The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
-Buechner

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Feeling Festive: It's Contest Time

In the spirit of Christmas and in the spirit of Giving (with Advent Conspiracy never far from my mind), it feels like Contest Time.

So, if you are in the spirit of Receiving then please feel free to play along. I've opened up the comments section so anyone can leave a comment...no google (gmail, blogger, etc) account required.

Here are the contest rules...
  1. We want to know which of the Orphan-Related Charities blogged about this past month...National Adoption Awareness Month...has had the most impact on you...and how.
  2. Or, share about how this year you are participating in Advent Conspiracy in your own life. How has this changed from years past and what have the consequences (good or bad) been so far.
  3. The contest ends on Friday, December 5th at 5:00pm.
  4. Regardless of how many comments you leave your name will only be entered once for the prize.
  5. If you want to remain anonymous that's fine but if you want a chance at the prize, leave your name with your comment...and contact info if you think I don't have it.
  6. The winner will be drawn at random...from a hat...or a toy box...or a stocking...or...or...or. Seriously, there will be no bias.
  7. I will announce the winner (and the prize!) either late Friday or Saturday morning.
I look forward to hearing what you all are experiencing this Christmas Season.

And, in honour of today's Sunday afternoon activity...
GO NUTS!!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

There Is No Me Without You

Before even applying to begin the adoption process, during my time of research, I asked a lot of questions...seriously, tons. One resource that continually popped up was a book entitled:


Melissa Fay Greene's biographical novel recounts the years of dedication Ethiopian Mrs. Haregewoin Teferra spent dignifying and fighting for the lives of hundreds of Ethiopian AIDS orphans. Greene spent weeks, months, likely years throughout her many visits in Teferra's compound turned orphanage. This multi-award winning Atlantic author tells of this first AIDS orphanage. She follows the lives of a few remarkable children who moved through the orphanage and were adopted out, to the States mainly. She has even adopted a few Ethiopian children, who have completed her large family!

This book is incredible. It is depressingly real while inspiringly moving. 

This one woman's plight for the orphans of her country is truly remarkable. She started out welcoming just one or two young street-living children from her country and quickly found herself surrounded and inundated by hundreds...desparate for unconditional love, warmth, food, education...hope. 

There Is No Me Without You has won many awards including being named "Best Book Of 2006" by numerous publishers including the Chicago Tribute, the Atlanta Journal-Consitution, the Anchorage Press...to name but a few. 

I love Greene's point of view on several adoption-related topics...the least of which is whether or not our adopted children are either real or biological. The argument for whether or not they are our "real" children is irrefutable. Of course they are. What makes them not real? It's a simple argument, really.

However, Greene goes on to beg the question of whether or not they are also our biological children. I love what she has said about this...

Like many adoptive parents, I chafe at the term “biological” to designate only my birth children.  First because all children, of course, are the products of biology.  Second because aren’t my children by adoption also mine biologically?  We breathe each other’s air, prepare and share each other’s food, borrow each other’s combs and socks and pencils;  Helen sometimes falls asleep on my bed twirling her fingers through my hair.  Aren’t these somehow biological processes?  Aren’t our cells intermixing?  Haven’t the years of Berenstain Bears books I’ve inflicted on these children been immortalized as brain cells?


I have a copy of this book and if you are interested in reading it please let me know. I would be happy to share it. I think this is one of those books which, through reading we become better people. 

"There Is No End, There Is No Beginning, There Is Only The Infinite Passion Of Life..."

...Federico Felini

This is the quote with which Grant Faint introduces his site. A seasoned, well-traveled, in-demand, and extremely talented photographer, Grant Faint has put his talents to noteworthy use. And all of his talents, from this site facilitate his cause: Images For Orphans.

An accomplished Canadian photographer and filmmaker, he has traveled to 90 countries. He has worked for the well-known company, Getty Images...yet it wasn't enough. Faint has always wanted his work to matter. His life needed to make a difference...hence two films (one currently in production) and this site...among other incredible works.

Faint’s website is a portal to donate and in return receive a selected 17x22 print for helping the orphans.

The name IMAGES FOR ORPHANS underlines the simple connection between his work and the need overseas.

[...] in 2005 Grant worked with ex-patriots from the worn torn country of Sierra Leone in West Africa to build a school for 500 refugee children.

Faint's images are large...beautiful, captivating....13"x19". He prices them at $49 each plus postage, which really is quite inexpensive for such reknown photographer. The cost, however, is his suggested price. He doesn't specify the cost of postage. So, if you want to throw an extra several dollars in there that is great. Otherwise, he covers it.

But, why wouldn't you?

His website is a fundraiser for Tanzanian orphans who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Adoption In Action: The Need

Ben and I attended a Transracial Parenting Workshop this past weekend. Becoming an adoptive parent is one thing, becoming a transracial parent and therefore a multiracial family is another ball game. Below is some information offered to us by the large organization that put on the workshop: The Adoptive Family Association of BC. AFABC is one of those organizations we cannot live without. As with many non-profit organizations, the work is endless, but the goal of matching of children with forever families is priceless and rewarding.

