Monday, January 21, 2013

updates and 24 children are home with their parents

Happy Monday! It is time for some updates. On Saturday, Jake's basketball team won its third game.  Woohoo!  His team is 3-0.  Last year his team learned lessons through losing...they only won one game. I am glad that this year they are getting to experience winning.  Elyse got her bangs cut. She has never had bangs before so this was a big change for her!  Jonathan's English is coming along. He comes out with full sentences now and it is so cute to hear him talk in English (sort of..).  He had  his first dentist appointment last week and then an appointment with another specialist.  He is recovering from a little procedure he had on Friday and he is doing well.  In the last two months, Jonathan  has gained 2 lbs and grown a 1/2 inch!

I have started working on Jonathan's "baby" book, a.k.a. Life book, for children who have joined families through adoption. The book that I am making for him will be his first three years of life in Uganda. He did a lot of living before he joined our family and I want to make sure that all of that is documented for him.  He loves looking at Jake and Elyse's baby books so I knew I needed to get moving on it.  Making a Life book is not the easiest thing for me.  Honestly, it is a bit intimidating, but I have found a great resource to help.  It is a book called, Before You Were Mine by Susan TeBos and Carissa Woodwyk.  Susan is the mother of three internationally adopted children and Carissa is an adult adoptee from Korea.  The book gives lots of great ideas and examples concerning how to make your child's Life book.  It will be easy to document Jonathan's time since joining our family, but I want to make sure we honor his life before coming to be with us, and I know that won't be easy. Thankfully, this book is a great place to start.  The authors list lots of questions to ask yourself before you even begin each part of the Life book. These questions can help you get organized and make sure that you include everything that you can about his or her story. There are also sample Life book pages at the end of the book.  I am visual learner so it definitely helps me to see an example of one already finished.

Awesome news....

Operation Zipper Pouch has surpassed last year's 28 pouches to a whopping 200 pouches.  My friend, Kathy, has worked so hard on this and I am so excited for her.  The pouches will be shipped to the 130th Military Police who are currently deployed until July 2013.  Incredible!!

24 CHILDREN have been rescued from slavery in Ghana through the work that the Mercy Project is doing.  Isn't that the best news?!!  Twenty four kids who will be back with their families and going to school instead of working every day in the fishing industry.  Theses 24 kids all came from the same village in Ghana and all come from impoverished families.  This is what happens every day in other parts of the world...their mother or father "rents" them out to a fisherman thinking that their child will have a better life by getting to attend school, having food to eat and  by learning a trade.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  The children end up working 12 hour days/seven days a week in horrible conditions.  Mercy Project is changing everything.  Mercy is not only rescuing children from slavery, but they are working with the parents and helping to develop sustainable economic projects that will eradicate the need for child laborers from the Ghanian fishing industry.  To read the full article of the rescue go here. This is the update from Chris Field, the Director of the Mercy Project:

We have indentified parents and/or guardians for all of the children we rescued in September.  Praise the Lord for that.  This past week, we also identified schools where the first group (11 kids total) will be attending once they are reintegrated next week.  Please pray for this process.  That the Lord will have favor on the children, the parents, and our staff on the ground in Ghana as they all work through these details for the first time.

As so many organizations focus on getting the word out about human trafficking this month, I can't think of any better news to share that children are free.  Please take a moment to go read about the Mercy Project.  Modern slavery has to end and it begins with me and you!  


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

builder of the house

When we started the new year, Jason and I began reading Everyday Prayers by Scotty Smith.  A few days ago, I book-marked the following prayer, because, just like I need to preach the gospel to  myself  every day ("The most important message we need to hear as believers is the gospel."- Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace), I also need to remind myself that I should be parenting by the gospel, every day!

Everyday Prayers - January 11th:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
Those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Psalm 127:1-3

Heavenly Father, it's a joy to address you today as the architect and builder of your own house-including the household of faith and my children's place in your family.

