Friday, November 27, 2009

Culture Shock

Lots of people talk about how when they re-enter their country of origin after a period of time away, they experience culture shock all over again. It's true.

Let me tell you my experience in the past couple of days...



Chic-Fil-A...twice in one day! ;)


The thickest toilet paper you've ever felt. (i'm trying to remember to put it in the toilet instead of the trash)

Paper plates that don't crumple when you put something on them.

Such diversity in the way people look and dress. (i'm trying not to stare)

Napkins that actually absorb and wipe instead of just smear the food over your face (big ole smile on my face right now about my beloved Brazilian wax napkins).


Hot water at the sink.

A dryer.

A comfortable mattress.

Warm, cozy houses.

A bathtub!!!!!!!!!

Christmas music everywhere you go.



The hussle and bussle of Christmas time (that doesn't happen in Brazil).

Options, options, options...for anything and everything you could possibly ever want.

And of course...FAMILY!!

We had a day full of family and fun and the best foods ever yesterday at a gorgeous cozy house decked out in holiday cheer that sits right on the ocean.

Not that I don't miss my Brazilian family and friends...and some of the things of Brazil (I love you all there!)...

But, let me just tell you...

This is the best kind of culture shock there is!!!! I am LOVING (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) this culture shock. And, I have almost 8 months more of it to glory in! And glory I will.

O.K., here I to glory!! (in Black Friday to be specific)

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


A while back, some little friends of ours were talking to Grady and Hadley about a sleepover. The kids were actually coming up with lots of ideas, not just the sleepover. ;) After that, the adults really did make some plans...going out for pizza together. Grady then started calling it our 'pizzaover.'

So, yeah...Thanksgiving has somehow become 'Thanksover.' :) So cute. And hey...whatever.

But, we will be there in the land of pilgrims and turkeys this year.

Yep, tomorrow morning we leave our house. For 8 months.

Right now, I'm not liking the idea. Makes me sad. I didn't get to say goodbye to some of my neighbors and friends. And it's just hard to put your life on hold in one area to go live it up in the next area. Such a weird life.

Not that I don't want to go to the United States. But, I am definitely up for going more often for a shorter amount of time. I'm all for 4 months every year and a half. Can I get an 'Amen!'? Seriously, we may have to work something out.

So, even though it's hard to make the break from this life, I am so excited to experience some America again in about a day and a half (we arrive around noon on Tuesday). I mean, once I get my mouth on some bagels or doughnuts or Starbuck's or Mexican food...once I see family and friends and hear English non-stop...once I see orderly parking lots and huge one-stop-shopping stores (Target...hold on...I'm coming for you), once we're all sitting with Mama at a Saline Bobcats basketball game watching my little brother play (and Daddy coach)...when I'm sitting watching my little brother graduate high school...I'm sure my mixed emotions will ease (hmm, they already have just thinking about those last two). But, transitioning is just...interesting. Hard, fun, exciting...hard. excited about spending the holidays there. And introducing my kids to so many things that they've never even experienced. And us all re-experiencing some things that we haven't had/done in a while.

So...pray for us. Pray that we get everything done and situated tonight...leaving your house for 8 months takes a lot out of you planning-wise. Pray for safe travel. And Grady came out a few minutes ago saying that he was excited to go to the United States, but he was "a lil bit scared." I asked him what about and he said getting lost in the airport. ;) So, pray that nothing gets lost...luggage, backpacks/strollers, and...people. ;) (seriously) Pray for health as we go. Cass has a little cold already, so pray that that doesn't bother her and that she recovers quickly (like right now). ;) Pray for just smooth sailing...with connections, our attitudes (the kids and me...we know Joel is perfect), for wisdom in every situation that arises, etc.

We have a morning flight out to Sao Paulo in the morning around 10. But then...ugh...we have a 12 hour (!!) layover in Sao Paulo. Yes, that's right. 12 hours. With 4 small children. Who wants to do that even if you're single and have tons of books and magazines and movies onhand?! :) So, we are possibly going to meet up with some friends of Joel's. Or go get a hotel room for the afternoon...our flight out of Sao Paulo leaves at around midnight. There's great potential for a fun little few hours there...just pray that it happens, because there is also great potential for the opposite in a situation like that. ;)

We head to Miami after that, then on to Boston to be with Joel's family for a few weeks. I'll keep you posted and let you know how our trip up was.

