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Monday, November 29, 2010

Judgment

I’m half-way there! Today I’m in Brussels, Belgium and tomorrow morning I’m heading on to Uganda. I cannot believe it! I’m so excited for the days ahead. I’m so thankful to have my friend Joy by my side and my friend Laura coming soon. But I’m especially grateful for my sweet and amazing husband and his willingness to let me take this trip and have this time with my new children while he holds down the fort at home.

Shelly and Joy getting dropped off for adventure

While I’m gone we have some help from sitters, friends and family – but basically Dan is running the show for nearly two weeks. And the show at our house is no joke. There’s a crawling baby who is in to everything, an active 4-year old boy and a studious first grader with all the homework she could ever hope for. There’s piano and ballet and birthday parties and carpools and playtime and baths and bedtime; it’s a lot for a full-time stay at home mom. It’s insane for a Daddy who is also juggling his full time job and helping run a budding ministry in Africa.

Sitting here in Europe, I wonder what people might think of me for leaving my family behind to go and do this thing? I know that many are supportive, especially my husband (otherwise, I would of course not be going) but I know there are others who will judge me for this decision.

I mean, I am a wife and a mother – isn’t my first ministry to my husband and children? What kind of wife takes off for Africa for two weeks and leaves her husband to fend for himself? What kind of mom is out of the country for her baby’s 1st birthday? (Yes, my baby Charlotte turns one on December 6 and I will miss it). What kind of mom would really go get on the plane after her 7 and 4 year olds beg her through tears and sniffles – “mommy, please, please don’t go. Please stay here.”?

I hope no one suspects I take this lightly. I am literally heartbroken to miss Baby C’s 1st birthday. Madeline is about to lose her first tooth. Davis has his first sleepover on Friday. I’m missing it all and this is time I can’t ever get back. But I tell you what, it is my honor and my privilege to give this time. I give it completely, sacrificially and joyfully – because this is an act of obedience, pure and simple.

Daily, I teach my children about obedience. Obedience to me, to Daddy, to all adults and most importantly, to their Heavenly Father. How could I ever stand before my children reciting our mantra - “we obey all the way, right away and with happy hearts” - if I myself am unwilling to obey?

Last night I told my oldest child this: “Madeline, if Mommy loves you more than she loves Jesus, if I love you and Davis and Charlotte so much that it makes me disobedient to our Lord, then you, my babies, are my idols.” The very definition of idolatry is loving something, anything more than you love the Lord your God. An idol is anything or anyone that comes between you and Jesus and His plans for your life.

And finally, to those who might say “Shelly I don’t believe you. I don’t believe that the Lord would really call you to this. Christ would never call a mother to leave her husband and children in order to serve Him.” To that person I would say, Really? You really don’t think Jesus would ask me to do something that might be hard? He would not ask me to do something that would require me and my husband and even my children to step out of their comfort zones and grow in our faith? After all He’s done for me, would He not also ask me to sacrifice for Him?

Post Script, from DaddyDan
Ok, first of all, I think most of you saw through that whole "Sweet and amazing" bit she said about me. My sweet wife orchestrated everything for the next two weeks before she left like a giant Rube Goldberg machine. Seriously everything. She even has one of her friends scheduled to call me periodically to remind me of specific things. The fact that I'm able to work from the office at all this week is a testament to her organizational skills, and perhaps a small testament to my penchant for occasionally, sometimes, every now and then forgetting a thing or two, which prompted her to set all this up.

Regardless of all that, I just had to poke my head in here to say that I am extremely proud of my wife for what she is doing. If you know her at all then you know that she would sooner perform her own root canal than camp out... in an RV, even. She calls me at work to come home and kill a spider, although thankfully we had a boy and I have dubbed him the Killer of all Creepy Things While Daddy is Away or Unavailable.

My wife has deliberately given up some personal comforts this week, and even more notably, has chosen to be away from her children for the first time ever, in order to be with her new children for the first time ever. I couldn't have kept her away. You don't stand between a mama bear and her cubs, even cubs that have not yet seen the loving mother that is on her way to kiss them and hold them in her arms like they've never been held before. I love you Honey.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We have a court date and we're headed to Uganda!

I suppose I could have tried to come up with a catchier title for this very exciting and very unbelivable post -- but my head is spinning. Just as I was beginning to give up hope of this adoption ever happening before Christmas... early, early this morning we received word from our Ugandan attorney that we have been assigned a court date!! And it's soon! We are scheduled for Thursday, December 2 -- just one week from tomorrow. WOW!

