a lot.  For those who know Alex, you know that she is extremely social, gregarious, and a bit all over the place; she's either hyper focused on something or a million places at once.  I have always said that Alex is my teacher.  She reminds me that I, in no way, have this parenting thing all together.  Steve and I have some principles that guide us, but to be honest, when the rubber hits the road it's hard to see these principles that we believe strongly in carry out.
As we were preparing for our TJ (our first referral in September who passed away in November) and then Jesse last year, we thought a little family counseling wouldn't be a bad idea.  Yes, we are one of those families.  I have no problem reaching out when I feel a bit lost!  Our goal was to make sure our lines of communication were open w/ Alex as she transitioned from only child to big sister and to prepare anyway we could.  We talked about as much as possible and got some great tips from our counselor; it was time and money well spent for us.  It especially helped us with Alex when TJ unexpectedly died.  I wouldn't trade that time in her office for anything; it really put my mommy heart at ease as we were grieving.
Heading back to the spring, I felt called to try to build a better relationship with Alex by participating with her in a Bible Study of some sort, something appropriate and fun for her, but also meaningful to help her walk with God.  The burden came from a bit of fear: What if I miss this opportunity to really connect with her before she hits the teen years?  Also, I didn't want to look back and say that I could have done this or that, but I didn't.  
For those of you who know me, I'm a secondary English Teacher.  I heart teenagers.  They are funny and figuring it all out.  I love to just help them to not take themselves too seriously and yet encourage them to find their voice as they are entering this crazy world.  My big questions are:  Why are you here? (i.e. What do you think you've been put on this earth to do?) My challenge is:  Do it if you know what that is or explore what's out there to see if something ignites your soul!  This is a little deep for my 8 year old, although we are all about exploring to see where her talents and passions are right now.  This stage of her life is a bit goofy; I called this time in my own particular life "the uglies," (I hate to put a negative connotation on it, but it's honestly what I grew up calling it.) because I was so awkward and unsure.  As a result of this, I'm doing all that I can to appreciate a stage in my kiddo's life that I particularly didn't enjoy in my own.  Whew!  Sounds a bit self centered, I admit.
So, I organized a tween Bible Study for my crazy girl and some of the other girls who go to our church.  Last night was our first meeting chez moi.  I had my many magic markers and Bible Study books ready to go.  We sat in our only picked up room in my house, girls and moms together and discussed meditating on God's Word as it was laid out in Psalm 119.  I gotta tell you, this is deep stuff.  I'm praying that I didn't sound like a babbling idiot.  I was SO happy the other moms were there to be there in the conversation with our girls; they are a God send!  My biggest fear is confusing our girls or saying something that's wrong.  It's such a huge responsibility.
Anyway, I ask for your prayers as we continue on this journey.  I've been asking for the Holy Spirit to guide my words, etc.  My kid was the class clown in the group; are you surprised?  So, now my new prayer is that she focuses a little more (surprise, surprise!) and listens with her whole heart.  I'm grateful to have this time with her, and I hope we can look back one day and say, "Remember when..."  I want as many of those as possible.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Education