Until then, some of you got this in the form of an email. But, for those of you who didn't, I just wanted to share it with you too. Enjoy. (be sure to turn your volume on)

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook: Give Thanks
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Monday, November 16, 2009


I've referenced her before on this blog. She is, in one word, breathtaking. She does happen to be beautiful physically, but that's not what I'm talking about. It is just incredibly breathtaking all that she is doing for others, the sacrifices she has made in order to follow God's plan for her life, the example of running after God and His Will for your life that she is for us. Breathtaking.

Here in November, National Adoption Month, I wanted to share with you her story. God called her very specifically and clearly. The thing is though, He does that with all of us. She just happened to be listening. And willing to obey at all costs.

Here is Katie's story, in her own words (pictures added my me):

It is my 16th Birthday and I am eating sushi at my favorite restaurant with my parents when I tell them that I would like to explore the possibility of taking a year in between high school and college to do mission work. This is unheard of in my family and they say they are not sure and will think about it. I am nervous, but somehow I know it is right. He changes their hearts.

I have just turned 18 and find an orphanage online. I beg my parents to let me visit over break, just three weeks. A month later I am on a plane. I am so excited. I am so scared of being, but I know He is going with me. I fall in love.

I graduate high school having made the commitment to teach Kindergarten for a year at a school in The Middle of Nowhere, Uganda. In August I get on the plane. I’m apprehensive and I cry most of the way because I miss my Mommy and my boyfriend. I am eager, but so uncertain. I trust Him. I teach 138 children how to speak English and to love Jesus.

It is October and I am just not sure I can do it anymore. I live in the smallest room I have ever seen in the back of a pastor’s house. I am more uncomfortable than I had bargained for. No one understands, not people here, not people at home. I am tired. But I am prideful and I am not going to quit. I don’t like this. But I know He has a plan. I learn, I grow, He is there.

It is December and God has spoken very clearly about opening a ministry that sponsors 40 of the orphaned children in the village where I am working. This involves moving into a different house, ALONE. It is big and I cannot imagine how God will fill it up. I am lonely and I am anxious. But I am still trusting. He fills the house, and we now have 400 children sponsored.

It is January and I am looking at a little girl, crushed under a brick wall with no one to care for her or her younger siblings. I offer to take the three home with me until we find them a better placement. I am not really sure what to do with them, but I know they are God’s children. They stay.

It is three days later and the littlest looks at me and calls me mommy. My heart might break in two. Something clicks. I am even more scared than I was the day I stepped on that plane, but I KNOW. Today I have 13.

I have to deliver a baby, give a boy stitches, pull a tooth, give and injection. I am petrified. But no one will do it if I do not. He is present, He holds my hand, they are all fine.

It is August and I must get on a plane back to America to go to college, as I have promised my father. I do not remember how to be a teenager or what it is to be normal Brentwood, Tennessee. I will have to leave my babies. I will have to make new friends. I am sad and I am terrified. He wraps His arms around me. He puts just the right people in just the right places, and they help me and they make me feel at home.

First semester is over and He speaks clearly to me that I cannot serve two masters. “Go HOME,” He says, “and stay.” I am uncertain, but I want to be obedient. He squeezes tighter. I am thankful.

I have to look at my loving parents who have given me everything and tell them that I will not go to college right now, because I feel God wants me to be in Uganda. I know how disappointed and how angry they will be. I am more scared than I was when I got on the plane and more scared than I was when I took my first children. But I know that this IS the Plan. They love me anyway.

It is February and my daughter’s biological father comes to take her away. My heart breaks in half, and I am not sure I will ever be able to get out of my bed again, let alone foster another child. I am more than devastated, but I want what is best for her, what He wants for her. She comes back and her biological father learns about Jesus.

It is March and a lame little girl is brought to my gate. She is undoubtedly mine, but I am still anxious. What if I can’t do it? I don’t know what to do with a special needs child, especially as my 13th child. I am criticized and ridiculed. I wonder. I trust and praise God for her sweet little life. She starts to walk.

I find myself in a village full of starving people that for some reason seem to want to kill me. God says to serve them anyway. I am not sure how it is going to work, or if it is safe. I can’t figure it out, but I know He can. 1,200 Karamajongs, the poorest of Uganda’s poor, are now served hot meals daily.

We keep taking in more children until there are 400 in our program. There is no way we will raise enough funds, but by now I have stopped worrying. He has always provided. Blessings rain from the sky, and all 400 children go to school.

