She Had a Dream. Or Was it a Nightmare?

It was an upscale venue, there were plush chairs lining the walls. The banquet table entertained and sustained a gathering of men and women laughing without a care in the world. These couples had their well dressed children nearby as they enjoyed family time with friends. There were other children too, children from China. These host children, specific individual souls, were gathered in the middle of the room where these families were engaging. What a brilliant and wonderful event to have families and orphans together for a meet and greet!

In the midst of this, at the heart of it, there was a problem. A dark, brooding problem.

They wouldn’t touch them.

This happy scene wasn’t happy at all, the families were along the outskirts of the room, the host children were separated from them. The families wouldn’t talk to, touch, or even look at the children. Mothers, previously laughing and eating, sternly yanked their children away. “No, no. We don’t talk to them.”

What a nightmare.

I haven’t always been all about orphan care, but I have always been about the care and keeping of children. I’ve always been about motherhood. While in highschool I set my heart and my life in order, lined up – for motherhood, for the care of children.

Sometimes, I’ll be walking by a child of mine and think – what if they were alone? This little human, one I know so well, one I love, WHAT IF they had NO ONE? I wonder if mine have what it takes, if they have enough fire and spunk in them to survive. I praise God they’ve never had to; they’ve always been known, always been loved.

There’s one thing I know, that I’m confident of: I am not special. My children are not special. My country is not special. There is nothing in me, my children or my country that are not completely and utterly undeserving of everything we’ve been blessed with. Family. Love. Care. We deserve, have a right to, have earned – NONE of this.

So, who am I to think that my child deserves a happy summer filled with laughter, swimming, popsicles, and FAMILY LOVE – more than these little faces before me? What inconvenience will it require from me that I am ABOVE? What small spark of hope might be planted in the heart of a child?

When I see my son walk around with the photo of another boy pasted onto his shirt in a plea to host him, when my daughter shares her dreams, when I see all my 7 rally around in a large campaign to explain how perfectly easy it would be for us to take in another child, or another several children… I’m in awe. These who do the extra work, who give things up – their things – to make another child comfortable… these kids, being the hands and feet of Jesus. These kids, who have seen it’s not so difficult or scary after all, that lending a hand – or a pair of socks – is not so difficult.

My daughter spoke of her dream in animated words until she faltered to a stop, “They wouldn’t touch them.” She continued her story in hushed tones, the weight of her words not lost on either of us. The question on her heart is my question too: how to reach the hearts of others, how to make them see? How to live it out before others in a way that will inspire action?

The stark reality is this: My daughter woke up from her nightmare; the kids she dreams about – don’t.

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Nightlight is searching for families in Kentucky and So. California to host these children for 3 weeks. They are awesome adoptable kids – watch the video to see for yourself! To receive a Hosting Packet with detailed info about the program, email your request to dana@nightlight.org.

Meet Jay

I’d like you to meet a boy that is very dear to me and to our family. I’d like you to meet Jay.

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Oh, how I miss this dear boy. Jay stayed with us for 2 weeks during the summer and captured our hearts while he was here. Jay is in foster care in Taiwan and is available for adoption.  Our family considered and prayed about having him in our family, but it didn’t work out for us. Taiwan has a two child at home already rule that we certainly don’t meet the criteria for! Nevertheless, we love him and talk about him all the time at our house. We’re committed to advocating for him, this great guy needs a family!

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When he first arrived at our house he was sooo sleepy! Working through jet lag was a funny process as we tried to wake him up and he tried to stay asleep. His personality came out even in his sleepiness, we would call “Xǐng lái” “wake up” to him and he would yell “no!” back to us. This became a funny game between all of us.  One day we were in a Starbucks drive through and I was tired so I breifly laid  my head on the steering wheel as we sat waiting. He began laughing and yelling to me “Xǐng lái!” 🙂

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Jay loves spicy noodles, loves to cook fried eggs and to help out in the kitchen. Coming to help cook a meal or make a piece of toast for someone was one of his favorite things to do. He would make something, present it to a kid and say “ummm, so good!” in his adorable accent. He doesn’t like salad or soda and sandwiches took a while to grow on him, but he really loves pizza! He told us American pizza tasted much better than pizza in Taiwan. 🙂

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That first night when he was wide awake we sat up eating noodles and watching  TV with him at midnight. This will always be a treasured memory for us.

I have many, many stories to tell, but I’ll continue them later.  Please help Jay find his family, he’s a sweet and smart 8 year old boy who would thrive in a family. We love him!