We scrambled around like crazy this morning -- getting flights booked, having our last few papers notarized, picking up prescriptions from the travel clinic, trying to work out childcare details and packing, packing, packing. We've only had this news in hand for about 12 hours so we still have so much to do... and of course there's the little detail of Thanksgiving being tomorrow and we're leaving to go out of town. So it's slightly nuts around here today.

But mostly, we are just thrilled, excited and grateful to the Lord for His amazing answer to our prayers and the many, many prayers that have gone up on our behalf. Thank you all so much!

Here are the details so far... I am flying out on Sunday evening with my dear and awesome friend Joy who just couldn't bear to let me make this trip alone. Unbelievably we were able to purchase these last minute tickets with skymiles (another answered prayer!) but we do have an almost 24 hour lay over in Europe. I suppose it could be worse than being stuck in a beautiful city in Europe with one of my best friends for a day. We arrive in Uganda on Tuesday night and will hopefully get settled and recovered from jet lag by Thursday. On Friday my OTHER dear and awesome friend, Laura, arrives. Seriously, am I blessed or what? These ladies are leaving their families for a week and and going to great expense and trouble just to stand by a friend. Now that's some crazy.

Below are some of our "before pictures." These beautiful pics were taken 2 weeks ago by the awesomely talented Griffin Gibson who recently returned from a two year mission trip to Bosnia. She's coming back in (hopefully) just a few weeks to take our "after" shots -- including our two new additions. I CANNOT WAIT.




I have to leave y'all with a funny story...   Almost exactly one year ago, I hosted a fundraiser for my very precious friend, Amy Levy. Amy and her husband were adopting a baby girl from this little African country called Uganda. I thought what Amy was doing was great and all but I admit... I didn't really get it. In fact, Dan and I offered to host the fundraiser because we thought it would it be a nice way to support orphan causes. And, as we told Amy, "we're not really called to adopt." Whew boy, be careful what you say. And be cautious before you assume that God is not calling you to something just because it doesn't fit into your plans. And most importantly... if you get down on your knees in your den one night and pray with your husband to know God's will for your life and what changes you need to make -- be ready to hear from Him and respond.

So I'll see y'all in Uganda! Besides court appointments and other adoption fun, Joy, Laura and I will be doing a little SixtyFeet business while we're in the country -- plus we have a few special, secret (for now) projects we'll be working on. Intrigued? Check in with us -- one of our gang will be bloggin' from Africa over the next few weeks.

"The plans of the heart belong to man but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord."
-- Proverbs 16:1
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Playing the Waiting Game & Keepin' it Simple

Well, I'd hoped by now that I'd be able to write and announce that we've been assigned a court date in Uganda. Not yet -- so please keep praying that a date would open up for us before the courts close for the holidays. We are hoping and expecting to hear something any day now.

But we have had some exciting things happen -- we received our USCIS approval so Hannah and Joseph are now eligible for their visas to enter the US. We also received their full medical reports and based on these reports, Dan and I got to pick birthdays for each of them. How cool is that? We picked April 15 for Hannah and April 23 for Joseph.

And speaking of birthdays... This sweet and very beautiful young lady who I often refer to on the blog as "my big girl" turned 7 years old on Monday.



In keeping with the "crazy standards," we kept her celebration simple and sweet. Madeline invited three little girls over after school for cake and playtime. For reasons that are still unclear, my big girl chose to have a "dolphin" themed party. I had no idea where to get a dolphin cake so my dear, dear friend Valerie made me this amazing cake and wouldn't let me pay her a dime for it.



Don't get me wrong -- I love my children so much and I'm all for joyfully celebrating their birthdays, the day the Lord entrusted these little people to Dan and me. But why must we go to such trouble and expense to celebrate? It seems so silly to spend hundreds of dollars on parties and gifts when there are millions of children around the world (including my own dear Hannah and Joseph) who have never even heard the word "birthday." I think there has to be a better way.
Sunday, November 14, 2010

38 Weeks Pregnant!?!

I am not really 38 weeks pregnant -- but it feels that way! Dan and I are literally expecting a call from our attorney at any moment telling us we have a court date and we should hop on a plane to Uganda. The whole thing is getting very, very real for us. We just finished putting together Hannah & Joseph's bunkbeds tonight. Crazy stuff!

