The Harvest… {a parenting post}

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The fall season has been spectacular here in Michigan and as usual I wonder how the branches can already be bare and the leaves returned to earth.   In a blink we are two months into the new school year and while everyone finally seems adjusted I am just beginning to play catch up. The fall season is so interesting as the kids all return to school with great anticipation and renewed enthusiasm for learning. With five kids in five schools both Bob and I find ourselves being stretched in new ways to keep up. It’s a bit like running a marathon. We start out hyped and ready and within a short time we realize we need to be fully prepared to go the distance and it’s gonna take all we have.  So we settle in and we pace ourselves. The pace is not for the weary and some days leaves us with little time outside of helping with math equations, rehearsing middle school play lines, attending soccer games and just spending time knowing each of our children and where they are on their journey.

So as the season changed and fall set in our workload was increasing. While one son made his way out of the nest and off to college the next was beginning high school where so many activities and friends would be pulling him in a variety of directions. Then our middle son courageously fought to attend a smaller Christian school where we would be challenged to say yes, thinking of all that it would take to enter a new scene and a totally new community. Then there is the fifth grader entering a new school complete with challenges of not wanting to read and typically wanting someone by his side as he completes homework. We wrap up the list with our little one attending a new preschool program at a school new to us.  It is all good stuff yet complicated as each opportunity brings more to the to do list of the party.  There is just so much to learn and young lives that need direction and guidance. There are communities to get to know with days where time feels so limited. There are parents and friends we long to connect with and numerous parents and children struggling to know how they fit together and are they doing what it takes for their children to stay connected to the vine.  This workload before me the past eight weeks has often looked daunting, literally frightening some days. So what do we do? So many of us parents, farmers in our own homes, working the soil and praying each year that the right conditions of water, light and nurturing deliver abundant sustenance. Will we see the reaping of all we have sown?  Perhaps we will but will we be ready to accept it when it does not look like what we were expecting? This week I have found myself using the metaphor of the harvest to allow me to look up and to see the divine and more than ever I want to trust God with my children and accept the outcome. I cannot possibly do it all and believe more each day that we are not supposed to.  We parents are not meant to have all the answers. Instead we are meant to show up with open arms willing to do the careful work put before us, picking, cleaning, listening, sharing, investing, sorting, changing, packing, accepting, delivering. Harvesting the territory we have been given through Christ who delivers strength.   We need to nurture the beautiful moments right where they are and stop waiting for every vine to bear fruit. Some will and frankly some won’t. Be grateful for the vines that do and be ready to reset when the opposite is true.

There is a story that God is writing in and through each of my children and the more I allow my lens to be fixed on Him the more peace is gleaned. In the moments where I can give more grace and worry less, I find more strength.  So as I feel myself running faster on this crazy train of life, again I look up.  I settle myself for a moment and I ask for direction. I ask for a new attitude or a stillness that will allow me to refocus. I ask for a pace that will take away the idea that it all will look and feel perfect. Afterall nothing on the road of parenting children of all ages and abilities equals perfection. Nothing. I ask for ways to connect with other parents feeling the same way and I ask to be used to nurture others with similar fears on this imperfect parenting road. I just want to know how to more deeply surrender and to teach my children to surrender to all that God can do in and through us as a family and as individuals if we allow Him to have his way. Can you hear God directing you to run your race with a renewed spirit or a more confident pace? We need those cues. We need less of our own understanding and more of Jesus. We need our children to know He is beside them in all words and deeds willing to carry them when the race is too long. He will carry them and He will carry you too.