As I look back over the years of my pragmatic parenting, I'm saddened, but I am also gladdened, for you've always been faithful to your covenant love, even when I was overbearing and underbelieving.  The move from parenting by grit to parenting by grace has been a fitful but fruitful journey.  Take me deeper; take me further.

You've rescued me from parental "laboring in vain"- assuming a burdern you never intended parents to bear.  Father, only you can reveal the glory and grace of Jesus to our children.  Only you can give anyone a new heart. You've called us to parent as an act of worship - to parent "as unto you," not as a way of saving face, making a name for ourselves, or proving our worthiness of your love.

Oh, the arrogant pride of thinking that by my "good parenting" I can take credit for what you alone have graciously done in the lives of my children.  Oh, the arrogant unbelief of assuming that by my "bad parenting" I've forever limited what you will be able to accomplish in the future.  Oh, the undue pressure our children must feel when we parent more out of our fear and pride than by your love and grace.

Since our children and grandchildren are your inheritance, Father, teach us - teach me- how to care for them as humble stewards, not as anxious owners.  More than anything else, show us how to parent and grandparent  in a way that best reveals the unsearchable kindnesses.  Convict me quickly and surely when I do not relate to your convenant children "in line with the truth of the gospel" ( Galatians 2:14,NIV).  I pray in Jesus' faithful name. Amen.\\


Thursday, January 10, 2013

lipstick and 27 million people

In 1865 our country outlawed slavery, but that doesn't mean it doesn't still go on today. There are 27 million human beings trafficked in slavery every year.  Women, children and men being sold into slavery in 161 different countries, including the U.S.  Our government estimates that 100,000 children are trafficked into the sex trade every year, right here in America. Every minute of the day, two children are sold into slavery in other parts of the world.  That's children of all ages...ones just like yours and mine.  THIS HAS TO STOP.

I have written about this subject before, but I can still forget about it.  And, because I live the life of a pretty typical American, I have the choice to put it out of my mind if I want to.  I can hide from it and pretend it doesn't exist in the world today.  But, I have to be honest with myself and admit that now that I know that this goes on in the world, and now that I know some of the stories, I can't just turn around and go back to life as normal. As a Christian I'm called to be compassionate toward these men, women and children caught up in slavery and trafficking.  And, helping those who cannot do for themselves, is to seek justice.  It is to right wrongs for those who are weak or poor or in a position of powerlessness.....

This is what the Lord Almighty says, "Administer true justice, show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.
Zechariah 7:9 

Tomorrow (Friday,11th) is Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  There are things that we can all do every day to help stop slavery.  As a woman I cannot let other women and children in the world suffer this way while I have a chance to help stop it. So, what can I/we do?

PRAY!  That is obviously the most important thing I need to remember. Pray for those in slavery, and pray for the folks out there working to rescue them and help them restore their lives.  Our minister, Kent,  always says prayer is the work that lets you do the ministry.   

I can shop with ethical companies like Radiant. Buying lipstick...or other makeup from Radiant Cosmetics is fighting against trafficking. Radiant was founded by a young woman whose year long mission adventure with The World Race led her to start this company. They  partner with anti- trafficking organizations, and through cosmetics help "set the captives lipstick at a time". This month, not only will the company donate their typical 20% of profits to Redeemed Ministries (they do this all year long), which works in Texas with people who have been trafficked, but for every lipstick bought they will donate a lipstick to an organization working to help women in the slavery.  And here is why that is important...

Donated lipsticks will be sent to Brazil with The Trade who teaches women job skills (in hair/makeup) which is crucial in preventing trafficking. We're also giving lipsticks to our partner organization Redeemed Ministries Austin who will use these in outreach gift bags, which serve as a way to reach trafficked women. Gifts are a great conversation starter to let these women know there is help available. The women don't usually receive gifts, so it's a fun way to show them they are loved, and trust us, they love the girly gift baskets so lipstick is a perfect addition.

