Be the Difference-Maker + Creating Action When We Feel Helpless

A few years ago, one of our children lied and said I was abusing them because they were so homesick for Ethiopia. Not comprehending how love and family worked, they figured if they made things hard enough for us, we'd put them on a plane and send them back. As Child Protective Services opened a full-fledged investigation on me, they threatened not to take this singular child from us, but remove all our children from my care.

I cannot even begin to explain the loss and fear surrounding my heart at the idea of that possibility. Thankfully, these amazing individuals whose job is solely to ensure the safety and well-being of children ultimately saw through this lie and found a happy, safe, and thriving family...and a child with trauma who was struggling in a very significant way.

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A parent's worst nightmare

As we know though, our outcome isn't the reality of other families. While watching the news and seeing images of children and parents ripped from one another's arms, I think back on those weeks of panic, dread, and fear. It's a parent's worst nightmare...and every child's greatest horror. And yet it's actually occurring right here in our country. Shoving aside all politics, we're all heartbroken and enraged that our greatest terror is happening right now....at this very moment.

While chatting with a friend today, I was reminded of a section of my book and how pertinent it feels right now in light of the story that is unfolding between us and Mexico....

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Do nothing?

Last summer, our oldest son Abreham (then 17), worked at a car wash. It wasn’t particularly close to our house and he had yet to get his driver’s license
so he took the light-rail each day. While walking
under the overpass that led to where he’d buy
his ticket and hop on the train, he’d often see a
homeless man. Day after day, he’d smile and say
hello as he passed the man. One morning though,
Abreham was struck with the realization that this man had a story,
and, just like the rest of us, he needed hope and community.
Stopping to have a conversation with him, my teenage son wanted
to know the narrative that was this man’s life.

According to the man, he struggled with family issues and since he was relatively new to
our country, he didn’t have a community or anyone to go to. This
man came into our country legally, but no one wanted to hire a dirty
homeless man who didn’t speak English well. The Lord spoke to my
son’s heart that day and urged him to buy the hungry man breakfast
at the nearby McDonald’s as well as a ticket for the light-rail. Why
the train ticket? Because Abreham was determined to get him a job
at the car wash. And you know what? He did. And it wasn’t the only time our oldest son did something like this.

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Abreham didn’t work at that car wash for more than a few months, yet when he’d hear of
someone who couldn’t find a job, he’d tell them to come by and tell
his boss that he was the one who sent them. He did the same thing
for a friend’s sixty-five-year-old mother who came over from Ethiopia
and also hardly spoke any English. He knew fluency wasn’t a prerequisite
to wash a car. He dove into these people’s stories, knowing each
was different, and because he listened to the Lord’s prompting, he
helped change the narrative in their lives.

How often do we do something like this? I’ll admit . . . I never
have to the extent Abreham has. Maybe it’s a different type of bravery
that I haven’t tapped into yet, but watching my son sure has made me
pay closer attention to how I can also enter into the stories of people
I encounter each and every day.

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Where is God in all this?

I remember awhile back someone
telling me she struggled with all the devastation we hear about every
day in the news: human trafficking, the global water crisis, children
dying from hunger, domestic violence, and so many more horrible
things. As she shared this struggle, she asked, “Where is God in all of
this?” The other woman with us looked at her and gently said, “What
if that’s why we’re here? What are you doing about it?”

Gosh her comment woke me up: What am I doing about it? I can’t complain and
yet do nothing.

Sometimes God walks us through the valley, or through seasons
in general, to show us something. Perhaps Abreham’s short time at
that car wash was just to help this man. Maybe my friend was struggling
with all that she saw on the news because the Lord wanted her to
wake up and take action.

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Are we entering into the stories of others, or just regurgitating what we're hearing? Are we stepping in and truly making a difference in the lives of others around us?

My friend felt angry and wondered where God was in all she saw around her, maybe you wonder the same thing. But you know what? Perhaps the reason your emotions are running high is because the Lord is asking you to be the difference-maker.

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As a mom of children with trauma...

Helping these children is paramount. As it is, the trauma of being taken from their families and placed basically in huge warehouses full of other children, will be something that will follow them for years to come. It's an atrocity. As a mom of children with trauma, I can tell you how significant it is and how it swirls around in so many aspects of their lives.

