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Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Winner & Speaking Up

Friends, thanks so much for stepping up to support Kelsey and Kirby! I’m overwhelmed! When I announced this project on Thursday night, I told Dan and that I’d be thrilled if we could raise $1,000 and get K & K halfway to their goal.

Raising money for overseas mission work is no small task. It's often slow going and discouraging. But there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. Deuteronomy 31:8 says that "the Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged."

As of this evening, we’ve raised an amazing $2, 750!!! Thanks to everyone who gave for being the light at the end of this tunnel.

And now, the giveaway. Because we’re vacationing with some friends in South Georgia this week, we decided to do a beach-style drawing.




And the winner was…

Johnsie Gregory of Greenville, SC

Congratulations! Johnsie, please email our t-shirt queen, Joy, at joyharty@sixtyfeet.org to claim your shirts!

In other news… it’s been a wild couple of days around here. This week, our family story was featured on what is literally the biggest blog I’ve ever encountered. Before I came across The Lettered Cottage, I had no idea that blogs with 8,000 followers even existed. It’s an interior design blog, written by Layla and Kevin Palmer, and it’s pretty incredible.

Layla is a Christian and she and Kevin are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia , but she writes her very, very large blog for a secular audience. And she took a big risk by asking the Crazy Crew to guest post.

Layla didn’t feature our family because she wanted to put an interior design spin on our story. She didn’t ask me to share about the ways I’ve made our tiny kitchen work for a family of seven. She also wasn’t interested in the little bathroom that all five of our children share or how we re-arranged our three bedrooms to accommodate our two new additions.

Instead, she graciously gave us the greenlight to openly advocate for the orphan and for the imprisoned children of Africa. It was only after this was posted that I realized this was my first time “speaking” to a secular audience.

The comments, feedback and emails from the post were overwhelmingly positive – but not all of it. The world is just not always as small as we’d like it to be.

I’ve insulated my little world to some degree. I know l’d like to pretend that we’re all Christian, orphan loving, Africa ministry advocates. But that’s not reality. There’s a great big world out there… and if I’m really interested in being salt and light, I know can’t always preach to the choir. Sometimes we have to take risks and speak up – even, and especially, to those who might disagree with us.

Thanks, Layla, for giving me the chance to speak up this week.
Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Crazy Giveaway

On a fairly regular basis, Dan and I receive emails from people who are interested in and supportive of our work with SixtyFeet. Occasionally, we receive emails from people who want to participate in our work and get involved with SixtyFeet. And once in a blue moon, we’ll receive emails from people who just want to go buck wild and do something crazy for SixtyFeet.

Tonight, I want to share a story about two young ladies who fall into that third, crazy category.


Meet Kelsey and Kirby. These ladies are 26 and 22 years old, respectively. Kelsey is a graduate of the University of North Florida and Kirby is a student at Florida State College.

These girls are at prime time for living the fun life. They're educated, unattached, attractive and have their whole lives and careers ahead of them. The world is their oyster! So what do you think these girls are planning to do with the next twelve months of their lives?

They've chosen to spend it on the mission field in Uganda, with SixtyFeet, serving and loving on “the least of these.” They’ve chosen to forsake the things of this world and the path the world tells them they should pursue – because our God has called them to something different.

Tonight, Kelsey and Kirby are packing up (literally as we speak!) and will leave next month to spend an entire year living and working in Uganda. For free.

These girls have drained their savings accounts, sought support from their family and friends and raised funds in any and every way imaginable – because they don't want to draw a salary that would take away funds from the children SixtyFeet serves.

It's no small thing to raise support for a full year of mission work abroad. K & K have done so well and they are SO close to reaching their goal. However, they’re still facing a $2,000 shortfall.

Can you help them close this gap? Can you donate below or share this link with someone who can?
In mission work, there are two kinds of people – senders and goers. If you’re not going, can you help send someone who is? That’s how the work of Christ gets done.

