Tuesday, March 27, 2012

At a shelter near you

Today I went to the Laura Dester Shelter with my friend, Mandy.  I heard on the news yesterday about a 20 month old baby boy that was killed by blunt force trauma to the head. The police officer stopped a car driving slowly and noticed a baby lifeless in the car seat in the back. He performed CPR for 20 minutes. The baby never regained consciousness. He had broken ribs and trauma all over his body. I dreamed about this little boy last night. I am thankful that he is not suffering anymore. That he is in the arms of Jesus. But, my dream was about what he likely endured yesterday before his death. I woke up knowing I had to go the shelter today. Brax is in OKC with his meme and I was going to have a day with NO kids for a few hours. I had other things on my agenda but none as important as holding kids that have endured so much pain and are still enduring it. So Mandy and I headed off to the shelter about 15 minutes from our houses.  Today was a hard day for me there. Each time I go it is hard to leave, hard to focus on anything else once I am gone. But today the kids gripped me more than ever.
     Laura Dester Shelter is a temporary place for kids to stay that have been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect.  There are 4 different little cottages that the kids stay in.  There is the little house, where I spend most of my time, where ages 0 to 5 stay. Then there is Cottage B for 6-11 year olds. I love these kids too because most understand why they are there and they like to talk. They LOVE attention and they are in such need of LOVE. Then there are the 2 big houses for teen boys and girls. Every time I go there is always at least one teen pregnant. Today there was one pregnant by her grandFATHER and last time there was one pregnant by her DAD. The teens are tougher because they have been in and out of the system for years. They are tough and hardened but with time and love they too will connect with you.
The shelter allows volunteers to come freely anytime of the day or night. All you have to do is sign in and go back to the cottages. The direct care workers are always glad to see some fresh faces that are willing to help with the kids. It is so easy to become a volunteer.  All you do is call the shelter, fill out a background check and attend a training that last less than 2 hours. Then you are a volunteer and can come freely.
     Today I spent all my time at the little house. There was a baby girl about 6 weeks old that was beyond precious. She was probably the luckiest one there because I don't think she felt the pain of her situation like the rest of the kids. Most kids have multiple siblings at the shelter with them. They try to find homes to place the children together but usually can't because there are SO many kids in one family. Today there were 3 little ones that were brother and sister (and they had more in the older cottages). All 3 had rotted out teeth from their baby bottles being in their mouth too long. I am sure their parent put pop or juice in the cup too judging from the holes in their baby teeth. They were MORE than precious. Beyond precious. The brother was 8 months (and so happy), the sister was 2 and the other sister was 3. The 3 year old was the caretaker for sure and mature beyond her years. The 2 year old was screaming in her bed, once I picked her up she fell right asleep. Her 3 year old sister laid in her bed for over 2 hours, crying on and off the entire time. Mandy and I took turns sitting by her. I asked her if she knew who made her and she said her mom. I said, "your mom had you, but God made you". And He loves you so much. She said, "where is God"? I told her, "in heaven but also He can live in her heart", she looked down her shirt with a bit of worry. She had NEVER heard that before you could tell. There was a 3 year old boy there today that had been there 2 weeks ago when I was there. He could not talk at all but could understand everything. He had a such a precious little spirit. The ones that tugged my heart the most today were a sibling group of 5. The little boy was crying when I first got there but once we started playing bubbles he got happier. He was 3 and was in desperate need of a haircut. I washed his hands before lunch and he pointed to a deep burn on top of his hand that stretched about 3 inches wide. He said, "I have an ouchie". I said yes you do and I kissed it. He said, "it's a burn, "my dad burns me when I am bad". I kissed it for a few seconds and said, "well I don't like that you are burned and you are never bad enough to deserve to be burned, that makes me sad, and I don't ever want you to get burned again". He just nodded his head. His baby brother who looked to be 6 months old but was really 14 months old also had several burns on him. One on each of his 10 toes, one on his neck and one on his leg. His sister had half of her scalp burned and was missing all of her hair on one side because of the massive scabs and infection. She has a twin too but they were both at school .  I would like 10 minutes alone in a room with that father and then I would take 5 with the mom. That is all it would take. But, that is my flesh talking. I want those parents to be hurt because of what they have done over and over to these 5 children!! But, then God whispers to me, "Miranda, those parents are already hurting or they wouldn't do that to their kids". God tells us in his word, "to let vengeance be mine". My job is to love these kids and to make sure that they are not hurt again.
     Right before we were going to leave 2 other kids were brought in that the police had just picked up. A 1 year old girl and 3 year old boy that were siblings. They had on filthy shirts and no pants (just diapers) and no shoes. The police officer found them walking around town by themselves.  They were scared to death. The workers gave them something to eat, a bath and then put them down for a nap. The 3 year didn't sleep he was literally shaking. I asked him if he wanted a stuffed animal to hold and he said "no, a car". I got him a car and he drove it back and forth on his bed over and over. The whole time I kept thinking, "what if this was Brax?" or Bronson or Brelee. What if I was the bad mom and my kids were here? What would my kids be doing or thinking?" The pain that these kids are enduring is more than anyone should endure. That is why I am so passionate about doing something to help.
     I was thinking about my role as a christian to change this world for God.  It clearly states in the bible that Satan is the ruler of this earth, and he is lurking around like a lion, seeking whom he can devour". God lives in christians through the holy spirit. So, if God is going to be uplifted and move in this world it is going to be through Christians that are being led by the spirit. I think christians let ourselves off easy when we pray, "Lord, help these kids!!". Help someone to do something. Protect them Lord, provide for them.". I think it is crucial to pray for these kids but then if we don't get up and act who will? We are only blessed to be a blessing. Getting involved with God's work is messy. It is not clean or neat. Jesus got messy everyday. He could have easily walked by the lepars, the blind, the lame, the sinner and said, "Father in heaven, please do something about these people. Help them!!". But, instead he prayed and ACTED in faith. He didn't pass up a chance to do something and get his hands dirty. I desperately want to be an imitator of Jesus. I want to do what He would do if He were here. It takes the holy spirit to give me courage and prompting because on my own I am too selfish. I have pledged to the Lord to get my hands dirty. Not live my "clean little suburban life". But to walk in obedience and to love one another as Christ loves me. This isn't easy but it is the only way to live. Please say a pray for me today and for yourself that we will be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ here on this earth. . .

