Archive for the ‘Be the Change’ Category

Thoughts About the Death of an “Enemy”

The other night while we were watching “The Apprentice”, the program was interrupted with breaking news.  Immediately, I tensed up, expecting the news to be a major natural disaster such as the Earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Asia, or Hurricane Katrina and when I heard the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, I felt relief at first because it was good news.  Quickly though, that turned to a feeling of being unsettled.  How was it that I was categorizing a death, the death of a relatively young man, as good news?

For a short while, I watched as Americans gathered outside the White House to cheer and celebrate, but I wasn’t able to watch it for long.  Again, I found it unsettling.  I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like for a nation to celebrate my death.  I understood the reasoning behind the celebration, the feeling of victory over terrorism, revenge almost a decade after a tragedy that forever changed America, but it still somehow seemed wrong.  I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt so yuck about the jubilation I was seeing until yesterday when I read the following quote on a friend’s Facebook status:

‎”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Those words spoken so many years ago by a man who understood the devastation that hatred leaves in its wake, by a man who is one of my heros, sum up exactly how I feel about this latest news.  I am saddened by what Osama Bin Laden did in his lifetime, but I do not rejoice in his death.  I mourn for those who lost loved ones on 9/11 or in other terrorist attacks orchestrated by him, but I mourn also for his family.  I cannot put myself in the shoes of his victims.  If I were one of them, there is a strong chance I might feel differently, but I have flashbacks of the images I saw on 9/11…images of people in other countries dancing in the streets, rejoicing at the deaths of Americans, images that at the time were more disturbing to me than when I watched in horror as the Twin towers fell.  When you peel back the layer of excuses (this man was an enemy of democracy, of America, of nations everywhere…this man causes suffering and death…this man “deserved” to die), you are left with images of people in the streets of a nation halfway from his world celebrating a death and it disturbs me and draws parallels to that day almost ten years ago.  I feel unsettled, uneasy.  There is one more quote I read on another friend’s Facebook status yesterday that summed this all up for me:

‎”There is only one death that ever brought peace, and we celebrated that a week ago.”


Explaining Racism to a Child

I have been thinking about this post for so long and don’t know if I have the words to do justice to this, but it’s been a few weeks already since this happened, so I have to write what I can before I forget the details.  (better settle in with a tea because I have the feeling this will be a long one!!!)

We were watching Oprah’s Master Class with Condoleezza Rice with some of the kids in the room and the image of the second plane hitting the twin towers came on.  That image is something that most of our kids have grown up with.  September 11th happened three months before Gracelyn was born, five months before Josiah was born, and three years before Eliana was born and yet, it is something they have always known about.  They have seen footage from that day and still images and we have talked about it in passing here and there.  For our older boys, they have memories of the actual day, of seeing it for the first time.

Elijah and Sedaya had never seen or heard of September 11th.  I had never thought about it until Elijah piped up, “what happened Mommy?  Why that plane crash into that building?”  I felt myself hesitate.  How do you explain to a child hatred so intense that it causes the deaths of thousands of people?  I don’t remember exactly what Mark and I explained, but it really struck me as significant that two of our kids were completely unaware of a day that had quite literally changed the world.

Later in the same show, the subject turned to racism and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  Again, Elijah asked a question.  I paused the show and turned to him and as I tried to explain, I fought back the tears.  How do you explain racism to a nine year old?  Here in my living room were my children, three of them just happen to be black.  How was I to tell them about a time in history when there were lynchings, segregation, slavery, hatred all because of race?

I first became interested in U.S. black history when I was in the seventh or eighth grade and we read Underground to Canada.  Over the years, I did my own research and was especially moved by those who fought so hard for civil rights, even willing to give their lives for the cause.  In the early years of homeschooling my older boys, I taught them units on slavery and on the civil rights movement.  They watched movies such as Selma, Lord Selma and Ruby Bridges.  We used to get quite the stares when we would go for walks and my two caucasian boys would be singing freedom march songs as we went!!!  But I have not done those units with the other kids yet, not because I was putting off teaching them, but because while we were waiting for Elijah and Sedaya to come home, we studied Africa for two years and then when they were first home, we were concentrating on teaching them English and about Canada.

So now here I sat, my black children wanting to know about Martin Luther King Jr., one of my personal heros, and me, at quite a loss as to what to say.  Over the years, I had touched on racism with Josiah here and there, explaining that there were some people that believed that the colour of our skin determined our worth and he quickly agreed how silly that was since God made us all.

