Friday, April 10, 2015

windswept :: a SE Asia trip update

I keep coming to this space. And I keep leaving it blank. Hashtag sorrynotsorry.

I am practicing the waiting. The not sharing. Protecting. Discerning. Storing up all sorts of sparkling things in my soul and just hangin' out with them for a little while, or for a long while, trying not to frame every little piece into a sound byte or editing moments as they are happening. I wait, sometimes for what seems like ever and ever, until each rowdy piece of reflected light is ready for release back into the wild. Once free, those crazy sprites can be difficult to catch all spinning dizzy and stirring up prisms.

How do you wrap words around a whirlwind?

I stand at the center, hair whipping wild in the long-awaited gust of a new heading, and every word I release is swallowed up and whisked off beyond my reach. Swirling and howling and blustering and whispering. The force strong enough to knock me over and yet also sweetly balanced and mightily steadying. I stretch my arms out and close my eyes that I might just feel it. The wind. The way it rushes fast over my skin. The way it pries open my clenched fists and surges between my fingers leaving me palms up releasing any control I once thought I wanted. The way it fills my lungs with its power and takes my breath away in the same flick of a moment. I cannot help but spin and twirl. My chin cannot help but lift. Bending and swaying, must be those well-watered roots and palm tree posture that make a crazy storm look a lot like dancing. An island sprig found thriving in desert spaces, I am swept up into the fury. 

"...some moment happens in your life 
that you say yes 
right up to the roots of your hair,
that makes it worth having been born 
just to have happen.
Laughing with somebody 
till the tears run down your cheeks,
waking up to the first snow,
being in bed with somebody you love...
Whether you thank God for such a moment
or thank your lucky stars,
it is a moment that is trying to 
open up your whole life.
If you turn your back on such a moment
and hurry along to business as usual,
it may lose you the ball game.
If you throw your arms around such a moment
and hug it like crazy,
it may save your soul."
-frederick buechner

I've been expecting this breezy old friend for such a long while - this rush of life bearing new longitudes and latitudes . We've sensed the momentum from such a long way off the way a waterman reads swells and currents and we've been preparing ourselves for the ride. So. Much. Waiting. Well, the ride has arrived. Our next step has shown itself. It's happening.

We are moving to SE Asia!

At this time last month Eric was in SE Asia as I sat in a hospital waiting room here while our daughter underwent surgery. Three days earlier, a simple missed landing on our backyard trampoline landed her on an x-ray table with a fractured ankle. Two days later our orthopedic surgeon determined her injury to be much more significant than we were originally told and he immediately scheduled surgery for the following morning. At the exact time I was scheduled to fly out to join Eric.

Sometimes the moment makes the decision for you.

He wanted to come home. I wanted him to stay put. I was in the zone here caring for our girl and the stories coming out of his work in SE Asia had me convinced he was in the zone over there caring about a whole bunch of other parents' girls. He needed to stay. I needed him to stay. I needed him to finish the work we set out to do, to take this next step, to ride the momentum building over those few weeks of insane fundraising as well as the past seven years since we'd first opened our eyes to the reality of child sex-slavery. Our sails were filled full and we were cruising too strong to pull off course now. The same rush of wind keeping him going night after night of gathering evidence of human trafficking, staring into eyes long since vacant of hope and still others completely void of humanity, would be the same force keeping me going in the triage unit that had become our family room with one child post-op and the other violently ill for the second time in one month. Our tribe alongside me, a new tribe alongside him. Our resolve anchored deep.

My sun would be setting as his sun was rising and so we see-sawed our way through the two week adventure just like that. Calls and texts and Facetime chats on opposite ends of our days kept me tuned in to the field work he was experiencing and kept him connected to the progress we were making here at home. It wasn't until we saw him coming down the escalator at the airport that the waves began to hit me. It's over. I really didn't go. I just missed the entire thing. My entire heart was engaged in the care of our kids as our plans got rerouted, but my entire heart had also been set on the plan to be side-by-side with my husband in this giant next step toward our work against trafficking. 

