Monday, July 15, 2013

7 years old- 3.5 years a family

It is only fitting that we honor Jonathan Futing Shafer today. You can find Jonathan's story here

Today Jonathan turns 7!  We met Jonathan for the first time on November 9, 2009

I just watched this video that Jeremy created while we were in China.  Oh my, I cried again watching it - click here to see it 

Jonathan would be a perfect candidate for the nature vs nurture debate.  So much of his personality is like the other kids but then there are those moments where genes definitely dominate.
 Today we celebrate with breakfast in bed and a picnic dinner!
Happy 7th Birthday, Jonathan!  It is a privilege to be your Mom.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Complacent or Crazy

A lot of times we (including myself) can become complacent in our lives. So the question is how do we not fall into the trap of complacency? I believe part of the answer lies not only in following God's directions for our lives and fulfilling His commands but also in accepting some challenges that come across our paths especially ones that might just seem a little crazy.

Over the past 2 years, Jeremy, Amanda and more recently Tyler have taken to training for and running in various 5k races. The training has been a time for them to get one on one time with dad, do something that they enjoy, and be active. My role has been to basically take care of the other kids so training could occur and watch the littles during race day. As I recently told both Jeremy and my sister, I am an excellent cheerleader and organizer- not so much into actively participating.

God had another plan. I am not exactly sure how, but in some crazy twist of events, I registered to participate in the Mudderella.

Description from website- “Mudderella events are world class, 5-7 mile long obstacle courses designed by women. With 12 - 15 obstacles, these courses will test your stamina and willpower.”

Keeping in mind, I am out of shape, have never ran and really dislike exercise- I have questioned why I am participating in this event. The thing is, I am not in this alone. I am part of Team Determination. A group composed of 9 people so far- 7 women, 2 men.

 I can't speak for my teammates but I am going to make an observation. There seems to be a theme among our team and that is that most if not all have chosen not to be complacent in their lives. They have chosen to challenge themselves and live lives that many would consider hard and even crazy.

 I just want to highlight one team member. She and her family are living what many would consider a crazy life. They have committed themselves to serving in Kennsington in Philadelphia. Kennsington would not be considered a safe neighborhood. It is considered the inner city. A very poor neighborhood filled with violence. This teammate volunteers there with neighborhood kids at least two times a week. She is there numerous other times participating in the local church. They don't just sweep into the community to help, but rather they have made themselves members of the community building relationships and friendships. Their life is anything but complacent. They are an example to me of being the hands and feet of Jesus to the least of these.

 Team Determination is made up of women and men who have chosen that they want to push themselves. They want to do something crazy and get in shape in the process. The majority on our team would not consider themselves athletic. Most of us are not in the best of shape, but that doesn't matter because we know we can do this. We know with hard work we can push ourselves to the limit and accomplish what look like impossible obstacles.

Right now as a family we are in a holding pattern. Praying and waiting for God to reveal what our next step should be as a family. God is moving and some things are beginning to take shape, but it would also be easy to fall into a state of complacency and not move out of it. That would be a sin. So what do we do during this waiting period? We will be praying for God's direction, we will be involved in some local ministry opportunities, and for me personally I will be participating in the Mudderella. I will be pushing myself farther physically and mentally then I ever have before. I will be training with an awesome team. I believe completing this event will help prepare me for what God has next. If we are going to do hard for God, we not only need to be prepared spiritually and mentally but we also need to be prepared physically and so this week I began my Mudderella boot camp!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Back from Uganda (at last, a blog post!)

I am back. I have been back from Uganda for over a week now. I have pictures.  I have notes -- stuff that I jotted down in stolen moments. You'd think that, from those things, I would have been able to cobble together a blog post by now.  Maybe a couple. 

I have tried. So far, every draft I have written sounds pretentious and/or dumb. I was in Uganda for ten days. Ten. That's  not long enough to really understand much about a country or a people or .... anything.  I only started to learn some things about Uganda, and there were some surprising things I learned about myself too.

But before I write about any of that maybe I should just sum up the trip. In ten days my team visited four different orphanages. Each one was different and we fulfilled different roles in each. I went with a great team of people put together by International Voice of the Orphan ( IVO). You can learn more about IVO on their web site

My team worked and played at a home called "Praises House". We made multiple visits to a place called Sanyu Babies Home. We spent another day in an orphanage called "Redeemer House", and our last days of service were on the campus of "A Perfect Injustice". 

We also spent a day in one of the slums of Kampala. If I write about anything at all, that is what I need to write about. 

That was, for me, both the best and the worst day. It was the most unsettling, and the most rewarding. It is morning time, now, here in Philadelphia, PA. That means that it is late afternoon / early evening in the slum we visited. There, in that slum, there are boys no older than my Tyler and my Jordan who are on their own. Some are run-aways. Many have been abandoned by their families. 

Tonight they will huddle together in teams.  These teams are formed not for a sport or a game, but for self defense. I cannot imaging what the evening holds in store for them. They are on their own. It makes me want to cry and shout just thinking about it. They are still there, I am here. I am safe.  They are not. 

On the day we visited the slum one of the first things we saw was the ditch that runs around the slum area. It is used for bathing, and washing clothes. 

We met the boys in a ramshackle structure known only to me as "the church". There we played games with the boys. We had a limbo contest!

Elyse and Keith from our team led a lesson about the body and the mind, and how the body needs a healthy mind to control it. 

We had relay races. 

We played soccer.

We had a time of testimony and prayer. Christy was the youngest member of our team. She was able to share how her father lost his life, serving as a missionary in Uganda. she was able to share how God had strengthened her in her time of loss. 

Mike was able to share about how he, at a young age,  lost his mother to cancer.  He too was able to share how God had strengthened him.

Dwight explained Christ's gift of salvation. Many boys raised their hands to accept that gift. 

And, yes, we ate. The boys were fed: beans, posho, and a pot-sticker/dumpling.

I wondered how long it had been since some of them ate. Had it been a day?  Two days? Three?  This place called "the church" only permits feeding teams to come 3 times a week. I'm not sure why. None of us mzungu (foreign traveller) people know why. But three is much better than zero. 

The day in the slums was the best and the worst. It was hard to see boys living without moms and dads. It is harder still to think that most are still there, right where we left them. (Some do get rescued... more about that another time.)

These boys already know too much about pain and loss.  Yet, here is the amazing thing: when their youth leader says "God is good" these boys respond with "All the time".  And when the youth leader says "And all the time" they will say "God is good" ... With smiles!

So I began to learn a few things that day. I saw that God really does offer hope in dark circumstances. I observed spiritual wealth in a place that was materially poor.  And my small problems were put into proper context (like, a context about the size of a matchbox). 

Is there more to say about this? Absolutely. I will have to write more later. 

But for now I will conclude with this. It was worth it. It was worth it to be with those boys for a day. It was worth it to be of service if only for a short while.  All the other places we visited were worth our time and effort too. It was worth it, and I'd go back in heart beat.