The Step off of the Platform

I went zip lining last week. For someone who has a fear of heights when I’m not comfortably contained in some sort of vehicle, zip lining was a good idea back when I thought about it with both feet on the ground. As we drove up the mountain in a former Dutch army truck that teetered on the edge of said mountain? Less of a good idea.

Actually, it was a terrifying idea.

I went anyway because everyone else went. Yes, while it didn’t involve a bridge, I “jumped” because my friends “jumped.” Also, there weren’t any refunds. So. There.

The zip line team put harnesses and safety equipment on our team and hooked us to the safety line before the first line. I saw my friends all step off the platform like it was nothing while I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest in 20 degree weather. I couldn’t decide whether to cry or embarrass myself by vomiting. Honest to goodness.

Then it was my turn.

Marisol hooked both carabiners to the cable and then I had to step off the platform, which should have been easier, but both of my feet refused to leave the platform.

Although in my head I knew I was wearing a helmet, a harness with redundant carabiners, hooked to a cable that would hold up to 6000 lbs, and I had seen a good portion of my team do the first line, as my friend Heather pointed out, you don’t feel the tension of the equipment working until you are pushed take a step off the platform.

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Don’t be fooled by my smile – I was terrified!

Much like like my life.

God puts these crazy steps in front of me. And I do everything I can to keep both feet where I feel safe. I make alternative plans. I offer other ideas to God, as if I could remotely control the events of my life. Even when I know I can’t move forward, that I can’t get off the mountain until I let go of the platform, I will try to make another way.

But platforms aren’t meant to be permanent living spaces. They are places for jumping off.

It’s been one of those themes that I’ve seen in my life over the past three and a half years: the audacity, the recklessness of faith. It challenges our commitment to this God who calls us to live a fuller, bigger life…if we’re willing to let go of our feeling of control. I remember the prayer that day walking my dog – Lord, what more can I do for You? What more can I give You? Apparently, it is my wholehearted acceptance of His will, even when it feels reckless or audacious.

We are in a transition season because we have another opportunity to trust the tension in the rope after we step off the platform. I have run out of justifications, excuses, and alternatives for God. I wrote the email that finally closed the door on my way.

There’s no going back if we want to enjoy the ride, if we want to move forward. We have to step off of the platform and trust…

I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, then you grow wings. – William Sloan Coffin

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The view of Agua (Antigua, Guatemala, 2013)

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“We died before we came here”

I read this story the other day:

When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” To that, Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”

And now I’m asking myself, How do I live that way? How do I live with such abandon that the cost doesn’t matter? How can I make that translate to my every day life? I don’t think God has called us to live in another country, but I want that sort of perspective where God has planted me here.

But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

The Apostle Paul
(Acts 20:24)

James 1:27 and the Box

Living James 1:27 out has turned my world upside-down. Even before we adopted, James 1:27 threatened my normal American life. It wasn’t convenient to give up vacation and time with my husband to spend two weeks in Africa visiting and caring for orphans. My friends and family thought I had lost my mind to voluntarily go to Africa. It wasn’t easy to see abject poverty and not be able to change the way the world works so these kids will have a chance. It wasn’t fun to know that many of these children will never have a family. It was intimidating to think about what James 1:27 (or any of the other verses about caring for the widows and orphans) could mean to my nice, clean idea of my faith.

 

But that’s when I engaged my faith in a way that I think made me really “get it.” That’s when I really saw Jesus – in the eyes of beautiful children who happen to be fatherless. That’s when I felt His heartbeat. That’s when I learned that caring for orphans and vulnerable children with a $35 check each month wasn’t enough. That’s when I learned the power of holding hands and giving hugs to children who will not get them otherwise. That’s when faith wasn’t about going to church every week and meeting my “obligations,” but really living the eternal life that Christ died for (because, yes, you don’t have to wait for that to begin when you die…).

And adoption? Adoption has taken my faith to a whole other level. I now see God as a loving Father. I now know mercy and grace in a way I never would have experienced it before. I now look in my son’s dark eyes and see a future and a hope, not fear. I hold my son and know what an amazing miracle was done in his little heart and body for him to be here with us. I believe with all my heart that he would have died without a family who prayed for him for the eight months we waited for him.

So when I hear of someone tell people of his faith tradition not to adopt, to deny what I feel is a key part of our scriptural mandate(yeah, I don’t think it’s an optional part of our faith tradition) to care for the widows and orphans up close and personal and, for some of us, to adopt them to be part of our families, I am angry that people think that this little person represents my faith. I want that person to know that I pity his small version of Jesus. I think that sort of view of Christ cuts out 99% of the Gospels I read. I pity him for not wanting families to be representative of the family of God. I am annoyed at his underlying racism. And I am sad for him because he simply doesn’t “get it.” I am sad that God’s grace is limited to what is convenient to him. His version of God is confined to a nice neat American box.

I don’t think God lives in that box, Mr. Robertson.

(Thanks to my friend Kelly for sharing this video with me!)

