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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hello USCIS!

Oh my word. Wednesday of this week. I just have to share and I have to laugh because seriously, what else are you going to do... Once you hear about my day you'll understand...

It's funny because the night before this happened, I was reading my bloggy friend Allison's post and thinking about how funny it was... which you may want to check out after you hear this story.

Wednesday was our pre-assigned fingerprinting appointment at the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) office in Atlanta. I got up bright and early to pray and spend some time in my Bible, got my big girl off to school, fired off a few emails, did some homeschool with my middle child and even took a shower. Trust me, this is a VERY productive morning in my home. Especially the showering part.

I load the baby and my 4 year old up in the car with plenty of time to spare and we're off! I head to drop off Davis with a friend and then pick up Dan at his office for our appointment. Before we even get out of the neighborhood, I start not feeling so good. My mouth is dry, my stomach hurts, weird... I was fine 5 minutes ago. I call Dan at the office and ask him to bring down a bottled water from his office fridge when I come to pick him up.

I drop Davis off with my sweet friend Valerie and head to Dan's office, only about 5 minutes away. And my condition has taken a turn for the worse. By the time Dan gets downstairs to meet me, I am slumped over in the passenger seat of the car, half gagging, half dry heaving and I announce to Dan (as if he can't tell) that I think I'm sick.

Anyways, the two of us and the baby head to the appointment. We pull into the parking lot, I get out of the car before it's even stopped, walk about 3 feet and promptly throw up on the front lawn of this lovely government facility. Hello USCIS, Shelly Owens has arrived!

Dan and I look at each other, not sure what to do... I mean should we clean it up or something? We decide no... it's raining. That should take care of it. (Wow, nothing says classy like some Dan & Shelly Owens.) But should we go in if I'm this sick? Neither of us knows what to do... can we reschedule this appointment or will it delay our entire adoption process? We decide to risk it and go on in. I mean, what's a little puke between friends anyways?

By clenching my teeth shut and offering up lots of prayers, I manage to hold it all together while we check in with the receptionist and fill out our paperwork. Then we're ushered over for a nice, long wait in the fingerprinting area. The long wait really worked in my favor as it provided me with ample opportunities to visit and throw up in the USCIS public restrooms. Good times! I also think I really disturbed everyone around me. While I focused on not throwing up in the waiting room, I don't think I spoke one word to poor Dan or gave him one second of help with the baby -- who eventually grew tired of hanging around the USCIS office and started to fuss.

Finally, my number is called, I make it through the fingerprinting process without incident (although God bless the poor man who did my prints... I'm sure I smelled like a used airplane barf bag at this point) and we are dismissed.

Dan drops me off at home and takes the baby into the office with him. I'm sure you're surprised to hear that that lasted about 30 minutes and then they were back home for the day. Later in the afternoon, my big kids are dropped off by my dear friend Joy who also fed them lunch. I was a little confused on the whole transfer process... I left Davis with Valerie and left Madeline at the school and they ended up with Joy... oh well. I have awesome friends. And an awesome husband. And he has an awesome boss who lets him come home and manage the house while I'm sick in bed.

So we're all better and no one else seems to have come down with my mysterious illness. I almost wonder if it was a spiritual attack on our family and against our adoption... We came very close to walking away from that fingerprinting appointment. And for reasons I hope to share very, very soon (like, maybe on our next post) I am so glad we stuck it out. Puking or not.

Stay tuned! More details to come...
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Owl Guy

Dan likes this guy and some of his music. I'd actually never heard of him before yesterday...  I'm not very hip when it comes to the music scene. If I listen to music during the day, it usually ends up being my children's CD from last year's VBS or the Mother Goose lullabye CD.

In fact, I was out with a friend last week for a sans kids dinner and we drove 20 minutes and had nearly reached our destination before we realized we'd been listening to nursery rhymes on CD for the entire ride. But I digress...

Anyway as I was saying, Dan likes this Owl guy and sent me his blog post from yesterday. And music gal or not, I had to admit that Adam's post was awesome. Here's my favorite part:

"One thing is certain:

When He comes for His own, He will have no trouble recognizing me… because my banner will be clear."

Reading this I could not help but think of a convicting moment from the not too distant past in my own life...

It was almost exactly this time last year and I was sitting on the bleachers in a church gymnasium watching my 3 year son in his sports class. This was before the days of Baby Charlotte so I was just sitting alone and passing time by playing word games on my iphone and poking around on facebook.