The number one question that I have been asked since starting the adoption process is, "Why Ethiopia?"  I even had two people, including one of my family members, tisk tisk me for not "considering our own children here in the US to adopt."  They have a point, but I'm not about winning a battle over where God revealed to me where my child was.  That's how it all started, with a fireworks show in the pit of my belly when I even heard that adoption was possible in Ethiopia; I knew right then and there that that was where my family was headed to bring home our son.  Those of you who have had moments like that know there's no questioning it, you simply step out in faith and do what He has called you to do.  The interesting part of our family's story is that when I was ready to go go go in 2007, Steve was not.  It took every ounce of my being to not want to "make" him do what I wanted; because we all know that women can be very powerful creatures.  He didn't give me an emphatic "no," it was just "I'm not ready for all of this; maybe one day, but not today."  I had to respect that as much as I didn't want to.  Steve was born to be a daddy.  He's amazing with Alex, and I knew that pushing him into something his heart wasn't ready for was something I was not ready to do to our marriage, which I am so incredibly grateful for.  
So, what did I do?  I prayed and waited to see what would happen.  In the meantime, we went through a job loss and a move from Florida to Indiana.  We both started new jobs and built a house.  That took two years.  That's my testimony on why my husband's voice is important to me.  God planted something in his heart that our family had some other things to go through until we could grow our family.  But I remember the February day in 2009 when I came home and told him that this was on my heart stronger than ever as we sat in the office of our newly built home.  And that was when he said "I'm ready to bring our next baby home," and I almost peed my pants.  
All I knew at that point about Africa, aside from the commercials for Save the Children with Sally Field and the images on news casts, was what I had learned when Invisible Children came to the high school where I was teaching.  That was very moving for me.  
As Steve and I started our international journey and began to trek up the mountain of paperwork, I began to feel like I was taking something very valuable from Ethiopia, a piece of their future, one of their precious children.  It was then laid on my heart that it's imperative for me to give back and to help in some way.  Part of this for me is keeping Jesse's heritage alive in his life.  I want him to feel a pride for his birth country and encourage him in anyway he would like to explore to do something to make it a better place.  
Another piece of the puzzle was looking at my students as an educator and figuring out a way that I could help my US students bridge relationships with children in Africa.  I feel a strong sense that through conversation, either through letters, etc..., that we can help our privileged kids create solutions and relationships alongside the people who's voice is often unheard:  the people whom we're often "trying"to help.  What I've seen as a US citizen is that we impart our own solutions without listening to the people we're trying to help.  Just because we have more money doesn't mean we have all of the answers.  This is something I still feel a desire to do.  Unfortunately, with the awkward, precarious state of public schools today, I'm not sure when this will happen.  In my own district, dollars raised and money spent is only to be spent on local organizations and causes.  I respect it, but I think our world is much more than our community in the 21st Century, and if those who have a global desire to use their gifts want to, they shouldn't be deterred from doing so.  Just sayin'.
Through this adoption journey, I have met amazing, every day people just living and doing a lot like Steve and I have been:  bringing our baby home, getting adjusted, and basking in the glow of our growing family.  It's a comfort to have this community.  I feel so blessed.  One of these people whom I've become friends with is Sarah Castor, her husband Dave, and their three beautiful boys from different parts of Africa.  She, in an effort to give back to Africa (much like the call laid on my heart), created a non profit called JabuAfrica.  When I asked her what I could do to help, she asked me to write for the JabuAfrica blog, which I've completed one post for.  I'm happy to do anything because it's a place to plug in whatever I can with others to do even more than just little old me could do alone.  
JabuAfrica's first project is a long term orphanage in Congo, where Sarah's youngest son is from.  I immediately thought of the care that Jesse had at Hannah's Hope and was shocked in despair when she described what she saw when she was there last year to bring home her son.  
I've always known that I have a lot to learn, but to spend time learning about the Congo has been on whole other level for me.  I am not a political person.  I always tend to play devil's advocate when people criticize a politician, whether they be a democrat or republican.  When election day rolls around, I admit to being cynical; I look at the "promises" and issues of each candidate and choose the path of less evil.  I find that every politician, although with good intentions I'm sure, end up succumbing to the game.  I sincerely feel bad.  It seems that this is how we have set up or political system, and now we have to lie in the bed we made. 
Currently, a part of my education on Congo has been the chance meeting of a few families who have adopted recently from Congo here in Indianapolis.  Most people do not get the opportunity to go to Congo to bring home their kiddos; they are brought to them here in the US.  I'm happy that their children are brought safely to them, but it was made apparent to me that the trip to see, hear, and experience, even if it's for a few short weeks, what their children have gone through is imperative to their journey in connecting to their kiddos. It made me so thankful to have been able to go to Ethiopia twice to see where our little man came from.  I pray that these families will have a safe opportunity to go and see...
Here's an example of something that clarified a lot for me on what's going on in Congo, and why it's imperative to give it attention.  I was deeply moved...