More than 1,300 foster children in BC are waiting for a family to call their own. Only 260 out of 1,300 of these children were adopted in 206/07, leaving more than 1,000 children - most over the age of 6 - waiting for a loving family to be their very own, forever. About half of these children must be adopted with a sibling, making the adoption more daunting to prospective parents. Since 2000, the number of foster children in BC waiting for adoption has more than doubled. [...]

Foster children waiting to be adopted are vulnerable and disadvantaged. 98% of the 1,300 children in BC waiting for adoption have a mental, emotional, or physical disability. More than half of these children have disabilities caused by a birth parent's addiction to drugs or alcohol.

[...] As [these children] wait for a permanent home, they get older and less likely to be adopted. They lose a sense of belonging and community.


AFABC has a 1-800-waiting child help line which has seen an increase in 42% in callers from which 46% requested direct information with adoption plans. This is being followed by the adoption of 320 children from foster care into forever families, a 20% increase over the previous year alone. This increased awareness has had a direct impact on teen adoption, by 40%! More teens in homes means less teens on the street, decreased pregnancies, fewer orphans.

It isn't just babies who need homes. It's not just toddlers either. Those who are seemingly "disorder-free" are no less and no more important than their counterpart.

Every child needs a family.

Every one needs to be loved.

Every one needs to be needed.

This is a great, life changing organization to give your time and resources to...and what do you know, they are right in our backyard!!

Revisiting The Conspiracy


If you didn't get the chance to check out the Advent Conspiracy clip I posted awhile ago, check it out here.

I've been continuing to research it a little, as well as listening to the talk around me, watching the happenings (read: Walmart frenzy), and just trying to observe whether or not the materialism that can become Christmas, really is appearing.

I have to admit that last night, I realized that I had my numbers wrong. I thought I read that Americans spend 450 million each year on Christmas. Nope. It's actually $450 billion. $450 freaking billion. Not that anything in the millions isn't excessive but seriously. When you get to the "B word" you know that Christmas is no longer about the Spirit Of The Season. I defy any one person to object to that statement.

So, Advent Conspiracy is really about the following four concepts...

  • Worship Fully
    • Instead of putting time aside to shop shop shop, we are called to seek love, know that peace is sovereign, and the time to celebrate our King is near. It's looking up, instead of looking to the world. It's what God intended Christmas to be.
  • Spend Less
    • How about just one less gift purchase this year. Instead of sending that book or sweater to a far off friend or relative, more out of guilt than anything, why not put the money aside and give your time. Give You. Christmas is about rejoicing together. No one's saying we should go cold turkey, (no pun intended). While it may not seem like our one non-purchase will make a difference, can you imagine if the millions of us did this? The impact would be significant.
  • Give More
    • What if instead of a material gift, we gave more time, love, memories with family and friends. Instead of hanging out in a stale-air-mall with the rest of the population, why not spend it in a family room. Enjoy some hot chocolate. Bake some gingerbread with your kids. Laugh. Watch a Christmas movie. Volunteer together at a homeless shelter. Make supper for a family in need. Root through your closets together and give the quality clothes and toys no longer worn or played with, to those with less. Give presence, instead of presents.
  • Love All
    • No explanation necessary. Do like Jesus did. Follow the example of the first four Advent Conspiracy following churches. Simply: Love. Boundary-less, class-less, self-less Love.
To some these concepts may seem easy and obvious...to others they could be the challenge of the year. So, take up the challenge. Get creative. Ideas are everywhere but if you need an easy to find guide, go here.

Ask Questions.

Get Involved.

Conspire Together and Become A Part Of The Movement.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Perspective

I needed a little perspective yesterday. 

I'd pretty much had a horrific day with the boys. Yes, I am big enough to admit that. It was one of those days that I actually wished...only for a few seconds...that I worked full-time and could put my kids in daycare for someone else to deal their tantrums and troubles. It was but a fleeting thought and I felt guilty afterward. 

I was reminded of how blessed I truly am, later than afternoon.

My parents have had a Filipino woman working for them (part-time) ever since they moved to Hong Kong in 1998. When they first moved over, she and her husband had a young daughter...just over a year old. 

Several years later, she became pregnant again and had a son. Financially, things were tighter and the marriage wasn't so great anymore either. Housing is extremely expensive in most parts of Asia. It is also tiny...space is definitely at a premium. We're talking 600'sq for a couple of families to share. Government housing was no longer optional, it was the only way to provide a roof over her family's head. 

A year or so later and this sweet, weathered, young woman - with a not-so-loyal-husband - is pregnant again. Her eldest is bright but no longer the apple of her eye, her son is an energetic and mischevious (!) little boy, and the baby is exhausting.

After receiving a letter from the government w/in recent weeks, she will now have to move herself and her 3 kids (husband no longer in the picture, for all intensive purposes) across the island to another location riddled with this subsidized housing. Because the government can. 