I am 20 years old and have 13 children and 400 more who all depend on me for their care. Who are all learning to love Jesus and be responsible adults and looking up to me. The reality of it all can be a bit overwhelming at times. However, it is always pure joy. There is a common misconception that I am courageous. I will be the first to tell you that this is not actually true. Most of the time, I am not brave. I just believe in a God who will use me even though I am not. Most mornings, before I even get out of bed I am overwhelmed with His goodness, with His plan for my life; I stand in awe of the fact that He could entrust me with so much. Most days, I don’t have much of a plan. I don’t always know where this is going. I can’t see the end of the road, but here is the great part: Courage is not about knowing the path. It is about taking the first step. It is about Peter, getting out of the boat. I do not know my five year plan; even tomorrow will probably not go as I have planned. I am thrilled and I am terrified, in a good way. So some call it courage, some call it foolish, I call it Faith. I choose to get out of the boat. To take the next step. Sometimes I walk straight into His arms. More often, I get scared and look down and stumble. Sometimes I almost completely drown. And through it all, He never lets go of my hand.

The picture at the very top is of Katie and her 13 children.

The faith of a child. Katie has it. She listens to hear instructions from her Father and then she obeys them. Period.

Maybe she doesn't have any real ties to a life back in the states anyway...makes it easier for her. Guess again. She talked about that very thing today on her blog (search for her Nov. 16th post). She very definitely still has real ties and very good 'reasons' for telling God no, that it's too much that He's asking of her, that she just can't do it anymore. But, she doesn't.

Oh, but God has called Katie to something's not the norm.

That is a lie of the enemy that we Americans love to buy into. Why? Because we want to believe what is comfortable. Why does satan love that we believe that lie? Because if we believe that a call like Katie's call is not the norm, we will be so very unlikely to really pay attention when God speaks to us asking us to do something uncomfortable...something, that is in fact, extreme.

What if we all lived like a call like that was the norm. What if we all lived sitting on the edge of our seats for a call like that? What if we lived in such a way that if we didn't get an 'extreme' call like that, we'd think something was wrong? You know, if we all lived like that, then it wouldn't seem like such a sacrifice when we were called to extreme things, now would it? Everybody would be doing it!

Are you seeking an extreme call on your life? Lots of times, if we aren't seeking, then we aren't expectantly and actively listening. And if we aren't expectantly and actively listening, then maybe we just aren't hearing our Father's voice. How can we follow what we do not hear?

Katie is such a 20-year old challenge to us, isn't she? And in her 'extreme' call (which again, let's renew our minds and start thinking of it as a 'normal' call from now on, why don't we), she has been asked to 'extremely' care for orphans.

Your extreme, normal call might primarily center around some other cause. But even so, ask God what your role is in caring for the children that nobody else is caring for. Maybe you aren't called to a remote village to adopt 13 children...but then again, maybe you are. You won't know the answer until you ask.

Ask expectantly and actively. Then listen. Then obey.

Get that extreme call on your life! Then be extreme in living it out!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Did you know that November is National Adoption Month? It is, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk about something that is really a God-breathed passion in my heart.

Did you know that there are over 140 million orphans worldwide? That's alot. Within the United States there are over 500,000 children in foster care. Of those 500,000 children, over 120,000 are able and waiting to be adopted. Sadly, only around 50,000 children, or 18% of those waiting in foster care, are adopted each year. On average, children in foster care wait over 2 years to be adopted. Now, believe me, I think that is way better than the condition of most other orphans in the rest of the world. But, still it is an indictment. Are we, as a church, really caring for the orphans?

What happens to the non-American orphans (although some of this applies to American orphans too...but, I'm sure we can all agree that the American orphans, although they definitely deserve a family too, are much more likely to live in better conditions even without being adopted)? I found these bullet points completely interesting. Please take the time to really read them. Well, as they grow:
*Orphans are 13 percent less likely to attend school than non-orphans.
*Only 10 percent of all the children orphaned because of AIDS have access to critical social services.
*Children — especially infants and young children — who live in orphanages, children’s villages, and other group institutions, generally suffer because they do not receive the emotional and psychological support they need.
*Children living in an orphanage environment experience significant delays in both physical and mental development compared to children living in a family environment.
*Children who lose their parents, especially in the developing world, often face years of economic hardship, lack of love and affection, little education, abuse and risk of HIV infection, malnutrition and illness, stigma, discrimination, and isolation.

When they become adults:
*Orphans have few means of supporting themselves and are often forced to work in commercial agriculture, as street vendors, in domestic service, and in the sex trade.
*70% of homeless mothers who were in the US Foster Care system as a child have at least one of their own children in foster care.
*70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes- 9 times the average (U.S. Dept of Justice, Sept 1988)
*Within two years of leaving a Russion orphanage-~15% of all orphans have committed suicide while another ~60% are involved in criminal activity (gangs, drugs, prostitution).