Hunger

Like many Americans, I really thought I knew what hunger felt like. I thought I understood that sort of uncomfortable belly and grouchy feeling that you get when you’ve waited too long to eat. I’ve fasted or had to go without eating for a day…or so. I thought I knew it well enough.

That was until I heard my son’s hungry cry for the first time. I know what a hungry baby sounds like. This cry…this cry was so much more intense than that. And this is where words fail me. It was the sort of cry that makes you wish that no one ever has to be hungry ever. I can imagine that the time my son spent in an orphanage was a time when food wasn’t guaranteed or predictable. Formula is expensive in Africa. And orphanages are rarely adequately funded…if funded at all. Although I knew he had access to all the formula he needed, he did not. It was a horrible feeling, as a mother, to hear my son cry so loudly and know that his experiences taught him that food is not always available when he needed. (I did learn to make bottles in record time with a cry like that to motivate me!)

Nearly two months home and Ephrem is doing much better about food. He can now sign when he’s hungry (or at least sign back that he’s hungry :-)) and his cry has gotten to a more annoyed-that-this-is-taken-so-long cry rather than the will-I-ever-eat-again cry. He eats very regularly to comfort him that food is predictable and available.

This is why we believe and support Brighton Their World. If you’ve never heard of this small non-profit based out of Atlanta, you need to read their story here and learn what they’re doing here. They understand that nutrition starts at infancy and that no child should be hungry. Ever. They aren’t looking to solve child hunger, but they are making a big impact where God has led them. God is using them to create beauty from ashes.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post or sharing this part of our story, today.

Today, I’m writing to ask you for $7. I’m asking you for $7 to make a difference for one child.

Brighton Their World launched a campaign to provide meals for 500 kids in three orphanages in Ethiopia for the Ethiopia New Year. These kids get to eat three nutritious meals a year (New Year, Christmas and Easter). Yup, you read that right, A YEAR. Brighton Their World is looking to partner with these three orphanages to ensure that they can feed the kids for one of those meals. The cost to feed these kiddos an awesome, nutritious meal? $7 per child. Yup, you could skip a fancy Starbucks drink and have most of the money it will cost to feed just one child.

It’s not going to solve hunger. It’s not going to change the way the world works.

But it’s going to make sure these 500 kids in Ethiopia eat at least one nutritious meal in September.

We think this is something to be a part of and want to invite you to be a part, too.

http://www.brightontheirworld.org/FeedEm/

A new world

My world used to be so neat and clean. It used to consist of my husband, our little dog, and me. We had a nice little group of friends. We went to church, but didn’t do anything crazy with our faith. We went on vacation and watched TV shows regularly. We had a good little life.

Then, in the summer of 2010, we went to IDEAfarm.

And God turned my nice, clean, neat little world upside-down. Now I navigate this upside-down world as if this is where I really belonged all along.

I’ve been pondering what IDEAfarm really has meant to me over the last few weeks. It’s hard to express in words. But here’s my humble attempt.

I was at an impasse in my faith. I was tired of doing the Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night church thing without it really meaning something. I felt like my life was just on auto-pilot.

And somehow God led us to attend IDEAfarm in the summer of 2010. And, honestly, my life hasn’t been the same. I went for Evan, but it was as if God breathed new life into me through the retreat. It was at Lake Jackson, GA, at this retreat, with 10-ish other crazy passionate people that I discovered what God had purposed for my life (living Isaiah 1:17). Who I was. What my talents and gifts are. How I communicate. How I best do things. And then, how to take all of that and go forward with this dream to serve orphans throughout the world. Before that weekend, I didn’t even know that half of that stuff was inside my heart. Now, I can’t imagine life without the constant thought of the fatherless in my head, or without looking at my son’s beautiful dark eyes.

Since IDEAfarm, I’ve gone on two mission trips to Africa, visiting four countries in Africa (Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya). I’ve helped coordinate a mission trip with my church. We’ve adopted. Simply, my perfect, nice, neat world no longer exists. Life is messy and beautiful.

And I know this didn’t just happen to me. I can tell you about so many others who have experienced this same upside feeling to protect the fatherless, or fight for social justice for the “nameless,” or serve in Haiti. We have friends whose dream is to see the end of human trafficking. We have friends who serve God through creative arts. Their lives are all messy and beautiful.

So here’s the point I’m trying to make, if you are a college-aged person out there, if God has placed dreams in your heart, if you feel like your life needs to mean something, you must apply for IDEAfarm. Maybe God isn’t calling you to serve orphans or fight human trafficking, but whatever is in your heart, whatever passion keeps you awake at night or helps you get up in the morning, God will take that and make it explode. You will never be the same.

Here’s an added bonus for all you college students, aside from gas/airfare to get to Atlanta, GA, it’s free. FREE. It’s literally the best investment you can make over your summer. So, go, apply, and see what God will do to your world.

