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Sunday, February 26, 2012

When God Needs Us

Last week, a friend asked if I could write a blog post to help raise money for another friend in need. And because I love both ladies dearly and I'd pretty much do anything for either of them, I happily agreed.

My "friend in need" was Sara. She and her entire family have been in Uganda for the last 11 months, fighting to bring their daughter home. They received all of the needed approvals to head home... but their plane tickets had expired. They needed to raise $6,500. Fast.

This is a family I love and a cause I definitely wanted to support. But as usual, I overbooked myself last week. Too much to do. Too little time. No time to blog.

I spent a couple of days thinking through blog post ideas in my head, but I didn't have any time to write. I definitely didn't have a couple of free hours to pound out the kind of thoughtful, heartfelt post that would inspire people to give.

I fretted and stressed about it all week... because you know, it was all up to me to raise the money. God needed me to do this for Him, right?

To make a long story short, I never did find a couple of free hours to write out a beautiful, inspiring post. But on Friday morning, I found a few minutes. I sat down on my porch with my laptop -- but instead of using my precious few minutes to write a beautiful post, I decided just to offer up some prayers.

Afterwards, I hurriedly typed out a couple of paragraphs, recruited Colleen to make a fancy button to slap on the page and posted it on Sara's blog. It wasn't very well written and it was full of typos. It was certainly nothing special.

I honestly have no idea how much has been raised to date... but I know that six hours after I put up the post, the entire $6,500 was raised.

Seriously. Who am I kidding? God doesn't need me. But because He is gracious and loving and good, He sometimes lets me help.

It's almost laughable how easily I can fool myself into thinking that God needs me -- instead of the other way around.

On those days I'm tempted to feel like Ron Burgundy (see the clip below if you're not familiar :-), I'm thankful that He gently and lovingly puts me back in my place. 

Thank you, Lord, for any bit part you're willing to let me play in your work.
Thursday, February 23, 2012

Let's Bring Em' Home!

Well, I've gone and done it again. For the second time this year, I've hijacked another blog. For some reason, I just can't help myself...

It's not so much the hijacking that draws me to this stuff -- it's the chance to be a small part of some really amazing God stories.

Watch the short video below and, if you're intrigued, please hop over and join me at Let Love Guide. After nearly a year in Uganda, this family is finally coming HOME! But they still need our help...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Twas the Night Before Lent...

As a family, we've never really made a big deal out of Lent. Easter, yes. Lent, not so much. Over the years, Dan and I have abstained from different things or observed the season in other ways, but it's been more of a private thing -- not a big family celebration.

This year, I've been inspired to do things differently. We're going all out for Lent. I've taken some ideas and cues from different friends and planned out a season that our whole family is pretty darn excited about.

Here's our plan...

First, the Pancake Dinner. In England, the Tuesday before Lent begins is called "Pancake Day." The point is to enjoy a rich, satisfying meal before the period of fasting and self-denial begins. I suppose it's the British version of Fat Tuesday.

So tonight, we celebrated the beginning of Lent with a big pancake supper, complete with fresh berries, whipped cream and all kinds of ridiculous toppings. I meant to take pictures but we had so much fun that I completely forgot.

Second, in keeping tradition, we're all fasting from something for the next 40 days. Tonight at dinner, we all made our announcements about what we're giving up...

Dan: Red Meat
Shelly: Facebook
Madeline: Books on Tape
Davis: Teddy Bear
Hannah: Stuffed Dog
Joseph: Stuffed Dog
Charlotte: Lent (yes, Charlotte is giving up Lent for Lent. I guess the point of the exercise was lost on a two year old).

Third, we're not only fasting. Dan and I have spent a lot of time in Isaiah 58 this week reading about the kind of fast that's acceptable to the Lord. According to these verses, a true fast requires more than abstaining -- it also requires giving and doing.

So this year for Lent, our family will also be giving. Each day for the next 40 days, we'll give a gift to someone. Not necessarily a material gift -- perhaps a gift of time or service, a meal for a mom who's too frazzled to cook or a completely random gift to someone who has no way of repaying us.

Tonight at dinner, we completed our Lent List together. This is the list of the 40 gifts that we've agreed, as a family, that we'd like to give during the season, in Jesus' name. As we discussed this list together, I was nearly moved to tears at the suggestions of my children. Even Baby Charlotte participated and contributed ideas.

And finally, we're doing a Lent Tree. I stole this sweet idea from my friend Andrea and it's such a beautiful way to celebrate the season with little ones. The idea is that you put together a simple "Lent Tree" (ours is a couple of branches plucked from trees in our yard) and decorate it each day with an ornament which corresponds to a daily Bible reading.

I originally set out to find or create 40 perfectly beautiful ornaments...

But I made it about halfway through the list before I realized it was going to be too expensive to purchase them all ready-made. And too ridiculous to try and make them all fluffy and perfect, because I'm terribly un-crafty.