I love this from Elisa Morgan in her book The Beauty of Broken:

“And God knows you. He will not try you beyond what you are able to bear. There is no “off” ramp in parenting. Instead of looking for it, take courage and parent with an attitude that yields to the seemingly impossible. You may be shocked by the realities you face, but parenting calls you to continue. And in the continuing you will likely discover as I did, that God will grow more of you, more for you and more in you. ”

And now, God, do it again-
bring rains to our drought stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest, 
So those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
Psalm 126: 4-6 MSG
 

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Here’s to peace on the journey…
Melanie
 

 

Band, Broadway and Birthday Boys…

When they were all little, three in a row, my sweet blondes, I can remember feeling like I was raising a pack of wolves. They did everything together and wanted to do exactly what each other was doing at all times, no matter the circumstance or crazy outcome.  There interactions were often the oldest generating the lead and the other two following suite. They seemed to wait for the most hectic moment and then as if on cue their chaos began. Even to this day they will compromise skill and or interest to follow and perhaps beat the oldest brother. Lately they have been all about filming marshmallow challenges, soccer juggling competitions,  bike races or the speed to which they can make it to their favorite seat in the car. Boys will be boys. I get the coining of that phrase after all these years as a boy mama.

Raising three boys all less than two years apart means there is never a dull, clean or quiet moment. Literally. For thirteen years I have experienced  jumping, juggling, throwing, hopping, fidgeting, sliding, skidding {you add the list}. They are always in motion.   This past year we began to notice that we needed to begin to help each of our boys develop his or her unique identity outside of sports or the pack mentality of brotherly competition. While it’s been tricky it has been such a joy to help each in our pack carve out a hobby of interest without the pressure or if a brother or a friend who will join in.  We are beginning to really see the fruit of our focus in all three of our sons and now that their age gaps have more meaning, the fifth grader and the freshman have varied awareness and or interests. While I now believe all parenting is a challenge it has been so much fun to watch them begin to blossom as individuals.

In fifth grade Carter chose his own rap song for the talent show and I sat in the audience with my jaw hanging open. We didn’t know he could sing. Next came a solo in the sixth grade end of the year review where we started to wonder… He comes from a line of vocal music peeps. I was in a show choir along with my husband. We even did duets at the ever famous Jr. Revue back in 1986. {good grief}. My sister sings and my Dad was in a high school band. Sure wish I had an old video to prove it. So we started pointing Carter in the direction of vocal music wondering if it might stick. We signed him up for our local Civic Theater auditions when there were openings and he did the auditions afraid. Heck I was afraid! We worked with a vocal music teacher for a few pointers and looked for camps where creativity and interest intersected with direction and training. The ride has been a complete joy. He has not even earned a call back and yet he is so encouraged to sing everyday. He is encouraged to go through the process of the audition believing that somewhere a break will come. As parents we have witnessed a giant shift in his confidence. As the middle brother who athletically seems to need to work harder to beat his brothers we are eager and profoundly proud to watch our middle guytaking singing and acting opportunities by storm. It helps that around here we LOVE Broadway. Can’t wait to see what comes next as he continues to explore.

 

 

"It's a Beautiful World" sung by Carter Strobel of The Hype! Thank you Luc James Studios

“It’s a Beautiful World” sung by Carter Strobel of The Hype! Thank you Luc James Studios

 

A pose with one of his most inspiring Broadway teachers after his big performance.

A pose with one of his most inspiring Broadway teachers after his big performance.

I loved the moment our eyes locked after his show. He has worked hard the last year to learn so many singing and acting skills.

I loved the moment our eyes locked after his show. He has worked hard the last year to learn so many singing and acting skills.

 

Northern High Band Camp 2014

Northern High Band Camp 2014

 

Happy Birthday Carter!

Happy Birthday Carter!

 

Hard to believe our youngest boy is 10. Happy Birthday Owen!

Hard to believe our youngest boy is 10. Happy Birthday Owen!

 

Owen age 10...

Owen age 10…

 

The last few weeks has brought band and broadway performances, birthday celebrations, high school band camp and soccer tryouts,  and of course trying to figure out how to cope with the constant hullabaloo of everyone home most days. The summer days are fleeting and although I have moments where I long for structure it is clear that these are the days!

A Big Opportunity…

I love Fridays and today I am joyfully announcing something BIG!

I am eager to have you become a part of the journey.

