"Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and deeds." ~ 1 John 3:18

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fully Live

" All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
~ J.R.R Tolkien
As I sit in Miami airport getting ready to leave for Haiti, after just celebrating my birthday ; I have some time to reflect and pray about my life. Have I and am I spending my time the way the Lord would want me to. Am I doing what God created me to do. Many days I look around my house and see dishes piled high in the sink, crumbs and stickiness on the kitchen floor, hand prints and speckles on mirrors, splatters of toothpaste on sinks, broken crayons & toys in the floor and the sound of Mooooommm!!! This is code for "I'm getting ready to tell on somebody!" I would like to say that in these moments I look around and thank the Lord for another day. I have to be honest and say many times I ask, "God, is this really what you want me to be doing?" Scrubbing toilets, floors, & smudges off mirrors?! Is this what you created me for? Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love being a mom & wife, but there are just days that it gets to me. The feeling of invisibleness & doing the same things over and over. How do we fully live everyday?
The Lord is teaching me that life is truly a gift and that I need to be fully present and give thanks all the time, even in the small things. Even in the scrubbing toilets and washing mirrors. Jesus calls us to give thanks in all circumstances. Is this the secret to a full
life? When we are fully present, giving thanks in all things, this is what makes our life full.
"The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live." Ann Voskamp
Is that what it means to fully live? To live in the present? To be thankful for every minute,
every second because it is a gift of God's grace?
Isn't it amazing when you travel to third world countries and you see the poverty, but what
you also see is joy and thankfulness. Many of us Americans would say that those things just don't go together, joy and poverty. That just doesnt make sense to us who live in abundance. Could it be that they have found the fullest
life? The life that God wants us to have? That they are truly thankful for what they do have because they know what it means to go without? That they have found Jesus in the mundane, in the dirty, in the everyday ordinary tasks? Is it possible to find joy and thankfulness in everything knowing that it's a gift from God? The good, the hard, the ordinary?

And so I begin to keep a gratitude journal as I sit in the airport, thanks to Ann Voskamp, and her wonderful book "One Thousand Gifts". I begin to intentionally give thanks in every situation, in the small stuff that I have for too long taken for granted, so that I may fully
live and be fully present in every moment.

#1. The chatter of people talking in different languages.
2. The giggle of a baby.
3. The taste of chocolate.
4. The smile of a stranger.
5. Holding hands of an elderly couple.
6. The amazingness of being able to fly on a plane.
7. The glare of airplane lights.
8. The joy of watching someone fly for first time.
9. Slap happy laughs!
10. Conversation with friends.
11. A midnight snack
All this to be thankful for in a few minutes of sitting in an airport!
Is this what it means to fully live in every moment?!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


This past couple weeks have been great ones for me! I feel like we are getting to a place where there is light at the end of the tunnel. As many of you know, we have been having some behavior/emotional issues with Layla for the past two years that only intensified when we moved in August. We sought help thru a child psychologist in November, and Layla was diagnosed with Aspergers. From the beginning, I always had a hard time thinking that was really what we were dealing with and I so desperately wanted answers. Layla did show some signs of Aspergers like melt downs, some sensory issues, and lack of empathy; but her behaviors were not consistent. She could turn them on and off depending on if she is around people she is close to. She was evaluated in the public school system for special education and did not qualify because she scored average in all domains, and they also said she showed no signs of Autism. At that time, we were left feeling we were back at square one, not knowing what to do or where to go. Praise God that He allowed a family friend and a lady named Julie to meet and thru conversation began talking about Layla and the issues we were having. She too has an adopted daughter and is the executive director of the Attachment & Trauma network (www.radzebra.org). I had a great conversation with her and she has helped point us in the right direction. She shared with me that many of our children that are adopted have trauma responses and attachment issues (even if they are adopted as infants). After researching more I realized that Layla shows all the signs for attachment and trauma issues and something called Developmental Trauma Disorder.
Although Layla was an infant when we brought her home she was malnourished and at 6 months was barely holding her head up.  Layla probably doesn't consciously remember going without food, getting little attention, and her needs not being met, however, it has effected her brain development. This was a trauma that occurred when she was most vulnerable and there was nothing that she could do about it. Now Layla feels the need to always be in control, even though many times her control seems like chaos to us, leaving us as parents feeling very out of control! We have tried every type of discipline that worked wonderfully with our two boys with no avail. We have tried time-out, time-in, holding, ignoring, positive reinforcement; you name it and we've done it!
Things are now beginning to look up! After talking with Julie, Layla has now started Occupational Therapy and I just met with Family Intervention. God is so good! Family Intervention is right here in our county, and they have therapist that specialize in attachment therapy (they are hard to find)! Not only that, but they will begin coming to our home to do therapy with Layla once a week and also to do family therapy with all of us! I know that God has a plan for Layla and for us!
Going through this with Layla has given me so much more empathy for children with behavior issues and their parents. To be honest, I used to see a child that was out of control and defiant and think, "those parents just need to discipline their child!" Now I realize that may not be the case. I realized how far God has brought me this past weekend while serving on Fulton Industrial Blvd, at Maximum Impact. There was a little boy there that was completely out of control. He was doing everything he was not supposed to be doing. He was about to be kicked out of the Kids Zone area and my heart was so burdened for this child. I went over to him and grabbed him by the hand. I started telling him that I knew he was a good boy, that Jesus loved him,  and that I knew he could follow the rules. After a while, I began to see a few hints of a smile and he stood by me hand in hand as we stood in line to get in the bouncy house. I don't know what this boy's story was, but what I did know is that I could see Layla when I looked at him. I can only pray that if this were my daughter that someone would see her as a child of God, and not just her negative behavior. That someone would also take her by the hand, tell her that she is special, and love her like Jesus would. Isn't it AMAZING how God uses the hard in our lives for His glory! A year ago, I would have never seen this little boy like that. I would have seen him as just another child in need of discipline. God always has a plan, even when we can't see it. Thank you Lord, for knowing what I need even when I don't.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Dreamed A Dream

