Stories that matter

I know it's completely redundant for a blogger to open a post with this, but...I love to write. I love it. I love words and their complexity and their secrets and their power. I wish I had more time to write daily other than a furiously jammed to-do list and also a dedicated quiet space to do that writing and...well, who doesn't want those things?

I also really like stories. Stories carry history, they communicate traditions and values, they humor, they connect, they move.

What I really love is to have the opportunity to merge those together, to write about stories that really it's a great joy to share that I was recently approved as a member of the Compassion Bloggers Network!

I have applied for Compassion Blogger Trips before (these amazingly well developed trips designed to connect writers with the voices of those impoverished people who are impacted by Compassion International's ministry), and The Captain knows that I would really love to get in on one of these trips one day. He sent me the link about a month ago to apply for another because who knows, maybe one day they'll be willing to take a "small potatoes" blogger along with the big metrics boys and girls (oh, you know, just people like Beth Moore's daughter and Ann "Break the Internet With Her Brilliant and Beautiful Viral Posts" Voskamp).

Who am I kidding...why do I even apply?

It's just that to have the opportunity to go on one of those journeys would be intense but a truly beautiful experience for someone who studies and advocates for orphans through adoption, foster care, and sponsorship...and also someone who loves to think and feel and see and experience and then write about all of that. Well, maybe one day, I guess. A girl can dream.

Join the Compassion Blogger Network

So while applying for that trip, I noticed that there was a link to apply for the Compassion Bloggers Network. I read about it, checked out the resources, knew I trusted this organization because hello, Compassion International, and gave it a go. Pretty soon after, I was delighted to be receiving some initial contacts about finishing that process and preparing for my first posts! There are three specific posts I have already started in my head, so hopefully those will be banged out here and published soon. 

We have had relationships with Compassion kids for years now. My readers know I don't show my own personal children's faces here, and definitely will honor our sponsored girls with the same measure, but I can tell you that one sweet precious angel baby is in Tanzania and one is in Uganda. Both girls are of the same age as our Pearl Girl, and one of our girls' birthdays is the same day we received permission to adopt our middlest daughter. We will never forget where we were, the sounds and smells and words on that day, and that means we'll never forget to be thankful for our sponsored friend's life in her native country with her family intact just as we will never forget to be thankful for the fact that God saw fit for our Pearl to join our family through the messy but beautiful experience of adoption. 

Be on the lookout for those posts in the coming weeks, but until then...check out Compassion's model and see for yourself just why this is such a sound organization.

Racial Reconciliation

Before I became Pearl's mama, I liked to think that I was colorblind. I liked to think that was a good way to be. My high school was about 155 miles from Podunk, and I remember once that in my junior or senior year (16 years ago) there was a huge KKK rally planned for the outskirts of town. Many of the black, white, and Native American students in my community raged against it. We made red, white, and black braided bracelets. We wrote letters to the editor of the local newspaper. We were activists, doggone it, and we wanted everybody to know that we were all the same, united, and the haters could just canoe on downstream.

pearl and sass cooking

I liked to think that "we are all black in the dark," and that the color of one's skin doesn't have any impact whatsoever on who they are as a person.

What I was thinking was, race doesn't matter.

And that was fine and lovely and made me feel all progressive and such. Because, after all, there are a lot of people who do think race matters in a bad way. They think white people are better than black people or they think black people are better than white people. And that's so terrible in every way, right? So if the choices are that race matters in a bad way or race doesn't matter, then we are supposed to choose race doesn't matter as moral human beings.

That was where my heart and mind had settled on the race issue.

But then I became Pearl's mama. And gradually that point of view, the dismissal of race, felt hollow and empty. Because my baby girl, my daughter, is a black person. She is a person, but God chose to put her soul into a female body with beautiful brown skin and I could no more dismiss the fact that she is brown than I could dismiss the fact that she is a she. I not only want to acknowledge the fact that Pearl Girl is black, I value it. Being Pearl's mama taught me that there is a third choice when it comes to race relations. Race matters in a bad way or race doesn't matter are not our only options. The third, better, option is that race matters in a good way.

Last year I saw this TED Talk about the importance of not being color blind but rather color BRAVE in modern society, and Mellody Hobson nails it.