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I want to introduce you to Noonday Collection and let you in on a little secret.  I have finally become a Noonday Ambassador able to share the stunning products and amazing stories of the artisans from some of the most vulnerable places in the world including here in the states. This is an opportunity I could no longer ignore as I have known several ambassadors, watched the growth and outreach by founder, Jessica Honeger and also had the honor of meeting the beautiful and ever smiling artisans while in Ethiopia nearly two years ago in person.

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Becoming a Noonday Ambassador will allow me the chance to share stories, introduce my friends and family to fashionable pieces we all love to pair with the perfect outfit, give back to those in need throughout the world and also earn funds for the work we are involved with in Ethiopia and beyond. It’s a win win win as I see it. Just this week I started wearing some of the sample pieces I have available for my trunk shows and EVERYWHERE I went people commented or asked. I’m telling you the craftsmanship and unique colors and pieces are just as unique as the stories of the artisans and the help you are providing.

American women play a special role in the world as we have great purchasing power. As wives, mothers, sisters and friends we are big gift givers and many of us do the majority of the shopping in our families. Noonday allows us to purchase with a purpose, restoring dignity where it is greatly needed. In addition, the pieces tend to look good with everything from a pair of favorite jeans and a chambray shirt to a fancy black dress for a special evening out. Most are timeless pieces and you too will be receiving many questions and compliments.

Here is how it works… I have a noonday website all set up to allow you to learn more, shop or perhaps set up a trunk show with me. The trunk show option is certainly the best way to really share stories and get a good look at many of the pieces in person but I realize that many of us want to shop online too. I get it.  I would ask that you help me spread the word about my noonday site. That way if you wish to purchase but I am not close enough to come your way to host a trunkshow, I will still receive credit for your purchase and as you know I have many places to put that money to work during my February 2015 trip to Ethiopia.

Please know that I will not be chasing you down to beg you to host a trunk show. It’s just not me and I do not want you to feel pressure to purchase or schedule a show. But I will say that a trunk show is so much fun and lends a deep satisfaction to a group of friends sharing wine and cheese some evening. We can dig deep into the stories of the women and some men whose lives have been changed now that they have a purpose and a career to support themselves and often their families.  You will also receive a percentage of merchandise for hosting.

So let’s chat. Share your thoughts. Which pieces made you drool? Are you curious about a trunk show? Let me know and please spread the word. Anyone anywhere can purchase from my site and together what an impact we will make!

Happy shopping and TGIF,

Melanie

Difficult Questions…

Tonight we did our best to honor someone vitally important to our daughter and her story. I was putting her to bed when she confidently whispered, “Mommy you are lucky to have me.” Gotta love her confidence.  I chuckled and quickly responded. “and you Miss Ava are lucky to have me. God knew what he was doing when he placed us together as Mother and daughter.”

“How did it happen Momma that I came from Ethiopia to your family?” Those were her words exactly.  The question stung for a moment and I can tell you I prayed for each word that rolled out of my mouth to answer her.

“Ava every person who is alive is born from a birthmother. Your birthmother lives in Ethiopia and she was brave and strong, carrying you in her tummy until God was ready for you to live on earth.  Soon after you were born your birthmother discovered caring for you was very difficult. It is a story that happens very often in a place such as Ethiopia. Sometimes Mommies cannot feed their babies and cannot care for them so they bring them to an orphanage where they can be cared for until they go home to adoptive families who are able to care for them. Your birthmother loved you so much and we always want you to know that. She should be honored for her role in your amazing life. “

Next I went to get Bob so we could process what had been shared together. He knelt next to her and marveled, like myself, at her curiosity, her understanding and her deep love for God at such a tender age. The timing on her questions is always amazing to us and what we know is that we must always be ready to speak truth to her when she needs to hear it. Certainly there is no need to go beyond what she can handle for her age but her soul knows. I am grateful that ever since she came into our family she has been our dear daughter but she is also Ava, born to a selfless woman in Ethiopia who loved her enough. We prayed all three of us for God’s provision and the protection he brought to Ava. We prayed for a birthmother we do not know, asking God to take away her deep pain and allow her to hold her head high. As we shared amens Ava said, “Do you think God reached down and put us together?” The visual is stunning and perfect for her to carry inside.