Warning:  This video is not meant for little eyes, but I feel that if you are interested in what's happening specifically in the Congo, you need to watch this. 
I feel like my journey to Africa has been one where pieces to a puzzle that I've longed to put together have been given to me.  I gather pieces here and there and discover more about who I am, where I've been, and where I'm going.  I must admit that there are so many more pieces of the puzzle to find and put together, but I have to move with what I know.  I know that my son's country is poverty stricken to the point where his birth mother told Almaz at Hannah's Hope that she thought Jesse would die from hunger if he remained with her.  Could you imagine?  In the US, we have institutions and programs to help with hunger, although I'm positive their are plenty of hungry people here in the US.  But the scale in which people experience this puts Ethiopians and other Africans on another level of survival, one beyond qualifying as human.
A part of bringing Jesse home has been the guilt I feel almost each night as I tuck him in bed that I get to raise this beautiful boy with his infectious smile.  His birth mom will not see this smile that lights up my day because of her dire circumstances.  She won't know first hand the joy this little miracle is.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to her and let her know how grateful I am and how loved he is.  I pray that she feels some comfort in her brave decision to have him adopted.  I don't know...
After viewing this video on Congo, I was literally shaking at the thought of what people are doing to other people and how we there has been no uprising from the US about this.  It is a holocaust beyond proportion; we stepped in during World War II, why aren't we doing it now????  Obama created the PL 109-456, but it's not being acted upon.  It's just sitting there as a powerless tool.  As one of the gentlemen on the video said, "The Congolese people can't eat cobalt.  Why don't you just talk to them?"
It seems we all have a lot to learn about what's going on.  We have a lot of listening to do and frankly, I'm tired of listening to politicians.  I want to hear what the people in Africa have to say.  I want to hear their voice, create those relationships, and empower them.  Somehow I'm gonna do it; one day at a time.
I apologize for my scattered thoughts on all of this.  I have pieces here and there that my heart often jumps to.  Thanks for your time in giving this crazy post a reading and some thought.
Much love,


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy 3 Months, Jesse!

Jesse Getiso Craig: in my arms for 3 months

My man literally smiles like this all day long.  He is living, breathing joy.  Three months ago, we arrived in Addis Ababa for the second time and went back to Hannah's Hope to bring our little boy into our family forever!  I was thrilled to be united with our friends from our first trip, exhausted from our 24 hour flight, and giddy with some nervousness to put my little man in my baby Ergo and carry him out of the gates of the orphanage.  He smiled when he saw us, gave us kisses like it was yesterday that we saw him, and trustfully allowed Steve and I to take him out of those safe and familiar confines of Hannah's Hope.  Wow.  
Three months later and here we are.  He smiles just as big, has four teeth and crawls all over the place.  His favorite song is undoubtedly, "If You're Happy and You Know It."  "The Wheels on the Bus" comes in a close second.  He loves to clap his hands, climb on Charlie and Marley, and give huge hair pulling kisses, which his big sister sometimes loves and sometimes hates. 
We are a family.  We are together, and our love for him is immense.  Let the good times roll, buddy!     