I had the great opportunity to speak at a Women's Retreat over the weekend, the theme was I Dreamed A Dream. The Lord put a dream in my heart back in 1998 when I went on my first international mission trip to Honduras. It was there that I saw poverty like never before, and also where a woman asked me to take her baby. It wasn't because she didn't want her, but because she knew she couldn't provide for her needs. It was in that moment that I felt the Lord telling me," Kristy, this is what I want you to do with your life". I continued to go on missions trips, graduated college, got married, & had 2 beautiful boys.
In 2007, I once again felt the Lord leading me & our family to adopt a child from Ethiopia. We went thru the process & our adoption of our sweet daughter Layla, was final in July 2008. My husband & I thought we would just go to Ethiopia, get our daughter, love on kids, & bring her home. Little did we know that the Lord was about to turn our world upside down. We got there & saw poverty like we never had before. Young children living on the streets, begging for food, digging thru the trash for their next meal, raising their baby siblings, being abused, & dying with no one to hold them. I cried out to the Lord & said "where are you in all this?!" I felt Him saying to me, " I'm here & I want you to do something".
It is no accident that poverty is mentioned in scripture 2,100 times. It is our job as Christians to do something about it. There are 118 million people that go to church and 147 million orphans. If every church goer would do something to make a difference in the life of an orphan, what a huge difference that would make! In the past hour, 1,625 children were forced to live on the streets, 1,667 children under the age of 5 died of malnutrition and vaccine preventable diseases, 115 children became prostitutes, 257 children were orphaned by HIV. The statistics are staggering, and yet each one of these statistics are real people just like you and me, just like our sons and daughters; and they dream just like us.
In our case, our dreams inspired action. People supported our dreams, our families, friends, teachers, and communities. And we continue to dream, and if we are honest, many of these dreams may be of what we could have been, opportunities missed, time wasted, but we feel like it is too late and we must come to terms with what our life has become. I can tell you that it is not too late to dream! It is not too late to make a difference in the life of a child!
There are many people from all over the world, from all walks of life who have made it their dream to make other's dreams come true. Tenagne, an orphanage director who has given up her way of life to live with street kids that have HIV. She has sold everything, went without sleep and food, so she can help make children's dreams come true. A man who goes to the market dump every night and dig thru the trash so the children in his orphanage can eat, so they can dream. A 24 year old girl who gave up her comfortable, material life here in the states, to move to Uganda where she has now adopted 14 orphans, cares for the sick, and risks her life daily so these children can dream. A mother who risks her life every night on the most dangerous streets of Atlanta to save children forced into child sex trafficking from being raped 15-20 times a day so they can dream. Countless families who have taken in abused and neglected foster children knowing the behavioral issues, mental ilnesses, and hard times there family will face, so these children can dream.
It takes one person to make a difference in the life of a child. A year ago, I would have told you that everyone should adopt a child. Now my opinion on that has changed. While I do think that every family that is able and feels called should adopt (with realistic expectations & attachment training), I don't think that is the only answer. I've realized from talking with other families that not all are equipped to take on some of the challenges a third of adoptive families face, such as attachment and trauma issues. However, I do feel that we are all called to care for orphans and widows, and there are many ways to do that. Thru sponsorship, supporting a family that is adopting, supporting missionaries, providing support for a family that does have a child with attachment or trauma issues, volunteering at a children's home, and the list goes on and on. Each and every person can and should do something to make a difference in the life of a child. This too can be your dream, that no child will live on the streets, die alone, go without medical care or a family to love them. I pray that every child has a dream and that one day all their dreams will come true and that more people will step up to the plate and make it their dream as well.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Parent's Letter About the Struggles of Raising a Traumatized Child