Within the next month, her new daily (I mean 6 days a week) routine will morph into something like this: 
  • 6am wake up the kids
  • 7am get all 3 (11yrs, 4 yrs, 20 mths) onto the bus and travel across the island (of HK)
  • arrive at other end of island and off load kids, only to re-load the 2 eldest on their school bus
  • she then takes her youngest to work with her at a local Filipino store...full time
  • when not at the Filipino store, she is at my parents' place
  • at the end of very long days, she and the 3 kids pile back onto the city bus to commute across the island, and home
  • once home, they must all be settled and put into bed
Let's keep in mind any "hiccups" that will inevitably occur along throughout her day. Her youngest daughter was up the other night with some sort of illness. Living in only several hundred square feet (max) this meant that everyone was up. And therefore, everyone was tired the next day. An 11 yr old, a 4 yr old, a 20 mth old, and their single mother...all tired.

Yet, there are no sick days. She doesn't work...she doesn't get paid...she can't feed her kids. 

I am realizing that my problems, my ups and downs, my daily woes are all relative. 

I am fortunate. Not by fluke, but by grace. 

I am richer than I realize. Not by finances but by things money can never buy.

I am not trying to sit up on some high and mighty throne. But, I think that on those "bad days" we really need to sit back and assess how "tough" we actually have it. 

  • Will we have a hot meal for supper
  • Will we cuddle up into a warm bed at night
  • Will we clothe and jacket our kids without a second thought before they go out to play
  • Will our kids have the luxury of playing outside...on grass...breathing clean air
And, because my troubles and frustrations are all relative, I was reminded that I need to keep 

Perspective

(that little voice in my head saying "suck it up, princess" didn't hurt either)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Quenching

It seemed fitting to share about the organization, Charity:Water, as our church recently completed a 10-week series known as H2O:A Journey Of Faith.

Water, the drink of champions (as my Dad used to say) truly is our source of life.

Charity:Water's mission is simple:

Most of us have never really been thirsty. We’ve never had to leave our houses and walk 5 miles to fetch water. We simply turn on the tap, and water comes out. Clean. Yet more than 1.1 billion people on the planet don’t have clean water.
It’s hard to imagine what a billion people looks like really, but one in six might be easier. One in six people in our world don’t have access to the most basic of human needs. Something we can’t imagine going 12 hours without.

A one time gift of only $20 can allow a person living in Africa clean water for 20 years. And, if 4,500 children are dying each and every day because they lack clean water, change is imperative.

Seriously?
And yet, we go out and frivolously spend $15 on Christmas gift wrap, another $15 on Christmas cards, and the list continues. Then we buy the gifts (the needed, the wanted, and the completely unnecessary).

Baffling.

It's no wonder we're in an economical crisis situation right now. I wish the insatiable need to spend would be put to better use...such as making a simple, inexpensive, yet life-changing difference to someone less materialistically fortunate.

Our planet is 70% water.97.5% of that is saltwater.
This means only 2.5% is available for the 6 billion people on the planet today.

This is a really simple obvious charity to support. At least, this is what it's donors are claiming. They are making it possible for every penny - 100% - donated to Charity:Water to be put towards water projects. These concerned individuals and companies are covering overhead and other administration fees.

Charity: Water. Give to others, what we take for granted every single day.



Sunday, November 23, 2008

50,000

The 50,000 Pairs in 50 Days Challenge

This is the number of pairs of shoes, we (yes we as a human, philanthropic race) are being challenged to raise.

I dare ya.

Only $5 buys ya 2 pairs of shoes...actually, it buys a child greatly in need a pair of shoes. A barefoot, poverty stricken child...possibly an orphan, who many not know where his or her next meal will actually materialize, can be given a gift greater than you or I will ever understand.

Soles4Souls.

I am impacted by this because the vision for this charity happened after the South East Asian Tsunami in December of 2004...and Ben, myself (pregnant with Noah), and my family were all there. We felt the earth shake. We saw the mess of a once beautiful beach. We witnessed sadness. We saw first-hand the devastation in Phuket, Thailand. And I know - I am well aware - that we did not encounter or witness the worst. What we did observe was tragic.

In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that hit Southeast Asia, Wayne Elsey, the Founder and CEO of Soles4Souls™ Inc., felt compelled to do something. Like many of us, he did not know what to do.

He was at home one night, watching TV and he saw a picture of a single shoe washing up on the beach. That triggered a few calls to some other executives in the footwear industry and the subsequent donation of a quarter of a million shoes to victims in the devastated countries.

A year later when Katrina hit, Wayne called the same group of friends, and they sent over a million pairs of shoes down to the gulf coast communities affected by the hurricane. In all honesty, he admits that he did not expect such an immediate and successful turnout. This left him wondering, why not start a non-profit and do this all the time? One year later, Soles4Souls was formally created.

It has been that simple: Changing the world one pair at a time.


I Dare Ya.

Two

Is the number of months today, that our dossier has been in Ethiopia

And, while many of you are likely saying "wow, time has gone so fast"...

And while I am trying desperately not to wish this time away and to enjoy the journey...

And while it sometimes takes all the will-power I have not to walk into the little girls' section while at Old Navy, or surfing Kijiji, or Craigslist....

