Friday, May 30, 2008

Grace is turning 10!

There is so much anticipation here in my house over Grace's first birthday on 6/8/08. She is turning 10. It looks like we are making a weekend of it. I am humbled so much at how perfectly God has set up things in our lives. On Saturday 6/7th Grace is going to have 4 girlfriends over around 11:30-1. That night we are ALL going to go to the Durham Bulls game with the African Children's Choir. They will sing the national anthem and then we will all sit tdogether in a special section designated just for us. On June 8th we will go to church. After church we will have lunch at the church with the African Childrens choir and the African group at our church. Then we will come home and have dessert with friends.

Grace is so excited. Today there was a party at her school for her. We brought in donuts. All the kids wrote letters to her and the teacher placed it in a book. This week Grace was friend of the week. THe teacher showed videos of Layla House and our montage's. It was an excellent learning experience for the class.
In the meantime, I spent the week getting myself on FACEBOOK ....YES even older people can become members. We set up a page and now I can look at what Sam is doing online...

anyhow..I know that this isn't a very exciting post...but thank God this has been an uneventful week.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Welcome party for the African Children's Choir

Praising God with the African Children's Choir!

28 new children came to Mirembe House this past week. They will start their 18 month tour in July to perform at concerts in America to raise funds to build a new school in Uganda. These kids are precious. We had two days with them and then also worshiped in church with them. Here they are in their Jammies...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

AIDS ORPHANS! What can we do?

I came across this video online. It was on the Red Letters Campaign site. I was always confused about the definition of "AIDS ORPHAN" it a child orphaned by AIDS but HIV negative ?or is it an orphan that also happens to be HIV Positive? I guess people use that phrase to define both sets of orphans. The truth is they are simply children. They are God's children. My children are orphaned due to my children to some are considered to be AIDS ORPHANS. I listen as my kids tell me sweet stories of how their mother loved to cook and how she would braid their hair. She was their mother. She had AIDS. She was beautiful. She was alive and vibrant and thriving at one point with 5 children altogether. Something happened. She got sick. She died and the children then became 'orphans'. Now they are home with us and we went swimming this weekend. We showed them a hula hoop for the first time. They blew bubbles and laughed while they watched JUNGLE BOOK. They jumped on a trampoline. My son cried and ran to me crying 'MOMMY!"when he cut his foot. I placed a band aid on it. People are fascinated. People are fascinated by the way our family has blended together so well. Because of this, everyday we are given the opportunity to answer questions regarding Africa/HIV, orphans and God's call to us. I really believe it is our responsibility to make sure people do not forget the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers in INdia, Ethiopia, China and in places all over the world where people are dying of AIDS. What do we do? This video says it all. Sometimes we just need to be there to let them know we care. Some are pulled to adopt. Some are called to work in villages or hospitals. We met the beautiful HIV Positive children at the AHOPE orphanage in Addis. Some of them will be adopted and live a wonderful long life in America with their new families, great medical care and good nutrition. For each one of these children there are thousands of children that will die in these countries never having found a family. I do hope they are able to see a smiling face or be held before they pass from this world.....For me.(in addition to remembering the amazing veterans in our country)..on memorial day I want to remember these people around the world battling in another crazy war that seems impossible to conquer. I believe we can conquer it if we don't forget them and make it a priority to go, reach out, pray, contribute, send meds, send food, sponsor and/or show love to these people in whatever way we feel called.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

China and Maria Sue Chapman!

Last night around 5pm I panicked because I couldn’t find two of my kids. My husband, myself and older daughter scoured the house looking in every room , screamed at the top of our lungs inside and out and couldn’t find them. In those 5 minutes I thought the worst and started screaming and was ready to cry. Then Mark yells “we found them”..relief filled my heart and soul. I then was reminded by Andrew that he told me while I was on the phone and cooking that he was going over with Matea to jump on the trampoline at the neighbors house. I had actually given him permission. I felt like a fool for forgetting but was so grateful that they were alive.