(A letter written from parents of traumatized children).

I’m writing this letter because you have expressed an interest in my experience as a parent of a traumatized, attachment-disordered child. It is not a story I relate to you lightly. My child has some very special needs and because of this, so do I. I need people to understand what our family faces, not just judge us as incompetent. It isn’t fair what happened to my child. But it is what we are all facing together as a family,and we face it together everyday.

First, I’d like you to know that this letter was not written just by me. Parents from all over the country are using it to tell a uniquely tragic story. This letter isn’t the ranting of one isolated, overwhelmed, and oversensitive adult. I did not "do" this to my child. My child came to me this way. Chances are she would be struggling with these same behaviors and emotions in any family. My child's problems are not the result of poor parenting by me. In fact, parents of traumatized children are some of the most courageous, committed, resourceful, insightful, misunderstood, and stressed-out parents around. We are not just bellyachers. We are in fact, front-line troops in the battle for civilization itself. If you think that’s somehow over-inflated, consider the statistics that most of today’s prison population was abused and/or neglected and many have attachment-related emotional problems.

So here is what happened—when my child was a little baby, at the time she was most vulnerable, she did not get her basic needs met. Perhaps, she was not picked up when crying, not fed when hungry, left alone for hours, or left with various strangers for days. Perhaps she was beaten, shaken, or otherwise physically or sexually abused. I might guess at these details of my child’s trauma, but I will never likely know the full truth. Because of this neglect and abuse, my child became traumatized and was convinced that she was going to die. She learned that she could not trust anyone to meet her needs. And every day since, when my child wakes up in the morning, this deep-seated anxiety gets reloaded. In order to survive, she has become unconsciously committed to never, ever being vulnerable again. She uses all of her basic survival intelligence to control an outside world she feels she cannot trust. All her existential energy is focused on keeping people far enough away so she won’t get hurt again, but close enough that they won’t leave her either. Unfortunately, she is never really satisfied with either proximity and is therefore constantly in a “push them away/pull them close” dilemma. As her adoptive parent, I live everyday in this no man’s land of damaged intimacy. I’ve been emotionally wounded from the many times I’ve tried to break through my child’s formidable defenses. Those who don’t need to get as close—teachers, relatives, neighbors, etc.—won’t experience the full intensity of these primal defenses. So if you are lucky enough to see her withdraw or witness one of her rages, you are probably getting close—so good for you! But if this does happen, please remember that you are witnessing a child stuck in a desperate fight for survival—she has become once again that scared, traumatized baby, absolutely convinced she has to control you and everything in the world in order to be safe. It can’t get more primal than that.Now my stressful reaction starts to feel familiar, even “safe”, to her, so she works (often subconsciously) to expand this, and we descend into deeper and deeper dysfunction and chaos. To my child’s trauma-injured brain, this dysregulated feeling, which feels painful to healthy people, actually feels normal to her. And I’m left feeling stressed, angry, and emotionally spent.
As her parent, I am dedicated to helping her realize that I am not her enemy. It is that stark, I’m afraid. But not hopeless. During these very difficult years, I have tried many approaches to parenting of my special child. The standard, traditional disciplinary approaches used by my parents were obviously tried first and were an instant failure.Star charts and behavior-based rewards came next, and they did not work either.I have
tried using praise rather than criticism, bribery, ignoring destructive behaviors, created known-in-advance consequences listed on print-outs. I’ve hired numerous specialists; cleared all possessions out of her bedroom; taken away TV and other privileges.Nothing has changed her self-destructive behavior. Her response is more primal, more subconscious, and has little to do with a situation or possessions involved.It has to do with the fear that’s triggered, the trust that was broken, the chaos she feels. It’s like she is having emotional seizure, as cascading brain chemistry takes her over. She doesn’t choose this – I don’t choose this—it just happens. So our days are mostly filled with emotional explosions and uneasy calms between the storms. When it does get quiet, I’m nervous about when the next bomb will hit. Each day is filled with anxiety, fear, guilt, and shame for us both. It is like we’re living on an emotional minefield, and the mines keep regenerating, exploding again and again.What I face daily is, that despite my best efforts to be a loving caregiver, my child’s early developmental trauma has created a discord that is a true paradox. For example, I may try to gently calm my upset child, but this is not experienced as soothing to her. So her trauma is triggered and she may withdraw, shut down or lash out. This causes me to get stressed as my child reacts counter to my intention. Absolute total consistency (at home and at school) does help somewhat. Parenting traumatized children like this is nothing like parenting emotionally healthy children. The responses you receive can be very unrewarding and punishing, since moments of closeness and intimacy are very rare and can trigger a trauma reaction. My beloved special child is often willing to do for others (even complete strangers) what she is not willing to do for me (this is another behavior common with attachment disorder). The damage done due to early childhood trauma and not being able to safely attach to a trusted caregiver has left my child with the emotional development of a toddler or infant. But the big difference is that my child is not an infant. Imposing limits isn’t enough. My child must be helped to accept these limits and internalize the self-regulation, self-soothing, and self-control required to do so.

