One Thousand Gifts-The Gift of Work.

It's Monday. There is always so much work to do on Monday. The house is trashed after a weekend of being away more than at home, and it seems so much harder for the kids to get into the school routine on a Monday. That's on top of all the other stuff that never ends but that I deliberately try not to have to do on weekends so there's time together as a family.

I start Monday from far, far behind. The rest hardly seems worth the extra work it brings after.

Today seems a terrible day to try and stop to give thanks. Yet isn't that when it's most important to remember?

So today I give thanks for the piles of paper; they are evidence of a life full of blessings most of the world only dreams of. I give thanks for all the laundry to wash fold and put away; we are well clothed and warm. I give thanks for the fractious, restless, and cranky children; I would not trade them for anything. I give thanks for the responsibilities I have, large and small; it means that I have been given much blessing. I give thanks for the fussy teething baby who is healthy and strong.

I give thanks because it is the way out of grumbling, irritation and stress. I give thanks to find life.

Some of this week's list:

  • Cool sunny days to lounge outside in.
  • Huddled under blankets with Aaron watching a show.
  • Ginger chews in fancy tins.
  • Little's swingy new haircut.
  • A friend calling me, so excited over a prayer answered.
  • Neighborhood kids in the yard and everyone having fun.
  • Hugging the Boy long when he smells like wind and sunshine.
  • The way Jellybean stares in awe at his own hand raised above him.
  • Wind rustling the tall maple tree.
  • Girls going to sleep in daddy's T-shirts.

holy experience


5 Years Ago

We were getting ready to move into our first apartment in California. All our furniture had been left behind in Canada, we had only what 2 minivans could carry on the drive down.

I was trying not to be bitter about how unrealistic it had been to believe what we told ourselves about just buying new stuff when we got there. The idea of sitting on the floor wasn't so terrible, but having kids sitting on carpet to eat, the lack of a way to contain the food messes as they wandered was more than I could handle.

So I built a table. There were old boards laying around my inlaw's house that were once part of a playground. I used power tools for the first time, saw, drill. screwdriver. I made a table that we could sit around on the floor because we had no chairs, and then I figured out how to put legs on it and build benches too. (They are a little tippy.)

That table still sits in our dining room, though there is another sitting in the backyard waiting to be refinished that will replace it. The table I built will be our outdoor eating table after that.

Five years ago I stopped whining about a problem and found a solution. I'm proud of that.

This is in participation w. Gypsy Mama's 5 Minute Friday Prompt. You're welcome to play along.


Dear mother of a toddler,

This first published at MOBsociety, but I'm putting it here too because I know some of you won't click over.

This morning my 9 year old son made oatmeal for all of us for breakfast. He even made me some and was thrilled to be able to do it.

That was after he got himself dressed, made his bed and cleaned the bathroom, which are his jobs every morning.

Later today he held his baby brother while I made lunch, played with his younger sisters and read them a story while I worked, and wiped the table after lunch.

No, he isn't perfect. I had to remind him to do his jobs, twice. He hangs his head and gets a surly look on his face when I tell him to get back to school work when he is distracted, and he is very loud, and somewhat obnoxious in his eagerness to tell me the minute details of EVERY.SINGLE.THING.

It's not that I don't still feel overwhelmed, like I did when they were smaller, I just feel overwhelmed by different things, in different ways.

I still worry that I'm getting it wrong, this mothering a boy thing. I'm still learning how to be a mom, now of a 9 year old rather than a baby.

But I wanted to tell you that it won't always be the way it is now. Seasons change, kids grow, and you will find it happening faster than you imagine possible.

Those chubby wrists and knees will get hard and bony and legs will lengthen and muscle will grow and that little boy will be so tall. Still he will need you to love him, just in different ways.

So I want to tell you not to be in a hurry right now. Soon enough, and in the right time, that baby of yours will make you breakfast and help with the chores. Soon he won't be needing to sit on you every second. Soon you may even miss it and wish that he would.

Soon life will change again, and you will have different things to feel overwhelmed about, and the things that overwhelm you now will be a distant nostalgic memory.

I was going to say it gets better, but that's not true. It is good now, having small ones. It will still be good later, when they get bigger and can help. I hope you are able to enjoy all the good both now and later and be patient. It will go by quickly.



One Thousand Gifts-I will not worry

Guess what?!

Getting work done leads to more work. I know you know this, but there it is. I'm deciding to give thanks for it this week instead of succumbing to mental exhaustion.

I give thanks for  dirty dishes in the sink and crumbs on the floor, I have loved ones to eat my cooking. we have food to more than fill our bellies.