During one of our trips to Ethiopia, we encountered about a thousand people in a haphazard line that wound itself around buildings and down the block. These folks looked weary and exhausted. It was obvious that they had stood in line a significant amount of time...hours, even overnight. Why? Because they were trying to receive permission to come to the US. I was embarrassed and even a bit angry at the realization that I got to skip the entirety of this massive queue, as were our Ethiopian children because we were already granted an appointment to receive a Visa and passport for our newest little loves. These people must stand in the heat, with their children, haphazard tents but mostly no covering from the elements, limited access to food and water, and wait for days...with only a chance to be granted permission to come to our country.

Again, putting politics aside...this post isn't about that.

This is about the people. 

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Just like it made me sad, embarrassed, and angry that I got to go to the front of the line, I'm also sad and angry that these dedicated Ethiopians (and others like them worldwide) often don't get to come to our great country...and yet because Mexico is our neighbor, they are able to scootch themselves on in.

I'm not saying the Mexican community shouldn't be here, of course, I'm not. What I am saying, however, is that while thousands of individuals throughout the world have no other option than going through the proper channels to start a life in the US and yet others sneak in, we're all wanting a better life for our children. And with that as our focal point, we need to stand beside those who cannot fight for themselves and get these children back in the arms of their parents.

Put away your politics, put away your social media rants.

Don't get angry and yet do nothing to affect change.

Let's help these children. Contact your legislator today.

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Be a Difference-Maker.

Take Joy,

Teresa

turning our kids into World-Changers.

Investing in our children to help them understand there's life outside their little bubble, is beyond important in our family.

Where’s my Thesaurus? I need a word bigger and dreamier than important...

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Crucial?

Imperative?

Paramount?

Whatever it is, that’s how I feel.

Imani and Elsabet

I think sometimes people assume that since we’ve opened our arms to four incredible loves from Ethiopia, that we’ve got selflessness all figured out.

And sometimes I think “Ok, check. Living out the verse about caring for widows and orphans. Done.” But no…it’s not “Done.” Are you kidding me, Self?

That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

Stop. Try again. Keep going.

How do we teach this to our kids?

Laith and Elsabet

Ben and I have been talking for years about teaching our kids to live outside themselves.

Kids are self-centered. Adults are self-centered.

You know it’s true…for the most part, we are. We all are, if we’re good and honest about it.

But if we teach the kids. If we open their eyes and their hearts when they’re young…think of the world we’d live in when it’s them with the jobs and the cars.

Them with the passion to change injustices and love on those who are in need of a little extra.

What kind of world would we live in if our children changed the world?

Little Helpers

When we returned home from Ethiopia after bringing Anton (then six years old) with us, his life was changed. He sold piles of his toys in hopes to build a well, after watching a group of women and small children on a Water-Walk.

He said he wanted to start an organization called, Anton’s Hope and he wanted other kids to come along side him to also raise money for wells or for animals to be given to families. Ezekiel’s mom sold their goat’s milk as added income. It was huge for his family when he was young, living in his little village on the boarder of Ethiopia and Sudan.

So we listened to Anton’s vision, his desires and dreams. And now it’s been two years and somehow though we’re still gripping the concept…it’s so big, we’re overwhelmed. Quite honestly, we’re stalled. Ben and I don’t know how to step forward in it. We need to find someone to help.

Abreham

So in the meantime, as Anton’s Hope is built, how do we include our children and work as a family in volunteering and giving time and hearts…for others?

How do we teach them in a way that it changes their world-view and isn’t simply something we go through the motions in doing, because “Mom and Dad said to?”

No, really…I’m asking.

I want your help.

My desire is something more than working at the Soup Kitchen once a month. I don’t think at this point, there would be an immense impact on them.

Mom Taxi

And I get that this is not about US…it’s about helping OTHERS.

I do. I get that.

I read Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love. I underlined practically the entire chapter on how we as (Christian) Americans look at short term missions trips more as a pat on the back, than anything else. Those are my words, not hers. She’s much more eloquent than I. And I agree with her.

I don't think we do it on purpose. But we do it all the same. There are trips I’ve read church bulletins or heard friends talk about that truly didn’t make sense to me. What the purpose of them going, truly was.