Rewards and punishments focus on the outside, observable behaviors, not the internal underlying process that creates these behaviors. At the same time, she does not need us to lower our expectations for either her behavior or her academic performance. What she needs is help in accepting and reacting to these expectations with flexibility and self control. She needs to restart the developmental process and move beyond an emotional infant. She needs to move out of this developmental disarray toward a more civilized, balanced inner process. Our family needs support, education and understanding. We did not expect that this would be our daily reality, and it isn’t easy. I may seem stressed, fearful or angry. I am frequently overwhelmed. I am making significant sacrifices so that my child can rise above the chaos of her trauma and find true hope and healing.

We all have amazing abilities to adapt, as adversity can deepens us and perhaps this will be so for my child as they confront deeply sealed wounds and transgressions. But we must go beyond intellectual definitions of “normal” and “cured” and think of it in another way: Can someone’s affliction, which has shut off various levels of meaning from their life, be mitigated enough to possibly reopen some of those channels? Or put another way, if left alone without special effort, will these kids descend into more and more chaos?
Clearly, the answer to both questions is yes. Therefore, the effort and sacrifice I’m making in my life for her, and the help you are now hopefully willing to give me, is of great value. Help me help my child realize the true blessing life can be.

Layla is our special gift from the Lord and our heart bleeds for her. We so desperately want her to know how much she is loved by us and by the Lord. We know that the Lord has put her in our life for a reason,  and we know that the Lord has great plans for her and us as we follow after Him.

(A special thanks to Julie Beems from http://www.radzebra.org/ for putting this letter out there for others to make it their own.)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Are We Being " The Church"?

As I travel back from a church planting conference, Im trying to process all the information I took in this week. Over and over I was reminded and convicted that for so long, the majority of American churches have just been existing as "a church" and not "the church". Is the church today really doing what Jesus did with the disciples? Are we really going and caring for the least of these? Are we really being Jesus' hands and feet in a world and culture that so desperately needs to know the love and mercy of Jesus? Or are we just being "a church" where people come on Sunday mornings just to do the "church thing", but never live out what the Bible says? Are we just trying to build our empire with programs, entertainment, extra money in the bank, and lots of people that fill a seat once a week just so we can say, " look at all our church is doing, look at all the people we had on Sunday"?
I pray that our motives are pure and that our heart is right. That we are being "the church" to our communities. That we are loving and caring for the lost and hurting in our cities. Not so they will come to our church, but because we want them to know the Lord. Jesus walked with, did life with, and made disciples out of 12 men and He calls us to do the same. Not to have a zillion programs and to make sure everyone is satisfied and entertained by the music or the pastor, but to truly get down in the mud with people.