It is our duty and great honor to love her enough to speak truth. With every bit of my being I wish I could make the circumstances a birthmother endures less painful. There is not a day that goes by that I do not realize that someone’s deep loss was for our family a tremendous gain. While there are no words to explain or express the sadness of such circumstances I do believe God used adoption to convict our hearts and to teach us that every child deserves a family. Every child deserves an opportunity no matter the size. Every child deserves an advocate and a teacher.  God used our journey to Ethiopia to deliver us into far more than we could have ever hoped or planned. Today I am grateful. Grateful for the hope and promise God delivers to us all through adoption.

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This Father’s Day {What I Want Them to Know}

Deuteronomy 6:1–9 Fathers instruct their kids by the full impact of words and behavior,

all the time: at home, away from home, at rest and at work. Our kids learn biblical truth by how Fathers

treat those around them and how they live out their lives. 

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The boys were schooling him in soccer. It was a monkey in the middle sort of game and I watched cracking up as he made the same fake out faces he made back in his high school basketball days. He is really good at looking one way and passing or kicking the ball in the opposite direction. He is quick and wears a smirk that makes his nose flare.  I loved watching and marveled at how fortunate my children are to have a Dad who is so engaged. Always and in all ways.

I hit the jackpot when I married him. Having known Bob since 7th grade I always knew he was a solid kid and the kind of boy I could trust. We became close friends in 9th grade and our friendship never really wavered in spite of various boyfriends and girlfriends  and attending rival colleges. We stayed close, always able to make each other laugh with ridiculous comments and late night calls to discuss General Hospital and all things related to our busy social lives. As I went through very difficult and ever changing family dramas in high school and beyond Bob was always there, my steady friend with a listening and concerned ear. When we married we both knew we wanted to raise children but I could never have imagined just how wonderful a father he would be.

Now five kids later {gulp} there is not a day that passes that I don’t pause to notice the great gifts he brings as the father in our family.

My husband embodies all that a father should be. He gives our children his time and his attention. He shows them each that he is excited to know who they are and hear about what they enjoy. He is the Dad who takes the time to teach skills in the front yard or help carve out a derby car. He will help detangle his daughter’s hair and always spends the time needed to discuss their wild ambitions with soccer, music or Odyssey of the Mind. He listens, helping our children to feel confident that their Dad understands them and is in their corner.

He shows each of our children how valued he or she is not only in word but in action.  It’s how he lives and behaves that I treasure for our children.  He is steadfast, diligent and disciplined. He sets the example of a strong work ethic and paying attention to the tough circumstances so many face on a daily basis. He discusses with our kids all that we have been given and the biblical mandate to to serve others through our many gifts.

So today, Father’s Day 2014 I want to say to my children…

When in doubt about how to behave follow the lead of your Dad. Remember his kindness and his concern and support for who you are in all areas of your life. Know that he is willing to go the distance to help mold you into who God intends you to be. Always remember his selflessness as he works all day and then comes home to work all night with each of you. Remember his willingness to help the one, be it Tadesse in his journey or the patient at the community clinic who needs pain relief.  Watch your Dad when you wonder how you will navigate a difficult situation or decision. He is quiet in his process to figure things out and seek truth. Follow the example of your Dad in how to treat a future girlfriend or wife. Know that your Dad is unique in his strength to help me be me in the middle of our great big wild family. He has spent countless hours helping me to live out my calling and dreams. That is a character trait that will serve you all so well. Be aware that your Dad has and will continue to be on your side gently leading you but also sometimes allowing you to fail. And know this for sure. Your Dad strives to see God is all things. He finds strength and foundation in faith. I hope each of you will too.

Happy Father’s Day Bob and thank you more than you know for being who and whose you are in our ever changing, often challenging and forever awesome family. I love the Father your are to our brood.

