The Mom Quilt for Mercy House

Long time readers of my blog know that for a year, we dreamed of an African daughter. God had other plans, but Africa will always have a special place in our hearts. I have followed Kristen Welch’s blog for years, pre-ordered and then devoured her book, Rhinestone Jesus, and have closely followed the story of Mercy House‘s ministry in Kenya.

The staff and young women at Mercy House have had to spend an outrageous amount of time, money, and other resources to bring in water for drinking, cooking, washing, etc. I am so excited and honored to be a part of this project, The Mom Quilt, to raise money to build a well in the Mercy House property. It will be a blessing to the entire community.

My own story is included in the e-book, plus a story from one of my very best friends. It has been so fun to work on this project with her and all of the other amazing women! You can CLICK HERE to read more about the project, or click the image below to order your own copy. You’ll laugh, cry, and ultimately feel encouraged by the shared journeys in the book.

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getting ready for Christmas – the spiritual stuff

I posted a few weeks ago about preparing for the more secular parts of the season.  Now it’s time to share the important things!  We love Christmas around here.  We love listening to the carols and hymns, we love reading the scriptures, and we love talking about Jesus.  Here are some of the ways we’re making sure we remember the reason we celebrate Christmas in our home this year.

I’ve started collecting nativities, but I don’t have a ton yet.  Right now I have 2 that the kids can play with, which they love to do.  Sometimes a random Lego Minifigure or super hero will come join in the worship to the newborn King, which is just fine with me!  I love having them all around the house, so they’re a focal point, and so the ones the kids play with become just part of their every day play.  There’s also the one on the mantle that I showed in the other post.  I want to get more and leave some out year round.  (There is dust and laundry in some of these pics – keeping it real for ya.) DSC_0149 DSC_0150 DSC_0152 DSC_0174
This year, we’re also doing the Jesse Tree advent devotionals as a family.  I did a swap with my MOPS group where we each made 25 of one type of ornament, and then divided them all up so we had each one.  I think it’s so special to have handmade ornaments from some of my sweetest friends – I know i will cherish them forever.  We’re using this book, The Advent Jesse Tree, by Dean Lambert Smith.  It’s our first year to use it, and some of my friends ended up buying different ones, but I’ve really loved this one.  It has all of the relevant scripture noted, plus two or three suggestions of hymns or songs to sing each day.  Another thing I love about it is that for each day it has a child devotional, which has been perfect for my preschoolers and my older son, plus an adult devotional to dig a little deeper.  We’ve all learned a lot, and have spent some really special family time doing it.
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On Christmas morning, the first thing we’ll do is read the Christmas story in Luke 2, and pray together.  I’ll also wrap up Jesus from one of the nativities (or maybe the Jesus ornament from the Jesse tree) to be the first gift we open, so we make sure to talk about how what matters is our Savior, and not the presents.  This Christmas, we’re also going to try to take a break in the morning to bless someone else.  The tentative plan now is to look at our stocking goodies, and then go take breakfast to another family or individual.  We won’t stay long (unless they want us to), but share a little Christmas love and try to remember that it isn’t all about us.

We also keep our Christmas cards throughout the year to pray for the families who sent them. DSC_0157
So, what does your family do to keep the reason we celebrate Christmas in the forefront of your minds?

slavery

How much have you thought about slavery?  I’m guessing, for African Americans, it might be quite a lot.  For me, other than some occasional historical fiction, the answer is: not all that much.

I read to fall asleep at night, and especially when I’m struggling with anxiety or discouragement, I read so that my brain doesn’t get carried away thinking about things that are going on.  It’s one way to help me “take captive every thought.”  I just finished a the Divergent series and needed something new.  I wandered around Target and saw, The House Girl, by Tara Conklin.  It caught my attention, because I assumed it had something to do with race relations, which are obviously on my mind.  It was a wonderful book – I devoured it in just a few days.  Probably on my All-Time Top Ten.

It’s about slavery, of course, and the ancestors of slaves, and got me really thinking about my own family history.  I remember reading in some of our adoption literature that we need to find out if we have ancestors who owned slaves.  It only took me a couple of hours at Ancestry.com last night to figure out that one branch of my paternal grandfather’s side of the family did, in fact, own slaves.