The weeks following the trip have been filled with Eric's stories becoming my stories, his people becoming my people. A steady stream of both dark tellings of the intensity of the trenches and hilarious antics from team members turned brothers and sisters wove through our every conversation. Even my birthday dinner night out had us tearing up over the vacant eyes of little girls dead inside from the horrors of their lives one minute and then belly laughing in the street drawing stares from balconies and smiles from cafe patios as we cackled about his teammates most embarrassing moments stories shared over their downtime cappuccinos and fieldwork debriefing. The stories have shaped me from a distance and invited me in. I keep forgetting I wasn't actually there. But really, I was. That's just how we roll. Eric and I take each other along wherever we go, whether in body or in spirit. See, the dangerous nature of taking Jesus seriously doesn't automatically take us to the darkest corners of humanity, but it does ALWAYS take us outside of ourselves and face to face with fear, daring us to release our death grip on control and comfort, inviting us further beyond ourselves than we ever dreamed possible.

For us, that invitation is to SE Asia. 

Friends. You know how long we've been waiting, praying and expecting this. This next adventure has been years in the making, ages in the dreaming, so I'm kinda bursting with fruit flavor over here. And yes, it's about the work and the wild ride, but really it's about this ---> God built us for this, grew us toward each other while growing us toward this, stirred our hearts for this and then made a way for us. We dug our heels in and waited for His way above our way and He did it. He actually did it. Immeasurably more than we could have asked for or imagined. He took the verse I admittedly roll my eyes at every single time I read it or hear it (Ephesians 3:20), the verse that makes me go, "really? immeasurably more than I could ask for or imagine? really? because i can imagine some pretty rad stuff", the verse I doubt but secretly hope is true because my heart was designed for a great wandering; He carved that verse on the palm of His hand, slammed it up against the window of my soul and said "How do you like them apples!" in His best Southie accent. I love it when God goes all Good Will Hunting on us. 

We finally have our next heading and are charting our course. Holding the logistics loosely, waiting to see how our timeframe takes shape, but breathing deep knowing we are quite ready for another adventure. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

GoFund Us - SE Asia

"We weren't going to do this. GoFundMe wasn't part of our plan. But then I watched this video again and said, "screw it."

We've been invited to SE Asia to volunteer with our favorite anti-trafficking org The Exodus Road! Click here for the video and our time-sensitive fundraising campaign!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

the doing of true love

My little guy loves to decorate for holidays. Our usual ritual is buying one new decoration per year per holiday because, let's be honest, Target is a vixen and my weapons are useless against her. My family needs to eat and have things like electricity and running water so one decoration it is. But that's not the story for me this week leading up to Valentine's Day. The story is my little guy opening up the storage box with a big V on the lid and beginning his oooooh's and aaaaah's as he hangs heart-shaped things in all the "wrong" places which gives me ample opportunity to practice letting it go, letting it go. The story is the one decoration he needed help hanging. The one we made a couple years ago out of cardboard and printed out maps strung together with twine. The one with the four heart-shaped maps of Tempe and one of Congo.

Mom, tell me about that map.

My heart breaks because I'm not sure what to say. The sinking catches me off guard. Our adoption that once carried words like "your brother or sister" is now held loosely by open hands, palms up, looking for next steps and carrying words like "first families" and "staying together". Even though my heart aches for our dream not yet realized, the greater ache is for every mama who truly loves her babies and wants to raise them herself but feels like she has no other choice but to surrender them to an orphanage, or worse, to a trafficker. 

I believe I had to be given a mama's heart to fully understand another's. I had to stand in that space where my heart wanted nothing more than to expand enough to love another's babe as my own so that I could see her, every her, as a sister and want nothing more than for her to have a chance to love her own babe as her own. The commission is to care for the orphan AND the widow, the single mama. Because if the widow, the woman who lost her husband to HIV/AIDS, the woman whose husband left her because she had been raped and was now considered untouchable, the woman who was never allowed an education because of her gender, the woman who has great ideas but can't afford to feed her children much less start a business, if she has a chance then there is a chance her child won't become an orphan.