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering that day

 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
 -Psalm 23

I'm sure we can all go back to that day when everything changed.  I look back to ten years ago and now realize that Steve and I were still newlyweds, without any children, living in a one bedroom apartment with Charlie (our dog).  I was teaching ninth grade English at Edgewater High School in Orlando.  I was in a portable that year, and it was underclassman picture day, which is crazy on the Edgewater campus.  I remember bringing my classes down that day to the library and sneaking off to a tv while my crazy kiddos were on line to take their picture for the yearbook.  It was palpitating.  I remember talking about what this could all mean with my students as we huddled in our brown paneled room.  I can still see the fresh faces in front of me and their names:  Staci, John, Phillip, Betsy...  Some of these kiddos are my "friends" on facebook now as they have now graduated from college and are in the midst of the beginning of their careers.  I just feel very connected to them, partly because of that day.
I know everyone deals with tragedy differently.  My husband deals by watching every news channel 24/7. I think he feels comforted by information.  I tend to do the opposite.  I get overwhelmed by images and voices.  I would rather be by myself praying or anything other than sitting in front of the tv.  Even today, I did not want to rewatch all of the news coverage, etc.  It's still too much.  I know by watching it I can't change it, I can't do anything about it.  I feel helpless just watching.  I know with prayer that God is listening and hearing my heart.
Many ask themselves how they are different since that day.  I know I wanted, more than I already had, to make people feel accepted and loved, especially those who may have felt targeted or uncomfortable by the reaction to what happened.  I still can't wrap my mind around why and how people hate Americans.  I don't want to hate anyone.  I don't want to play into all of that.  I just want to love and keep an open mind because there's no way I can fully understand why people do what they do.  My life is but a small dot on this vast mosaic.  I just know there's a greater story than the mere black and white version some people quickly retell.  There are many shades and undulations to one's story.  So, I try to walk forward with a warm smile as I see people.  I want people to feel that when they see me they get the feeling that I'm one who's willing to listen and understand the many layers to who they are.  I hope I'm somewhat communicating that.
As this day closes, I lift up a prayer of comfort for those who are hurting today.  I can't imagine the pain that aches in their hearts these ten years later and beyond.  I just don't want people to be afraid.  I want people to embrace what they can do and what each day has the possibility of holding.
Ok, going through the airport is totally different now.  I'm fine with that.  This past spring, going through the Heathrow Airport, I was felt in crevices I didn't know existed on my body by security, but I didn't mind.  Going through Dulles on our way home, Jesse (at 6 months old), just landing on US soil and being granted a US citizen, was patted down and his diaper bag thoroughly searched.  It was fine.  This is what it is.
I'm an American. I am free to my opinions.  I'm free to write this.  I know that there are sacrifices that I cannot even comprehend that have been and are made for this freedom. I just don't want to take this lightly.  I thank those who have given for me, the people I don't know, the people I will never know, the people who never planned on sacrificing for me and did anyway, from those who never though about if they would be giving their life for me to those who trained for such a time as this.  It's more than I can wrap my mind around.
On another note, people talk about the concept of evil.  Yes, I believe evil exists.  I simply cannot deny that it does exist, especially when I think of that day.  I, in my heart, know God is greater and bigger and most of all sovereign (a word I've used a lot over the past 12 months).  But again, I have an accumulating list of questions for Him; this reminds me of one of my questions.  Then again, if I didn't have questions, I wouldn't be here on earth.  I'd be with Him with the answers.  I think you just gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other during times like this and just don't stop moving.  He'll take us to where He wants us to be.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Last night was the kick off Women's Bible Study meeting for the year for our church.  This year we're doing something different, we're doing a different topic each week.  Yesterday, we started off with a focus from Beth Moore's Breaking Free study.  I don't know about you, but I know every time I'm about to get into a Beth Moore anything, it's going to be intense.  Last night didn't disappoint.
We discussed how we walk around with these stigmas of shame and sometimes go through the cycle of defeat rather than wind ourselves into a cycle of victory.  I know for certain that I have walked around with stigmas, sins and experiences that I've used to define me and not walk in the full glory of God.  I have found myself, particularly over the past year, in situations where I was being tested with these stigmas.  Sometimes I failed the test, and I knew better.  I carry a lot of repent for those moments.  But we are human, and we will fail the tests every now and then UNTIL we learn our lesson, recognize what we need to do differently an DO it.  Beth Moore made such an awesome point last night:  God wants us to be victorious, and that's why he keeps giving us the same tests over and over again until we conquer it in Him.  Man, how awesome is that?
I was not only thinking about this in my own life, but also in my daughter's life.  Holy cannoli, have we been going through some tumultuous times.  She is adjusting to life as a sibling while battling attitude & obeying issues, and we're trying to figure out how we can help her through this so that she comes out victorious.  Currently, she has a vicious habit of wanting to have the last word in any disagreement.  My prayer (as I'm ready to rip my hair out of my head and discipline her without letting my emotions get the better of it) is that she will still herself to hear God's voice before she abruptly allows her ego to try to get the best of the situation.  I know God is going to help her overcome this because He keeps giving her this test knowing that she will be victorious in Him.  I realized this last night.  So, I'm trying to rejoice in this epiphany before our next tete a tete.  Oh well.
I want to see myself and everyone go full circle, get to the place like when the Israelites got to Gilgal (look it up; HUGE!) and walk in His glory.  I'll tell you what, I have not done that very well.  I don't think I've allowed myself to be victorious, to be truly identified in Him and what Jesus did for me; instead I've held onto the my past identities:  crazy, poor self image, failure (and the list could go on), and held myself down because of that.
I just want to encourage all of us to cling to the robe God made for you through His son.  That is our identity.  I want to soar with Him; that's what He wants for us!
I'll tell you my biggest weakness, but it also has to do with something that I'm really good at:  blending in.  I've always been pretty good at adapting to new situations, but that's not always a good thing.  I think it has put me on the fence rather than standing on the side where I know God wants me to be.  I need to be careful; I know this is a weakness of mine.  But again, I know God will keep testing me until I am victorious.  I became truly aware of this last night, and I'm grateful.  I've compromised and sinned against God because of this, and I don't want to do that again.  I don't want to be that kind of disciple, all raggedy and torn up because I kept sinning against Him just to blend in, when I knew better!  I want to fly to Him and know that I took every experience on earth and was obedient and faithful.  I know I can't be perfect (ha ha ha ha), but I can do better with the knowledge and wisdom that He gives me.  I have to believe that He will use me ten times more that way than to do it "my way."  And that's all I want, that is my heart's desire:  to be used by God in whatever way He calls me to do.  That fills my heart more than anything!
I want to be different.  I want His light to shine through me more.  As Beth Moore said, the victory has already been won through Christ Jesus, we just have to roll our stuff to Him and accept Him, His death, and what that really means, and wear it.  I want that to be my armor, not my pride, ego, or desire to fit in.
Anyway, just some thoughts for today.  I'm gonna go frost some funfetti cupcakes now while my lil man is snoozing.
Much love, my friends!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Being Home