As I began to tell Elijah about how things used to be in the United States (and many years before that, even in Canada), about Rosa Parks and the bus (“The only tired I was was tired of giving in”), slavery, separate lines, separate schools, unequal rights, and hatred (I could not bring myself to find the words to explain horrors such as the KKK – even writing those letters makes me feel sick to my stomach and worried to have them on this site).  Then, I told him about a wonderful man who loved God and his family and wanted his children to grow up in a world that would judge them for who they were, not by the colour of their skin, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  I tried to tell him about the “I Have a Dream” speech, but got choked up, as I always do when I try to recite any part of that inspired address.  There is just something about a man who knew what was right and was willing to lay his life down so that his children and the children of others would live in a better world, a world that would someday have equal opportunities for all people that touches me down to my very core.

I told Elijah about this amazing man and how what he fought for made it so that this woman on the TV show, Condoleezza Rice, could do anything and be anything, and that because of him and people like him, the United States now has a black President.  (I did cry when I said that – how could I not, when just 40 years before, there was such injustice and it does show that those who died for the cause did not die in vain.)

I tried to explain what we believe about God making each of us in the way He designed, but that some people still today would judge because of skin colour.  I worded things the best way I knew how and tried to keep it easy for him to understand, knowing that there would be many more talks on this topic in the weeks, months, and years to come.  I think I did okay until this…

“But mommy, why they kill him?”

Adoption Magazine Launch

I have been working on a project for a few months now.  I have been feeling frustrated with the lack of adoption resources for Canadians in all stages of the adoption or fostering journey.  There is a lack of information about adoption in general for those who are interested in adoption and not sure where to start and then for those who are in the process or whose children are home already, there is limited access to important information about things like Post Adoption Depression (yes, there is such a thing and the numbers are high), Attachment and Trauma, Identity, adoptive breastfeeding, hair and skin care, common Special Needs such as FASD, RAD, and SPD, and other issues.  This causes a lot of stress for fostering or adoptive families and there is no need for this type of stress in a world where the internet is so accessible for people.  Honest adoption information is particularly lacking for Canadians.  Most of the online resources are directed at Americans.

Another thing I have noticed particularly since entering the world of International Adoption is that there tends to be little niches where people who are adopting from a certain country may know others adopting from that same country or be aware of blogs of others adopting from that country, but not have access to people (even people who live in their community) who are adopting or have adopted from another country.  Some adoption related issues are country specific, but not most, so I feel that it would be beneficial to have a general adoption resource that encompasses foster care, orphan care, domestic adoption, foster-to-adopt, open adoption, and International adoption from any country.  This would also be helpful for families who have experienced multiple adoptions and can relate to a mixture of these descriptions.

My hope is that this resource will increase adoptions and will increase the success of foster and adoptive families.  There is a general misconception that adoption is increasing in popularity, but that is false.  Though the numbers of orphans worldwide are continuing to increase and the number of children available for adoption who are in foster care and adoptable in Canada hovers at 30,000.  Obviously, there is still a lot of work to be done as far as adoption advocacy goes!!!

So, I need your help.  On Monday, Adoption Magazine will officially launch.  What you can do to help:

1.  Do a post on your blog announcing Adoption Magazine.

2.  Add a link to it on your blog’s sidebar.  If you are more technologically advanced than I am, add a button to your blog.  (sorry, can’t help you with that as I can’t even figure out how to do it on my own blogs!)

3.  Go to the Facebook page and “like” it.

4.  Put a link to Adoption Magazine as your Facebook status.

5.  Tweet about it.

6.  Suggest books, online resources, or helpful posts for me to add.

7.  Be a contributor.  If you have a story or experience that you feel would benefit others, send it to me.  If there is a book or movie or seminar that you found helpful, write a review and send it to me.

8.  Spread the word in whatever way you can.  At some point, I’d like to get some bookmarks printed up with the URL on them for people to hand out to adoptive families in their area or to people who ask questions about adoption in the line at the grocery store, but I don’t have anything yet.

9.  Become a Follower of Adoption Magazine.

10. Buy from the Amazon store on the site if you were planning on ordering one of the books or movies anyway.  It will help offset the costs associated with the site.

So that’s the project I’ve been working on for the past two months.  Starting Monday, there will be regular articles from many contributors and in time, hopefully it will become a really valuable resource for families.  Thanks in advance for your help in making it a success!