All donations received below are tax deductible through SixtyFeet. As always, no amount is too small. But if you're giving, you may want to consider giving at least $25. Anyone who gives at least that amount, will be entered for a give-away for two SixtyFeet shirts of your choice -- men's, women's or children's. The winner can visit the site and pick your tee.


Donate

If you share this link on facebook and let me know about it, I'll enter you a second time. If you blog about it, that's a third chance. I suppose there should also be some kind of benefit for tweeting... but I still don't understand The Twitter. Sorry.

So, there you have it. I'll randomly draw and announce the winner on Sunday night -- and also update you on the totals raised for our girls. Can't wait!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Next Big Adventure

Guess what?

I’m headed to China.

Soon!

If you read my post entitled “I’m Not the Only Crazy One,” you know that I have some seriously crazy friends. In that post, I wrote about my friend Joy – who traveled with me to Uganda for Hannah & Joseph’s court date.

In the same post, I wrote about Scott and Judd – who traveled to Uganda to be with Dan (over Christmas, no less!) for the weeks he spent in country completing our adoption.

In retrospect, I have no idea what we would have done without these friends during that time. International adoption involves some crazy stuff -- extensive travel, multiple court and embassy appearances, the stress of living in unfamiliar, foreign surroundings, the challenge of bonding with your new children while you’re not on your “home turf,” and the heartbreak of being away from biological children, family and friends back home. I can’t imagine doing it all alone.

This experience has left me with a very soft spot in my heart for any Momma who is traveling internationally to complete an adoption. It’s just hard and, if I can help it, it's something no friend of mine will do alone.

Which brings me to my point – I’m going to China for one week to meet up with my friend, Lydia, who is completing the adoption of a precious, tiny girl named Rosie.


And, while every adoption is special, this adoption is especially special to me. Lydia and her husband, David, are long, long time friends of mine and Dan’s. Dan and David grew up together in Tennessee and today they work together in Buckhead.

And, here’s the thing… David should not even be alive today. He should have never lived long enough to get married or have a successful career. He was told he'd never have children -- and today he's the father of two biological daughters and one son, adopted domestically. He's basically a walking miracle and a reminder that our God is bigger -- no matter your circumstances.

If you’ve got an extra couple of minutes tonight, watch the short video below about David and Lydia (it was actually done by the same guy that did mine and Dan's homecoming video). It will rock your world and brighten your whole week. All glory to God!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Evangelism Machine

Several years ago, when Team Owens was just DaddyDan, ShellyO and two toddlers, our little family of four went for a stroll around the neighborhood.

We live right in the city of Atlanta, which is markedly different from the sweet, sleepy, predominantly Christian suburbs. In our hood, when you encounter new people, chances are that they’re not Christians. Our neighbors run the gamut -- every race, religion and lifestyle you can imagine.
So, as I was saying, our little family was taking a walk. On said walk, we encountered a neighbor working in his garden. I'd seen him out before and we'd exchanged friendly waves, but that was the extent of our relationship. He was an elderly man, a widower and I'd estimated him to be about 80 years old.


Madeline noticed him from a distance and asked me… “Mommy, can I go tell that man about Jesus?” And of course the first thought that popped into my wicked little brain was “NO WAY!!! You can’t just walk up to some random stranger and start talking about Jesus! Good grief, can you say... AWKWARD?”

Poor, naïve, four-year old Madeline. Unlike me, she didn’t have the advantage of extensive evangelism training and the vast knowledge of apologetics studies stored up in her little mind. Heck, she’d never even done a Beth Moore study. She didn’t realize that you first have to “earn the right” before you can just approach people and share about Jesus. After all, these things take time – Rome wasn’t built in a day, people.
My dear husband, who knew exactly what I was thinking, leaned in and whispered… “Shelly, are you seriously about to tell our daughter that she cannot share the gospel with a neighbor?” And I’m thinking… “um, yes.” And I rolled my eyes.