The post I’ve waited to write

Here we are. A year and a few months after we started our adoption journey (and one  year after we officially started fundraising…), and we have a crazy announcement.

We started with a “little” seed of $1,000 (this is relative folks).

And now?

We are 100% funded for our adoption.

Costs are covered.

100%

Just in time for the Shows family to become a Party of Three.

Thank you EVERYONE who gave out of kindness. Who gave sacrificially. Who gave not knowing us personally. Who gave your loose change or $4,000, and everything in-between. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ to us. Thank you for caring for an orphan-no-more. As Evan has said, even though we cannot adequately thank you doesn’t mean we won’t try.

When we step out in faith, we don’t always how it’s going to work out. Evan and I felt so strongly to start our family through adoption – despite not having all the money in the bank, despite not having everything “perfect” – and everything has fallen into place, especially the funding. I remember looking at the adoption costs in fear. Honestly, it was the most intimidating part of the process. Yet, God continues to be faithful to our family.

And He was faithful through you.

For anyone who is in a place where they need faith for whatever they feel God is calling them to do, I hope our family is a testimony. Just ask for faith. Take that step. It will be reckless. It will be crazy. You will feel like a fool.

But I assure you, if you ask for faith, God will provide. It might not be as you expect. It might not be easy. The journey may break you in more ways that you can even know. But God will grow you in your faith.

So jump.

And watch your wings grow.

One for the widow. One for the orphan

To be honest, I thought I knew what James 1:27 meant. I really did. I visited orphans in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya. I mean, I thought I got it.

But then April 28 came. April 28 was our Both Hands project. We had a team of 35 volunteers to help us serve a local widow and fundraise for our adoption. We spent 7 hours working on a yard desperately in need of some TLC and painting a bedroom for a very special woman, still trying to reorient her life after losing her husband of 52 years. On April 28, suddenly, I really “got it.”

Because James 1:27 is about both the widow and the orphan. God’s heart is right there. He is with them, even when the rest of the world has forgotten the widow and the orphan.

But April 28? April 28 was a day that we celebrated and remembered two individuals to whom James 1:27 belongs – Joyce Blizzard and our son.

Even as we drove home, tears filled my eyes. This whole adoption journey has been incredible. Simply amazing. But no part of our son’s story has been quite as beautiful. We get to tell him about this very special woman and 35 amazing volunteers who came together for Both Hands – one for the widow, one for the orphan.

So for those of you who have followed along our adoption journey, we want to share this day with you. Check out the video about our project. Thanks for your support as we live out James 1:27. We hope you will be inspired to make a difference in whatever corner of the world you reside.

 

If you would like to sponsor this project and help us bring our son home, you can find more information about how to donate here: http://bothhandsfoundation.org/evan-and-carla-shows.aspx.

Impact Zambia

Every now and then I get the chance to share about something exciting that’s happening with Lifesong for Orphans. Check out the post below for an AMAZING opportunity to impact Zambia. There are only a few days left to join  – Check it out!

 Join us to IMPACT lives in Zambia...   

“Hi.  My name is Richard.  I am in grade 7.  I stay with my sister, Josephine.  I have three brothers and two sisters.  My other sister attends Lifesong and is in grade 5.  Her name is Emelia.  My mother stays in a village far away.  My father died in 2006.  Thank you for supporting me and may God bless you and add more days to your life.  My favorite subject is art.”

Richard is just ONE of the 253 students that we are blessed to serve at Lifesong Zambia.  He is also one of the students that will be moving on to grade 8 this fall.

Without the construction of new classrooms, Richard may join the 95% of Zambian children that are not able to attend High School.

Will you join us in impacting the lives of children like Richard?

To add to the excitement–thanks to a generous donor, all donations will be matched up to $225,000!!

To join the Impact Zambia 100 team, email info@lifesongfororphans.org!

Just Feed One

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”

(Mother Theresa)

Photo courtesy of L. Miles, 2012

This quote haunts me. In all reality, you (as one individual) can’t fix the orphan crisis. Or hunger in the world. You can’t solve global poverty for everyone. Or provide a family for every child. So often we use this logic to excuse ourselves from doing anything. As if an inability to solve problems that have plagued the world since sin destroyed Eden means that we should refrain from trying to do something at all. But we can make a difference for at least one person.

We can hug one child who feels like they have been forgotten.

We can visit, come home, and advocate for the vulnerable.

You can sponsor a child to make sure they have access to food, education, and health care.

You can provide formula to an infant, who may otherwise become malnourished in a developing country.

You can adopt one (or two, or three, or more) children to be part of your family.

We do not have an excuse to do nothing because we cannot do everything.

 

So, what are you doing to “feed one”?

 

His Heart for Children

A little one from Haven of Hope in Nakuru, Kenya

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:13-14)

I have never been so convinced of God’s heart for orphans and children as I have through this adoption. He sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68), even when there doesn’t appear to be a way. If we would just open our hearts, God can use us as part of His work.

For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the LORD will take me up. (Psalm 27:10)