I feel really conflicted.  In some ways, it feels like it changes everything.  It altered the way I perceived every African American I saw today.  But in other ways, just the fact that I haven’t thought about it that way before is a bit shameful.  I guess it’s sort of how we white people think we shouldn’t talk about race because we might embarrass a non-white person; when really, the only people we’re embarrassing are ourselves.  Not talking about slavery doesn’t make it something that didn’t happen, and doesn’t make it any less significant.

It makes me physically ache to think about having to tell our African American child about slavery someday, and to share that her great, great, great, great grandparents and their families owned slaves.  I wish I could have more information, and maybe I’ll be able to find it.

Today I bought two books that Tara Conklin recommends at the end of, The House Girl.  They are, The Hemingses of Monticello, by Annette Gordon-Reed and, The Known World, by Edward P. Jones.  They’re both Pulitzer Prize winners and about slavery.  The next ones on my list are, Slaves in the Family, by Edward Ball, and, All Souls’ Rising: A Novel of Haiti, by Madison Smartt Bell.  Those will keep me busy for a while.  A big jump from the teen dystopian kick that I’ve been on for a couple of years!

PS – I emailed Tara Conklin to let her know how much I enjoyed her book, and to tell her what I had found out about my own family’s history.  She wrote back this morning – very cool!  Her reply was:

Hi Megan, thank you for your message and kind words about The House Girl. I’m so glad you’re enjoying (enjoyed?) the book! I’m also glad it’s provided some inspiration for searching out your own family history – I always think it’s better to know the truth about a family past, even if it might be painful.   

Thanks so much for getting in touch and best of luck on your adoption process!

All the best, Tara

adoption book

I recently had an Amazon gift card and used it to buy a bunch of books I had been waiting to get, including this one:
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It’s so simple, pretty, and perfect!  I love that it has pages like this:
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I also love that it has two family trees in the back:
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And a pocket in the back cover to hold all kinds of mementos.  (I love mementos!)  Plus, I’ll be honest – the price was right.  Some of the adoption books out there are really expensive – I got this one on Amazon for cheap, and I couldn’t love it more!

Have you found a great adoption book?  Are you going to make a baby book, Lifebook, scrapbook, or something different?

just life, and some adoption thoughts

just life, and some adoption thoughts

We’ve had a rough couple of weeks. Nothing major in the big scheme of things, but just lots of little things that are adding up and wearing us out. It was nice tonight, just hanging out with my favorite guy in the garage while he changed the oil.

None of it is adoption-related. We’re in a bit of a lull with that right now, but have been collecting some documents and writing some letters. We did prayerfully decide to bump up our age range to 18 months. It’s hard to think about a child our daughter’s age being plunked into a whole new world with new people, a new language, etc. She’s so attached to us, so aware of the world around her, and has so much language already. But it was weighing on my heart, so I asked my husband to pray about it. He did for a few days and said we should go for it. I’m probably the one who would be more inclined to desire an infant, anyway, and do feel sad about the likelihood of us never having a little baby again.

Then I was reading Kristin Swick Wong’s book, Carried Safely Home, which was one of the required books for our home study, and she mentioned that when they adopted their second son, she really wanted an infant, and they got referred to a baby who was about to celebrate his first birthday. They wanted to do something to observe his birthday, even though they didn’t have him home yet, so they were planning a little party, but she was having a hard time getting in the mood to celebrate. She said some things on pages 111-113 that brought me such peace about the decision:

“It strikes me that this boy not being home for his first birthday is only one small part of a broader tragedy. He was conceived and born in such a place that his birth mother felt the need to leave him. He will probably never know her, his father, or his whole story. We will participate in mending what is broken, but will not be able to restore those painful beginnings or fill in the missing pieces of his life. Our losing the first year is only one manifestation of a little life begun with loss. I am sad for this baby.

Still, driving home in the balloon-filled car, it strikes me that we are following in the footsteps of Jesus. My instinct is to move away from pain. But Jesus does not turn from our tragedies; he joins us in them, entering willingly into our messy lives. To walk with us, he left perfection and was born into the world, naked and cold. He spent years living and walking and talking with people shattered by grief and shame. He did not remove himself from earthly afflictions but chose to feel thirst, exhaustion, homelessness. He welcomed those who came to him for comfort and help, even when others thought he should send them away. He cried at the death of his friend. His heart went out to a widow whose only son had died. He decided to love and spend his life with a group of men he knew would betray, deny, and abandon him…

What if I gave up my goals for a picture-perfect family with cooing baby in arms? What if I believed that I do not need to erase all the hurts? What if I entered this child’s life, with Jesus, looked for how to apply his ointment to the wounds, then watched for him to create beauty from the ashes? How freeing this could be.