But I knew Dan was right. So, I smiled sweetly and looked down at Madeline. “Of course, sweetie. You can go talk to the man if you want.” And all the while I was thinking… she won’t really do it. Surely she’ll chicken out.
But right before my doubting eyes, my four-year-old daughter and my two-year-old son, hand-in-hand, approached the man in his garden. They walked directly up to him and said, in unison, in their squeaky little toddler voices… “Hi!”

The neighbor turned half-way around, smiled weakly and said “hi there,” without a whole lot of interest.
Undeterred, Madeline took a deep breath and plunged forward “um, sir… do you know Jesus?” The man spun all the way around, looked Madeline square in the eye and replied “yes, I do.”

Madeline and Davis were totally unprepared for this response. They looked at each other, unsure of what to say next, so Davis looked back up at the man and said… “Well, are you sure?”

This poor man burst out laughing, turned his back and resumed his gardening. Apparently, our conversation was over. Dan and I mumbled something like “ok then, have a nice evening.” And we shuffled the kids along and resumed our walk.
Ah, the evangelism machine that is Team Owens. 


But that was then. And this is now…

Over the last year, our family has been presented with more opportunities to share the gospel than I’d ever have time to recall here. We haven’t gone seeking these opportunities… but mostly the opportunities have sought us. 


We have the same love and zeal for the Lord that we had years ago. Our hearts are still our hearts. But the difference is this: these days He has our family looking different from the rest of the world. The Lord has us walking down the path less traveled -- and that's intriguing. People want to know WHY? What compels you to live this way?
People who know of our family’s ministry to Uganda will seek us out. Last week, three neighbors showed up on our doorstep asking questions about "our" God. When we're out around town, strangers notice our unusual, multi-racial family and they want to know more. 


And, whenever it's possible, we're happy to explain... We do it because of Him. We couldn't (and we wouldn't) do it without Him. And to Him alone be all the glory and praise.

Saint Francis of Assisi hit the nail on the head when he said this…“Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”
I’m convinced that’s pretty much all there is to effectively sharing the gospel. It's not so much about using words -- instead, it's about how your live your life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Family Values

We've been down in Florida this week hanging with the Jobe Family. For your viewing pleasure (and mine), Colleen managed to capture this shot of my favorite little beach bum:


We had the sweetest time with this family. Our time together was tons of fun:

"The Josephs" (pic, by Colleen)

And it's also been such nourishment for my parched soul.

"The Mommas" (pic by...you got it, Colleen)

It's just so refreshing to spend time with another family that looks like ours and values what we value. We did life with the Ugly Couch crew for several days and I was pretty pumped to discover this: a typical day in their home looks a whole lot like a typical day in the Owens home.

There are highs and lows and ups and downs and new challenges for each day. This adoption stuff just isn't easy. As Jesus himself told us in Matthew 6:34... "do not worry about tomorrow... each day has enough trouble of its own." True that.

I read an article on the way to the beach about the value of children in our culture. Although America is a place where most people believe children are highly valued, the author of this article tends to disagree. Sad as it is, I think most of us can see truth in this paragraph...

"Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing."

And that's an assessment on biological children. Surely adopted children rank even lower on the list.

To mother or father a large family is to truly lay down your own life. Your hopes, your dreams, your plans -- your idea of what your life should be. It's everything the world tells you shouldn't do.

But this is the gospel. And only those who are willing to lose their lives will find them (Matt 16:25).

How blessed I am to have a sister like Colleen to share in this crazy life. Jobe family, we love you guys!!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ugly Vacation

I’m actually not much of a blog reader.  I follow a few and regularly check in on a few more but overall, it’s not my thing. Mostly because I’m a rather busy gal and my time on the computer is pretty limited.