So instead, I bought some clay and Dan and I had an ornament making fest with the kids. We all pitched in and molded the last 20 ornaments together. It was great fun and I ended up with some serious keepsake pieces...

Here's my favorite, by Davis:

As Davis explains it, the ram is sad because she's about to be sacrificed. Can't say I blame the old girl.

Here's to celebrating the season! I hope you'll celebrate with us -- the more the merrier!
Sunday, February 19, 2012

No Burning Bushes

I know, I've been quiet. I don't think I've ever gone a full two weeks without updating this blog. But y'all, I've had a lot on my mind...

Several months ago, I did a post entitled The Waiting Place. The title probably says it all but in case you can't tell...Dan and I were um, waiting.

Waiting upon the Lord, that is. In prayer and petition. Over some serious, stressful and [what we preceived to be] time sensitive matters.

We're now three months down the road and I can tell you this with great confidence: we're still pretty clueless.

In matters of divine revelation, I'm clearly on a need-to-know basis. And apparently, I don't need to know any more than I know right now. The Lord keeps reminding me that there's a biblical term for this kind of predicament. It's mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:7 and it's called...

"Walking by faith and not by sight."


I was hoping for a clearly marked road map, dropped straight from Heaven. Or maybe a visit from an angel. Or at least a burning bush in my bedroom. But no. We're called to walk by faith, not by magical road maps that guarantee success, safety and protection at every turn.

We're called to walk by faith and trust that because He is God and because He is good -- He will not fail us. Or as Martin Luther says... "I know not the way he leads me, but well I know my guide."

And so now the time is upon us. It's time for Dan and me to start stepping forward in one direction or another. And we will do it, but by faith alone. I'll share the details on all of this when the time is right. But for now, please know that our family sure could use your prayers.

Over the coming season of Lent, our family plans to seek out as many opportunities as possible to draw close to the Lord. To sit at His feet. To reflect His glory. And to walk by faith.

We've created a Lent Tree like my friend, Andrea. But with a bit of a "Crazy" twist to it. Check back with me on Tuesday night, the night my children are referring to as "Lent Season Eve," and I'll share all our big plans for the next 40 days.

Who knows? You may even decide to to take a step of faith and party along with us.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Healing {Still} Happens

Today I took Hannah and Joseph for a blood draw. They've been home for over a year now and this should be their final battery of post-adoption tests, declaring both of them completely healthy and bringing much peace of mind to our family.

Blood draws with four and five-year-olds are not usually my idea of a good time... but this one went so well. Hannah and Joseph did great. Really, really great. So great that I felt it time for a blog re-run, because today's appointment was pretty much the same as that one last June...

Healing Happens, from June 9, 2011

Nearly seven months ago, I took Hannah and Joseph for their very first appointment at our pediatrician’s office. I wrote about that appointment here. It’s a day I will never forget…

It was the dead of winter and I remember running through the freezing cold parking deck at Piedmont Hospital, dragging behind me two children I barely knew. We made our way into the doctor’s office, signed in and began the unbundling of coats, scarves, hats and gloves. All the while I’m wondering what the people around us could possibly be thinking about the exhausted-looking, short-tempered white lady with the two black children who were speaking some obscure African language.

I felt like every eyeball in the room was on me and, despite the freezing temperatures outside, I can remember sitting in the waiting room and breaking into a sweat.

After what seemed like about 5 hours (but it was probably more like 5 minutes), the nurse called us back for our appointment. Our pediatrician, Dr.Roe, is a member of the SixtyFeet board. He traveled to Uganda twice last year and had already given both Hannah and Joseph full exams, so our appointment was quick. Dr. Roe wrapped it up, hugged the kids good-bye and then broke the bad news to me: “Shelly, you know we have to start catching them up on their vaccinations. Today."

Joseph handled it like any other three-year-old. He huffed and puffed and cried and got over it when I handed him a sucker.

Hannah was a different story. When the nurse brought the needles into the room, Hannah became more hysterical than any child I have ever seen. She belted out the most primal screams I’ve ever heard. She kicked, hit, pinched and tried to bite me. And she became freakishly strong – between two nurses and me, the three of us couldn’t hold her down so Dr. Roe had to come in to restrain her.

It was a pretty awful scene. And it was probably two full days before Hannah really calmed down and recovered from the episode. I don’t know if I’ve ever really recovered.

Fast forward seven months…

Today we had another doctor’s appointment. Hannah and Joseph were both due for another major round of shots. I’ve been prepping them since last week…. “Guys, we’re going to Dr.Roe’s office next Thursday. You’re both going to have shots. It’s going to hurt but just for a minute. And then you get a sucker and we’ll go home.”

Today we walked into the office. I signed us in and grabbed a seat in the waiting room. Hannah and Joseph sat on either side of me and looked quietly at books. And as I type this, I realize that I didn’t even give a second thought to what anyone was thinking about the white lady with the two black children.