For more information about this wonderful boy,  please contact Kathy Junk at: kathy@wiaa.org

– Julee

 

 

 

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Looking for Sparkles

She calls them sparkles. When they fall off your finger, they go to find a family.  So she says.

The dryer yields more of these sparkles with each load, the dress they abandoned now sparkless. So the search for sparkles and search for family continues, as the laundry cycles on.

Moving twice in 11 months, leaving behind everything known, planting and replanting – the tumbling, spinning cycle of life leaves me dizzy. Stepping out of comfort zones, saying yes to God, walking in weakness to discover Him strong – it’s exhilarating and exhausting.

This family, these kids, they’ve persevered long and given much. It’s time. Time to rebuild, time to nourish and replenish.When the walls are worn thin and there’s windy weather on the horizon, it’s time to fortify.

There are changes, just around this corner.

Another sparkle is found, she takes it to her drawer, adds it to the other sparkles. “So they can be a family.”

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In an instant, in a distant city in China, our lives will change forever. It’s going to be beautiful, miraculous, and life changing. Life altering in a million amazing and beautiful ways. Life altering in a million difficult, painful, sacrificial and still beautiful ways.

As we wait, we rebuild.

It isn’t popular to withdraw, decline invitations, pass on commitments and position, but rebuilding is a work that requires full focused effort.  The changes are difficult, but the results are tremendous. There is laughter, stories, parents hanging out with kids, kids playing together…

There is time.

Sweet, beautiful, time.

There are bibles and memory verses, routines, reading, playing, laughing, did I mention laughing. There are old ones spending time with young ones; siblings choosing to be together.

We ache for Melody Joy to come, we see her in her siblings faces (how can this be?), talk about her, pray about her, prepare for her. As we wait, we fortify. Just like a baby in the womb, we prepare to bring her home.

She opens the door, the light from the dryer illuminates the glimmer of each glorious sparkle.  With great excitement she exclaims,

“They’re all in here together, they found their family!”

The Woman Who Came to Dinner

Observe and Understand His Lovingkindness

I saw her standing there with the baby strapped safe to her chest, snuggled in, on that cold afternoon. Her small son stood beside her, in his little black hoodie, looking well cared for and loved. Standing beside her man, like we women do, for better or worse, we do. Most of us anyway, those “unenlightened” ones of us. She stood there beside her man who was holding a sign. I couldn’t see the sign, but I could see them. Sometimes that’s all that’s desired, to be seen, truly seen.

I considered buying her dinner, drove right through KFC and considered it. There was a pause as the man waited for the rest of my order… don’t buy them food, they aren’t homeless, invite them to dinner. “That’ll be all, I don’t want to order anything else.”

Invite them to dinner. I don’t invite my friends to dinner, I can count on my two hands how many times I’ve invited a friend to dinner in the last 15 years. Invite them to dinner.

I didn’t feel safe inviting them to dinner myself, call it wisdom, call it fear, I don’t care much what you call it. I was getting that feeling, you know the one where you know that you’re about to be swept away in the will of God and you best just go with it?

So, I drove home. I went to my husband who was studying for his sermon the next morning. Minutes are critical on Saturday, I’ve blocked them off, considered my husband gone on a retreat every Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon. But, I was a woman on a mission.

“There was this family… they were holding a sign…”

He knows me. This man who has walked with me for 15 years, he knows me.

“You think I should go down there?”

“Yes, or something. I’m about to make chili… there will be enough… if you feel like you should, you know, invite them to dinner.”

So off he goes with our daughter to see this not homeless family in front of Taco Bell.

Shortly after, I received a phone call, they’re coming, 30 minutes. They’re coming to dinner. Ok.

The kids jumped into action, this was all of our routines and schedules in action, this was in large part, why we do all of these things. The ministry of availability, this was it.  Make a salad, add chairs and leaves to the table, make room, pick up, put away those electronics, bake a batch of brownies! They were champs, I praised them for it afterwards.

These kids, they too were caught up in the random adventure that God laid out for us. We didn’t know what He had in store, but we were being obedient. “Loaves and fishes, loaves and fishes” they kept repeating it and giggling. Loaves and fishes, a cry we learned from my friend Melissa, a wild cry for God to extend our hand of giving and provide in a wild way.

Then she came.

She brought her little one year old daughter, her son, the child she carried within her, and her husband. She came into my home and ate my food. We cared for our children, we fed them, corrected them. When her daughter took my daughters cup, she made her return it. Often, we would look across the table at each other and smile, nod, laugh a little.