We are following in the footsteps of the Man of Sorrows. I feel released from the anxiety about this child’s beginnings, and I am willing to lose his infancy. I am sad for him but am more willing to live with that sadness, heartened to think that by choosing to enter this child’s broken life we are choosing to follow Jesus. Home with balloons, I am able to celebrate the first birthday of a dear little boy. My dear little boy.”

some days are like that, even in Australia

I loved the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day as a child.  It was one of my favorites.  I actually wrote my application paper for the honors program at my college on it.  (It was perhaps a little overly gutsy, and I got wait-listed.)  Right now I’m thinking it would also be perfect for my (slightly melodramatic) first-grader.

But, today I am having one of those days!  It started off with three hours in a dentist chair.

We encourage our son to think of things he’s thankful for when he gets into a grumpy mood, so now it’s my turn:

1.  I am thankful to have easy access to good quality dental care.  (So conveniently located, in fact, that you could walk there – see #3!)

2.  I am thankful for great benefits through my husband’s company – awesome health, vision, DENTAL, and even adoption benefits!

3.  I am thankful for my sweet husband who worked from home this morning so I could go to the dentist.  AND, who, when I accidentally took my own car this morning (with all of the carseats), WALKED with all three kids to the dentist to get the car and still got our oldest to school in uniform, with lunch, and on time!  And he wasn’t even grumpy about it.  (I could take a page from his book, huh?)

4.  I am thankful for children who are usually good sleepers.  Even though they woke up at exactly imperfect intervals last night, I am usually well-rested, and I don’t want to take that for granted.

5.  I’m so thankful that God’s mercies are new every morning!  (Lamentations 3:22-23)  Tomorrow I will get a totally fresh start.  Hallelujah!

there is no me without you

I just finished Melissa Day Green’s, There Is No Me Without You, which is about the AIDS crisis in Ethiopia, but also about so much more than that.  Never before have I been so captivated and heartbroken at the same time.  I couldn’t put it down.  Several nights I lay in bed sobbing, my sweet husband whispering, “Maybe you need to put it away for tonight,” while I shook my head to tell him that I couldn’t stop reading.

I’m white.  I’m middle class.  I can read.  I’m a US citizen.  I have a college degree.  I am reasonably healthy and have access to great health care.  I’m overweight, which means I have had so much food that I ate too much to the point of declining health due to excess, and had so little required physical labor that my body had the opportunity to get unfit.  My relatively small family lives in a large house with unused rooms, and as much clean water and electricity as we want.  Clearly, the level of my privilege is off the charts.  I started realizing this in college, and grew a little more in my realization while teaching in a low-income school and while doing some graduate work.

But I guess I forgot.  Again.

I had a mini-breakdown back in October, which is what ended up being the catalyst to getting this adoption moving forward.  God wanted my attention, and He got it.  I spent several hours those weeks sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor with tears streaming down my face, crying out to Him for the orphans and forgotten children. I have been noticing the last few weeks that we’ve been a little complacent.  Like I had sort of subconsciously started to think I had checked something off my list and could go back to regular life now.  This book broke my heart again and reminded me that there are millions of human beings, including children just like mine, starving to death right this minute and dying of preventable and/or treatable diseases.  While I sit here, eating a donut and drinking chocolate milk in my size 16 jeans, typing on my MacBook.

What do I do?  What do we (my family) do?  What do we (Americans) do?  What do we (the wealthy and powerful) do?  What do we (Christians) do?

I don’t know the answer.  It’s so overwhelming that some parts of my brain just want to ignore it and go on with life like I don’t know it’s happening.  But it is happening.  I just read this week in Jeremiah 8:11, where there are people saying everything is fine when everything is not fine.  I heard Francis Chan speak in December, and one thing he said that really stuck with me is that just because something isn’t happening to me doesn’t mean it isn’t an emergency.  I don’t want to be like the people in Jeremiah, pretending there’s peace when there’s not – the Bible describes it as dressing the nation’s serious wound with our equivalent of a bandaid because they were so deep in denial about what was actually going on.  I don’t want to be that person.  I don’t want our generation of Christians to be those people.

So…what now?  I don’t know.  First, prayer.  After that…I don’t know.

I highly recommend the book.  But get a box of tissue and be ready for your heart to be broken.