I have to be honest and say that the season of life I'm in right now, I'm having a really hard time seeing big fancy church buildings, thousands of dollars spent on children's decorations, state of the art equipment, & staff salaries that are 3 times as large as the median income for their area, fancy cars, designer suits, all that has become very sickening to me. That's just the reality of where I'm at right now. Please don't get offended if you are a part of a church like that. Everyone has their own convictions. It is just so sad to me that as Christ followers, we have bought into the American dream of more stuff, more money,and bigger buildings equals success. It is hard for me to listen to churches brag about giving $15,000 to the poor, when they spent 3 million on a building or paying the mortgage. It just really hits me the wrong way. It is no accident that poverty and caring for the poor is mentioned in scripture more than 2,000 times. What are we as "the church" doing about it? Are we doing what Jesus said or are we just giving our pennies just so we can add to the list of things we support?

I guess the reason it has really been weighing on my heart heavy is because we just launched One Community Church 5 weeks ago and fundraising has been a vital part of being able to sustain our church. We have to have money, we have to have supporters and donors that believe in us and our vision. I just hate that money has to be involved. I tell the Lord often, "Lord, I just want to help people find their way to you, I just want to serve the poor, I just want to love on orphans. How do we really be "the church" and make our church look like that?

I know there are many churches out there that are truly being " the church" in this consumer driven world. I was so blessed to listen to threepastors of churches like this at conference this week. One was a pastor of a church in Cleveland, Ohio who read a book about orphan care and poverty and took action. His congregation has now a huge population of adopted children from domestic adoption to international. Him hearing that 80% of our prisons are filled with adults that were in foster care was enough for him to do something about it. His church alone has put a huge dent in Ohio's children available for foster care. Another pastor from Austin, Texas who had been the pastor of a mega church felt the Lord leading him to quit his job and serve the poor. With just a grill and some hot dogs he began living amongst the homeless of his city, feeding them, and doing life with them. He is now the pastor of a small church that revolves around serving the poor. One Sunday a month church is cancelled so his congregation can go out and serve their city. In fact, Easter Sunday instead of getting caught up in numbers and an immaculent service, he chose to cancel services and serve the homeless. Another pastor in Sydney, Austraillia have people from his church serve as street pastors in a very rough area on Saturday nights into early Sunday mornings just to care for people. To talk to the lady whose husband has just left her, to walk the guy home who has drank too much, to be Jesus to the hurting. Since they have started this ministry,violent crime has dropped by 30%! The saddest thing about his story was that when he presented this idea to other pastors in the area, the majority opposed because it would take away from their numbers on Sunday mornings because street pastors are usually out til 4am. That breaks my heart and the heart of God!! We are so concerned with gathering that we forget the importance of scattering and really why we are doing what we are doing.

What if all of our churches looked like this? What if we all just wanted to serve the poor, care for orphans, help the needy? Oh how much that would effect our world! If we were all sold out to the call of Christ. Our churches would would be different, our families would be differ t, and our cities would be transformed! There are 147 million orphans and 118 million People in the U.S that go to church. Oh, what we could do if our churches were truly living out the mission and were "the church" and not just "a church".

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

                                                                       La Gonave, Haiti

"Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered." Proverbs 21:13

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Versatile Blogger Award!

I have been given the Versatile Blogger Award by Sharon from http://mamasturnnow.blogspot.com. Thanks Sharon, I need to get the word out there about my blog and I appreciate your help! There are rules that go along with this award and the first is for me to list 10 things about myself, so here goes...

1. I am married to a pastor/church planter (obviously from blog title!)
2. Jesus is my everything...there is NO way I could make it thru without Him!
3. We recently moved to Atlanta from Ohio.
4. I was born and raised in Harrodsburg, Kentucky & lived in the same house from birth til I got married!
5. I love to eat, shop, watch movies, travel, read, listen to worship music, be outside, take walks, play with my kids.
6. I love Ethiopia!!! It is one of my favorite places in the world!
7. My daughter is adopted from Ethiopia and I hope to adopt again one day. Adoption has changed my life!
8. I love the smell of breakfast cooking in the morning.
9. My guilty pleasure is reading celebrity gossip.
10. My daughter has been diagnosed with Aspergers, and somedays I feel like I'm going to loose my mind & others I think I can take on the world (may depend on what time of the month it is lol).

Okay now I'm supposed to list other new blogs that I read and present them with award. Since I'm new to this I don't know many new blogs, so I will just put those I read. Check them out!

and make sure you also check out mamasturnnow.blogspot.com

If you receive this award, here are the rules:
1.Winners grab the image above and put it in your blog.
2.Link back to the person who gave you it.
3.Tell 10 interesting things about yourself
4.Award 15 recently discovered bloggers.
5.Contact the bloggers you have awarded to let them know they have won.

Happy Blogging!