In teaching me to value rather than dismiss my daughter's race, God has drawn me to the point of yearning for racial reconciliation. There is so much work to be done in America as a whole, but especially the South. The past year has been especially volatile in all the events around the nation involving discrimination and brutality against people of color.

Mostly, the sickness that plagues my race is deafness to what black people have been saying for generations about how they feel and how they are treated and how that impacts every detail of their lives. As white people, we must be willing to listen to our fellow Americans of color and truly attempt to process what they say and feel. It sounds silly to even say out loud, but white people are not the experts on how black people feel they are treated; black people are.

In discussing some of this with friends, African Americans have told me that they are tired of saying these things because it doesn't do any good. They tell me they are afraid to speak out on social media or in their social circles because of the backlash (they'll be labeled as a troublemaker, or angry, and potentially lose their standing or even their employment if they speak up). That makes me so sad, and it reminds me of how John Howard Griffin was a respected member of the civil rights movement because he was a white person. Even though he said the exact same things the black men and women said, the white people would only listen to him because he was also a white person. Doesn't that sound insane? It feels REALLY insane to see that, all these years later, we still struggle with the same problem of listening between races, specifically white people listening to black people when they talk about their hurts and how they feel about the way they are treated today.

I've spent time being part of the problem, but I want so desperately to be part of the solution.

Race does matter, but it matters in a good way. Other than prayer, racial reconciliation begins with listening.

God, help us not only to see one another but also to hear and value one another. Help us to do better. Help us to be better.

La leche de almendras

Because I do, in fact, have a minor in Spanish that I never ever get to use, and also because that is way more fun to say than "almond milk."

I spent the better part of my college years thinking about how beautiful the Spanish language is and how ordinary things sound...just...spectacular in that tongue. Go ahead, pick any word or phrase. It is so much more fun en espanol.

Once, while on a mission trip to Nicaragua that would change my life forever, I listened to a church full of Nicaraguans pray aloud (For like an hour. Seriously, they like to pray. We should pray more here.) and it just was one of the sweetest, most profound moments of my life. I also began to wrap up my prayers with "en el nombre de Jesus" because even though "in Jesus's name" is a common public prayer ending in the Christian world, that Spanish way felt and sounded so velvety, so warm and comfortable and everything I think Jesus would want us to feel about Him.

But THIS was supposed to be a post about almond milk.

Which (muhuhuwahaha) I am sneaky sneaky replacing as the sole milk source in this house. I actually love it and have for some time, and the amount of dairy we consume in this house is, dare I say, locos en el cabeza.

We know the deal with dairy and how it's "not great" for your system and how little girls especially are sensitive to the growth hormones pumped into milk. Even though yes we try to buy organic, it's not in the budget for always. Soy is not an option because of the estrogen factor. Some people say that's old info but, just, no.

So anyhooooo. Sass and Pearl Girl are especially fond of the leche, and have very strong opinions about the fat percentage of the milk we stock here. Fat free or 1%? Bring that thin mess here and you're asking for mutiny.

But the almond milk is where it's at, people. The big girls make a slightly confused face but since the thickness is spot on, they just shrug their shoulders and keep on keeping on. It makes my Shakeology so much better and more filling than with regular skim milk or water. It's better for them and it's slightly cheaper. (I think. Cue everyone telling me I did bad math on that or that almond milk is the new Splenda.)

Sweet Love guzzles the stuff. I can't decide if it's the greatness of the almond milk, or if it's that she just likes drinking anything out of this supercute little Barney cup her aunt brought her from Universal Studios. Regardless, we cheers our cups o' leche together and smile. 


Duggar Dissension

A week ago I couldn't have told you who Josh Duggar was. I mean, yes, that he is a Duggar but not his birth order number or age or marital status or how many, if any, kids he has. And some of you not only know all of that but also what he ate for breakfast two weeks ago.

Some of my friends are disgusted by the Duggars (believers and non), and others downright worship them. I'm not really in either of those camps and just to set the table here, so you'll know where I'm coming from, Duggar-wise...