But there are a few blogs that I LOVE. They’ve been a great source of inspiration, education, joy, delight and laughter to me. And mostly, they’ve just helped me not feel like a complete weirdo with my crazy, biracial, Africa-lovin’, homeschooling family.
There’s this one blog that I started stalking casually reading about this time last year. You may have heard of it… My Ugly Couch, by Colleen.

Colleen came home from Uganda with two boys, about the same age as Hannah and Joseph, just two months before Dan made it home with Hannah and Joseph. Her biological children are almost exactly the same age as Madeline and Davis. That’s pretty cool.
After Colleen came home with Matthew and Joseph (yep, she has a little Ugandan named Joseph, just like me!), we started emailing and talking regularly. During those hard weeks that Dan spent in Uganda last winter, I think I talked with Colleen more regularly than I talked with my husband. She was a serious source of support and really helped me prepare for the two new additions soon to join our family.

And it all just snowballed (in a good way) from there. Colleen and I email and talk on the phone nearly every day. She’s one of the few people who has truly walked a mile in my shoes. And someone I can always run to for advice, reality checks, empathy and a good ol’ slap in the face when I need one. She and her husband, Lucas, also do some volunteer work for SixtyFeet and we’re so grateful to have them on our team.
And very, very soon (in just over 24 hours!!!) I will finally get to hug Colleen’s neck for the first time. Our families are vacationing together in Florida this week!!! I CAN. NOT. WAIT!!!!!!!!  Ohmyword I’m excited!!!

So, if you read the Ugly Couch blog (and chances are, you do) and you read Good to Be Crazy (which I guess you do, because you’re on here now) I can simplify life for you this week. Just think of our blogs as one, perhaps… My Ugly Crazy, or My Crazy Couch, or my personal favorite… Good to Be Ugly.
Speaking of ugly...poor Joseph had to have a CT scan at the local children’s hospital yesterday. We’re working with two different specialists who are recommending very different plans of treatment for our little guy and his latest health struggle. Please pray for us to clearly discern God’s plan for Joseph.

Sweet brothers. Davis insisted on skipping naptime (poor guy looks a little droopy) to support his best bud at the hospital yesterday. Love these boys!

That’s it for now. Next time you see me, I’ll be sitting on the beach with Colleen!! Who am I kidding? We’ll both be chasing after kids, slathering on sunscreen, fixing lunches, wiping noses, opening juice boxes and blowing up floaty things all weekend. But at least we’ll be doing it together!
Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Beautiful

What is it with us girls and our desire to be beautiful? It's the desire of every little girl and every woman to look and feel pretty. Even the ones who won't admit it.

I see this desire in my 20 month old baby girl, in the teenage lifeguards at our pool, in my 90 year old grandmother and I certainly see it in myself. It's just one of those things that unites us and reminds us that we all have the same Maker. Regardless of age, race, culture, background or national origin, all girls want to be pretty.

It was for this blessed reason that my dear husband spent six hours with Hannah at the hair salon last weekend. Yes, Dan -- not me. Six hours.

I had to rush out and help a friend with an emergency situation. The girl already had a hair appointment. What's a Daddy to do?

He did what any reasonable man would do -- he packed up his iPad and his daughter and spent his precious Saturday hanging around a little girl hair salon. Now that's a good man.

So it did take six whole hours - about 4.5 longer than scheduled, but I think the result is pretty stinkin' fabulous:

Picture by www.griffingibson.com

I know. This child is stunning. She is outrageously, ridiculously beautiful. She always has been. But she hasn't always felt that way.

Eight months ago, she came to us scared, guarded and cold. She was desperately shy, insecure and fearful of almost everything.

But in the last few months, we have beheld such miracles with Hannah. She has bloomed, flourished and come out of her shell. She laughs, runs, smiles and talks with confidence. She still has fears and concerns -- but now they are the appropriate, healthy fears that I would expect and even encourage in any child her age.

Was it the hair that made the difference? I doubt it. Although feeling pretty doesn't hurt.