Jen Hatmaker

Short term missions, shouldn’t be a mini-vacation for us. It should be us jumping in with both feet, heart worn to pieces, down and dirty, ready to do the hard thing. Or whatever it is that NEEDS to be done.

Their needs, not our wants.

But at the same time, it IS about us because it’s about teaching our children that they CAN make a difference. That they MUST make a difference. And that their difference truly can change lives, in the name of Jesus.

How do we teach them to stop gripping the ledge out of fear or dare I say, indifference?

What can THEY do? We’ve been looking around a bit and hit wall after wall.

Our kids are too young to serve in the nursery at church, though they desperately want to. Our kids love kids. They’re too young to visit sick kids in the hospital, though they want badly to hug on those kids, too.

World Adoption Day

When Anton spent a week in the hospital, his fondest memory is the ability to push a button and a nurse came with a new box of Legos. When he got out, he decided he wanted to collect legos for other kids to have the same experience. "So they always have enough," he said. But apparently they have an organization that provides them.

So still we search for the thing. The right thing for our family.

We of course collect clothes and toys and formula for our friends to take to Ethiopia whenever another group goes over to visit the orphanages. We've collected shoes and soccer stuff for friends in Mexico. We fill shoeboxes at Christmas to be sent overseas.

We do things. But it's not a consistent thing.

Because more than an activity, we want to provide the opportunity to pop the bubble our kids live in. We want to provide an opportunity for a heart-change.

Anton and Elsabet What are you doing with your kids??

How are you instilling this in your family??

Please. I'd really love to know!

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how I include our kids at dinner parties

Having a servants heart and a great work ethic are huge in our family.

And though my Evening to Nourish events are geared around us grown-ups having the ability to have time away from the pull of our children, my kids help throughout.

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It's become sort of a family event, really. Though some things take longer because I'm showing and instructing them how to do something, it's also a breath of fresh air having their assistance.

We work together setting the table and deciding what looks good.

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I take their opinion into account and often let them make final decisions (like how the centerpieces should be displayed and how the appetizers should be placed on the table).

I'll remind them what order the silverware goes in next to the plates, and how the water glass should be just above the knife.

But if it's not perfect...not exactly spaced correctly, or something's a touch out of place, I leave it.

I feel that fixing it shows I don't truly appreciate their help and that it's not good enough. I want them to have confidence in their work and know that they ARE good enough and that I love their efforts!

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During my dinner parties, they're also in charge of bringing out the food, refilling water, and clearing plates.

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Again, learning how to give selflessly is so important.

As is learning how to interact with adults.

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I ask that they all wear "nice" Church-type clothes. Six-year-old Laith often comes down buttoned incorrectly and I may ask if he wants to fix his shirt so it lays correctly... but if he doesn't care, I generally leave it.

I want to foster excitement for these evenings. Not feel like they have to be perfect and everything surrounding the evening needs to be perfect, either.

I don't want to take the fun out of it all and I'm afraid if I nit-pick, that's exactly what's going to happen.

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For the most part, I ask the kids to stay inside unless they're checking to see if we need anything.

Every so often however, they'll see one of their favorite people (a teacher, friend's mom, or sunday school teacher) and want to spend a little extra time at the table.

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I decided to pay Abreham $15 for the evening because he was going above and beyond cleaning. Sweet buddy wouldn't take it, but every month I'll continue to offer.

Since our dishwasher is small and many of our party plates, etc need to be washed by hand anyway, the countertops are filled. Cleaning up at the end of the night after everyone has gone is my least favorite job.

But having our sweet son helping out, with a joyful spirit, changes my perspective.

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A friend had a conversation with him as she was leaving for the evening and posted his comment on Facebook along with a photo of him working. What he said to her was, ".... I used to not like to work hard, I didn't think it was important... but now, I see that I am special to God, because I am able to work hard... to help people..."

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I hope all our kids...mine and yours...understand that.

It's a hard concept to learn, especially when they're young and are still learning to live outside themselves.

But it's so important for who they grow to be, both now and in the future.

let them help

 What do you think? Do you make having people over into a family-affair?

How do you help foster a spirit of serving and hard work in your family?

I'd love to know!! take joy-signature-new-pink