Three Things to Expect if You Host Thanksgiving

Do you find yourself hosting the Thanksgiving feast at your home this year?

*Warning – Do not read this post if you don’t have a sense of humor or understand the gift of sarcasm.

Not sure what to expect? Use this handy guide to help!

  1. Expect people to come to your home and complain about how full they are from the last three stops. Yep. True. You may have spent the week cleaning things you don’t normally clean like your oven (on the inside) and making sure all the closets look neat. You may have prepped, shopped and baked for the whole week while the guys are out hunting. And to top it off, you probably baked cinnamon rolls and made coffee for everyone that morning. You’re wearing nice clothes, you set the table and you have make-up on. What’s the thanks you get, a complaint? If you expect it, maybe you won’t be so shocked and slap someone. Just think, it only means more turkey for you, plus when that overstuffed relative tries to play speed scrabble with you, he won’t be able to think straight and you’ll win.
  2. The person who starts the political discussion will disappear and park himself in front of the football on TV while everyone else continues to discuss. True story. It’s okay. Politics will probably come up with family together. The important thing to remember is being in total agreement with each other on issues of politics, theology, child rearing and fill in the blank isn’t the qualifier of being part of the family. Just ask God. How many of His kiddos got along? Or take it one step further, he’s got a batch of the Hunter/Allen/Craven/Guire/ family members in heaven that didn’t agree one bit in the political, theological or fill in the blank arena.They sure liked to discuss the topics though. If your family likes to have discussions, just have some guidelines. No fist fighting (just kidding, not really). Our boundary is when people start yelling, Jerry shuts it down. It’s a pretty firm rule. *Just a note, if someone brings up abortion, adoption, human trafficking or anything to do with kids from hard places, I’ll be sure to blubber. It’s okay. It’s all part of the family experience.

You will have a fresh batch of memories at the end of the day

3. You will have a fresh batch of memories at the end of the day. Even the worst Thanksgiving moments become written in the family history. No one will ever forget when someone dropped the whole turkey, told the joke that no one got, listened to Grandpa say, “Did I ever tell you when…?” for the 500th time. Those normal, irritating. loud, innocuous moments are treasures. Store them up for the years you don’t get to see everyone. Save them to retell when Grandpa is no longer with you. Do the turkey crafts. Drink the coffee and talk about everything under the sun. Go for the walk after dinner. Throw the football around the yard. Fill your memory bank this Thanksgiving.

I know hosting at your home is hard work. I can say this from personal experience. I took over hosting over twenty years ago when my mom died. It’s hard work, but good work. I love having family here. If you are hosting today and you’re exhausted, leave the dishes for a moment. Take a few deep breaths. Smell the smells. Watch the animated conversations. Hear those kids running around the house dressed in their pilgrim and native American costumes, chasing each other with plastic forks? Drink it all in. Savor it. And if no one else says it, “Thanks for hosting this year! You did a great job!”

Five Minute Friday::Notice

Notice

i squealed out of the driveway, late, only to whip it into drive and zoom back down. Left the front lights on. I yanked the keys out and jerked the car door open with my shoulder, “be right back, need to do something!” I yelled over my shoulder while my son asked what he could do to help from the passenger seat. “Nothing! I got this!”

We were on the way to a Thanksgiving feast to celebrate. I was running late and had spent the morning scurrying around trying to get the house perfect for the potential buyers who were touring while we were out.

I got to the first stop sign in our neighborhood and tapped the brake, before I sailed through. Then, I noticed her. My elderly neighbor pushing his walker through soggy grass towards her mail box. I kept going. The ice. I saw the ice. Around the mailbox. She would walk there. I don’t want to stop, Lord, I am in a hurry. I have had a lot on my plate lately. 

I jerked the car into reverse. I had noticed. I couldn’t let her get hurt. I could see her, in my mind’s eyes, slipping, shattering bones. My aunt had just fallen and broken her hip the week before. I backed haphazardly and jumped out of the car saying, “I don’t want you to slip! It’s icy out here.”

“I know, they should do something about that! Thank you!”

I handed her the mail and got back in the car.

“You did your good deed for the day, Mom,” my son said.

Rethinking Orphan Sunday

Hi friends, welcome guest blogger Charisa Knight. I met this kindred spirit at the Winsome Retreat last April where we joined a panel speaking on the subject of adoption under the category of social justice. Charisa is the hands and feet of Jesus supporting adoption, the restoration of family and caring for orphans. Read on for her insightful take on Orphan Sunday (November 2).

Orphan Sunday

When you hear those two words what comes to mind?

In 2008,  adoption would have been the first word to jump into mine.  This is the year that Ab came into our family.

Then sponsorship.  Greg and I were also part of a ministry in Zambia that consisted of sponsorship for school.