For some reason or another, I looked up and starting glancing around the other people sitting on the bleachers. And I was so struck -- we were all literally doing the exact same thing. Practically every mom in the room was sitting alone on the bleachers, looking at an iphone or a blackberry and occasionally looking up to watch the boys' class.

And in that moment I felt the Lord whisper this question straight into my heart... "Shelly, if I were to walk into this gymnasium right now, is there anything, anything at all, that would distinguish you as My child?" And honestly, no. There was nothing to distinguish me. I pretty much looked and was behaving like everyone else in the room.

Now I know that Christ loves me. He accepts me as a daughter and invites me to call him "Abba." But shouldn't that alone mean that in any given circumstance I should be distinguishable from the rest of the world?

Galations 3:27 says "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." When you clothe yourself with anything, it is outward and obvious... typically our clothes are the first thing that a person sees or notices about us. As Christ's children who are clothed with Him, shouldn't that always be outward and obvious to others? Shouldn't we always look and act at least a little different from the rest of the world?
Sunday, October 24, 2010

Love and Apples

"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels but, didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing."
-- I Corin 13:1-3 (NLT)

Several weeks ago, I blew it with a dear friend of mine. In a nutshell, she needed me, I was busy and I simply wasn't there for her. I was consumed with my own problems and the craziness of my own life and I missed a great opportunity to minister to and love on a sweet friend.

I've repented of all this and shed buckets of tears over my response (lack of response) to my friend's need. It's humbling to come face to face with your own sin and selfishness. It's one thing to see those things and work to correct it in your children -- it's quite another to see it in yourself. And yet I'm thankful for this experience because it's been so eye opening and shown me so much about the depths of my heart.

Lately I think I've had complete tunnel vision for our ministry in Africa. I've become so passionate about the work of SixtyFeet and the children of Uganda and I am captivated by the beauty of adoption. I feel so privleged and blessed to work with those so near and dear to the Lord's heart and it's easy to let my whole life become consumed with this work.

But here's the thing -- as much as I love SixtyFeet, I never want to become so consumed by the work of this ministry that I start missing the point. And the point of all of it -- every email, every fundraiser, every mission trip, every second of work that goes into it all - is love.

The opportunities to simply love are all around me. Without question we are called to love, serve and defend the poor, the orphan, the widow and the prisoner. But we're also called to love in the plain ol' everyday situations -- our families, our neighbors and, yes Shelly, our friends. It's not either or. It's both. And God equips us for all of it. Just because I'm involved with an orphan ministry in Africa and engrossed in an international adoption does not excuse me from also loving the people around me.

So I'm working on it. As I said, I am thankful for this recent experience with my friend because it taught me so much. Earlier this week, I spent over an hour on my front porch talking with my refridgerator repair guy. I wasn't witnessing or praying with him or anything -- I honestly felt that the Lord just wanted me to take some time and be a pair of ears for this sweet man. In the hour that we talked, he shared with me everything from his mother's battle with cancer to his brother's 30 year drug addiction.

This weekend, my children and I baked a carmel apple pie (with our own hand-picked apples, I might add!) and made cards and took it all to our neighbor -- a lonely, older single woman. And Dan and our little guy, Davis, spent Saturday morning helping some friends with some fixer-upper projects on their new home.

We managed to squeeze in a little SixtyFeet business as well -- but mostly we just took some time to love and invest in the people around us. And that brings glory to Him. And that's what it's all about.

It's not ok to neglect the poor, the widow, the orphan and the prisoner. Those people are near and dear to our Lord's heart and He commands us to care for them. But in the process, it's also not ok to neglect those people He's put right here in our path. Most of the people Dan and I encounter on a daily basis are not starving, homeless and destitute -- but they're all people for whom Jesus died and they all need to be shown love.

By the way, here's the carmel apple pie and the picking-of-the-apples. Good, good stuff. Let me know if you want the pie recipe... especially if you intend to use it to love on your neighbors and friends.

They are picking apples but they're thinking about PIE!
Yep, everyone works on the farm

Wagon ride through the apple trees

Apple picking wears out baby girls.
Monday, October 18, 2010

Crazy Friends

When you live your days surrounded by wealth and affluence, as most Americans do, it can be really hard to live radically for Christ. I mean it's hard enough to step out in faith and to live differently than almost everyone around you. It's harder still when you feel like you're in it all alone.

Well, each day I thank my sweet Jesus that Dan and I are not on this crazy journey alone. Not even close. The Lord has been so good and so gracious to provide us with a group of friends that walks with us every step of the way.