And while I know that I will look back on this and think "time sure did fly"...

And while I know that in many months after a referral, a court date, an around-the-world flight (and back), normal will take on a whole new meaning...

...And while I will reflect upon this time and our personal journey, I will only begin to grasp the blessings I missed along the way.

There are days when two months really does feel like 60 whole long days

...And I long to see our little girl's face.

...And I look forward to our new family dynamic.

...And I anticipate watching her brothers dote on her, smother her with kisses, and take care of her as best they possibly know how.

For now, maybe you could just get up from where you are sitting say a quick prayer and then do a little dance, because...

Two Is The Number Of Months Our Dossier Has Been In Ethiopia

Thursday, November 20, 2008

To Facebook Or Not To Facebook...

...that is truly a question we all need to ask ourselves. When facebook first birthed itself into our world of technology, it seemed like a fabulous way to find old friends. It gave way to possibly faster communication and more networking. E-vites and virtual event invitations took on a whole new meaning. Heck, I can even buy used clothes for my kids through the wonders facebook. I have found out about engagements and break-ups, moves and new jobs...goodness, just yesterday I found out through Facebook that my sister ran around the White House. She literally ran around Obama's new place of residence.

Then the race was on: who could accumulate the most number of friends. Who could score the highest in Scrabulous (did I even spell it right)? Who had travelled the greatest distance or uploaded the most photos?

And as with many things new, it's novelty fueled incredible success.

I'm not discouraging facebook. I frequent it more often than I should...but there are lessons I have learned.

Initially I received a few friend invites and in turn I would seek out some old friends from my high school days - after all, it's tough to track down friends who now live around the world but attended school in England. It was great...for awhile.

There came a point though.. and I think this is where we need to be careful...when we lose sight of who we are, for the ideal of how many friends we think we want. Facebook really is a reflection of ourselves. Are we edifying who we are and who we want people to know us, by our facebook"friends"? What do those little squares with profile pictures really say about us?

Realizing that as with most good things - this could turn into a bad thing, I purged. I would hate for anyone who knows me as an honest person to facebook-befriend me, only to find that I'm now with the drinkers, the swearers, and the like. I'm not judging...just expressing how I do not want to be viewed. I seek to live a Purposeful, Faithful, Integral, and God-Honouring life. While I am nowhere near perfect, my friends - close or distant - should reflect Me.

When declining some friend requests and deleting others, initially I felt guilty. Upon further reflection I realized there's no reason for this. I don't need to maintain the friends status just so my "numbers" are high. For me it is not - The More The Merrier.

Quality superceeds Quantity.

I want to have loving friends, not loads of friends.

I want to know Character not Countless Numbers.

So will I continue to facebook? Sure. For awhile at least. But I will take it lightly. Chose carefully. And I will be certain that my friends are those who know me for who I am and I actually know them. They know what I stand for. They are the ones who actually contact me. I am a person to them, not just a profile.

If someone were to hack into my account and look down my (facebook world) list of friends they would not find many. My list doesn't number up in the several hundred. The friends they would find, however, would be a cut above the rest. The hacker would find a relatively accurate depiction of myself. I hope they would take note that those who are "friends" are those with whom I keep in touch. They are friends with a purpose. They are from all different walks of life but each walk is wholesome, moral, and integral.

If someone were to hack into my account, they would come across this quote posted in one of my friend's profiles:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

-Nelson Mandella

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ethiopia Reads

I love inspirational stories of individuals who've risen to the challenge of...well...Life.

In return, they give back.

Yohannes Gebregeorgis, born and raised in Ethiopia and one of the two founders of Ethiopia Reads was educated in his village school. It wasn't until he was 19 years old that he ever held his first book outside of the classroom. Nineteen! His love of literature, (among other pertinent reasons) brought him to America where he earned a Masters Degree in Library Science.

Inspiring.

While working in a Library in San Fransisco, Yohannes was asked to purchase books in various languages. Though he lived in an Ethiopian populated area, there were very few books printed in Ethiopian languages. In 1998, Yohannes founded Ethiopia Reads...recognizing how life altering, the gift of literacy truly is. His passion became kids books and the foundation grew from there.

Yohannes contacted a known (caucasian) author who grew up in Ethiopia and therefore understood the importance of this gift for young Ethiopian children. This author raised enough funds for Yohanne's first children's book, Silly Mammo...also the first English/Amharic children's book ever...to be published. I can attest that among Ethiopian Adoptive circles, this book has made a name for itself! Book sales accrued and in turn Yohanne's dream of opening a public library in Addis Ababa came true! Addis, the capital of Ethiopia, is a city of 3 million people.

It wasn't until 2003 that Yohannes moved back to his country of origin and set up the Ethiopia Reads Foundation. He furthered his dream-turn-reality by opening Shola's Public Library. It's intention: motivate and facilitate early literacy in the lives of those who would not otherwise be given any opportunity. He was working to change a generation, one child, one orphan, one lost soul at a time.

