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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Unexpected Craziness

At what point does one cross the line between craziness for God and just plain irresponsible? Dan and I ask ourselves that question sometimes. We wonder at what point we'll toss up our hands and say "ok, enough. There's crazy and then there's stupid."

If you've been hanging around the Crazy Blog for a while, you know that Dan sold his Audi about this time last year. He sold it and gave away the money and we've been a one car family ever since. Remember this picture? That's Dan's first day on the scooter.

And being a one car family in a city with rotten public transportation is often inconvenient. It is often irritating. But so far, we've been able to make it work.

But then we adopted two more kids and all...

And life got busier.

And we really, really felt like we needed a second car. I mean ENOUGH. This one car situation has been cute and made for some really fun blog posts but seriously. We need two cars. We have five children, we are constantly running in a million different directions and we cannot continue to burden our friends about driving us around town. There's crazy and then there's stupid. This situation was becoming stupid.

Yet, when we prayed about it, we felt God telling us to wait. When we looked at our budget, we knew we'd have to cut back on our giving or some of our commitments if we purchased a second car. We knew He was saying "trust me." And so we did. We continued the stupidness craziness of being a one car family. And we waited. And we trusted that He had a better way.

Today I was leaving a shower for a dear friend. I walked out of the front door of the house and noticed a message on my phone from "Jane." I called Jane back and she said "Shelly, my husband "Jack" recently got word that he is being transferred to Manhattan. We will not need our cars in Manhattan. I thought of you. Do you want a car?"

And I cried. And I praised Jesus. Because always, always He has a better way. After all the miracles I've seen over the last year, how could I have doubted?

Jesus calls us to live intentionally and to give generously for the Kingdom. And He also tells us to trust Him. We give generously and He'll provide all that we need. And that's it. Do you trust Him in this way? You should, because He's good for it. Every time.

Thank you Jesus for reminding me of this today.

"That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life -- whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?"
-- Matt 6:25-26, NLT
Sunday, February 20, 2011

Are You Too Heavy?

No, this is not a weight loss post -- but isn't that a catchy title? I've got a little story to share and I'll get into the "heavy" stuff in a sec...

So here's a fun fact -- did y'all know that Dan used to live in Botswana (yes, the one in Africa) and worked as a pilot for Flying Mission? Us crazy Owens are full of surprises.

Recently, Dan shared a story with our small group about his time in Africa and I thought this one was just too good not to share here...

So, while he was in Botswana, he and some fellow pilots decided to travel up to Zambia to visit some American missionaries over Christmas break. The area they flew into was REMOTE. As in, Dan and his team had to land their plane on a strip of grass. As in, the place doesn't even show up on Google Maps kind of remote.

As the guys made their way out of their plane and into the little village and what should they happen upon, but a beat up old Ford truck. It probably looked something like this in it's prime...

If you've ever been to Africa you'll know why this is weird. There are no Ford trucks anywhere in Africa. Toyota trucks, yes. Nissan trucks, perhaps. Big old gas guzzlin' Ford trucks, no. But even if you've not been to Africa you'll have to admit it's a bit strange to stumble upon an old American-made truck in the middle of the African jungle.

Dan asked the missionaries about the mysterious automobile and turns out that it was brought to this remote location by former American missionaries to Zambia. These missionaries went to great lengths and much expense to ship their beloved Ford truck in a very large crate all the way to Cape Town, South Africa. And THEN these missionaries went to great lengths and much expense to drive their beloved Ford truck 2,000 miles to the remote little village in Zambia where they'd been called to serve.

Now this all could have made for a nice little story of perseverance and American ingenuity. But alas, there is a sad ending to this tale.

When Dan and his friends happened upon this truck, years after it had arrived in the Zambian village, it was completely useless and decrepit. The tires were literally rotting off the wheels. Trees were growing through the windows. It was the very definition of "hunk of junk." Turns out that the missionaries who had gone to so much trouble to bring their car with them to Zambia, never really got to use the thing. Because, in the entire country of Zambia, there are no Pep Boys or Napa Auto Parts or any place that carries parts for and/or has the ability to service a Ford truck. So after all that trouble, the beloved truck just rotted away.

I love this story. I think there is SUCH a great lesson here.

There is a reason why Jesus commanded his disciples, and us, with these words:

"Take nothing for your journey," he instructed them. "Don't take a walking stick, a traveler's bag, food, money, or even a change of clothes." Luke 9:3, NLT

Notice that Jesus doesn't say "don't plan your journey." He doesn't say "don't think things through carefully." Indeed -- in Matthew 10:16 He calls us to be as shrewd as snakes. But our Lord clearly, explicity states that when we're going out to do His work, we should not bother to bring along a bunch of stuff. In fact, He says we should not bring ANY stuff.