The nurse called us back quickly (which was kind of a bummer… I didn’t even have time to update my facebook status and ask people to pray) and the appointment was over before we knew it. And then it was show time. Or shot time. Whatever.

Dr. Roe walked out of the room and the nurse was on the way in with her tray full of shots – polio, tetanus, Hep A, Hep B… Hannah looked me square in the eye and proclaimed “Mommy, I be a big girl this time. I no cry.” And of course I’m thinking “yeah right.” But I gave her a smile and some encouraging words. But on the inside my heart was pounding, my palms were sweating and I’m was wondering when everyone was going to fall apart.

The nurse walks in, smiled at Hannah and asked “would you like to go first?” Hannah said, “yes please,” hopped on the table and looked at me. She repeated her claim from earlier… “I be big girl. I no cry.” And I walked over and held her hands tightly and braced myself for whatever was coming next and… NOTHING.

I almost could not believe me eyes. Hannah’s band-aids were on. Her eyes were dry. It was over. And she was SMILING!!!!!! Joseph went next and, spurred on my Hannah’s heroic performance, he did the exact same thing.

The nurse looked at me and I looked back at her and she said “Wow. That was remarkable. Do you remember what it was like six months ago?” And I started to laugh because how could I forget? But then I started to cry because I was so incredibly proud of them. And so there were tears shed after all -- just not Hannah and Joseph’s.

I know it was easier on them this time for a myriad of reasons – Hannah and Joseph are familiar with our pediatrician’s office and with his staff. They speak and understand the language everyone was using. This time they knew what was going on.

But more than anything, I think this made the difference: we've become a real family. Hannah and Joseph trust me and they know I'd never do anything to hurt them. Their hearts are starting to heal.

In some ways, the last seven months have flown by. And in other ways, time has gone so slowly and some days have been so hard. But slowly, our Lord is bringing healing. He's healing Hannah and Joseph's hearts, minds and bodies from pain and experiences they never should have had.

He's also healing the rest of the Owens crew. He's healing us from the curse of our abundance, our selfishness, our materialism. From the way we used to live and from the things we used to live for. The last seven months have opened our eyes in ways we never could have imagined -- and we will never be the same.

Indeed, He makes all things new.
Sunday, February 5, 2012

{And Now} A Heartfelt Post

On Tuesday night, I sat down to share my thoughts and experiences from the Created for Care retreat, held last weekend in Buford, GA. But then I was rudely interrupted by a hilarious video clip and was temporarily rendered unable to write.

Now I'm back and I do want to share about my weekend.

Created for Care 2012 was a time of total refreshment for me. Note that I did not say it was a time of relaxation or rest... I think I slept for a combined total of 6 hours the entire weekend. And I'm not sure if I sat down the entire time. But dang it was fun.

It was a weekend of laughter, encouragement, friendship and complete, utter joy with a hotel full of like-minded ladies. In my book, it doesn't get much better than this:

I spent my time working at the SixtyFeet table, doing some break-out sessions,

That's me on the end and some of my favorite blog writers on the panel: Gwen Oatsvall, Suzanne Mayernick, Missy Dollahan, Kristi Johnson, Lovelyn Palm and Lara Dinsmore.

and generally doing what I do best: talking, laughing, eating and acting completely immature.

Of course this is Joy, not me. But I was wearing the baskets on my head too. I just don't have a picture of myself to share.

On Saturday night, I found myself onstage addressing all 450 women at the retreat. Andrea was crazy gracious enough to give me the mic and a few minutes to thank the retreat attendees for the role so many of them have played in launching and growing the ministry of SixtyFeet over the last two years.

During this time my heart was not just to speak for SixtyFeet or for Uganda or even for orphan ministry -- but to speak for ministry work in general. Because even large, busy, overbooked families can do ministry. You really can.
Now I'd be lying if I didn't tell you this... while I was up there speaking, a part of me actually wanted to scream "DON'T DO IT!! Keep your head down. Pour all of your time and energy into your husband and your children and your home. Don't get sucked into ministry work because it's crazy out there. Play it safe, avoid the spiritual warefare and just stay home!!"

But what a disservice that would have been. While playing it safe would've made my life easier, it would've also made it far less meaningful. We weren't built for easy. We were built for service. We're here to work. And I so want to encourage you in that.

I may have already shared this short clip with you but it's so good, it's worth sharing again. Hear below what Francis Chan has to say about playing it safe and staying home.

You can do ministry. You really can. You don't have to wait until you reach a season in life that's more manageable. You don't have to wait until all of your sin issues have been defeated. You don't have to wait until you've been trained at seminary. If you're willing and open-handed, God will use you right now if you'll let Him.

Have a great week, friends. If you're watching the Superbowl tonight (I personally don't even know who's playing), enjoy with caution.