We invited our friend and he came to join us. He came after being woken up from a nap, this friend who has never been to dinner at our house, this friend whom we’ve talked to only a handful of times. On this night, he was a welcome protector, rescuer, friend. Forever after this night, he is a dearly beloved brother.

After a while, she went home. She took her little family and went to her apartment home 2 miles away. I looked her in the eye, I hugged her. We were women. Wives. Mothers. We’d shared a meal together, lived a bit of life together. With this hug I wanted her to know that I saw her not as a woman asking for a handout beside her husband, but as a sister who came to share a meal, a moment of life together.

We hugged and she left.

Our dear brother stayed and talked for a while, there was a comfort, knowing we had done this thing together. There was no physical reward, no grand stories of redemption, there was just the deep, lasting fellowship that comes when believers gather in His name.

And that’s what happened when the woman, a real, live, self proclaimed gypsy, came to dinner.

Seen & Heard: Random Phone Photos

wpid-0127141616.jpgThis guy got new glasses on Monday. Every time I looked at him, I laughed out loud. That made him self conscious, sorry about that. :/ The truth is, I love this guy and wouldn’t be the same woman without him.  I sometimes blame all of our issues on his wild passion for God, but ultimately I know that he seeks God wildly and I would be so frustrated with anything less. 🙂 Love you honey, and your new glasses too!

wpid-0127141652a.jpgWe went to the park, we’ve been stopping in at the park for an hour here and there more often these days. The poor 3 year old at the end of this clan hasn’t had enough park time and we all do better with some fresh air. These two brothers are discovering some commonality as one is finally old enough to engage in the pursuits of another. They still keep a safe distance, but they are finding their way. God works in all things.

wpid-0127141802a.jpgWe were having dinner and I was thinking what a blessing it is to have the entire family together at the table. This is a common occurrence these days, but I know it won’t always be the case. I took this to capture the normal moment of “dinnertime” and they all thought I was strange. That’s ok, they always think that.

wpid-0128141919a.jpgOn Tuesday night we celebrated this guy’s 7th birthday with my mom and no cousins.  It’s a new normal and we miss our cousins, but we are taking full advantage of having grandparents all to ourselves!!! 😛

wpid-0128141333.jpgThis guy wisely removes himself once a day to swing on the swings by himself. He’s done this everyday for years and years. It’s for all our good, I need to find my own swing – for the good of all!

wpid-0130140701a.jpgThe three middles successfully made it a night in their new tent. It’s so fitting that all of the gifts that Maury chose this year were things he could do with his brothers, he loves and adores them.

wpid-0129140933.jpgOur baby boy turned 7, he loves to make people laugh and he’s good at it. 🙂

 

wpid-0129141900b.jpgWe have great friends that come over every week for community group. It’s been neat to watch the kids bond and grow to love each other as they spend time week after week. Look at those guys back there standing right in front of the TV…!

 

wpid-0130141216a.jpgThis girl’s reading level is higher than mine was at her age, a book and a tree, is there anything better?

That’s a week in our life in random pictures. 🙂

Happy Friday!

Seen & Heard: How I Do It

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I was at the dentist yesterday so I had the typical deja vu experience of having conversations that seem original, but are played out anytime I go anywhere new. As soon as it’s discovered that I have 6 kids, the story is always the same.

“Wow! You look really great for having 6 kids!”

Thank you! I think? Is this some sort of backhanded compliment? No, they’re being friendly. Ok. Thank you!

Then comes the inevitable, “I don’t know how you do it!”

I laugh and smile and be polite. It’s really not so hard, but I have done my homework.

Here’s how I do it in 5 quick bullets. It doesn’t always work out pretty and different seasons have looked different, but this is how it works in our household.

  1. We have a routine – It’s not always followed strictly, but there’s a sense of what comes first and what comes next. Breakfast is generally at 8am, everyday, for years. You must come to breakfast dressed, boys don’t like to sleep in shirts and I don’t want to see your chest. Dressed. No exceptions. Breakfast, chores, school.
  2. Kids do chores – They begin having strict chores at the age of 4. We start small and train with an older child, but they do chores, they expect to do chores. Those systems where mom gobbles up your things? I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with those. The house has been divided up in chores and chore times and they get done. Many hands make the work light!
  3. Speak principle – Ok, this is silly, but I do like to say teaching phrases over and over. “Always be honest.” “Work hard, play hard,” “Many hands make the work light,” “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” They’re silly, but I know they’ll come into the minds of my children when they have a decision to make. There’s nothing more powerful than strategically playing Jedi mind tricks with your kids by getting into their heads.
  4. Stay home – We miss out on a lot of really great opportunities by not jumping on every one. We jump on very few. Ask any close friend of mine, not only do I not answer my phone, but I don’t go to places I don’t want to go.  This is my normal nature, but this is also very intentional. We live a busy life, we need to be ready and available to live that life and we won’t have energy to live well if we’re maxed out.
  5. Be flexible – How do I do it? By God’s grace! Every child, every situation, every season of life requires much prayer and much flexibility. I have children that I have to watch and monitor their level of stress and their needs to have time alone, if I miss the cues and we break the threshold of tolerance, we pay! There have been seasons where nothing is how I would like things to run, but it’s for the good of the household at the time so we went with it. Pray!