I'm thankful for paper scrap on the floor, and books scattered everywhere. My children have the ability to read, the leisure to create, and they WILL pick it all up again when I tell them to.

I'm thankful for more work to do for The Charis Project, because it means that people are being helped and kids are being saved.

I have finished year end receipts and accounting. I made pretty charts showing budget expenditures, and reports. Did you know that last year only 6% of our operating budget was used for administrative types of costs? I'm proud of us for that.

Of course, at our most recent board meeting our mostly business background board started very generously assigning dollar amounts to things. Very high dollar amounts to things. Then I started hyperventilating a bit because. How on earth will that ever happen? No problem they say, we'll just hold a few fundraisers. They're trust in the generosity of others, the provision of God, is stronger than mine. I'm still in shock that we managed to come in close to budget last year.

I want to be better at trust, more thankful for the extravagance of every day, less afraid.

I want to type out minutes, email action items, organize all the info we have on the children in the home, cook dinner, sweep floors, grocery shop, and even drive to the dentist with joy, with thanksgiving, without worry.

Here is the continuing list:

  • Printers
  • Cool sunny days to lounge outside in.
  • Huddled under blankets with Aaron watching shows.
  • Ginger chews in fancy tins.
  • How Little's haircut curves perfectly around her head
  • Neighborhood kids in the yard and everyone having fun
  • Hugging the Boy long when he smells of sunshine and wind.
  • The last of the toothless smiles from Jellybean.
  • Little singing to herself in the car. "Praise God, forever."
  • Wind rustling the maple tree.
  • Girls snuggling up for bed in daddy's big T-shirts

holy experience


Fitting Remembrance (Or why I'm no fun)

our peach tree is blossoming

A man died today. Well, February 14 c269 a man died. He was a Roman Christian in the early church. He helped persecuted Christians under the reign of Claudius II when it was illegal to do so. He married young couples in Christian ceremonies when it was illegal to do so. He was arrested.

Eventually, after refusing to give up his faith, and even trying to convert the emperor, he was sentenced to death by bludgeoning. When he didn't die that way they cut off his head.

Legend says he also healed his jailor's daughter who was blind, and wrote her a note before his execution signed, Your Valentino.

I'm guessing his last thoughts before the ax severed his head were not, "Gee, I really hope Hallmark monetizes my name in order to sell more crappy cards and I hope my memory will make those who aren't in a relationship feel really crummy that they are alone, and I hope that women will get angry at men for not buying them gifts in my name when I'm remembered."

Once today was about remembering a brave man who with God's help did many good things. A man who died for his faith. A man who cared about young people and young couples. A man who loved God and others very well. Perhaps he did hope that his life and death would give others courage to do what is right even when opposed. I'm sure his life was lived in service to others and he hoped those he disciple would do the same.

So the chocolate is fun, and the notes, and the flowers...

How about in his memory we try praying for the blind and see if God heals them? Or stand up for, defend and aid the downtrodden and persecuted even if it gets us into trouble? How about even we give thanks for the marriages we have and commit again to love our spouses in sacrificial ways?

(I'm asking myself this also, in case you get the idea that I think I'm cool or something)

Just a thought.

What is a fitting remembrance on a day such as this?

Am I just a total buzz kill?


Just for fun

Today I'm over at the MOBsociety trying to encourage moms of little people.

Here's an excerpt:

No, he isn’t perfect. I had to remind him to do his jobs, twice. He hangs his head and gets a surly look on his face when I tell him to get back to school work when he is distracted, and he is very loud, and somewhat obnoxious in his eagerness to tell me the minute details of EVERY.SINGLE.THING.

It’s not that I don’t still feel overwhelmed, like I did when they were smaller, I just feel overwhelmed by different things, in different ways.

You can click through to read the rest.

Also, a little while back Alice Bradley of Finslippy asked  twitter what kind of parenting topics she could write about. Knowing she has a boy the same age as mine and would understand I asked her,
@finslippy How do you get 9 year-old boys to stop talking ALL. THE. TIME. about Lego or whatever else is running through their head?
 Here in Redbook magazine is her hilarious response.

Oh, and then @Andrew_Arnold, his bio says he is PR and communications manager for LEGO sent me an apology after reading the article. Tongue in cheek of course.

Sometimes twitter is just fun


One Thousand Gifts-Week 57

I've spent a lot of the past week trying to finish all of the year end receipts and reports for The Charis Project. I have been struggling to make unfamiliar programs do what I need them to do, and get on top of the work pile.