If you'd like to learn more, read the book, Rescuing Hope by Susan Norris. This book is about the sex trade industry in the U.S.  Trafficking just doesn't happen in foreign countries, it is happening in our backyards.  To be is not an  easy book to read but I know I needed to read it. I need to have my eyes opened.  This book is a work of fiction, but it is based on true stories.  Susan spent six months interviewing survivors, family members of trafficked girls, detectives and organizations that fight for these girls.  She even interviewed a former pimp, who after years of pimping, gave his life to  Jesus and now works to rescue girls from the trafficking industry.  You can go here and read the whole interview with Susan. I love what Susan says in the Acknowledgements section of her book...

To my readers, thank you for taking the time to read about a difficult subject, when it would be easy to turn away.  I pray Rescuing Hope stirs something inside you to propel you to action.  Find your place in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation of children.  There's room for everyone in the battle.  We need your voice, your gifts, your talents.  What part will you play in becoming a voice for hope?

Check out Susan's website and please consider reading the book. It opened my eyes and made me realize that there is so much more that I need to be doing, if I really want to live out the command to love others like I love myself.

Here is a list of incredible organizations working tirelessly to help those being trafficked here at  home and around the world.

Free the Girls.... I wrote a post about them here.

Wellspring Living...their vision is to serve locally, influence globally. 

International Justice Mission...the work they do is incredible. Check out what they have done the last 15 years.

Polaris Project...they are named after the star, Polaris, that guided those on the Underground Railroad to freedom.  They are one of the leading organizations in the fight against slavery today.

There are so many other organizations out there...ones that work locally and globally. I know I need a constant reminder or life can settle in and it is so easy to forget.  Or maybe I want to forget.  None of us want to think about these's pretty ugly stuff.  I know we all look back at our ancestors and wonder how in the world did they read the same Bible we read and think it was ok to own and sell another human being?  I don't want my kids or my grandkids or my great grandkids to look back on me and ask that same question.  How could you just sit by while this was happening?  How, when you had the power to act, and do something, you didn't?


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Operation Zipper Pouch

I want to introduce you to  my friend that I met in college, Kathy Wright.  The Wrights are a military family and they know first hand how hard it is for a husband and father to be deployed, and spend long periods of time away from his family.  Tom, Kathy's husband, has served in two deployments.  Kathy has come up with a great way to bless our military men and women.  Last year she started Operation Zipper Pouch.  I will let her tell you what Operation Zipper Pouch is all about, Kathy explains it below. 

It's time for our 2nd Annual Operation Zipper Pouch!!
In case you have no idea what I am talking about, here is a brief history:
My husband, Tom, is a member of the Tennessee National Guard, 1175th Transportation Company. He has served two 12-month deployments, the most recent of which was to Q-West, Iraq, from March 2009-March 2010. We had three young children, and it was definitely a trying time for our family. During those long months, it meant so much to me when friends & family would reach out... to Tom & send him a card, a care package, or even an email to let him know he was not forgotten.
After Tom returned home, I began my business with Thirty-One. I knew I wanted to use it in some way to benefit the men & women of our military, and Operation Zipper Pouch was born. Last year, just after Christmas, I received donations from friends like you. You purchased zipper pouches from Thirty-One embroidered with "Thank You!". I donated all of my commission from the sale of the pouches & used it to fill them with goodies for soldiers. We collected enough in our first drive to send 28 "care package" pouches to members of the 230th Engineer Battalion stationed in Kuwait. Their FRG (Family Readiness Group) oversaw the distribution and gave them first to those men & women who had little or no family support.
This year, I have set a goal of 50 pouches. ( I would love to blow that away, FYI!) We will be using thermal-lined pouches in a camo print, which are actually less expensive because they will not be monogrammed. Each pouch is only $15. Including shipping & tax, it would come to $17.70 per pouch. Would you consider donating 1 or more pouches to show appreciation to a serviceman or woman
overseas? There are two easy ways to participate:

1. Go to my website. Click on "My Parties,", then "Operation Zipper Pouch military drive". Using your credit card, you may purchase the desired number of pouches - simply choose item number 4060 in camo. Be sure to click "Ship items to host" so it will come to me.
2. Email or call me to let me know you would like to participate, then get a check to me - $17.70 per pouch.