Later that night I found out about Maria Chapman (Steven Curtis and Mary Beth’s) 5 year old daughter. She was killed in the family driveway after her brother hit her accidentally with his car. I cannot fathom the pain this family is going through. I also read that in the same day previously they had celebrated the engagement of their daughter Emily. Their older son was going to be celebrating graduation and Maria Sue had just celebrated her 5th birthday 10 days prior. In an instant life can change.

I really was trying to think of something I could do to honor Maria Sue. We are going to continue to contribute to Shaohannah’s Hope an organization that Steven started to provide funds for people adopting. We will honor that fund especially…go to . But when I think of Maria’s death I can help but think of the irony/coincidence in her dying so close in time to the tragedies in China (her home country). I don’t believe in coincidences and believe it was God’s timing that this happened when it did. I think the best way to honor her is to not forget China and the people there now. I read in the news today that there have been 81 thousand deaths from the earthquake and threatening rain is ready to cause mud slides in the lake regions that could annihilate more villages. The Chapman’s have worked in the past several years to help build orphanages and raise awareness to the orphan issue in China. Following the earthquake and collapse of the high school many parents who had only been allowed to give birth to one child had to grieve the loss of that child. According to Unicef about 100 thousand babies (almost all of them girls) are abandonded in China every year. Chinese culture values the lives of boys much more than girls. So when a family is given the choice for one child many of them give birth and if it is a girl may leave the baby in a field or on the side of the road. If they are lucky someone will come to pick them up and drop them off at an orphanage or police station. New adoption laws in China are becoming much more strict and difficult for Americans to adopt. It is becoming a grueling process to adopt there. And yet the need is huge.

I have friends that are missionaries in various parts of the world including China. In China you are not allowed to be a Christian. There are churches there but only individuals who are not citizens there can worship in the churches . Guards stand at the entrance to check your i.d’s to make sure the Chinese citizens don’t enter. Missionaries are not allowed to preach or teach anything but Buddhism. Missionary work in China is dangerous.

Steven and Mary Beth had a passion to adopt from China. They adopted 3 daughters. They started a fund to help others adopt. They went on several trips to China. They started to consider China their home as well. In the end their little Maria came to America and went to church in Tennessee. She went to Sunday School. She had a father that sang songs about heaven (a place she would never have heard about if it wasn’t for them). This child was greatly blessed but if you ask the Chapman’s they will tell you that they were the ones blessed by Maria. They would be right.

It warms my heart to no end to know that tonight this child is in the arms of God in heaven. This was such a tragedy but Praise God that this child lived a blessed life with Godly parents. I would like to believe that God will anoint Maria as an angel for helping her Chinese sisters who are losing their chances at life, love of a mom , dad and family the ability to sing “Away in a Manger” at Christmas time or hang a cross over their bed. I would like to believe that even in heaven she is continuing the work that God gave to her family in igniting a fire to come and help the orphans and people of China either through adoption or charity. Maybe she will whisper in the ears of parents pulled to China and say "COME FOR YOUR DAUGHTERS".

I attended the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in April. Steven Curtis and his family were in China but spoke via video. Emily his oldest daughter was there. Kay Warren spoke about God’s call for the orphans around the world. She said we would be “forever disturbed” and “totally ruined” by our passion for God’s cause to come and take care of orphans and widows. I think that is true. Today we are totally , deeply disturbed and ruined by the death of Maria. But my hope would be that as our pain in the death of this sweet Chinese baby deepens that our passion for her sisters and extended family in China deepens as well . Those of us in privileged countries should open our eyes and ears and hear the cries of the orphans and people suffering. As we sit in our comfortable homes with full bellies or ponder whether we want a grande late or frappacino we should remember that in most parts of the world people are lucky to have one meal a day or clean water. I pray her death will open the eyes of people who are comfortable in their status quo. I pray the cries of this little angel are heard in the ears of everyone so we cannot sit comfortable while 100 thousand little baby girls are abandoned every year. Dear Lord…please allow us to know your heart and also feel restless, ruined and disturbed by the 143 million orphans globally.