The Boy being a big brother

Instead of going out for tea with my kids on Saturday morning like planned I spent it puking for what seemed like an endless amount of time. (In my middle age I seem have developed the sensitive stomach my dad always told me about, time for ginger tea and moderation when it comes to grease and sugar. It's the perfect diet plan. Either eat food I shouldn't and then immediately throw up, or don't eat it at all.) The birthday dinner the night before with the extended family was lovely though and it was me who requested the fish and chips.

Honestly I've spent a lot of this week feeling like I will never, ever, get everything done that needs to be done, ever. I've felt like I am way under qualified for the life and work I have to do. It is against that backdrop that I present to you this weeks list of gifts. There is always good.

like my birthday chair?

  • Mist that piles against the hills in frothy waves.
  • Fresh white paint on my windows.
  • Lavender and rosemary scents mingling.
  • Sun on my back in the garden.
  • Flowers from my husband.
  • Lace on the table because the Girl wanted it to be special.
  • Lilies opening in the vase and spreading their perfume.
  • Sister in law manning the stove.
  • MIL's gift of time. 10 days that she will pick up my kids so I have time.
  • A friend who gave expert aid where my knowledge fails.
  • A new, to me, pretty bookshelf in the den.
  • Peach blossoms.
  • Oatmeal with ginger and orange peel made by the Boy for my breakfast.
  • The Girl's consistently cheerful attitude.
  • How my kids already knew exactly what they wanted to buy for my birthday before Beema took them out to buy it.
  •  When Aaron tells me I'm doing a good job when I really don't feel like I am.

Thank-you everyone for leaving your gratitude items last week. The winner of One Thousand Gifts is
Lucy The Valient. Congratulations! Email me your address and I will send you the book.


Taking the First step

We were driving to my in-law's house on Friday night and I was telling Aaron about the kids at Drawn from Water in Ethiopia that some acquaintance of ours, Jesse and Levi, were rescuing. They were putting those children up for adoption. Then I moved to tell him about some information my friend sent me about getting funding for international adoptions.

In the middle of my telling he turned to me, looked me in the eyes and knowing where this was going said, "Yes."

Then he teared up for second or two and said, "It seems impossible, but so much of our life is impossible right now. I'm open to it happening since it wouldn't really happen unless God makes it happen."

I wrote to Jesse and she told me which agency they were working with and what we had to do. At the same time she asked if we had considered adopting through the state as they had done. "I feel like a traitor mentioning this..." she said, "But it worked out really well for us."

I went ahead and contacted the international adoption agency and started to figure out if we qualified. I was filling out forms and researching all that November, 2009.

Dec. 2 we had a meeting with our lawyer to hammer out details of incorporating The Charis Project and applying for non-profit status. I was 2 days late.

I am never late.

That's when we found out that Jellybean was on his way. Talk of adopting faded into the background. We would not pursue that with another baby on the way.

Once he was born I could not stop thinking about adopting. We wanted to adopt someone older, a boy 2-4. Boys don't get chosen as often as girls for some reason, but we're willing to take a boy. I thought we should do that before Jellybean got too old and too settled in his position in the family so the transition to one more older sibling would be easy.

One day in September I looked around at all the stuff I was already doing, barely, and realized that it was absolutely foolish to think of adding another child to the mix when I could barely keep all the balls I am already juggling in the air. I let go again and sat back to settle into getting on top of everything around me.

An aside: If there is one thing I realized taking a 3 week vacation and trying to come back into things full swing when we got home it's that my life is hard work. Really hard never ending work. And when I  lose my rhythm the whole thing falls apart. I almost have my rhythm back. Almost.

But then there was a conversation, a phone number, and I started thinking about what Jesse said about adopting locally from foster care. Only thinking though, remember. I'm too busy.

That all changed the day I read this post from 6yearmed. I thought to myself, "I may be busy but I can do better than that for a child. I've got room for one more."

I got up, found the phone number, and made the first phone call.

When I told Aaron about it he responded by telling me that he heard something about a local child the day before that was so awful he refused to tell me. "You have stuff you have to get done today," he said, "This would wreck you for a really long time."

"So it was bad?"

"I was shaking when I heard it," he answered, by way of confirmation.

I still don't know what it was.

Tonight we are going to the first orientation meeting to find out more about foster adoption. Our hearts are open. Now we learn what's involved.

We'll see where it takes us.


Idea Camp-Orphan Care

Adult men pay to have sex with little girls and boys as young as 5 in South East Asia.

Children may work their whole lives in slavery to pay the debts of their parents.