You could offer lots of reasons why Jesus gave this particular commandment to his disciples. Most commonly, I've heard it taught that Jesus wanted His disciples to take nothing on their journies because He wanted them to depend on Him. To have faith in His full provision. And there is definitely truth to this.

But from the bottom of my heart, I think this is the main reason Jesus gave the command: stuff is a BURDEN. Stuff is a snare in ministry. Stuff is a distraction. Our stuff requires our time and attention -- we have to care for it, store it, sort it, clean it and so forth. Our stuff keeps us from taking risks for God -- it prevents us from picking up and leaving and doing something aweseome and crazy for Him. And eventually, when we've grown to love our stuff more than we love our God, we find that our stuff has become our idol.

The Hebrew word for "rich"... as in Abraham in the Old Testament, is "kaved." Translated literally, this word means "heavy." It can also be translated as "burdened" or "extremely weighty." Ouch.

So I ask y'all this... are you too heavy? Do you have too much stuff? And does your stuff keep you from doing great things for Him?

Dan and I often fear that we are too heavy.  We fear that we are too attached to our stuff. We fear that if we were called to pick up and go serve on the other side of the world, our stuff would prevent us from actually doing it. And that is not ok.

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." Matt 6:24, NAS
Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Of Oreos and Redemption

Once a month, our family ventures down to the inner city of Atlanta. We prepare and serve dinner to a group of at-risk children who live in the neighborhood. It's a rough, unsightly part of town and the block is well known as the heroine capital of the Southeast.

We started serving at this place when we were just the little family of four -- Dan, me, Madeline & Davis. When we started, we mostly did it so we could check off our monthly "serve the poor" box on our mental checklists. But these days we go down there because we genuinely enjoy it. I love the people and the fellowship. I especially love the realness of the place and the total lack of pretention.

Tonight I sat and talked with a formerly homeless woman who now works as a counselor at the same homeless shelter that rehabilitated her just a few years prior. Trust me, that's a conversation I won't be having in my neck of the woods.

We also love that we can bring our children with us to this place and let them serve alongside us -- typically, Madeline and Davis set the tables and hand out plates of food once I get everything prepared. They sit and eat the meal with the children and afterwards, they help us clean up.

Tonight was our second time to serve dinner since Hannah and Joseph have been home. The first time, I took it easy on them -- I mean poor kids, they'd only been in America for two weeks, they were hardly speaking any English and had no idea what was going on. I just let them hang out and play and sit and be served. But this second time, I decided they were ready to be put to work.

Madeline, Dan and Baby Charlotte couldn't make it tonight so it was just me and the triplets. We pulled into the parking lot around dinnertime with a trunk full of yummy smelling food and Joseph says "yea, dinna!!" And I say "no buddy, we're here to work." And he frowns and says "wook?" And I say "we will eat dinner but first, you, Davis, Hannah and Mommy are here to serve."

So he reluctantly follows me inside the building. As soon as we get inside he perks up because notices the blacktop and basketball goal on the far side of the room. He and Hannah start to run off and play with the other children but I motioned them back. "No guys, we're here to serve."

They were a little disturbed and disgruntled at first but eventually, my little team got to work. Hannah was the Manager of the Plate of Oreos.

And the Dynamic Duo set the table (which actually had to be re-set three times but eventually it did happen).

Less than a year ago, Hannah and Joseph were orphans. They were malnourished, sick, filthy and utterly alone. Today their lives couldn't be more different. Now they are the well-fed, nicely dressed, healthy children coming in, with their stay-at-home-Mommy, to serve those less fortunate. Now that's some redemption.

March 2010

Before we even finished the meal, I found myself standing over a huge pot of mac n cheese with tears streaming down my face. I couldn't help but think... isn't that why God saves and redeems any of us? For HIS purposes. For His pleasure. For His kingdom. Not just so we can go to Heaven.

He has a great plan and a purpose for each of us. May we not squandor our salvation and His redemptive work in our lives.

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -- Jeremiah 29:11
Sunday, February 13, 2011

Adding More Craziness

Several years ago, I read a piece by Francis Chan where he asked this question... "What are you currently doing in your life that requires faith?"

For months, that question haunted me and troubled me and sometimes even made me downright angry. Because the truth of the matter was, at that time, there was pretty much nothing going on in my life that required faith. At least not much of it.

Oh, but times, they are a changin'...