What if our "heart for the orphan" is just a little backward? What if our hearts were for the widow which could prevent the orphan? We are still such advocates for adoption. We still hope adoption is part of our story. We know there are so many babes, young and older, who desperately need a family. However, we will not build our own family at the expense of another's. There are so many children who legitimately need a loving family and there are so many loving families who legitimately need a chance to keep their children.

This is why we love the work being done by our friends at The Abide Family Center.  Partnering with local orphanages and government agencies on the ground in Jinja, Uganda, Abide is a resource for families on the verge of collapse. Families, usually single mamas, who show up of the doorstep of an orphanage ready to leave their child out of sheer desperation, but who, when asked if they would choose to keep their child if they were able, say yes, are referred to Abide's program. Emergency housing, food, medical assistance, case management, small business education, parenting classes, early childhood development, pastoral care and family sponsorship mark their alternative care model employing national staff driven toward the goal of keeping families together and keeping children out of orphanages. Abide inspires a broader spectrum of orphan care and an audacious belief that we can prevent the need for adoption one family at a time.

image via

So, this week as I print out Minecraft-themed Valentine's for my little guy's classmates and resist the urge to rearrange his oddly placed decorations, I am thinking about that heart-shaped map of Congo and how we dream of seeing the work of orphan prevention and family preservation being done in the country we have grown to love. I am dreaming of Congolese mamas keeping their babies because love + opportunity = hope. I am sending Valentine love to Joan and her babes, the family we are sponsoring toward resettlement with our monthly sponsorship donation to Abide.

Want Valentine's Day to be about more than just candy and stressful Pinterest DIYs? Want to bring your kiddos along in supporting another family in great LOVE while keeping kiddos with their parents and out of orphanages? Consider giving a piece of your heart to The Abide Family Center and the work of orphan prevention this week! Feeling crazy? Sponsor a family while they work toward resettling back into their community! Helping to keep a child with their family is just as life-changing as welcoming them into our own. 

Join us in
the doing of true love 
this Valentine's Day! 

Monday, February 09, 2015

28 Days of Play


"Playing with my kids still feels new. Like when you finally find yourself in a healthy relationship and you have the lightbulb epiphany, “Oh! So this is what it’s supposed to be like!” At nine and six I am just now joining their lives in a new way every time we throw the football around in the front yard, practice gymnastics on the trampoline, write names of foreign countries in sidewalk chalk for a serious game of Around the World, build Legos, play board games and toss the Frisbee in the parking lot during swim practice. I used to think it was because my girl and boy are finally out of the Fisher-Price stage and finally wanting to do things I actually find to be fun. While this is so very true, those damn Polly Pockets and annoying Tow Mater were almost the death of me, it’s not the real reason. The truth is, I’m the one finally ready to play."

Catch the rest of my piece Messy Truths About Play over at You Plus Two Parenting today! 

Friday, February 06, 2015

milk & honey...and champagne

God is so freaking faithful.

The dreams He plants in our hearts, those whispers of art-work He weaves throughout every fiber of our being demanding our attention and costing us our souls, every breath of life filling our lungs with hope and beauty and belief ---> it all shouts of great LOVE.

Man, does He love us!

He loves us enough to say "No" over and over and over again, to allow us to experience  hardship and loss and to grow and become. He loves us so much that He asks us to trust Him with everything, even when it seems absolutely crazy.

And then there is a moment where He full on goes BOOM and drops the mic.

After a looooooooong wandering, we are finally celebrating some serious answered prayer. God is flinging open gates we've been knocking on for so long. He is declaring words our ears desperately needed to hear. He is making good on all the arrows that have pointed the way.

This way. Keep going.