Now, not everything is quite wrapped up... we're still awaiting our USCIS approval and praying it will arrive sometime this week. We need a couple of twin mattresses (just in case anyone has some sitting around), and we'll eventually need a really, really big car - if you have one of those laying about, we might be willing to trade a slightly used scooter for it.

Because SixtyFeet was on the ground in Uganda this week, we were given the most beautiful, amazing video of our two new babies. We cannot believe how healthy and happy they look since moving to Mama Catherine's. Just look at this...


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas Shopping

Even if you're stark raving crazy like the Owens, you probably have to buy at least a few Christmas gifts this season. So I figure if we have to shop, we might as well shop with a purpose. This year, my heart is to buy as many gifts as possible from vendors and individuals who support orphan causes and/or adoption funds. And for my Atlanta area friends, this goal just got a little easier!

Come out and join me at the Garden Market this Saturday from 9- 3:30 at the Garden Hills Rec Center! And this year, the fabulous Cupcake Kids will be on the scene selling sweet treats to weary shoppers and raising money for SixtyFeet.

Many of the women participating in this year's Market are donating portions of their money raised to different organizations. Elizabeth Beck is donating a portion of her proceeds to Wellspring Living - an organization that advocates for women and children rescued from sex-trafficking. Katie WickstrumChristina Leerssen are donating 10% of their proceeds to SixtyFeet. Gus & Lula is pursuing an adoption of 2 little babes from Ethiopia. Davis' boards aka The Neema Shop is donating a portion of her proceeds to Takes A Whole Village & other orphan supporting causes. Karama Gifts supports Young Life Africa.

So please come out, enjoy a treat from the Cupcake Kids, find some amazing and completely unique gifts and support some great causes all at the same time.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orphan Sunday -- Do Something!

Today is Orphan Sunday. Perhaps we're not all called to adopt, but we are all commanded to do something. But don't take my word for it, check out James 1:27 and see for yourself.

That James 1:27 verse is a deep one. We all know the first part, about visiting widows and orphans in their distress, but I never see anyone making their life verse based on the second part -- the part about keeping oneself unstained from the world. I wonder why? Is the second part less important, or is it just that nobody really knows what it means to keep oneself unstained from the world?

In honor of Orphan Sunday, I wanted to repost something I wrote back in March. And believe me, experiences like this one will change the way you live. In many ways it will keep you unstained from the world because it sure puts things into perspective.

How Was Your Day?

I have had the privilege of visiting Romania a couple of times in the past few years with our church. We have taken a group of high school students for 9-10 days at a time and partnered with a wonderful group called Pathway to Joy in order to help build churches in Gypsy villages and care for abandoned babies in the children's hospital. My role for the past couple of years has been to coordinate taking groups of students to the hospital to care for the babies. These babies range in age from 6 months to 5 years. After 5 years, they are forced to leave the hospital for the comfortable abode of the state-run orphanage which houses them until they are 22. Yes, you read that correctly. There in the orphanage are children as young as 4 or 5 all the way up to 22. After 22, they are expected to head out on their own...

Back to the hospital. So we take a group of teens to the hospital in the mornings and they break up in to groups that disperse to the various wards in order to hold, feed and rock infants that otherwise only get very brief outings from the confines of their cribs. These children are the very definition of Failure To Thrive. There is very little crying as you walk down the halls because the babies have learned that there is little use trying. No one is coming.

It is always amazing to watch the teens bond with the children and sit, literally for hours on end, in an incredibly hot (it's a cultural thing) hospital room holding these children because they know it may be a very long time before anyone else comes along to pay the babies any attention.

The most difficult part for me was the second year I returned to the hospital. I was excited as we entered the hospital to see some improvements and upgrades that had been done. They were installing new windows in place of, well, mostly just panes of glass assuming they weren't missing altogether. And they had a new floor cleaning machine, like what you see being pushed around at Home Depot. All that changed when I arrived on the 9th floor where the children with special needs were housed. I was anxious to see new faces and my heart literally sank when I walked into the room and there, in those dirty, rusty cribs, lay many of the very same babies we had held the year before.

An entire year had gone by. I had gone out to dinner with my family, we had played in the driveway, gone to the pool in the summer, been to the beach, walked around the block a hundred times. But these babies were still lying in their cribs, just as they were when I had left the year before. Many had been there long before that.

I think about these babies when I'm having a "bad day". When my favorite t.v. show is a rerun, I try to remember these babies lying in their cribs looking at the ceiling, wondering if anyone is coming for them. Wondering if they will be picked up out of their crib even for a few minutes. I think about that and then my bad day is not quite so bad anymore.