Lately, I feel like we're constantly up to our eyeballs. I wake up most mornings with more to tackle than I can possibly get done. Yet with every new step and every new thing that has to be added to our plates, we witness the Lord's provision more and more. Somehow, it all comes together, everyday.
And so we've decided we might as well pile on a little more craziness. At this point, Dan and I have grown so confident in His provision and so thorougly convinced that we, in our own strength, can't do anything anyways, that we know all things are possible -- but only through Him.

So we're taking a new flying leap of faith. We've made the decision to homeschool next year. Madeline for 2nd grade, Davis for Kindergarten, Hannah and Joseph for preschool and Baby Charlotte for whatever lessons she and her blankey would care to audit.

This was a hard one. We LOVE our little private school. I think it's the best kept secret in Atlanta. This school has a community like no other. It's a place full of like-minded believers who support and care for one another -- they are people that Dan and I are proud to do life with.

But for now, the Lord has chosen a different path for our family. We think there are many benefits to having all five children at home, together next year. But just being really honest, we're also having a hard time stomaching the cost of private school tuition. Top notch Atlanta private schools are unbelievably expensive and, at this point, Dan and I just don't think this is way the Lord is directing us to use the resources He's put at our disposal.

And on top of homeschool, we're adding a little more craziness. We learned last week that Joseph has massive holes in both of his ear drums. He is not deaf but he has some hearing loss. The hearing loss itself presents a lot of challenges for our family -- but it's harder still because this will, at least for a time, impact Joseph's ability to learn and speak English. We're looking at upcoming surgeries, temporary hearing aids and all kinds of time with the ENT. Dan and I are trusting the Lord to heal Joseph's ears completely -- or help us cope with (another) new normal if He doesn't. In this, and in all things, we want His will more than we want to get our way.

This time last year I never could have imagined what was in store for us. It makes me shudder and cringe to think of the blessings we might have missed if we'd been unwilling. This time last year I honestly had no idea how abundant and overflowing the Lord's provision really is -- because, in reality, I didn't need Him to provide much for me.

I praise Him for taking the blinders off and for giving Dan and me the courage to walk in faith. As a mom, I can't imagine NOT having had this experience of adoption and not ever really understanding what it means to walk each day in full faith, dependent on Him, knowing that I simply cannot do it.

It's that kind of faith that prompted Joy Portis, mother of 3 biological children and 4 adopted children with special needs to take on more and become a foster parent. It's that kind of faith that prompted my friend Amy to adopt a very sick, hearing impaired, HIV positive child last year. It's that kind of faith that prompted young Katie Davis to leave behind her family, friends and college career to raise 13 daughters alone in Uganda. What these amazing ladies all have in common is that they KNOW they can't do it. But He can.

That same kind of faith that gave us complete peace thoughout this last week (by the way, my cyst has completely taken care of itself and will not require surgery!). In this life, there will be trouble and hardship and heartbreak. Dan and I know we're not really equipped to handle any of it. Fortunately, He is equipped to handle it all. And in Him alone we put our hope and keep walking forward.

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." -- Hebrews 11:1

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dodging The Fiery Darts

A few days ago, my friend Amy Levy sent me an email with this thought... "I don't want to live a life that Satan doesn't want to bother with."

I'm now back home from the hospital, safe and sound and thoroughly covered in blessings and help from our church and friends. But Dan and I do feel like we're in the midst of a full-on spiritual attack on our family.

On Saturday night, we showed the SixtyFeet film, "Bereaved," to more than 200 women at the CFC Retreat. Not only that but we were also able to show the new ending to the film -- featuring the homecoming footage of Hannah and Joseph and our first night as a family of 7. It was powerful and awesome the Enemy HATED it. For real.

On the way home from the film showing that night, our car (our brand new, 8-seater car that doesn't even have a real license plate yet) broke down. Dan had to be towed all the way back to Atlanta.

On Sunday when I came home from the conference, I started running the fever, became sick and just spent 24 hours in the hospital.

I'm sure there is more to come because Satan is not pleased. Dan didn't enjoy hanging out in a broken down car on the side of the interstate in freezing cold weather on Saturday night. I didn't enjoy my sleepless night in the hopsital away from my children all day yesterday and today. But I've got to say, I'm proud to live a life that Satan wants to bother with.

Last night at the hospital was not as cut and dry as we had hoped. It was actually not my appendix but my right ovary which sits directly under my appendix. Apparently I had a rather large cyst which ruptured and bled out. My doctor sent me home this afternoon with some pain medication and an ultrasound appointment for Friday. Depending on the situation on Friday, I may still require surgery or it may all take care of itself. Either way, it was a little more intense than what I was hoping for. No one really wants to hear the words "um, it looks like you have a mass on your ovary."