When Mountains are Moved… {saying yes even in our mess}

As we drifted off to sleep we were both recalling the last twenty two months and marveling at just how hard it was. There were hurdles,  decisions, paperwork and heartache.  There were outside influences we never considered and the fitting of a round peg into a square hole. Some days {often} we were weak in our faith and feeling so inadequate to handle everything that came along with saying yes! Yet through all the many challenges God was quietly delivering connections and healing . God was there ever so patient, guiding us with unending love. The months of hard clicked by and then just like that the pieces began to fit together like the most gorgeous puzzle you have ever completed. We just keep witnessing one miracle after another and where I struggled with doubt lately God has blown the doors wide open to increasing my faith in ways I could have never imagined.  I could not be more grateful to be a part of such a bold testament to God’s perfect grace through Tadesse’s story.

We were just ordinary people directed to Ethiopia to adopt a little girl who needed a family.  What we could never have predicted was how one yes would lead to another and another and yet another.

God says to ordinary people like me and you that instead of closing our eyes and bowing our heads, sometimes we need to keep our eyes open for people in need, do something about it and bow our whole lives to Him instead.

-Bob Goff

Nearly four years ago we met a 15 year old child in Ethiopia who needed someone to believe in him and to trust that his needs could be helped through sponsorship.  We helped send him to school through sponsorship, lifting him out of the extreme suffering he had known for years and allowing him basic comforts of food, shelter, meals and an education. He took the opportunity by storm and let me just give a little plug here… Sponsorship changes the world literally one child at a time. Sending a child to school provides a purpose and a hope that is lasting. Sponsoring a child is a simple way to share the great resources we have been given with those living in significant poverty. Sponsoring a child shows God’s mandate to serve the least of these through you.

I’m not sure I’ll ever truly understand the connection to this one specific child as I opened the van doors to a sea of needy children. It is still a feeling I cannot truly describe but was very similar to the feeling of our daughter being placed in our arms and realizing that while she did not come from my body she was being given to us to protect and raise her to become a strong citizen of the world. I would return to Ethiopia and spend time with him only to realize he was very special in his integrity, his grit and his drive to climb out of the circumstances he had been dealt. Our connection was instant and deep.

And then the unthinkable happened. I stood watching him serve in Ethiopia and realized that perhaps he could be educated in the USA.  From there it is a long and sordid story of many questions, opinions and doubts. There was the endless paperchase and yes more questions and doubts. Of course I knew the idea was crazy but I was trusting God that having been broken for the orphan and the vulnerable child had brought me to the place of saying yes in a radicial way. We took him on as a student, coming to America to be educated.  What we could not have known was how deeply God was sowing the seeds in our hearts to care for him as our very own child. We became his and he became ours.

There was excitement and beauty but almost imeediately there was also great hardship.  There were misunderstandings, rules he did not know how to follow, educational challenges, many cultural differences and days we all wanted to give up. We made so many mistakes, overwhelming ourselves to the point of shutdown. We pushed hard in times when perhaps we should have been patiently listening and trusting that God was literally lighting the path in times of darkness. It was a wild ride through his first year here in the USA. We pressed on and I can remember hundreds of times asking God why helping a child needed to be so hard for him and for our family. Had I not heard properly back in Ethiopia when God delivered the idea of the student Visa?  Now there was safety and he was living with the basic needs such as clean water, medical care, clothes, three meals a day, an education and a family, but the days were difficult and we were exhausted through it all.  Looking back I can now see God’s plan was to teach me more than to assume that these things were enough, and after all these months I think we are finally starting to get it. The aha moments are flowing and I now see that coming to America, to all the choices, the consumerism, the me attitudes, the constant next best thing and stimulation can create the perfect storm for one who needs calm, community, their native toungue and of course Jesus as their everything. Two cultures and burdened hearts were colliding and the storm needed to rage in order for us to look upward.