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Fast forward to 2014.  One more adoption. Several years advocating in various ways for different ministries or organizations.  Now directing Project HOPEFUL’s Awassa initiative.

I have learned that “orphan care” is sooo much more than what I originally thought.  Much more than adopting or school sponsorship —though that’s part of it.

Orphan care, to me, now begins before anyone is brought to an orphanage and before any parent has to go through a heart-wrenching relinquishment process.  The majority of the orphan care we are involved in now is preventing those children from being relinquished. Advocating and seeking help to keep families together.  So many families WANT to raise their children—the problem is they see no way to do that. They have no hope.  We have watchedProject HOPEFUL Awassa families provide for their children and be full of life and joy with just a little bit of help.  Help that ultimately we hope will lead to independence.

Like this brother who stepped up to take care of his 2 sisters and little brother when their parents died.  Why? Because that’s what you do he said. “There is no alternative.”

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Orphan care  now is supporting the in country staff who make reunification possible for families by offering them support and help where needed.  Seeing a child being placed back into the arms of his father….

Orphan care consists of supporting those in country who are taking care of children until families are found.

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Orphan care now means supporting domestic adoption and foster care. in the states and in Ethiopia where we work.  There is this myth that those in other countries don’t want to take care of their “own”

But just last week I saw this…. 14 families in Awassa, Ethiopia who stepped up to love children. And there has been even more than this. I love it.

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Orphan Care means providing clean water to children and families who desperately need it.  This changes lives dramatically.

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Orphan Care also consists  of providing businesses for women so that they can financially support themselves and their children.  They want to work and provide on their own. They just need a little boost. Then you get to see the reward in their smiles.

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Orphan Care can mean building a home for a mom who had the validated fear of hyenas coming in to get her children at night.  And then you hear the heartbreaking words, “I am now a human again.”

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Orphan care can mean supporting adoptive/fostering families during the process and after they have adopted. Sharing in their concerns. Praying for each other. Loving each other. And maybe being quite silly together. 😉

It may be driving almost 3 hours to celebrate with a baby shower (at a wine/cheese bar 🙂 perk for adoption showers!) for a momma to be through domestic adoption.

As you can see my definition of “orphan care” has broadened greatly.  I am sure it will broaden even more as I experience more.

I challenge everyone to think outside of the typical box and to support children and families in areas that cause children to become orphans.   HIV education. Malaria training and nets. Medical support. Food support.  The child we are a FIG family sponsor for we chose because it was the same situation as our adopted son. (and she reminded me so much of him!) I told her mom just last week as I sat in her home…. I don’t want you to have to make the choice my son’s mom did. I want you to be able to raise your daughter.

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Orphan care can be so much more than helping after the fact. Let’s jump in help at the beginning of the crisis—not waiting until the end when it feels like there are no options left.

I would love to help you become more involved in orphan care.

You can learn more about us at www.projecthopeful.org/awassa or email me atcharisa@projecthopeful.org

An Imperfect Destiny

Autumn 1971

I sat on the sun warmed side walk on a cool autumn day. My palms and spindly legs soaked in the heat and I thought. I thought about the universe and its expanse. My mind wandered into avenues like destiny, the black expanse in a darkness beyond our floating universe. I felt like the speck on the flower in Horton Hears a Who. It scared me.I jumped up and ran for something I knew, my home, a concrete symbol of security. Destiny was a concept beyond my scope of imagination a wave length my child’s mind could not fathom, but without it, my future seemed too open, too daunting.

Destiny is a confusing word. Christians fling it around like air freshener. Preachers proclaim predestination from the pulpit. Sweet young girls believe they are destined to have a fairy tale wedding. Young men say to the love of their lives, “You are my destiny.”  What does destiny really mean? Are we destined for things or do events happen due to chance? Are they random? Do we live in a random swirling mass-of-atoms-universe?

Destiny-

1. something that is to happen or has happened to a particular person or thing, lot or fortune

2. the predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events. http://www.dictionary.com

How do we swallow the destiny pill on adoption? If we believe that each of us, according to Ephesians 1 were predestined to be adopted as Christ’s siblings, does that mean we were also predestined to be orphans? And what about our adopting physical children? If a child is formed in another mother’s womb, does that mean we are stealing her destiny to mother that child when we adopt him? Heavens no!

Destiny and God’s perfect plan

Destiny and God’s perfect plan are likened unto Robert Frost’s lines “two roads that diverged in a yellow wood and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

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We cannot attribute all the bad things in the world to God and His choosing. Death. War. Famine. These things create orphans. That was not God’s choice. C.S. Lewis explains, “If you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will. Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, “if you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this also is God.’ The Christian replies, Don’t talk damned nonsense’. For Christianity is a fighting religion. …a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.”