I've never been a Duggar fanatic like so many people out there. I did see the parents on The View several years ago but have only actually seen one episode of their show and didn't have really strong feelings either way about them (there's some weirdness, there's no denying that, but there are also some great things they teach their children, so we can't write them off as utter monsters.) So, well, I've just been "meh" all these years.

I'm (mostly) Duggar whatever. Duggar neutral. Duggar Switzerland.

The story that broke last week about Josh's molestation of young teenage girls when he was a young teenager himself and the world's response to it have been quite repulsive. There are a lot of Duggar-haters who have been tapping their fingers for all these years, just waiting for some horrible thing to come out about the Duggars. And now they're just drooling over the juicy deliciousness of this story, forgetting that there are very real people involved. There are also a lot of Duggar-lovers who are blindly defending this man, saying what he did when he was a kid isn't that big a deal. I'm only interested in what's fair and right for the victims, which is to leave them the heck alone.

The next step, I fear, will include a desperate hunt by the media to uncover the victims' names and rob them of their anonymity, some twisted little "Where Are They Now?" bit. To humiliate the women who would probably rather die than have to publicly talk about the intricate details of something that happened to them long ago. If those victims wanted more out of Josh Duggar, they could definitely have gotten it by now. Did one of the victims "break" the story? No? Okay, then we need to leave them alone.

Josh Duggar's words about taking responsibility for his actions, the incredible regret he feels, that he confessed and along with his parents and the authorities took steps to make things right by seeking counseling and providing therapy for the victims as well, ooze hurt and shame and brokenness over his actions.

What he did when he was 14 years old was not okay. It was horrible and hurtful. But it was dealt with. He did confess to his parents, who did go to the police, who did follow protocol in protecting the victims as well as making sure the Duggars provided counseling for the girls who were molested. It was 12 years ago and it was dealt with, not "buried" as many have tried to say.

Josh Duggar and I do not have a lot in common, not at all. Were we to sit down for a cup of joe and a chat, I dare say we would disagree on a lot. But I am 100% with him on his claim to forgiveness and gratitude for God's mercy and grace.

I have done a lot of crappy things in life, and if you are a living breathing human being, so have you. I am thankful that I don't have to wear those on a sign around my neck listing all I have done wrong, and that's what Josh Duggar means when he talks about grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Those are very real things, and I need them daily...hourly, for my own sins.

There is no "just getting over it" for victims of sexual abuse. Even though they were young (or, possibly, especially because they were young), the girls will probably suffer lifelong issues from what happened to them.

The Duggar-haters probably just need to back off a bit and let this family (and especially the victims) move on.

The Duggar-lovers, on the other hand, also need to back off a bit and realize that the reason this is all such a very big huge deal right now is because this family has been wrongly placed in a high and lofty place, reserved for God Himself, the only Being worthy of anyone's worship and adoration.

Created for Care, Round 3

I had a hundred different very legitimate reasons not to register for Created for Care this time around (despite incredible experiences in 2013 and 2014-A and B). And in the past few weeks I have had a thousand more reasons to give up my spot to someone on the wait list. I'm not sure why it's so hard to commit to this amazing retreat for adoptive moms every year. Taking a few days away at an event like this is self-care, and a very important kind of self-care for introverts like yours truly.

So here I am, chawin' my way through this enormous mountain of emotions and research and revelation that once again this blessed retreat has ushered into my soul. It has been interesting how each of the three years I have attended, God has spoken into a different compartment of my heart and about issues going on with each of our kiddos. Each time it has been just the right message at just the right moment. Manna. 

This year, my breakouts included the Enneagram and an Adoption Triad Panel. For my third I opted for a fun little tear-free (this place is an emotional land-mine, man) felt flower crafting session, and I will have you know that I came out of that room with a fun felt flower headband for Pearl, a tiny felt flowery hair clip for Sweet Love, and a pretty little felt flower barrette clip for the Sassafras.

It was all the felt floweryness.