So here we are today watching God transform and move mountains in this boy’s life.  Soon Tadesse will graduate from two years at a fabulous high school where he has touched lives and changed hearts. In fact today is his last day of classes. Yahoo!  Recently he needed to create a senior project sharing his testimony and life story. Not an easy thing to do when you have a harrowing history of pain and loss. We prayed and we talked and we prayed some more and then one day while on vacation we watched the words flow as he put his story on paper and came to us ready to share his words along with pictures of his years spent surviving in Ethiopia.  As you might imagine his project was difficult to share but he did it. He presented in front of a few classmates,  family and friends and has been asked to present on the last day of school to his entire graduating class. And there my freinds is where I find God using this boy to open eyes. Tadesse wanted to decline the offer and move on to the next opportunity of a small Christian college where he was recently accepted but as a family we know this is all part of the journey. He will speak to his entire class during chapel just days before he will become a high school graduate. Then there will be a well deserved summer break complete with his first ever job.  Yes he now has a job, another miracle and another mountain moved through tremendous faith and obedience.

Are you inspired yet by the idea that God will give you what you need after you are called to the radical and the hard? The timing will likely not look like the timing I know we were searching for each day but never give up hope.

Say yes to something or someone that needs you. Start small but dream and pray BIG. Don’t wait for the perfect time or the day when your mess is perfectly tucked away. Frnakly that day might never come. Think about it… is there ever really a perfect time for radical change?  Fortunately we are not all called to serve the same people in the same places so think of the impact we could have as a community who says yes with intention and radical faith. For one boy who had nobody our yes mattered. Yes changed his world and certainly ours.  Who might be waiting for you to say yes?

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I’m eager to see what mountains God moves next… Have a wonderful spring weekend.

Peace and Grace,

Melanie

On the Eve of Her Birthday {Ava Turns Four…}

I tucked her into bed tonight with hugs and prayers. I thanked God for who she is in our family and for the preservation and protection of her life. I thanked Him for allowing her to be my daughter and our sweet yet sassy girl always curious and confident.

This morning I was able to spend time photographing who she is as she moves from three to four. It feels like a big milestone and as I look at the images captured I am aware just how much she is changing and how much she has grown. She is clever, witty and forever social no matter the scene.  Ava is a special gift to our family in more ways than I can ever share here.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the day she was born. Her life is a big deal. It was four years ago that her life hung in the balance and circumstances were such that Ava would be placed up for adoption. Yes she did come home to a family who has fallen deeply in love with her but our gain came out of someone elses or perhaps several people’s pain. I never want to forget that.

As I return to Ethiopia and dig deeper into the hardships of vulnerable families in developing nations I have become very mindful of the life or death situations that women and children are often pushed into. I understand more acutely that often there is no alternative or back up plan. Life is just as precious but lack of resources, trust and protection cause people to do things that to you and me might seem unthinkable. I guess what I mean is that adoption has humbled me and taught me such respect for families who struggle. There can be so much pain in the choices they feel forced to make.

Tonight I am praying for the woman across the world who had to do the unthinkable. She carried a precious baby to term, likely delivered her with little or no care, fought to feed her and then realized that relinquishment was perhaps her only option. For me there is still great debate there even though I love and am raising our amazing daughter who came into our lives through the miracle of adoption.

Adoption is a message of hope just as birthdays are a message of renewal. Happy Birthday to our baby girl!

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What Missions Teaches…

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One of the hardest things I have ever started to do is to pray the words that go something like this, “God allow me to be surrendered to you. Allow me to die to myself so that I may live the life you have intended.”  It’s a challenging prayer on so many levels.  Afterall who does not want to be in control of his or her own future?  We humans love control and power and planning and on and on the list goes. That’s exactly why I so need this prayer. It humbles and grounds me and shows me daily that if I am willing to listen my steps will be guided. But certainly there are questions that creep in and ironically the questions seem to apply to all areas of my life from how I parent, the hardships of my children, definitions of happiness and contentment and where and to whom are we willing to go to follow Him. Will we still speak this prayer when we do not see victory or success? Will we lean into God and choose His leading even when there is a lack of understanding and or answers we do not like set right before us?  Will we change directions or go when called?