Similar to most organizations, this one is run mainly through donations. It's volunteers work tirelessly. Yet, because of this only 5 years after it's grand opening, Shola's Public Library - situated in a poor and unsafe part of Addis - counted 60,000 visitors! It has now moved to a larger, safer location and is continuing to flourish. The noteworthy detail is that if donors don't feel that a monetary gift is their "thing", the library willingly accepts book donations - new or used!

Ethiopia Reads recently made CNN Headlines! Check this out and help vote for a true inspiration!

Yohannes Gebregeorgis: Top Ten CNN Hero of the Year.

The world is in need more Heros like him.

Monday, November 17, 2008

We All Have One

We all have one. Some people have two, but usually there's one who stands out from the rest. It's not just because of the things she does or what she gives. It's the spirit in which these things are done. They are not done for attention, with the intention of re-payment. They are not offered with the desire of praise in return. The things that she does, the gifts she bestows are simply a reflection of her true self...

She is the one who, when you announce your plans to adopt from a Developing Country is not skeptical. She is supportive. So much so that she writes not one but two letters of reference to your Adoption Agency and your Facilitator.

She listens and encourages. Steadfast and loyal. Offering opinions and expertise only when asked. She is honest, not critical. She does not find fault but seeks first the good. She makes you feel like you are a one-of-a-kind parent...with one-of-a-kind children...when really there are many out there.

She is the one who, when invited for a meal, will offer to bring something. When asked to bring something "fruity" for dessert she brings this ...

...in honour of your adoption.

When invited for your child's birthday party she then offers to bring the cake...to which you reply YES and she brings the Mator to end all cakes...a cake so incredible that 5 months later, your son reminds you that, "My birthday is in June, Mama. And I am going to have a Lightening McQueen cake." It's that phenomenal.

When holding a fundraising Yard Sale she is the one who, (along with her incredible spouse!) make an insurmountable task seem do-able; Going as far as asking what Starbucks beverage to bring you on the morning of the Yard Sale...since it will be a long day.

She encourages your children by teaching...not only by reading books she brings but also through Leaf Hunts and Sophie Salmon hunts. She spoils them as only an aunt could.

Oh - and these books she specially chooses for your children...they aren't chosen at random. Selected for their multi-racial components or because they are hot off the press or simply because they were favourites of hers...these are truly special.

She does nothing but what is good, what is kind, what is right.

Her life is not perfect. But you wouldn't know it from the ever-present smile.

She searches her precious "when I was a little girl" toys to bring the perfect gift...for your daughter, half a world away, whom you don't even yet know. Why? Because she was invited over for lunch. Not a special lunch - a chicken strips, fries, and salad lunch. She chooses - out of the cherished collection of dolls and toys that were hers once-upon-a-time - the toy that is now deemed "Vintage" and "Rare"...and Black as only your adopted daughter shall be.


While this friend is definitely not "Vintage" she is a very very Rare Find.

And each day, you realize you are a better person for knowing her.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Christmas Roll-out At The Keizers

With Halloween and Remembrance Day in our past, with enthusiastic little ones reminding us of the Big Guy (the fat one in red) daily, we decided that yesterday November 15 was our Christmas Roll-Out Day. Laugh if you must...I know it's because you are jealous.

I've never been into "really" early Christmas Roll-Out. I think it's because I feel the stores sacrifice a monumental Day (11/11) in order to make an extra couple of bucks. It's seems as though the second the clocks strike midnight on November 1, everything Red, Green, and Gold comes crashing through the "lay away"storage doors and onto the shelves. Christmas music is playing and Turtles, Quality Street, Candy Canes, and Pot Of Gold candy line the shelves. The true spirit of Christmas often seems to me, to be "buy more, get bigger, indulge until you're ill..or broke". By the time that pinnacle day comes around, everyone's tired and wishing the pants that fit a month ago would just button up. I think we lose sight of what is important for all the "hoopla" that has taken place the 4 - 6 weeks leading up to the 25th. We forget about the manger, the spirit of peace and thanksgiving, the giving of self rather than the giving of things. Quantity presides over Quality.

Over the past several Christmases, surrounded by family and quality time (and gifts!) I often feel sad by the time my head hits my pillow on Christmas night. It's not that we don't spend lots of time with each other, it's not that we don't unwrap and enjoy each gift, it's not that we don't spend time preparing and eating delicious turkey and the trimmings every year. All that is wonderful. Truly.

I know I am blessed with an incredible family. Parents still together. Husband steadfast in his faith and love for his wife, kids, job. Sister as crazy as ever but living - actually, running out her passion.

Still, there's this piece of me every year that is troubled. It aches for those with nothing. For those who, for Christmas would do almost anything for a warm meal. For those who want nothing but to clothe their children with a warm winter coat. My heart breaks for those who are reminded, on this one day of the year that they are, in the eyes of the material world, poor. It yearns for some sort of law to be enforced that calls us (the wealthy) to, instead of spending 450 million each year on Christmas, take only 4.5% of that...only $10 million...and offer clean water to the entire global population!