Now, it was TECHNICALLY tear-free but there are, in fact, third-degree burns on my fingertips because that hot glue gun and I got into a bit of a tangle. And the glue was the superhot fancy kind that didn't dry immediately, so when I touched it and jerked my hand away off came hot sticky glue strings, which also melted some epidermis into oblivion. I tried to pull it off, which only made it worse and polluted my pretty felt petals with all that junky hot glue snot. Also, in my haste to get thee away from that satanic hot glue gun, I may have accidentally glued the metal barrette part together on Sassafras's so that it's actually now just a cute flower with a nonfunctional metal stick on the back. And also also, I may have totally mis-folded the petal part of Sweet Love's felt flower, and then I did damage control by just sewing the insides of the edges together. Badly. Aaaand in the spirit of total honesty, I did this weird thing with Pearl Girl's flower and now it sticks up off the band part way too much, so it looks more like a flower head-lamp than the adorable little hair accessory I had envisioned.  

Nailed it. 

Nailed it. 

It was not my most craft-tastic day. But it was fun. 

Now, for one of my for-real serious sessions, first was on the Enneagram. A really complex personality test, the whole purpose of this tool is to reveal your strengths/weaknesses/etc. so that you can know yourself better in order to serve your people well. You take a little test to determine your personality number, which tends to describe the individual pretty closely. If you know you tend to do this thing (insert undesired behavior) when you're stressed, you can recognize it and prevent filling that void by placing unrealistic expectations on your spouse, children, etc. The more you learn about yourself, the more you can avoid projecting your own hot mess onto your people.

I'm a Type 3, apparently, and I'd say the description is mostly accurate. It swerves a bit for me when emphasizing that Threes care a lot about what people think of them, not an accurate description of me. Validation for a job effectively done, yes. But to be eager for people to like me? No. To a fault, unfortunately. And there's an emphasis on competitiveness, which is way off-base. I really couldn't care less what someone else is doing (again, this is a problem), I just want to do MY thing - whatever that currently is - to the best of my ability. Excellence and competitiveness are not the same.  

My other "serious" breakout was an Adoption Triad Panel. Moderated by an adult adoptee and counselor, the panel contained three birth mothers and two adoptive moms (one of whom is also an adoptee). You guys, it got REAL in that room, let me just tell you. The conversation was expertly guided and went into some hard places. Birth moms shared how much they love and respect and admire and crave the approval of the adoptive moms, but also kind of hate them because they get to have all the power and the control and the moments and the milestones. They struggle with feeling lonely (outside a maternity home, birth mother culture isn't a thing) coming to terms with the fact that yes, they made an adoption plan for their child and yes, that is a good thing, but hurts to have to wrap your head around the fact that YOU, the woman with that baby in your belly, cannot be the best and safest place for your child. That's hard, dark stuff. It was such a big moment to listen to these ladies working out their stories today, to come to realizations, to see them spark more questions than answers at some times. 

My heart grew three new heroes today watching those birth moms share about their fears and worries and joys and journeys to peace. 

The adoptive mothers shared about how it feels like birth moms hold all the cards, that they're the ones with the power and control. They feel like life as an adoptive mom can sometimes feel like you're the half-mom, not ever enough, not ever being wanted. They talked about feeling guilty, almost responsible for taking a child from its birth mother. There was an honest and life-giving discussion about that. 

The adoptees talked about how angry they feel that the people who were their first parents didn't stay with them, even when they don't know the reason They have so many unanswered questions, mainly all circling around the word WHY, and this follows them around constantly. It was a good reminder of the heavy burden that adoptees have to bear, and an especially good refresher that adoptive parents have to work toward creating that safe space, welcoming adopted children to talk about their questions, fears, and anxieties regarding birth parents. We can't always give them answers because there ARE no simple answers. We can give them space and encouragement and if we're brave, feel the sting of birth parent loss right along with them. 

Heavy, heavy junk. 

Between all of this and the power-packed main sessions (Beth Guckenberger again this year, and I just cannot even. That lady is a spectacular fount of Scriptural knowledge and I seriously had to resist the urge to track her down and ask her OT questions all weekend. You will be happy to know the Great Resistance was successful.), I found myself perpetually teary-eyed and just feeling all the feely things. A quick trip through the vendor hall made it better every single time, though. I am still in awe of finding this cool cuff! 

Plus also some cutesy things for my girls, "just...not a t-shirt," according to Sassafras.

And The Captain held down the fort, as usual, with complete and utter ease. I don't even have to see his enneagram results to know he's totally a Type 8/4/2, by the way. ;)