Theme Song for 2011

Every year, I chose a theme song for myself for the year.  I know this is incredibly geeky of me, but when it comes to music, I am a lyrics person and am very moved by the lyrics of certain songs.  I find that having these songs each year remind me of my goal(s) for the year and give me something to aspire to.  They are not usually chosen based on what I am currently doing doing or feeling, but what I would like to be doing or feeling.  As an example, one year when I was working through some grief and wanting to be moving closer to God, I chose the song “Only Hope”.  Last year, my song happened midway through the year and was “Walk on the Water” and it did help to push me out of my comfort zone as I began to write a book, something I had wanted to do for many years, but had made excuses to put off.  This year, the song I chose came to mind partially because of what I wrote about a few weeks ago with wanting not to care about what others say about what I know that God has called me to do in caring for orphans.  The song is a good reminder that though we may feel powerless to change the world, we still control our own choices and that saving “just” one matters to that one.  It is also a concept that can be expanded to things other than adoption and orphan care such as just being a good neighbour, greeting people you pass by, being an optimist, bringing a meal to someone who could use the help, parenting the children you have in a way that makes you proud, being accountable, being the kind of friend, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, etc. that God calls you to be, changing the world one smile, one hug, one kind word at a time.

The lyrics that stand out for me about this song are “they say what good have you done by saving just this one…it’s like whispering a prayer in the fury of a storm”.

So, for 2011, my song is going to be “The Change” by Garth Brooks.  Below are the lyrics:

One hand
Reaches out
And pulls a lost soul from harm
While a thousand more go unspoken for
They say what good have you done
By saving just this one
It’s like whispering a prayer
In the fury of a storm

And I hear them saying you’ll never change things
And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me

This heart
Still believes
The love and mercy still exist
While all the hatred rage and so many say
That love is all but pointless in madness such as this
It’s like trying to stop a fire
With the moisture from a kiss

And I hear them saying you’ll never change things
And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me

As long as one heart still holds on
Then hope is never really gone

I hear them saying you’ll never change things
And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world we know
Never changes me

What I do is so
This world will know
That it will not change me

The video for this song was done to commemorate the survivors and rescuers of the Oklahoma City Bombing, but its lyrics can be applied to everyday life as well.  For me, it is an emotional call to let my worries about what others think of me go and just be the me that God is calling me to be.  So for this year, my goal is that this world will not change me.

Adoption Challenge #1

(I know that I posted this on my private blog already, but really want to get as many people involved as possible, so I’m posting it here as well.)

I have always had a passion for adoption, but there are times when it melts into the background of my busy life and other times when I really feel powerful about sharing the message of how much it has changed our life and want to share it with others and also want to help others who are somewhere in the process of adoption.  Whether people already have their children home with them or are in the paperwork phase or one of the many waiting phases, they need support and encouragement and I want to be able to give it in any way that I can but again, there are times when that melts away into the background of my life.  This week, those passions were lit again.  Part of it was of course seeing the pictures and videos that Mark brought back from Ethiopia and looking into the faces of the children at the two orphanages he visited.  The biggest thing that ignited this is the comments and e-mails that I have gotten this week from mainly strangers.  There is an article that I wrote called “Adopting Older Children – What I Wish I Had Known“.  Someone who read it contacted me and asked for my permission to put it on a large blog called We Are Grafted In and it was put on there this past Thursday.  Since then, I have been getting comments and e-mails from people who have expressed how much my words have done for them, what a difference those words have made to them, or how timely that article was to read because of their situation.  I am honoured that God is giving me the words and the forum to be able to help people on their journey and I am hopeful that I will be able to help more people, and most of all, help children.

There are still so many children in foster care, in orphanages, on the street, and in institutions who need families and I hope that those who have been blessed by the miracle of adoption in their own lives will help me to spread the word about how rewarding adoption can be.  To be clear, I did not say “how easy adoption can be” or “how perfect adoption can be” or “how simple adoption can be”, because I also want to put a spotlight on the truth about the challenges in adoption so that people go into it with their eyes open, their expectations realistic, with the greatest chance of success.  The fact that there are 147 million orphans worldwide is overwhelming and horrific, BUT when you consider that the population of Canada and the United States combined is roughly 340 million, it makes it seem like maybe we could take some of those North American numbers and make a dent in some of those orphans numbers.

I know that this part is a bit controversial as there are many who get very offended by strangers asking them about their adoptions, but I am sending a challenge out there to all you readers who are already adoptive parents.  The challenge is this…the next time someone in the grocery store or in line at the bank or in the waiting room at the doctor’s asks you a question fishing for information about your obviously adopted child or children, use the opportunity to market the blessing of adoption and the need.  I know that some people are just nosy or even rude and I know that you want to protect your child’s private story, but this does does not mean that you cannot turn this into an opportunity to speak broadly about adoption.  Perhaps you could even ask the stranger if they have ever considered adoption themselves.