In Burma soldiers kill entire villages, children witness, tied to a tree, as men rape and kill their mother, shoot their father in the head and if they are lucky, they escape to tell that story in a refugee camp.

There is a before and an after.

There is life before I knew these things… and there is life after where I try to understand what to do with my crushed heart and the minute by minute awareness that in the time it took me to feed my children breakfast someone else's children died of starvation, children were raped, killed, trafficked, and orphaned. How do I live with this knowledge?

What can I do?

It’s been more than a decade since I first asked that. It was exactly 10 years ago this month that my husband and I first visited an orphanage with the idea to figure out what we could do.

I admit I had a very romantic idea of what running an orphanage would involve. I would hold babies all day and love on kids who needed a mother.

village kids mugging for the camera

The reality was a surprise to me.

After touring the whole place, which was very well run, we sat down for a one on one chat with DJ and Lynette, the couple in charge.

“The truth is,” DJ said, “I spend most of my days fund raising, trying to raise enough money to keep this whole thing going. We hire people to take care of the kids, because we don’t have the time.”

The more we looked the more we saw that this is the sad truth about most orphanages round the world. Those who care enough to devote their lives to such work find most of their time filled up with activities that have little to do with the direct care and nurture of the children. They are constantly dependent on donor money, never knowing if there will be enough.

Needless to say, this reality was less than exciting for us. We wanted to give love and care, not become professional fundraisers. 

As it is we know that orphanages are less than ideal. Staff come and go, children get attached to people only to have them leave after their 6 month volunteer stint is over and break their heart. With such a high ratio of children to adults it’s hard to make sure that kids get nurture, and that their emotional needs are met. It’s even harder when the people with them every day are paid staff workers.

But orphanages are necessary. Without them children would be in even worse condition, wandering the streets, prostituted, enslaved, and ultimately, dead far too soon. Many children in orphanages will never be candidates for international adoption due to the laws in their countries and their lack of even a birth certificate or legal guardianship process to prove that they are indeed orphans.

Three years ago my husband met a man in Northern Thailand who was taking care of 40 kids that he found in the jungle near the Burmese border, kids who had no one who could take care of them, whose parents were dead or “disappeared” due to the political and economic situation created by the Burmese Junta.

For a while the Charis Home staff netted pigeons for extra meat

He was making the little bit of rice he had into soup to try and feed all of them. He had no support system, but he knew that if he left those children to themselves they would be worse off than nearly starving with him.

That was the day we became professional fundraisers, in spite of our aversion. Because when it comes down to it, money is needed, and if it can go to the people who truly love and care for these kids then we will do what we can to raise it. (The Charis Project has kept those children, plus many more, fed, clothed, safe, in school, and in the care of someone who really loves them ever since.)

But then we had an idea.

What if we could make it so that the orphanage didn’t need to rely on donations anymore?

If they could just grow enough food to feed themselves and the kids, their situation would be much more stable.

kids preparing pigeons to eat
But wait. What if they could sell a little bit of the extra and pay for school fees and medical bills too? With a little bit of investment, time, and some training, children’s homes could function more like family units usually do, working together to live. Beyond that, they could actually run profitable businesses that support them and provide value to the community. People would be hired to work in the businesses that support the homes, rather than to care for the kids.

What if the children learned how to start and run a small business? What if they gained the life skills and tools that would serve them all of their lives?

What if we could figure out a way to teach anyone already taking care of orphans, from 1 or 2 to 20, how to do this?

Are you catching the idea?

Here, I’ll lay it out for you.

We want to create an orphanage model that not only supports itself but also supports and transforms it’s surrounding community through employment and social benefit through the businesses it runs.

Can an orphanage change a community for the better? Can it be the source of economic and social change? Could this change be enough to dry up the community as a source for child traffickers who prey upon poverty and despair? We think so. 

Our vision is to take the throw away children of the world, and have the stability to love them and the educational structures that train them to be the leaders that create tomorrow’s economy. The very social business structures that provide stability for the kids also provide them an education and the means to long-term stability for themselves. Fund raising, which is a hand to mouth existence, becomes part of the life of the home whether we like it or not. It can cause lifelong dependence and helplessness in the children.

With our model, instead of spending energy and time going out and fund raising, we’re harnessing the means of fulfilling the economic requirements for the home as something that is intrinsically valuable to the children. The business structures turn the achievement of financial stability into something that is of great long-term value to the children as well.

Wouldn’t that be cool?

It’s a pretty big idea I know, maybe even big enough for Idea Camp?

***I so wish one of us could go to Idea Camp but it's an economic impossibility for us at this point. I can however join in the online discussion which is what this post is about.
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