This year is different. I have worked this year to make it different:


I need to be the change I want to see in the world.


I want to lay my head down Christmas night and peacefully close my eyes. Knowing that this year was different. This was a season of change. Perhaps...maybe only a little (but a little is better than nothing at all); perhaps I have grown as a person.

So, I post about orphans. I post about different organizations I think are legitimately trying and succeeding in making a different world for humankind. While my voice may not be great, not loud, not far reaching, I know some hear it.

And with that...

  • We have put ourselves out there to go where we feel led: Ethiopia.

  • We buy livestock for a family somewhere in a Developing Country.

  • We set up a donation container in our Office to encourage the staff at work to contribute as a team to buying something from World Vision for a family in need.

  • We use a Facilitator in Ontario who is doing nothing, absolutely nothing but good for African Orphans.

  • We gift a small amount to a foundation set up to help others we empathize with, to complete their family.

  • I am registered to run in a 10km in a couple of weeks in which all I have to do it bring 5 canned items. Why? Why Not. It's only a little but many littles make a lot.

I don't share this for a pat on the back.

My intention isn't to claim bragging rights.

I don't see these as great things.

These are small things we all need to do to make the world better. To eradicate poverty and the millions of orphans worldwide (One by-the-way is one too many.)

What have you done? Really. Share it. If not on this blog then with someone. I think there is a need for some accountability.

It all starts with baby steps.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Show Hope

Many have heard the name Steven Curtis Chapman (SCC) circulate not only the Christian (music) circles but secular ones too. An award winning composer and singer, this father of six experienced what can only be known as life-altering tragedy last May.

After having 3 biological children, SCC and his wife Mary Beth were led to adopt...interestingly enough, their eldest daughter really encouraged them to reflect on God's heart for the orphans in our world. They did. And they were forever changed.

They first adopted Shaohannah Hope, a little girl from China. Soon after that, Shaohannah's Hope was founded. Realizing the great financial cost of international adoption, this organization's goal is not only to raise funds to help families who are adopting with the overwhelming costs of adoption but also to raise orphan awareness. To remind the world that there are millions in need and that it is our responsibility to do something about this devastation.

The foundation has helped hundreds (quite possibly thousands) of families achieve their dream. It has raised millions of dollars. I sometimes wonder - is the success of Shaohannah's Hope due to SCC's fame? What if he had started KIVA or was a prevalent ambassador of UNICEF or World Vision. What then? I think it's incredible of these worldly famous individuals to become ambassadors for needs they believe in. I think it's incredible the research and awareness that has evidenced itself since Hollywood (to sum it up) has stepped up and taken notice of humanity. That said, I often wonder if it is for these people rather than the organization itself, that we step up and get involved.

I'm not disappointed in the extreme success of Shaohannah's Hope Foundation. I think it's a powerful testament of the gospel being shared, of how small financial gifts and prayer can create the change we need to see in the world. I guess I just wonder "what if", he had chosen a different venue to raise awareness.

Steven Curtis and Mary Beth were so moved by what God had done in their family with the adoption of Shoey, that they pursued adoption number two and Stevie Joy was welcomed into their family a while later. She was also born in China.

The family decided that 5 children was enough and "closed" their book on adoption. However, while touring in China some time later SCC met another little orphan girl, not even a year old...but due to a heart defect, she had not been adopted. He was captivated by her sweet, gentle, vivacious spirit. Steven Curtis called his wife immediately at home..."oh no" she said. Yet, by the time SCC arrived back home, Mary Beth had the paperwork out and ready to go. Soon thereafter, Maria Sue was theirs.

She was a bubbly almost-one-year old at this time...and her heart defect had been misdiagnosed. It was nothing. She was as healthy, beautiful little girl.
Fast forward four years, to May 2008. SCC and Mary Beth are holding a party at their house for their newly engaged daughter and her fiance. Their eldest biological son is about to graduate high school and is returning from his girlfriend's house...eager to get home. In what can only be described as truly the most devastating, life-altering moment of this family's life...every parent's nightmare...Maria Sue was struck in the driveway of their home. She was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. She was barely 5 years old.

The Maria Sue Miracle Fund was set up to honour, remember, and cherish the time Maria Sue had on earth. It's intention was, and still is to remind people of the orphans in our world. To maybe give a little extra to help those families who are doing everything in their power to adopt but just can't quite make ends meet. It transforms dreams into realities. It gives hope to the couple who cannot have children biologically. It helps complete families.

I would encourage you to give just a small amount. We had just started our adoption journey when this tragedy struck. Deeply saddened we gifted a small amount. It didn't seem like much at the time but it felt like the only thing to do. Somehow, we knew it would make that small bit of difference...and now we have a grasp on what that small amount means to a family in this process. The organization, Maria's Miracle Fund is in the states. So, no there will be no tax receipt. But here's the thing: You will change a life. Annonymously, you will make a difference. There's no price great enough to place on that.

Maria Sue's life ended quickly. Sadly. Without warning. We can all do something to honour it. And, in honour of National Adoption Awareness Month, we can all do something to raise a voice for those who do not have one.