Maria’s life was so precious and her family’s ministry is so crucial. But they cannot do it alone and it has to be difficult to continue after a loss such as this. So my wish is for all of us to step forward and lift our brother and sister in Christ up, take on the cause, remind everyone you know that God calls us to take care of orphans and widows (James 1:27)and the poor and suffering people . Let Steven and Mary Beth grieve in peace knowing that there are armies of people out there willing to stand in the gap for their cause …GOD’S CAUSE AND CALLING.

We need to pray for their family and especially their son (her brother). I have seen God turn things around miraculously. I know that their son will process this with the counseling and prayers of many wise friends and family. I can’t help but think that God will turn his tragedy into an amazing testimony and that this boy will minister to many one day. His ministry is "a wonder in the making and God's not through. He's just getting started" from SCC song Fingerprints of God. God can turn this intense grief into joy again in seeing God’s hand through the healing. And Maria in her heavenly home will continue to help Daddy and Mommy by reminding people that God is calling them to China and all of the places in the world where children are living without parents.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Prayer Requests!

Wow! I have three intense prayer requests for all of you. My family is fine PRAISE GOD...but please pray for Suzanne Vedder and family. Her husband Rick died of cancer this week.

Pray for my friend Eileen who's future adopted daughter in Ethiopia has gone missing. Pray she comes back and Eileen can bring her home.

This next prayer request breaks my heart to the core. Please pray for Steven Curtis Chapman's family. There is news tonight (I pray it isn't true) that their adopted Chinese daughter Maria was run over and killed when one of their teenagers accidentally ran over her. This was reported on KLOVE and I saw a post on one of the adoption forums tonight around 8:30. This is heartbreaking. This family is amazing and has done so much to promote awareness towards adoption and orphan issues...It breaks my heart. Pray for peace for their family.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Perfect Day!

I love my family very much and feel so blessed with each of them. Here we are yesterday....when you think of where we have come we realize our family is truly a blessing and we Praise God for eachother everyday...The music is from a band called Groove For Thought (in washington state)...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

BEING a Mother!

I started writing poetry when I was about 7 or 8. I remember placing the poems in my mother’s jewelry box. I was a little shy about reading them to her . My mother and father were divorced when I was around 9. My poems were a way of my expressing my struggles and stress. My mom secretly would submit my poems to the PARENTS WITHOUT PARTNERS kids talent contests. I won many awards for my poetry. It gave me so much encouragement during a time when truthfully I was confused and grieving over not having our Dad living with us. It was tough learning how to be in a family without him and mom worked 4 jobs to support us. She is still supporting us in many different ways. She always wanted us to strive to be whatever we wanted to be. We grew up to be extremely independent women and all moved away from our home in Illinois pursuing our career goals.

Last October my friend Lynette Lewis ran an event in NYC called PureLIfe. One of her talks was titled “Dreams Awaken.” During her message I was reminded, pleased and teary eyed in realizing that I had indeed fulfilled my dreams. I left Illinois and the comfort of my mother’s arms as a teenager thinking all I wanted to be was a singer or actress or something in the limelight. I wanted desperately to MAKE IT. While sitting there at PURELIFE listening to Lynette I reflected on a conversation I had with my Aunt Claire when I was really young (about 8). She said, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Her question totally confused me. I never even knew I had to decide to BE anything. I looked up to her and said, “I want to be a Mom and get married.” At that point in my life all I longed for was for an intact family and to live happily ever after. She said, “What do you want to BE?” Again I said “a mom”…. She said, “You can be anything you want …what do you want to be?” My sister Denise came in the room. She was about 11 and said, “I am going to be a pilot like Amelia Earhart.” It was clear to me what Claire was getting at. Motherhood wasn’t a respectful option to her or to many women during that time. Women were trying really hard to establish their worth and I can respect that totally and I thank the women for fighting for equality. But her message to me was that I had to choose something that would make more of a mark in the world than merely being a mother. In watching my mother struggle and in not ever really knowing a man who was consistently supportive both emotionally, financially or in any other way to a woman I quickly learned that my first dream would have to die and I would have to know the answer to Claire’s question. At the time it seemed to boil down to a means to survive. The next time someone asked me what I wanted to BE …I knew the answer would be “I want to be a famous singer or movie star.” My family and relatives were very happy and pleased with the answer. I was also happy because I always felt safe and happy singing and received much love and adulation through the applause. But being a singer was not my first and deepest desire.