Each year, an estimated 20,000 young people in the U.S. foster-care system turn 18 and are turned away from further support and services. What happens to them?
54% Earn a high school diploma
2% Obtain a Bachelor's degree or higher
51% Are unemployed
30% Have no health insurance
25% Have been homeless
30% Are receiving public assistance

30 percent of all U.S. homeless adults have spent time in the foster care system.

Did you know that only 1/3 of Americans have ever even considered adopting, but no more than 2 percent of Americans have actually adopted? And of the ones that have considered it, I wonder how many of those only considered it because they weren't able to have children biologically. Another indictment in my mind. Did God say take care of the orphans if you can't have children biologically? That's not what it says, is it?

Adoption is no little thing. Neither is the need for it.

The time involved is big. The expenses involved can be big, depending on what kind of adoption you are planning. But the need...the lives of children who are desperate for a family...that trumps all the 'big' obstacles that our mere human minds can see. Don't let the natural, of this world obstacles deter you. The need to obey God is great...for your sake and for the sake of these children.

There are so many organizations these days that are helping with the obstacles that spring up. This video introduces you to one. The ABBA Fund.

I love this quote: "The Bible repeatedly makes it clear that caring for orphans is not an option for Christians. --Paul Pennington, Executive Director, Hope for Orphans (a ministry of FamilyLife)

Is everyone on the face of the earth supposed to adopt? I believe that many more of us who claim to be followers of Christ, who claim to want to do what He says, needs to explore the option. Don't be too caught up with yourselves. Don't look at your circumstances. Don't look at your age or your children's ages or your house or your income. Look outward. Look at those children. Meet needs. Open yourself up to God, be a willing vessel to do anything for God, including adoption. Just as with anything else in this life, if He calls you to do it, He will provide the way to do it.

God's command is to care for the orphans. What are YOU doing, right now, in a very practical way, to care for the orphans?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trying SO Hard

Caught Cass in some major determination the other day with her big brother's sock and shoe. So cute.

She had dropped the shoe with all her tussling around with it, so she got down to get it and then returned to her 'ring.'

She was doing some bigtime wrestling with that sock. And then she fell over.
Then she looked up at me and started cracking up. Hilarious. Love that fun-loving little girl that can laugh at herself.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Another fun couple of shots...

Back in 2007, my mom bought these outfits for Hadley and Eissa. We waited a little late with this most recent little photo op, but finally the other night put Eissa and Cass in them and took some pictures (before they couldn't fit into them anymore :) ). Too cute. Enjoy...

May 2007. Hadley (2 years 3 months) and Eissa (7 months).
November 2009. Eissa (3 years) and Cass (19 months)...yes, Cass is still able to wear some size 9 months clothes...and Eissa is in a size 18-month. ;)

Friday, November 06, 2009

19 Months

Just thought this was fun. Cass is 19 months old right now. So I thought I'd take a peek the other day at the others at this age and thought I'd share what I found.

I really didn't have many great pictures of Hadley at this age. Eissa was born when she was 19 months old...maybe that explains it. ;) Also, she is definitely the one that looks the most different, isn't she? Eissa and Cass resemble the most in these pictures (Grady pretty close in these though), but I'm telling you...we have a picture of Grady hanging on his door that looks just like Cass. It's pretty amazing. They are the 2 that look most alike I think.

The realization of being in a new phase just keeps coming. Grady was 13 months when Hadley was born, Hadley was 19 months when Eissa was born, and Eissa was 17 months when Cass was born. So, 19 months has been the longest we've gone before gaining a newborn. Here we are...19 newborn. ;) Fun and sad at the same time. Don't get me wrong...totally at peace and know this is what He has for us right now. But, it's just a little weird too, you know? It's so exciting, though...the different phases of life.

Anyhoo, enjoy the fun 19-month shots.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Eissa's Birthday Celebration - Part 3

To wrap up our birthday celebration for 3-year old Eissa, we headed to 2 more places. I'll just let the pictures and videos tell the story.

The kids expressing their excitement about their surprise for Eissa's 3rd birthday. Listen closely...Grady gasps just as the recording begins. The birthday girl was stuck in the back seat, but she was also very excited. ;)

Yes, the circus!

I've only been to a circus twice. Once when I was pretty little...don't remember much about it. But, I'm sure it was fairly nice...not sure of the name of the circus company that we saw, but probably a pretty big show. The 2nd time was when we were newly married and I decided to take at least a little bit of an advantage of living in many things to do there many shows and special events pass through there. So, the first thing we did was go to the circus...Ringling Bros. SOOO impressive! Non-stop action.