Each "care package" pouch will be filled with goodies and a note thanking them for their service. I plan to make this an annual event to help us all to remember their sacrifice. With your help, we can encourage many of our soldiers!! This drive will run from January 4 - 18, 2013. (Donations are not tax-deductible since goods are received -they are just being given to someone else). Please contact me with any questions you may have.
Thank you & God bless!
Kathy Wright - Thirty-One gifts
Skype number 901-355-9637

P.S. I am currently choosing a unit to be the recipient this year. If you have a personal connection to someone currently serving overseas, I would love to know about it!

  Last year's pouches.

 This year's pouch.

Please consider being apart of this drive.  Let's help Kathy send more than 50 pouches!  I can't think of a better to say thank you to our military!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Some favorites to start the year!

Happy New Year!  I can't believe it is 2013,  here we go!  Last year at this time we didn't even have a court date and had no idea when we would get one.  We are so thankful that Jonathan is home and that we can start this new year with all of our family together.

This year, along with the reading plan at She Reads Truth, I am also using this book, Everyday Prayers 365 days to a Gospel-centered Faith by Scotty Smith in my quiet times.  Only three days in and I love it!  And if you haven't heard of She Reads Truth...check it out.  Women all over the country reading Truth together and praying for each other, it's awesome! 

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and faithfulness.  Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the  Lord.  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:14-15
In the gospel you lavish us with your love, liberate us by your grace, and  launch us into your transforming story of redemption. What more could we possibly want or hope for, in life or in death?

Because the gospel is true, I don't respond to Joshua's bold charge with a list of New Year's resolutions-promises of what I'm going to do for you.  Rather, I begin this year resolving to abandon myself to everything Jesus has done for us. Jesus is the promise keeper, not us. He's the one who has promised to make all things new, including me.
- Everyday Prayers

On New Year's Day I made this soup that I found on Jami Nato's blog. I am not a huge soup fan and I am definitely not big on tomato soup  but this soup is DELICIOUS.  It is also very healthy, so it is a win-win!  The recipe says to use an immersion blender...I don't have one of those so our soup was more like tomato-vegetable soup than a true tomato soup but it was delicious!  Also, do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to check out Jami's blog and read their story...the gospel lived out!

Ordinary isn't a destination at which you suddenly arrive.  Ordinary is subtle.  Sometimes ordinary is a product of intentional choices.  But often ordinary occurs when a couple doesn't know what they don't know.
-Beyond Ordinary

As crazy as life can get, it is easy to hit the autopilot button in our marriage.  God has such a bigger desire for our marriages.  We have been reading the book Beyond Ordinary  by Justin and Trisha Davis for the last couple of weeks and going through the questions at the end of each chapter.  The Davis's have experienced first hand the result of settling for an ordinary marriage.  Ordinary doesn't exactly sound like what God's plan for marriage is, does it?  His plan is true intimacy and oneness, and ever since the Garden, there has been war against the oneness that God intended.

That is how spiritual warfare works. There is a battle for your marriage all day, every day.  Most of the time we only notice it after we get stung.  Marriage is physical and emotional, but more than anything else, marriage is spiritual.  We have an enemy who seeks to steal our hearts, kill our hope, and destroy our marriages.  Our struggle against this enemy is what we know as spiritual warfare. 
-Beyond Ordinary 

You can also check out Justin and Trisha's ministry blog here. 

Need a calendar for 2013? TomKat studios has a cute free printable 2013 calendar here.  She has a great website and lots of free printables.

Why not shop with purpose a this year?  Check out this store, this one and this one.

I am thankful for another year and I pray that this year there is less of me and more of Him.  Happy New Year!