As I sit her today with my husband, home and six children I am so humbled to know that even when my first dream died inside of me and seemed so unattainable…Even when I shoved that desire away for many years and believed that I could never afford the luxury of simply having a loving husband and children, God was faithful and remembered the deepest dream of a sweet little girl who only wanted to be a Mommy and find a man to love her. I thank GOD for not making me a movie star or a pop star with many gold records. Thank you God for knowing my true heart.

There is nothing in my mind and heart that I can think of as being more satisfying and noble than being a mother. I have never sung a song or hit a high note that has been more fulfilling than the look in my children’s eyes when they say, “mommy I love you so much.” All of the million dollar parties with their gold leaf plates and top shelf champagne pale to me in comparison to the crepe paper flower my daughter gave me today. I am glad though that I caught a glimpse of my life without them. The limelight can be a very dark place when you are standing there alone and empty without people you love to share it with. I was looking into the abyss…and yet now what I see today is so full and deep.

I pray that the mother’s out there that opted not to go to the big city but stayed in their small town raising kids know that being a mother is in God’s eyes beautiful and the best thing you could ever Be. I pray they don’t have regrets. I pray they aren't thinking that raising children was second best. I pray that they have joy when they see their children and know that there is nothing out there better. There is no place better than being home with them in your arms. I thank my mom for her focus on wanting us to BE whatever we wanted to be and I hope you know Mom that without your love and support I could never be here living my dream, surrounded by six of the most incredible awards ever (seven counting my husband), Mark, Samantha, Andrew, Grace, Ella, Jared and Matea. They are much more valuable than any Oscar, Grammy, Tony or Emmy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Mother's Plea!

I returned home from the orphans summit last night. The 5 younger kids were in the van with Mark and screamed with excitement when they picked me up from the airport. Mark had dinner ready when I got home. There were two buckets of grocery store fried chicken, and a prepackaged container of macaroni salad along with two cans of corn that Mark heated up. The kids had set the table and there were paper cups filled with Lemonade. Mark doesn't cook but I thought this was the sweetest thing ever. I am so happy being a mommy to all of these kids.

One of the most memorable moments from the Summit was a story that Kay Warren told us. The story is so reminiscent to me of the prayer I shouted out to God before I was sure we were going to adopt. I cried to Him and said "LORD PLEASE allow me to be someone's angel. Somewhere in Africa a mother is crying for someone to help them and take care of their children. I am raising my hand an longing for you to call on me to be an angel on earth for the mother's over there and answer their last wish." When Kay told this next story it felt as if she was telling our children's story and the woman in the story was Bayoush (our ethiopian children's mother)..Here is what she told us: She said that she met a woman who was skin and bones dying from Aids. She must have been a week away from death. Kay asked her. "What can I tell the people in America? What can they do for you?" Kay imagined she would say, "Bring me some food or medicine." or "we need money and a warm home" Instead she looked Kay in the eyes and said "Who?Who? who is going to come to take care of my children after I die? what will happen to them?' Kay said she hears the same questions from mothers in China, Russia, India and in places all over the world affected by the AIDS pandemic. When she told this story I just cried picturing Grace, Ella and Jared's sweet birth mom Bayoush. I imagine she had the same plea. I know my wish would be also somehow for my children to never forget me and my love for them. And I would fear they would forget my face and eyes. I would pray they would remember how I looked and smiled at them. I would pray they would always know how very much I loved them and would never ever want to leave them.