When we choose to adopt, we are putting something right. However, if we adoptive parents do not believe we were destined to adopt the child then we will never feel the freedom to fully parent the child. there will always be that seed of doubt, that ‘what if’ that creeps into relationships, decisions and adoption. ‘What if’ has knocked at my door before, I know better. I turn it away. If I let the tiniest seed of doubt enter in, it grows as quickly as the beanstalk Jack climbed. If the beanstalk grows, I WILL face giants. Giants in the form of gnawing questions.

  • Did I make the right choice?
  • How can I parent this child?
  • How can I get out of this adoption? It is too overwhelmingly HARD.
  • Did I rip the child from his culture?
  • Will he ever attach?
  • Will he heal?

And these giants grow until I feel inadequate, overwhelmed and full of regret. If I believe that I was destined to adopt this particular child and God has placed him in my home and my part was an act of obedience, not an act of rearranging a family, a culture, a nation to suit my whim, then I have a solid foundation to build my parenting on.

I know. I know. A difficult concept to swallow. Some of you may want to throw the technology you are reading this on at me right now. I understand. Hold onto that Ipad just a minute.

A woman gives birth to a child. Isn’t it her destiny to raise the child? Yes, in a wold that hasn’t fallen under the curse. In a world that Adam and Eve didn’t eat the forbidden fruit. If that were the road we had taken in the garden, then adoption wouldn’t even be on the table.

Sin did enter the world. The curse is real. Death, decay, disease, war, famine, drugs, terrorists, dictators, do exist. There is a god of this world who roams the earth seeking whom he many devour. He rules this present darkness and disaster is his specialty. God, the Father knew all of this before the foundation of the world. Sin will prevail for a time. Adoption is necessary. It is redemptive. Parents would be destined to adopt and step into an imperfect situation and follow in the steps of Christ who came to set the captives free and heal the brokenhearted. In an imperfect world, it is our imperfect destiny, a powerful destiny.

 

 

When Someone Comes Home

Hi friends,

I am hosting Gabriel Jones from DecentChristianTalk.com. He is an amazing musician, expert on Christian music, a historian and a educated voice on the web.  Make sure you check out his website!

 

Two-thirty in the morning. It wasn’t the first time I had been up this late. And to be honest it wouldn’t be the last. Through the fog of my intoxication, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. The person staring back at me was a stranger. My grey eyes told the story: I was dead inside.
I crawled into my bed. As usual, I had forgotten my limits and was sick. I closed my eyes hoping that the room would stop spinning. I put on a pair of headphones to listen to music hoping that it would help. The first song that came on (for whatever reason) was “Leaving 99” by Audio Adrenaline.
I’m lost and broken, all alone on this road
The wheels keep turnin’, but the feelin’ is gone
When I fear I’m on my own
You remind me I am not alone
 
The song immediately had my attention. I had probably heard the tune but it had never captured my attention like this before…
 
I’d leave ninety-nine
Leave them all behind
To find you
For you alone
 
I was immediately taken back to Sunday school where I had learned many of the parables that Jesus taught. This particular one referenced a story where the Shepherd leaves his flock of 99 to find his lost sheep. And on this late night, I felt more than lost. I felt dead. I wanted life.
 
It’s dark and lonely and the path is unclear
Can’t move my feet because I’m frozen in fear
Then you say, “My child, my child –
I am always here, I’m by your side”
 
Tyler Burkum’s (the song’s vocalist) voice has been described as amazing. But on this night I didn’t hear Tyler. I heard the voice of Jesus. I heard him tell me that I’m not alone. But, “my child”? That was a loaded phrase to me because I constantly felt like I had been letting down my earthly parents. During that time period, I never had thoughts of suicide. But I had definitely lost my desire to live.
 
You’re never too far down
I promise you’ll be found
I’ll reach into the mud and mirely clay
Pursue you to the end
Like a faithful friend
Nothing in this world can keep me away
 
I did not deserve this ‘pursuit’ that this song spoke of. But at that very moment, I accepted it. I accepted this undeserved pursuit that led me to being rescued from the ‘mud and mirely clay’. I’ve always heard the verse in the Bible that talks about ‘heaven rejoicing over one sinner who repents’ (Luke 15:7).
I heard a teacher describe this as the ‘Great Homecoming’. I have been in those airports when parents bring their newly adopted children home. The family gathers inside the terminal and when the child first appears, there is a huge celebration. All the time and money invested in adopting a child culminates in that moment. I always imagined that’s what heaven is like when someone comes ‘home’.
And on this particular night, heaven rejoiced.

The Adoption Story

Every powerful fairy tale begins with ‘once upon a time’ and ends with ‘and they lived happily ever after’and every one of our stories lies into between those phrases. The part of the story we tend to ignore is what the bit that happened before once upon a time. The story of adoption begins before the foundation of the world, before the once, before the clock ticked and the years began their countdown to Christ.
We usually read the bible account of Creation and assume it is the beginning.