I'm pretty sure it's all the love she's received and a big, healthy dose of God's grace. Definitely, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." Ecc 3:11

Picture by www.griffingibson.com

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Good Works

I didn’t blog last week. I didn’t even realize I was such a consistent blogger until I started getting emails and text messages from people asking if I was still alive.

Last week I was busy. Not my usual kind of busy. I was CRAZY busy. In my entire life, I don't think I can recall a single week when I've encountered so much need.
Last week, a six-year old child in our community drowned. One of my best friends has a small child recovering from a serious open heart surgery. An Atlanta-area family of seven brought home two special needs, very sick children from Eastern Europe. I have two different friends going through hard, ugly, painful divorces. My neighbor, with two young children, is dying of a degenerative disease – and he doesn’t know Jesus. The list goes on.

These were not needs I could meet from a distance or just write a check to cover. These were needs in my own backyard, involving people near and dear to me, and they required me. They required my time, my attention, my energy, my prayers and my leisurely evenings (which is when I usually blog)… and sometimes that stuff is so much harder to give than my money.

Of course, I  also have my own little nest to care for. My ministry to my husband and my children comes first. Always. But I'm a firm believer that part of my ministry to my family includes ministering outside of my family. I like my children to see me serving others in Jesus' name and, whenever possible, I like for them to serve alongside me.
Isaiah 58:10 exhorts us to spend ourselves on behalf of the poor. Not just our money. Ourselves.

This world is such a mess. Our sin made it that way. There’s hurt and need around every corner. There are needs across the ocean and needs right down the street. The question is this: who will meet them? Because, as Martin Luther said, “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does.”
Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Gospel of Adoption

I don’t know if anyone is aware – but I’m actually a former orphan myself. Not in sense that Hannah and Joseph were orphans – but in the sense that I spent many years of my life separated from my Heavenly Father.

For reasons still far beyond my comprehension, I was adopted into His royal family. I did nothing to earn or deserve this privilege. I became an heiress to the treasures of Heaven based not on my merit or performance –  but only on His love for me.

Becoming an adoptive parent has helped me to grasp and understand my own spiritual adoption in a way a never quite understood it before.

Adoption is redemption. It's love and nuture and un-earned grace and favor. As Katie Davis once wrote on the subject… “It’s the Gospel in my living room.”

We began pursuing the adoption of Hannah and Joseph about this time last year. Since last July, we've considered them our son and daughter, at least in our hearts and minds. But today, they became our son and daughter on paper as well. It's officially official. Team Owens is seven strong.


We waited in the courtroom for just a few minutes and then were called back to the judge's chambers. All five children sat on the floor and played nicely while Dan and I took our oaths and gave testimony.

All was well... until it wasn't. Baby Charlotte pulled a giant Costco-sized bag of goldfish out of her diaper bag and dumped the entire thing on the judge's very nice rug. But she was super nice about it. And that's just how we roll...with five small children, there always has to be at least one small incident.

While we waited in the judge's chambers (and, very glamorously, cleaned up our mountain of goldfish) our attorney asked us a question. "Can you imagine," she said, "what Hannah and Joseph's lives would be like if you hadn't adopted them?"

Dan and I looked at each other and exchanged knowing looks. We both knew what the other was thinking. The real question is this... can you imagine what OUR lives would look like if we hadn't adopted Hannah and Joseph?

We can hardly remember what life was like before these two littles joined our family. What if God hadn't opened our eyes to the deep hurt and the many needs around the world? What if He'd not given us the courage and the faith to get up and do something about it? We can't imagine.

Thankfully, we don't have to.

Happy Adoption Day, Hannah:
Picture by www.griffingibson.com

Happy Adoption Day, Joseph:

Picture by www.griffingibson.com

Before the foundations of the Earth were laid, God chose Dan and me to be your parents. We are truly blessed. You've rescued us more than we could have ever rescued you.

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." Galations 4:4-5