In fact, if you think the Owens are crazy, you should meet our friends...

Some of our best friends recently gave away their car. Why? Well, there was a family in need.

Some other friends recently completed an adoption through the US foster care system, which is seriously no easy feat in the state of Georgia... only to turn around and almost immediately begin the process of adopting internationally.

We have friends who have quietly given truly, truly outrageous and sacrifical amounts of money in support of the work SixtyFeet is doing in Uganda.

We're friends with a pastor who moved his young family into one of the roughest, toughest neighborhoods in the city of Atlanta in order to more effectively minister to the people who live there.

We're friends with two other young pastors who walked away from their nice, cushy, secure jobs at an Atlanta mega-church because they felt God calling them to plant a little church in northwest Atlanta (which the Owens are now part of and the Owens love dearly).

We have friends who are spending their own money, giving a big chunk of their time and leaving behind their own children for a week to accompany me to Uganda when I travel over to complete our adoption.

It's such an understatment to say that our friends are a blessing to Dan and me. Because Christ is the foundation of our friendship, our friends always encourage us in our walk with Him. They love us, support us, laugh and cry with us but even more -- they challenge us, hold us accountable and speak truth to us when we're out of line. We praise God for our friends. Without them we would not be nearly as crazy or nearly as close to the Lord as we are today.

We recently had the privlege of spending a long weekend at the beach with several of these awesome families. These are life-long, forever friendships and we're just so blessed to do life with these precious and awesome people.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" -- Ecc 4:9-10

Last night, picnic on the boardwalk
Our little guy Davis with his dear blondie friend Trey
The Tiny Crazy and Me

Yes, I bought my girls matching suits. They are from Target and they were cheap and a girl has to indulge in something after all. Such cuteness!
Monday, October 4, 2010

The Results...

We had our big yard sale fundraiser on Saturday. It went great -- we had tons of shoppers and the weather was beautiful. But by the end of the afternoon Dan and I agreed that by far, the best part of the day was just having the opportunity to share about our adoption with our neighbors -- many of whom are not Believers.

The Cupcake Kids, under the big top at the yard sale

We loved having the chance to talk about the adoption with our neighbors. Now, we did get a couple of strange looks, a few people who seemed a little disturbed by the whole thing and two different people who asked me, in complete earnest, if we were adopting from Africa because we wanted to be like Madonna. But mostly it was a lot of curious questions and many, many opportunities to share about the work the Lord is doing in our lives.

I think that in general, living the crazy life -- taking risks for the Kingdom and stepping out in faith -- will almost always provide opportunities to share the gospel at some point or another. In his book Don't Waste Your Life, John Piper says that the world is not impressed when Christians get rich, live the easy life and say thanks to God. But rather, the world is impressed when Christians forsake those things for the name of Jesus. In other words, living un-like the world gives us opportunities to share about Jesus with the world.

But anyways, enough of my rambling... I know y'all are mostly reading this post because you want to hear how much we raised at the sale this weekend. So going into the weekend, we knew we had the following immediate expenses: 1) $1,340 for filing our I600 form with the USCIS; 2) $160 for fingerprinting and 3) $300 for my remaining immunizations. If you're bad at math like me, I'll just tell you, we were looking for $1800.

The yard sale and Cupcake Kids stand raised a combined total of $1150. And at the end of the day we went to check the mail and three signed, notarized copies of our completed homestudy were sitting in our mailbox. Wow!!! we thought. That's such a big chunk of what we needed and now we have a completed homestudy, Praise God!! And then we remembered that we still had about 10 lbs worth of quarters and other coins from the sale that we'd forgotten to count. We combined all of it with our existing change jar and it all came to $150.

And at this point (and I really, really don't mean to sound ungrateful because we were VERY excited about raising $1300) I started wondering what God might be up to. I mean, we were soooo close. We don't serve the God of Almost Enough. I wonder what happened to the remaining $500? Were we supposed to take it out of savings or maybe wait a little longer for His provision?

I didn't file the I600's today because we had some confusion with the paperwork and a few details were missing. We're planning to send everything in tomorrow. I'm getting my shots on Wednesday. Around 2pm today I went to check the mail and can you guess what I found... yep. A check for $500. Exactly, exactly what we needed. The check was from a very dear and precious family (I'm not naming any names but you know who you are...) who lives out of state. They'd mailed the check days ago, before our yard sale even took place, with no idea that this is what we would need. But God knew and He had it all covered.

Wow, wow, wow! So all glory to God who always, always finishes what He starts... "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." -- Phil 1:6.