We're sorta out of practice over here when it comes to celebration. We're like awkward junior high students at our first dance all gangly stumbling through the motions we've seen in movies featuring cool teenagers with smooth moves. Like the boy who takes the ultimate social risk of asking the prettiest girl to dance, so afraid she'll say no, so afraid he'll look like an idiot, so afraid all his friends will laugh if he gets rejected...but then she says yes and he stands there in shock not knowing what to do next! Yes?!?! Really?!?!She said YES!!! We've become pretty good at fielding the hard stuff. We've had tons of practice with tears of sorrow. So when the floodgates open and the tears released are of joy instead, we're not really sure what to do next except hold onto each other just as tight.

That and pop a cork of bubbly. Life demands champagne, my friends.

There's this funny tendency we have, especially within the Church. Can we just chat about this for a minute? We're taught humility and obscurity paired with transparency and authenticity. We praise each other for sharing the hard stuff in life. For "keeping it real". For acknowledging our "struggles" and allowing others to "walk alongside us" in our pain. All good things. All measures of honest relationship and maturity. However, we find it so much more difficult to allow ourselves and others to share the good stuff without worrying about seeming vain. There is this tendency to downplay the good, to justify or self-deprecate. We wouldn't want to make anyone jealous. We wouldn't want to seem anything less than humble.

But here's the trap.

God is so much more than the One who gets us through the hard stuff. He is more than just the manna while we wander around in circles in the desert with nametags that read HELLO My Name is Israel. He is also the One who ushers us into the land of milk and honey. He is the One who created us ahead of time for beautiful work. Now AND not yet. Here AND forever. So for us to only speak of the hard things, for us to only put Him on display when life sucks, is a gross misrepresentation of His whole truth, His whole love. It's an incomplete picture of His very nature.

Friends. When life is good, CELEBRATE for crying out loud! Post your vacation photos without fear of being judged as a braggart. Shout that promotion from the mountain top! Flex that hard earned muscle you've fought all the lies to build! Tell every single living soul just how perfect your healthy newborn baby is! Soak up every last drop of that goodness and pour it out all over the place. Paint your world with that kind of beauty so that those who are limping through their days may be reminded of what is good and true and right. Hold up your little spark of a torch to light the path ahead. This way. Keep going.


Friends. When life is hard, CELEBRATE the tremendous feat of keeping your head above water, of merely surviving. Share your burdens. Share the real life, the becoming.  Practice a posture of gratitude for sustaining hope. Press into tight spaces and allow yourself to mourn, to feel disappointment, grief, doubt. Receive grace and faith and put one foot in front of the other knowing knowing knowing the sun always rises and seasons always change. Eventually. Practice celebrating the tiniest things so that you don't forget, so that you always remember the beauty of simplicity.

The sun shines on us all and the rain falls on us all. If we only share God's work on one side or the other we are a false representation not showing the fullness of who He is and the magnitude of His great love for us. We must lend each other all of the good so that we can help each other shoulder the bad. When we are involved in hard work we must practice celebration and feast upon the light so that we can spark fires in dark corners and hold torches along dimly lit paths.

This week we are toasting the turning of tides. More like tidal waves. All the waiting, all the wandering... Our hearts for the trafficked are finally being given the perfect place to reach beyond awareness and into overseas investigations of predators and pedophiles assisting local law enforcement agencies in the prosecution and the shutting down of brothels who sell children for sex. The Exodus Road is one of our favorite organizations and we are so amped to be a part of the good work being done. As we dust off our passports and look forward to this next adventure we are practicing the art of celebration and a posture of gratitude while we shout from the freaking rooftops of just how worthy God is to be trusted to do exactly what He tells you He is going to do.

Trust yourself to hear His voice even if someone else doubts. Trust His definition of "good" to be better than yours. Trust that He is real and actually cares about you and your life. I dare you to trust Him with everything and just watch what happens.

I also dare you to keep a bottle of bubbly on hand in your fridge and to actually pop the cork to celebrate the amazing and the minutia of this one wild and crazy life. Cheers!