Statistically, the average person thinks about adoption or foster care for FOUR YEARS before they start pursuing even the beginning stages of it.  That means that even if the person you speak to does not seem to be spurred to action by your information, you may plant a seed in them that may grow over time.  If we all can plant seeds, and for each of us, ten of those seeds planted translate into a child being adopted, that will translate into HUNDREDS of children eventually being adopted.  HUNDREDS!  So yep, even if you are uncomfortable with this challenge, I am urging you to give it your best shot.

When I was at a course recently, a couple introduced themselves and said basically that they had ended up adopting because of me.  I am not actually going to take credit for their adoptions!!!  I know that this couple have a wonderfully loving family and they may have adopted eventually anyway, but it was really cool to hear that I had played a small part in their adoption of TWO children.  I met this couple ONE time.  I shared with them about our experiences in adoption and gave them some encouragement.  Over the years, Mark and I have met with many couples in this capacity.  Someone we know will phone us and tell us that they have a friend of a friend of a friend who is interested in fostering or adopting and ask if we will meet with them.  We have the couple over, answer extremely honestly and candidly about our experiences and perhaps help point them in the right direction as a starting point and that’s it.  We usually never hear what ended up happening, though we have heard through the grapevine of one or another who did end up fostering or adopting or both.  Hearing this couple say that they had adopted two children and given them a family was a tremendous encouragement for me.  I know that Mark and I cannot adopt every child out there who needs a family, but we can help children find homes by sharing our story and encouraging others or answering questions.  And so can you.

So please, take up my first challenge.  Let’s do this together.  There are 147 million orphans out there counting on us!


I love Birthday Gifts!

Mark and our oldest son, 15 year old Mackenzie leave soon to go to Ethiopia.  When they are there, one of the things they will be doing is going to Faya Orphanage in Adama and bringing donations and playing with the kids.  Faya is one of the orphanages we visited when we in Ethiopia last time to adopt Elijah and Sedaya and it totally captured our hearts.  The staff there is doing a tremendous job and the joy in the kids is infectious.  As the Canadian affiliation with Faya recently changed to a new non-profit, there is some catch-up in funding that needs to happen.  This place is doing so much not only for the children in its care, but also for the surrounding community.

My birthday is this coming Thursday and I love receiving gifts, so I am asking that anyone who would like to give me a gift for my birthday please give in one of the following ways:

-if you live nearby, between now and Thursday, drop off a tube of antibiotic cream, a container of children’s multivitamins, Crocs, or cash for Mark and Mackenzie to take with them to Faya.

-if you don’t live nearby but would like to donate cash for them to bring, contact me at about making a donation via Paypal.  Some of the cash Mark and Mackenzie are bringing will go directly to Faya for their operations fund and with the rest, they will be purchasing formula, food, and other necessities for Faya, which will also support the local economy.

-visit the website for the Canadian non-profit in support of Faya and consider either making a one-time donation or sponsoring a child or a community family on an on-going basis.

I have the feeling that this will be one of my best birthdays ever!


Hope International Dinner

Friday night, Mark and I attended the Hope International Fundraiser Dinner.  This was our third year attending and our second year hosting a table, but this year I was particularly looking forward to it.  Each year, the evening highlights one of the countries that Hope has projects in and this year, it was ETHIOPIA!  We decided at the last minute to bring our 15 year old son Mackenzie with us, as he and Mark will soon be traveling to Ethiopia and we thought he might enjoy watching the short documentary, “A Thirst for Africa” that is shown and hearing more about the country where he will be visiting and where two of his siblings were born.  Our friends D, N, M, S, and D also came with us and it was an added bonus to have an evening of adult company.  All of us are adoptive parents, so there was some adoption talk around the table, but other topics came up from time to time as well!

I loved seeing and hearing the impact Hope International has already had in Ethiopia.  They spent 11 years bringing clean water to the Derache region in Southern Ethiopia, where when they began, only 11% of the people had access to clean water.  Now, 85% of the people there do.  In the Derache region, there has been such tremendous change with the access to clean water, bringing with it improved health, the ability of girls to attend school now that they do not have to walk for hours to get water, and Hope implementing microfinance programs that have brought self-sufficiency to the region and sustainable income.  Now, Hope is focusing their efforts in Ethiopia on a region known as the Bonke region, hoping the bring clean water to most of the people there.  Hope International is doing tremendous work in developing countries all over the world and it was great to feel like a small part of something so powerful.