We are in a hard season of life lately and as a family we are walking on eggshells with a difficult child. It’s a very isolating place to be yet I am restless to begin sharing this part of our story not only as a means of coping but also because I believe there are no mistakes. God wants to use me to be a light to others with the same struggles and questions. For now it seems that is to be a bit more open about school anxiety.  Daily that is made clear through the run ins, conversations and connections only He could orchestrate.   While somedays are so frustrating we know we are the family meant to walk this road with our son. There are new requirements that have been asked of our whole family to allow our son the best of health and wellness. The lack of alone time or predictability of routine while annoying, brings me back to the place of realizing that time is generally the greatest gift we can give anyone and that even as a wrestle with how to find time for other things being his Mom is the greatest gift and reward.   So as usual I strive to seek, sit  and then listen for the answers and direction I am supposed to walk  While we can go the traditional route of medical care and or learning new parenting strategies what we are learning most is that prayer and surrender matters. Even my children are learning that sometimes the only thing that works is dying to yourself, letting go and allowing God’s grace to enter in. Many days it is all we have got when the going gets tough.

As Bob and our family were preparing for his departure to Haiti this past Saturday I just kept wishing that God could wrap up some of  the hardships we see in our dear boy. That is what we want. It is what I want every second of every day. Just package it all up and tie it with a little bow so it is simple to understand and easy to explain and hey God while you’re at it take away the stigma too. Take away the doubts and the pain and the questions others ask us as if we have not asked those questions ourselves. Oh and one more thing,  help me not to feel completely down as the Mom who puts in the most time and energy with him and yet cannot seem to find the perfect solution to his behavior or fears. My nice little package did not exactly happen and in fact some of the hardships intensified just hours before Bob’s departure when our little guy vomited during our family meeting. Yes God has a crazy sense of humor. Of that I am sure. There were doubts and feelings of insecurity. There still are, yet several days into his trip and with limited communication with he and the team God is making it abundantly clear that He is equipping all of us as a family. We are making it and even having fun while going through our days. My children are rising up, helping more and even supporting one another in different ways with Dad gone. It is a beautiful thing. We are enjoying our days with Aunt Shannon here and acutely aware of how fortunate we are that the broken arm that happened just hours after Bob’s take off was not worse. You see we had family available to help, a car to get us one of the best Children’s hospitals and superb medical care and medicines to take away the pain.  It is all OK. Even in the dark and questionable moments it really is all OK.

 God really does show up in the little details, the hard and questionable moments. He is there to feel our frustrations and he quietly whispers if only we listen. The sacrifice of missions has taught us all so much. I talked with my husband yesterday and all he could say was that there is so much work to do just to get people out of pain. As he talked I was very aware of the blessings in our life. Bob has a skill that so many in a developing world could never attain due to circumstances far beyond their control. So God gives the gifts and then asks us to use them for the greater good of others. We die to ourselves so that others might live. We die to ourselves not because we are better or need the badge of superhero but because to whom much has been given much will be expected.  Tonight the dental team repaired four front teeth of a sixteen year old girl who will need all the rest of her teeth extracted today due to infection and severe pain. She looked in the mirror and saw beauty in her smile for the very first time.

Peace and Grace,

Melanie

 

 

A Precious Song

A friend posted this recently and after hearing the words I knew it was worth a share. No matter the age or circumstance of children in your life this is a must listen. Amy Grant so eloquently shares the heart of a parent or frankly anyone who comes to deeply love and help grow up a child. These words particularly resonant today as we are struggling daily with our son. We just want what is best for him everyday to feel healthy and capable in school and at home. I find myself more and more humbled in the role of parent. Sometimes I am downright helpless.  In the times of opposition, those I hate school moments I find myself drained and wishing I had more tools in my belt.  But somehwere in all the struggles God is trying to teach me something. Of that I can be sure. There always seems to be a big storm before the knowledge and answers come.

So each time I leave the room I must continue to allow God to direct my steps as a Mom and the heart and soul of my child and children. On the days we are drained and wondering how and what to say I will seek him even more to make the path straight. It will never be perfect but His grace and daily reknewal is always enough.