I have found my emotions a bit more raw than usual lately.  No, I don't think it's my monthly visitor or anything like that, but I've realized that being home has changed me a bit.
Working, I realized has given me a suit of armor, if you will.  It has not only been an amazing outlet for me, which I am ever grateful to have, but I also see that it has fed my ego in some ways.  I have worn the, "I'm a working mom" identity for so long that it's as if I wear the "t shirt" 24/7.  I've been aware of how the stripping of this layer, even if only for a short time, has made me more sensitive to what's really going on inside my heart.  Now don't get me wrong, I look forward to going back to my insane job, that only someone like me could love, in January. But I have a different appreciation and perspective of what this all means and what I often push down in order to keep all of this madness accomplished every day.
The reality is that it's easy for me to go to work.  It's what I know, it's what my momma raised me to do.  It's more difficult for me to be home and working as a stay at home mom.  I have the space to question more, think more about things going on around me.  I have had the time and energy to ask my husband how work was and not pray for a long drawn out narrative.  I've been looking at my daughter's homework more carefully and cooked some meals (sort of).  I've spent time on the floor with my son just banging blocks with him because he LOVES that.  I've found myself questioning whether I'm doing too much or too little.  The question still isn't answered.
It's a vulnerable place to be in, honestly.  You question if you're on the right track.  But I think what it comes down to is that God has right where you are, especially when it feels uncomfortable.  He's giving me a different perspective, and I can't help but be grateful for that.  He's giving me room to grow a bit, and even I know I need that!