In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Sounds like a great beginning, right? Once upon a time God created the earth. He created man in his own image, male and female, He created them. By chapter three the whole story seems to fall apart. Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit and become like God, able to distinguish between good and evil, blessing and calamity. God sent them forth from the garden. Enter the curse. Adam and Eve are separated from their Father.So soon the plot turns sour. So many of us ask, why didn’t God rescue me? Why did He abandon me? The answer is the curse. Everything we pray about has something to do with the curse. To end sickness. The curse. To wipe out poverty. The curse. To stop war. The curse. To wipe away famines. The curse. To rid the world of abandonment and rejection. Reading the rest of the old testament is a lengthy list of tales of the effects of the curse.the people God created forget Him. Noah and a worldwide flood. God makes a covenant with Abraham. He adopts Israel. Joseph  followed by four hundred years of slavery. Moses and the exodus. The Wilderness. Promised land. Prophets warn.The story gets stuck on repeat. Seven cycles of judgment. Banishment. Prophets promise a Messiah. Four hundred years of silence. When will the death end? When will the curse be broken?
But, as story tellers go, God is the master. He created the story and He is the king of the flashback. We don’t have to wonder what His plan is. He tells us clearly by chapter three that the woman’s offspring will bruise and tread his skull and the serpent will bruise his heel-the first prophecy of Jesus uttered to a serpent and the mother of all living.
But, let’s go back before time.

“In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God and the Word was God Himself. He was present originally with God.” John 1:1,2

Before time- Jesus. We tend to read the story as linear. We mark dates on a time line, each century, decade, year, month, week, day, hour and minute as if it has always worked that way. It hasn’t. God doesn’t count time that way. I can’t tell you exactly how He sees it, but I can tell you how the adoption story goes. It is so much broader, deeper and more thought out than most of us give Him credit for. We try to take credit for adoption, as if humans in their finite wisdom thought, this child is an orphan, I should do something about it. Let’s make up a word for it- adoption. Yet, that is so far from the truth. Back to the story. We run into more flashbacks in Hebrews.

” By faith we understand that the worlds [during the successive ages] were framed (fashioned, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose) by the word of God, so that what we see was not made out of things which are visible.”-Hebrews 11:3

Fairy tales tend to use magic to get things done. In God’s kingdom, it’s called faith and it doesn’t depend on pixie dust, but you do have to believe. We believe that God framed the world for His intended purpose. The purpose is revealed in the book of Ephesians.

” Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love.
5 For He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the purpose of His will [[b]because it pleased Him and was His kind intent]—
6 [So that we might be] to the praise and the commendation of His glorious grace (favor and mercy), which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”- Ephesians 1:4-6

Read over the set of verses again. I know, I usually skim familiar verses. Don’t this time. Within these verses is the crux of the story of adoption, or THE STORY period. Our story. Our purpose. The purpose of the universe. Do you see it? Before time. When Jesus and God were hanging out together, they hatched a plan. They wrote the story Before God spoke the world into existence, He foreordained our adoption. He actually picked us out as His own because it was His kind intent. He had a family photo of us on the mantel before we were born. Before He formed Mount Everest or giant sequoia or any of the mysteries and marvels of nature- He thought of family. He had your photo with the perm gone wrong in His wallet before you walked into that hair salon. Family is the purpose of the universe. His family. Adam and Eve may have been his first children listed in the book of Genesis, but according the flashback in Ephesians, He had already planned to adopt us all when the dirt and Adam didn’t exist.

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So, what does it mean to be adopted by God? It means you and I are each part of the story. We each have our own chapter and weaved together they make up the greatest adoption stories ever told. Stories of rejection and abandonment are turned upside down in God’s kingdom. Why? Because of adoption. It is the faith of adoption in which we receive the Spirit of adoption and cry “Abba, Father” that makes the rejection fade. The curse is broken. Through Christ we have redemption, deliverance, remission of sin, wisdom and we know the plan. Survival behaviors take a back seat when faith drives. We are chosen. We are loved. We are secure in His purpose. We know He works out everything in agreement with the counsel and design of of His will. There may be a god (little g) of this world roaming to and fro looking for someone to devour. He may be the Miss Hannigan of this worldly orphanage but his plans, his design is not the end of the story.WE will have some hard knock days, Jesus told us we would have trials and tribulations, but to be of good cheer, He has overcome the world. We do get our happily ever after. Have faith. The whole story is written. We know the ending. The prince who died and rose again is coming back again to rescue us from this earthly orphanage and take us home to live with our forever family.
So we follow in the footsteps of our Father, writing His stories, adopting, creating forever homes for those who suffer under the curse, those abandoned, those orphaned by wars, famines and drugs, those social orphans who long to belong just as each of us does. We adopt because it was His plan-the purpose of the universe.