That’s how I do it. As the kids are getting older, I’m learning to rest and sit more, but I don’t’ have a lot of down time. Such is life. God has always been faithful and gracious to guide us each step of the way.

Happy Friday!

Seen and Heard: 3 Things in 3 Days

Three days into the New Year!

1.SOMETHING NEW: I learned something on New Years Eve, if you say you want to go to bed early, you should specify how early. A certain man in my home went to bed at 9:15 and that made me very discouraged.  I watched Monsters University and then headed to bed myself. Happy New Year! :/

2. SOMETHING BORROWED: I sent my husband on a personal retreat to pray and plan for the new year. He was there only ten minutes before he called and asked if I wanted to join him. 🙂  Our dear friends gifted him with a beautiful room that turned out to be an excellent workspace with plenty of room.  I sent along some good books for inspiration, a couple of personal notes and this list by Kevin DeYoung. The list has useful questions like this: “Have I done anything out of the ordinary to cherish and help my wife?”

While he’s gone I have the job of entertaining the teenagers after the youngers go to bed. They just sat there looking at me so I decided to learn how to play their game:

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3. SOMETHING READ: My 2014 book reading plan is in full force right now, I’m currently reading through a couple of great books and thought I’d share quotes from each, but there wasn’t really anything quotable in them, so here are some thoughts:

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung: He sounds a lot like my husband. Driven, doing many things at once and not daunted by the many tasks coming at him at once. I figured it would be best to read this one at the beginning of the year in case it had something useful in it, rather than getting more Crazy Busy and then back tracking.

Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax: I have hopes for this book. I am skeptical that a writer of theology can write a good novel.  Is that terrible? I am. Skeptical I mean, but I’m probably terrible too. After reading part of the first chapter I went back and read all of the good reviews of this book just to remind myself that this is going to be great, really great!

The Church Planting Wife by Christine Hoover: I’ll be blogging on these next 2 chapters (5&6) as this continues to be a good book. This book, along with a study of Judges I’m doing, along with one other thing I can’t remember right now, all talked about full obedience to God without making a plan B out of fear. 3 (or maybe 2?) of the same messages in the same week,things that make you go: hmmmm.

Judges for You by Tim Keller: My sister and my husband both say if Tim Keller writes it, you should read it. I read his book Galatians for You and loved it, this one looks to be the same. I have only read the introduction, but I’m doing the study guide in preparation for our women’s study this February. This is good stuff. I bought a stack of books and poured and prayed over all of them and this one floated to the top.  I’m already learning from it as I shared in the previous section above. Tim Keller = Good Stuff

Systematic Theology by, Wayne Grudem: I read the 1st chapter this week, which means I’m ahead of my schedule! 🙂 This one is going to be good, I already know that. For the first chapter this was an application question that jumped at me:

What is likely to happen to a church or denomination that gives up learning systematic theology for a generation or longer?

Well… I have lived this. As a teen and young adult it made me very frustrated to be in a system that didn’t teach systematic theology. Not that I knew what that was, but I was always discouraged when older christians and pastors would talk about the apostles creed and various doxologies because they had been taught them in church as children. Here I was in a system that didn’t believe in teaching such things and yet I was surrounded by older christians who had benefited from systematic theology, catechisms, creeds, etc.  I didn’t know where to obtain such information, my parents were not saved as children and were also trained in the same system.  As I began to have my own children and sought to rectify this situation, I found the pertinent information very difficult to find.  It wasn’t until I reached beyond my borders, went into forbidden territory, that I found the information I had been seeking for a large part of my life. To be sure, there were a great many blessings that overshadow that portion of my experience, but that was what I experienced and how I answered that application question.

Al Mohler has a good article out today on reading books: Some Thoughts on the Reading of Books.

Ok. So that’s what I’ve been doing the past 3 days, a lot of planning, preparing, cleaning up… We’re back to school on Monday!

Happy Friday!