Becoming aware and investing in something we believe in doesn't necessarily mean donating money. Becoming aware is self-education. Spreading the word. It's simple:

Pray.

Read.

Learn.

Give.

Speak Out.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Conspire



Tell me you aren't convicted to take action.

It's simple:

Buy Less.

Give More.

Embrace True Meaning.

Be Blessed.

Understand Real Spirit.

Don't wait. Don't put it off. Excuses are trite.

Invest in others.

No regrets.

It's Just The Future Of Humanity.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Helping Parents...Kiva

An orphan is defined as a child who has lost either one or both parents. And, often times in developing countries (the) parent(s) will simply - painfully, but simply - hand their child over to the authorities because they cannot financially afford to meet basic needs. These include resources such as drinking water, food, and shelter. We're talking really really basic. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for adoption - obviously.

But, what if there wasn't a need? What if each child in the world had one or both of their parents able to care for them. Regardless of where they lived, in Africa or America, in Canada or Cambodia, wouldn't it be incredible if children remained with their biological parents?

The stark reality is, however, that these often young parents can barely feed themselves. They have an unconditional love for their child and the desire to give them something more. More than a lifetime of struggle. More than the uncertainty of a next meal...not where it will come from but if it will actually become reality. More than an uncertain future.

On the other hand, there are (young) parents in these same countries who have a small sum of money scraped together and an entrepreneurial drive. They want more. They want to not only exist but to give their children a fighting chance at a future...in their place of birth. And in turn, they want their children to give their children a chance. Opportunity. Freedom to break away from the shackles of poverty.

They need help and they need hope.

Kiva does just that. It gives hope to the hopeless. It offers Finances to the Poor.

This awesome organization offers loans to those in poverty who desire, legitimately, to run a small business. Each entrepreneur is pre-screened - this is a totally legit organization. (Check out all of it's supporters!) In it's most basic form Kiva facilitates this: Money lent to small business entrepreneurs, helps them get their feet on the ground. The money is repaid to the original (usually North American...but it is an international organization) lender within only 6-12months. Loans can be as little as $25 a month. (This isn't just for the "rich and famous".) The intention and hope is that the lender will understand the impact this gift has made and in turn, lend again. Families and small businesses thrive in developing countries.

The poverty line declines
.

Not only are these poor entrepreneurs being lent money. The financial aid symbolizes the hope and confidence those with "more" have placed in those with "less". It symbolizes that their lives, their businesses, their families are valuable. They are worthy. Equally as priceless. It signifies that a concrete house with a solid roof does not trump a mud hut. It denotes the value of spirit, pride, work ethic, and desire as invaluable.

So, if you're in the business of helping others. And, if you want to help prevent orphaned children, invest in Kiva.

You will change lives.

You can lift a family out of poverty.


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails..." -Mark Twain

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November: Highlighting Orphan Needs


Committed to highlighting the devastating orphan situation in our world, November's National Adoption Awareness Month gives me the platform to research organizations committed to helping the parentless.

When we embarked upon our Adoption Journey in March of this year, we had the choice between two facilitators in Ontario. While our Agency in Victoria works between us and our Facilitator, the Facilitator is the mediator between our Agency in Victoria and Ethiopia. We chose between CAFAC (Canadian Advocates For the Adoption of Children) and Imagine Adoption.

We chose Imagine. Impressed by their knowledge, speed of process, and incredible care and attention not only to detail but to their clients needs also. We don't for a minute, regret selecting them as our Facilitator. Susan Hayhow, the Executive Director has been interviewed on 100 Huntley Street and she is committed to keeping the bigger picture in perspective while not losing sight of each, unique orphan.

I encourage you to view her interview but if you don't, for lack of time or interest please know this: While Susan came very close to adopting Ethiopian children of her own, she decided against it. This wasn't a selfish decision. She knew that if she were to adopt one or two of the Ethiopian orphans in need of homes, she would not be able to devote much of the time that she has, to the thousands of others she has impacted. Her dream and vision is becoming reality: The Faith Village.

Susan's (and therefore Imagine's) approach and perspective are truly unique.

At Imagine Adoption, love is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling devoid of content and action. Admittedly, love as a subject may be confusing, but, clearly, all of us who use the word understand it in its verbal form. That is, we practice love. It would be unwise for individuals to be lured into parenting by superficial, emotional feelings. They must recognize that to say, “I love” is to be passionately moved to action in the best interest of those whom they love.

That is why Love is the greatest commandment of all time, and the foundation of everything meaningful and life changing.

Love is sacrificial. Love is unconditional. Love is at the deepest root of all human interaction.

Imagine Adoption has grown and now facilitates adoption through not only Ethiopia but 2-3 other countries as well.

If directly impacting a child whilst allowing them to stay in their country of birth, yet getting an education "gets you", then I would encourage you to follow the links below.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Can't Catch Me, I'm The Gingerbread Man

I am committed to treasuring as many moments as possible with my boys, while they are young. While this isn't always easy...simply because of the busyness of life, the distance to which I can stretch my patience, and the balance between showering them with attention and spoiling them. However, I don't want to miss out on any of those "Big Trees" that so often stand in plain sight, yet are invisible to us.