Today after church we went to California Pizza Kitchen. We rarely go out to dinner or lunch anymore. It is way too expensive. But we had a gift card and there were only 4 kids. Sam was eating with a friend and Ella was at a birthday party. We were greeted by a hostess who picked up the menus and handed them to a woman to escort us to the table. I started to follow the woman , finding my way to the table. I noticed that Grace was staring at the woman at the hostess stand and wouldn't come with me. I said "Grace come!" She just stood frozen with this sweet stare on her face toward the woman behind the hostess stand. I again said "Grace come." She turned to me to speak while still staring at this woman and whispered into my ears. She said "" I said "What Grace?" She said "Mom...that is what she looked like." I said "who?" she said "My mom"...then she said "Mommy she looked just like her." I saw this woman behind the hostess stand with light chocolate skin, healthy and chubby with a round face and the most beautiful teeth. I said to Grace "She was so beautiful wasn't she?" She said "yes mom she was so beautiful." I finally was able to put my arm around her and bring her to the table. I had totally lost my breath, totally welled up with tears and found that through the entire lunch I also couldn't take my eyes off of this woman either. We have no pictures of Bayoush. And according to Grace there is a grandmother in Ethiopia who has many pictures. I am determined to get those pictures somehow. I fear having the children totally forget the beauty of their mother's eyes or the shape of her face.

Mother's day is coming next week. Many of us will get dressed up and have our lunches paid for so we won't have to cook. We will enjoy (and should really enjoy and cherish) being in the presence of our children. Or knowing that they are a phone call away. My plea is that we can all remember the children of the world who are orphaned and have no mother's to hold them or read stories to them. I pray that some of you will be inspired to encourage someone else to remember the cries of mother's around the globe who just want to know that someone will come to scoop their children up into their arms and bring them back into a family that will love and take care of them..There are currently 143million orphans globally according t0 the voice of the orphan . Remember the mother's plea "Who will come to take care of my children."

Friday, May 2, 2008

Orphan Summit!

I am still in Ft. Lauderdale and will return tomorrow. I have had an unbelievable time surrounded by 600+ people as passionate about orphans as I am. Today started with Kay Warren (Rick Warren's wife) speaking on the church's call to minister to the 143 million orphans globally. It was a touching and moving presentation. But the leaders of this summit vowed to leave their logos and egos at the door and partner together for Christ's work. So here we are with many of the worlds leading orphan organizations partnering together it is incredible. I learned today that there are no financial grants specifically designated for families who want to adopt HIV positive kids. These families can get grants from many organizations but there are no grants designed specifically to be offered to families who extend themselves to HIV positive kids. One of my goals is to see that implemented to encourage families to adopt children that could live a long life if they are brought home to america.

I also met a man named Tim Borland who wants to run 143 million steps for orphans. . I spoke with him and encouraged him to go to Ethiopia (the home of most long distance runners). Go to You tube and type his name in. I told him the story of how Ella had taken great pride in the long distance runners coming from Asela, Ethiopia and how his running there would infuse so much hope for them.

My friends Eileen, Jerry and Teresa were great traveling partners. It was amazing to see God's hand in all that went on this weekend. I truly believe that we are just beginning to see a huge movement to bring people together to rid this world of the orphan pandemic. I certainly hope that in my life or my children's life we can see the numbers drop considerably and that they can have a future of hope and great health.


I met a group of people from Colorado who have vowed to place all of the kids in the Colorado Foster Care system into permanent adopted homes .
Calvary Church in Ft. Lauderdale started up an organization to help the many foster kids in South Florida . There are so many amazing things going on but still too many orphans and children without homes.