But Satan has no power over me or mine and Dan and I are not afraid of him. If Satan is not pleased with our family then that's just too bad -- for him.

We have been the blessed recipients of so much care over the last 24 hours that it has almost been worth all the trouble anyways. Dan and I are seriously amazed by the number of people the Lord mobilized today on our behalf. Who knew we were so loved? I mean, after I called Dan yesterday and told him I was heading to the ER, he made two phone calls -- one to our dear friends Joy and Scott and one to our pastors, Curt and Jonathan. And within minutes, meals, babysitters, carpools and grocery store runs were arranged. We were covered in prayer and received more text messages and emails than I can count from the people who are praying for us.

We are a little tired from our night in the ER, I'm still in some pain and I'm feeling a little guilty for not spending more time with the children over the last few days but mostly we are blessed.

"... God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him."
-- Romans 15:13

Thanks to my friend Susan for sending me this verse... it was just what I needed today.
Monday, February 7, 2011

The Enemy Goes For The Gut

Hi friends! So I'm bloggin' live from Piedmont Hospital tonight. No, the girls are not sick, the boys are not injured... tonight Momma's the one down for the count.

I spent the weekend at the fabulous Created for Care conference and arrived home Sunday around noon. About the time I made it home, I started running a fever and experiencing some crazy abdominal pain. I woke up this morning feeling about the same and Dan finally convinced me to see the doctor around 1:30 today. And the doctor, suspecting an appendicitis, immediately sent me to the ER. And as I'm sure you can imagine, all of this was SO on my schedule for today. Sweet.

I waited over 5 hours before seeing a doctor (sorry to diss Piedmont hospital on my blog, but seriously guys...) and now I'm stuck in a room, sporting a fabulous hospital gown, downing some nasty "flavored beverage for iodinated contrast" and waiting to be wheeled back for my CT scan to confirm that this is indeed an appendicitis.

There have been several moments over the last 6.5 hours that I've been tempted to stand up (if in fact my shooting abominal pain would allow it) and scream... HELLO!!!! Do you people have any idea how busy I am? I have FIVE children folks! I have homework to check and clothes to wash and things to do. For cryin' out loud, Hannah and Joseph have their very first swim lesson tomorrow morning and if y'all think I'm missing that, you are crazy. KEY-RAY-ZEE.

And yet, God is bigger than all of this. This stuff may have not been my plan for today but it was His. He is so not surprised. And it's really not ok to jump up and down and scream and yell when things don't go my way -- because that implies that I think the busyness (the importance?) of my life gives me free reign to sin in certain situations.

I think having a plan for each day is great. Plans are a good thing. But when the plans have us, that's not so good. Plan for the worst, hope for the best and always leave room for God to do His thing. I think that'll be my new policy.

Looking forward to what He'll teach me through this one. Prayers for tonight are appreciated. Dan is here with me and thanks to our friends and church stepping up, the babes are snug in their beds at home.
Thursday, February 3, 2011

What Goes On At My House

I have found that people are fascinated by big families. I am almost growing to enjoy the wide-eyed looks of strangers when I'm out with the four littles and I explain to people that I also have one more -- she's in school right now. "So, wait... you have FIVE children??" Gets 'em everytime.

I thought y'all might enjoy a few fun facts about life with the Owens Seven, as we've taken to calling ourselves. Speaking of numbers, here are some good ones...

2 -- That's the number of days it takes for us to eat through an entire $7 bag of  grapes

60 -- The number of minutes it takes us to complete our bedtime routine with all 5 kids

85 -- The number of dollars it takes to fill up the tank on my big ol' Yukon XL

3 -- The number of times I've packed Dan's lunch for work since we adopted Hannah and Joseph

5 -- The number of times I have walked into my dining room before a meal and found Hannah brushing her hair with her fork

4 -- The number of loads of laundry I *try* to do everyday

8,500,401 -- The number of times someone in my house says "Mommy? Mommy!!!" every day. OK, this one is just an estimate but I'm pretty sure it's close

2.5 -- The number of songs we usually get through in our nightly after-dinner Dance Party USA before someone gets hurt. Some night I will video this nightly event in our home and give y'all a real treat.

14 -- The number of nights it took for Hannah and Joseph to say "I love you" back to Dan and me when we put them to bed at night

0 -- That's the number of times Dan and I have looked at each other in our overwhelmed, exhausted, cashless, broken states and thought "you know, I want to go back to our old regular lives. I wish we had never done this."

"If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it."
Matt: 10:39, NLT