I have to say, though, that I LOVED this circus. It was so very well done, but also so very old-fashioned it seemed. The literal big tent (instead of a stadium), hay on the floor, everyone in the show doing multiple things (including walking around in the crowd selling things during the intermission)...I just loved it. I fully expected Dumbo himself to walk out with the elephants. ;) It was that kind of feel.

It's so interesting to think of the way of life for these circus performers. They live in run-down small RVs (think vintage tin-can type) and travel from city to city constantly. There were at least 2 small children in the show...I just wonder what their lives are like, how many families are involved, what the atmosphere is like, etc. So interesting to me. Anyway...

On with the pictures and videos to tell you the rest of the story. It was a really great day!

The circus started later than we were told. We were going to go to Cows (what the kids call McDonald's) after the circus, but decided just to switch the two, going to Cows first. So, here we are pulling up at Cows. Again, Eissa was in the back seat, but was just as excited as everyone else about her birthday treat. Well, except Cass who was obliviously exhausted.

Very excitedly talking about how we were eating at 'Cows.' ;)

I have no idea who these 'characters' are, but our kids loved their little cats/dogs that they got in their Happy Meal.
Cass infatuated with ketchup, as her brother and sisters before her.
And, as is typical (in our family anyway), she didn't want the french fry to eat...just to dip it in and then suck the ketchup off of it. Lovely.

Now back to the circus.
This bench was right in front of where we parked for the circus, so we had to get a picture. Cass wasn't feeling it! ;) But, she got her 2nd wind shortly after this and was good to go the rest of the night.
On our way...woohoo.
There it is!!
About to buy tickets.
About to go through the entrance, to the big tent.
The entrance to the big tent. LOVE Eissa here.

Waiting excitedly.
Under the big tent.
Waiting for the circus to start. I know the video is dark, but it's still cute and worth posting.
A little dancing before the circus began.

And the circus begins!

I just love it when they put their little hands on your leg like this. ;)
From my perspective. that.
Loving the show.
They were pretty quick with their transitions between acts, but Hadley wanted a little 2 second hair-rubbing at one point.
All muscle I tell you. I totally missed filming her do the really impressive stuff, but it was good.

Again, all muscle...and she did some really impressive things (way more than this)...I just didn't get it on camera.
This was pretty impressive. I just assumed that this was a father and son team (although I have no proof of that). SO strong though. And the boy couldn't have been any older than 10 years old. Very interesting life they must have.
The camels were only escorted through, but they had lots of dances and such like this. It was a really great show. Also, about the camels, every time we passed by on this street, we'd see the camels out roaming in the grass, eating. So, that was fun too...seeing them other than in the circus. ;)
This was their version of a Bellagio-type musical fountain (in Las Vegas), right there in the stage. I was impressed.
Hadley playing in a game onstage.

Look at that intensity! ;) Love it.
This girl is NOT shy. Oh my gosh...she cracks us up. The man asked for 3 girls and 3 boys. He was in the middle of picking them out of the crowd. Once some started going down, Hadley just took off. I think that maybe he'd picked one of the 2 girls he'd already picked and Hadley thought he was pointing at her. Anyway, I wish we'd gotten this on tape, but when she got down there and he was about to point out another girl, he counted the girls and you could see the wheels turning and his thoughts of 'where did she come from?' But, he went with it and there she was...playing the game. I don't think that she knew exactly what was going on. Have we ever even played musical chairs...I don't think so. She told me that she was trying to run as fast as she could. ;) But, add on to that someone screaming in a microphone and in a language that you aren't completely fluent in, and it can be confusing. I remember going on stage for different things growing up and not being able to understand the man/woman through the sound system at all...and that was in my first language (and only at the time) of English. :) Anyway, I so enjoy this little bold girl. Hilarious.
Did you see it? She was going for the chair and he yelled at her, stopping her dead in her tracks. ;) Poor thing. I wondered if she'd be upset. This video shows Hadley being escorted out of the spotlight. I was down there to meet her and she was far from upset. She was beaming. ;) Of course I was smiling and saying "that was awesome" when she met me. But, she just LOVES the spotlight, that kid. Even just a moment in it, no matter the circumstances...she beams. So, so funny!!
This was the dance that led up to the elephants coming in.
The elephants making their entrance.
Elephants' tricks.
I was impressed with this...3 motorcyles riding around in that sphere. But...look at the next video after you see this.
They added 3 more motorcycles to the of 6! I was impressed.
The bow.

Taken in front of the exciting bright lights of the circus. The birthday girl is officially worn out. ;)
Thank you, Portugal Circus. What a great way to end the day.

Happy Birthday again, Eissa! Love you, fun girl!