Grab a kleenex or two…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-cpPBNEACE

Peace and Grace on the Journey,

What’s next? {an upcoming adventure}

Our dining table is filled with supplies such as bug spray, batteries, sunscreen and protein bars. This time the preparation is for my amazing and steadfast husband. In just one week he will be headed to Haiti for a completely new mission experience. He will join his Father and several others as they team up to provide dental relief to those in need. The needs are great and the hours of safety and light will be few so we are praying fervently that God gives them the strength, wisdom and courage to do any and all they can to help as many as they can with pain relief.

Just imagine a toothache that will not relent. Imagine a rotten area of your mouth that feels so foul and gives you shooting pain when you try to chew whatever food you have. Imagine a broken smile or an infection that continues to persist.  Some of the infections might even go systemic and cause further health problems. The needs in Haiti are many and last year Bob’s Father and step mother embarked on a journey to Haiti to partner with the wonderful Mallery and Frentz  Neptune who founded Haiti Foundation Against Poverty.  Find out more about what Mallery has been called to in Haiti and learn about how she and her Haitian husband work to provide love and protection for the Haitian people, especially children. Mallery and our family started to cris cross paths a couple of years ago as the Mallery’s have a close friend who is of course from Ethiopia and the Neptunes have several supporters right here in Grand Rapids as she graduated Cornerstone University. We have felt a pull toward Haiti for sometime and especially as we have become aware of how long children are waiting to be adopted and how much despair and hardship the Haitian people continue to endure.

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Bob is a third generation dentist who will be teaming up with his second generation dentist and Father to meet whatever dental needs they can with the time they are granted. They will focus specifically on the orphanage and school run by the Neptune’s and also conduct community outreach. It is an opportunity of a lifetime for them to work together, giving of themselves and the skills they have honed throughout their careers.

I can tell you that all of this, the connections, our extended family being lead and the timing are certainly not our own. In fact for many months we have been struggling with a very anxious child who for most of his life has been more than average in the challenging department at home. He is oppositional, needs constant attention and often argumentative as a result of his own lack of developed coping skills. Over the past few months these daily battles have brought us to our knees. We are breaking with this child some days and fearful of what is to come if we cannot find the proper help he needs. It’s often gut wrenching and not what you planned as the relationship and closeness you hope for with your child. Again God’s timing is never our own. but we are trusting the calling. We know that Haiti is where Bob needs to be for one weeks time and frankly we all  hope that we are clearly reminded that even the harshest family challenges do not involve life or death.  We are not faced with the need to sell our daughter to feed our other remaining children and we do not face the threat of disease and the horrors of abduction, rape, starvation and loss that many in Haiti are facing every moment of every day. In fact we have specialists to call, therapists who guide us, a church family to confide in, cell phones that allow us to stay connected to loved ones and the web to help us search for the latest and greatest methods of parenting and supporting our son.  So you see God’s timing is one of perfection and mercy and He will allow Bob to be changed and rearranged in exactly the way He sees fit so as to place him back in our home to deal with the hardships we face right here each and every day.

One could argue I have said too much and if that is the case then so be it but I am striving ( and believe me sometimes even struggling)  to accept the timing of all of this in our lives. My trips to Ethiopia to lead others to Chapa and various ministry partners doing great works always happens in mid February. Months ago we thought the trip to Haiti meant I should not bring a team to Chapa and Ethiopia this year but again the super miracle happened and God showed us a way. My husband so deserves this journey to Haiti to learn what it is he is supposed to learn and to give of himself like he does each and every day right here in his dental office and also at home with five kiddos. He needs to work hard, to worship with the Haitian people, to be challenged both mentally and physically in different ways. He needs to give back and to change a life, maybe removing pain or fear even if the outcome is not perfect and the fix is fleeting. He needs to minister to others with his quiet example of strength, humility and wisdom.  Please join usin prayer asking for Bob and his entire team to be the hands and the feet while on the ground in Haiti. Stay tuned as I share more of their journey right here….