So today, in honour of a new book and the fact that Christmas is definitely just around the corner, we made Gingerbread Men...and Trees and Hearts. From scratch, we mixed, rolled, and cut these little guys out of our first ever (together) batch of gingerbread cookie dough.

This was actually quite a feat for me. Anyone who knows me well, knows of my (ah hem) slightly anal tendencies. It's no secret. The t-shirts must be folded the same way, the socks too. Even the cloth diapers are folded in a certain way. No kidding. Today was an exception. I consciously made the effort to "allow" the boys to make a mess; to get in there and just bake the way kids should bake. And it was great. The spirit of The Season is beginning to fill us.

And while Tait spent more time licking the spilled molasses and Noah wanted to mix anything in sight, they had a great time making "their own" shapes.

And I had a great time...just being.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

National November

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. And, November 15th will honour National Adoption Day. Yep, it's that important! Honestly, I'd never heard of it until we began our journey several months ago. Now it's a passion.

With the US elections finally over, perhaps we can focus on something other than politics. I know I should care more but honestly my political views are apathetic. I know it should be important to me; who is making decisions about what; who believes in this or that. But, it doesn't. I would be lying if I said it did. I vote because of the guilt on my shoulders if I don't. I am encouraged to place an "x" in the box on my ballot. Fortunately, the opinions I do have are similar to those of the person who encourages me one way or the other.

My focus is on what I believe to be of utmost importance: the care of people. The freedom of children. And, the right to self-respect, dignity, and a healthy upbringing. So, with the month ahead of me I look forward to posting about what has been done in the world of adoption...what can be or should be done...what I am doing...what we should all be doing. Please allow the guilt that burdens my shoulders when it comes to voting, burden yours when you think of the millions of orphans in the world. And, maybe not because it is necessarily a passion but rather because you know you should...do something. Do anything. Big or little. Noticeable (in your eyes) or not.

Do Something.

Because Every Child Deserves It.

Because there are less than 50 shopping days left before Christmas and if we can buy presents for loved ones, surely we can donate something to help a parentless child.

If you need some ideas or are looking for something that strikes a cord in your heart, follow along this month. I am committed to highlighting many organizations who support orphans. I will be so bold as to challenge you to gift something to a new organization this year. Step out of your comfort zone and chose somewhere new.

With the continuing draught in Ethiopia, and with the near-genocide in The Congo my natural tendency would be Africa. But, there are needs everywhere. Find the place or situation that breaks your heart and give. Selflessly. Sacrificially, even.

Currently, Ethiopia faces the worst draught in 25 years and only 30% of the food needed to feed the starving (and I truly mean starving) people is available or has been pledged. That leaves 70%. Starved. Emaciated. Too weak to work. Too feeble to muster the energy to eat what is offered.

According to the Ethiopian English language weekly The Reporter, the
United Nations food agency recently announced that it needed $222 million to
avert a major food crisis in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government and aid agencies
estimate that 4.6 million people in the country need around 510,000 tons of
cereals to meet emergency food assistance needs until November 2008 and another
8 million people are chronically food insecure.

A goat would have cost a local Ethiopian about $15 only 1 year ago. Now the cost is between $45-$50. The price of bread has doubled and the cost of sorghum (which is the staple food in Ethiopia) has gone from $0.25/kg to$0.80/kg. Whereas some people would save their few extra dollars a year ago, it now must all go towards food.

Ironically, the Ethiopian military budget is the only area in which the government seems to be putting it's finances. It was just increased another $50 million. Sick.

I could go on but all this is to say: We can all give a little.

A little to you and a little to me is not a little to a parentless child, to a foodless family, to an animal-less village.

Skip a date night with you spouse. Put the $35-50 you would have spent to eat out and buy an item from the list below. These suggestions don't even touch the number of gifts you can purchase for what is such a minimal financial amount to us. Sacrifice a night out and stay in for a movie night instead. Forget the new sweater. Don't buy the "extras" this month. Purchase a few of the "no name" food items you would normally spend the extra money on, when purchasing that brand you love. Those small amount will rapidly accrue. What a lifetime of difference you will make.


Do it because you will bless others.

Do it because in return, somehow and in some small way, I can assure you...

YOU WILL BE BLESSED.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Finding Meaning

I love meaningful quotes. I find them not only insightful at first glance, but from one moment to the next they seem to evolve. I find more meaning, more symbolism, more emphasis in different words. 

Our lives are the only meaningful expression of what we believe and in Whom we believe. And the only real wealth, for any of us, lies in our faith.
           -Author Unknown

Monday, November 3, 2008

Puff For Pops

Ever since he was quite young, Noah has exhibited an insatiable desire (need?) to play the guitar. Whenever Pops comes to visit, it is crucial we have a guitar for him to play "with" Noah. Not having much musical talent on either side of our families, it's pretty cool to watch this gene shine through.

So, here's to you Pops...enjoy!

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