Sunday, March 4, 2012

3 Ring Circus

March 4, 2012

     I took my 3 kids to the circus tonight.  Something is really wrong with our society. The song that they were playing before the circus began was, "I'm sexy and I know it". Seriously?  This is a circus people, the main audience is children!! Why, would they play that song? One of the first performers that came out was a man in a glittery PURPLE outfit. My kids insisted it was a woman. I said, "no, it is a man". Brelee said, "well then why does he have on that outfit?" Good question Brelee. I am so saddened by the state of our society. It reminds me of 2 Chronicles 7:14, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land". I feel convicted that I need to be on my face before God asking God to heal our land. I don't think "I'm sexy and I know it" is a good song for ME to listen to much less my children.  We have to be mindful of what we are allowing into our lives. Satan is at work constantly to inundate us with lies and take us far from God. In Haiti he may have to use a manifestation of himself into little girls forcing them to seize and roll around on the floor (that is another story in itself) but here he doesn't have to do that because we allow him to use the media and our entertainment to get us. Same Satan, same lies, different manifestation. Do you think I am far out on this one?  I promise I am not. We need to make sure that we know the truth so that we can recognize lies. . .

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Trash Dump: February 25th, 2012

     Last night Brad Johnson, the president of Mission of Hope in Haiti, came to my house!! It was a total God thing because I never would have imagined we could have gotten to spend an entire evening with him. We had 11 other families that came to listen to what he had to say. It was a HUGE blessing for all us.  In May when I went to Haiti for the first time I came back with a burning desire for people in my community to experience what Bronson and I had seen.  That resulted in our second trip this past January back to Haiti where we stayed at MOH. My husband, Brelee (my 6 year old), Bronson (my then 8 year old), our friends The Mullin's (Markwayne, Christie, and their 2 kids Jim, 7 and Andrew 6), Isabelle Bieseigel, and Sarah Hefner went with us. God grew my vision there and really got my husband on board.  The night before we left we got to meet Brad, who started MOH 14 years earlier. He told us that he was coming to Norman for a fundraiser on Feb. 23rd and that is we would like he could come to our house the next day and visit with us about MOH. So, that was last night. He shared from his heart and told the stories to us like it was the first time he ever shared them with anyone. His passion comes from the Lord. Bub took him to the airport this morning at 4:45am. I barely slept last night because my mind raced so much from what he shared with us.
     He shared how God had called he and his wife, Vanessa, to Haiti.  They had nothing but the "burning in their belly" to do what God had called them to do. He said the difference between compassion and a call is that a call burns in your belly and God will not allow you to rest until you do what He says to do.  As he talked I prayed that God would not let any of us rest until we listened to the call that He has placed inside all of us. We all have one, and they are all different.  He told so many cool stories but I want to share one with you now. He talked about a lady that lived in a trash dump. He said literally she hollowed out a little shelter among the trash. He said that 3 kids came walking out of the mountains who were orphans and the lady that lived in the trash took them in. What an example of obedience to her call in the midst of her terrible situation. She had nothing to even care for herself much less 3 orphans. But she did it. Brad pointed out that when we do what God calls us to do there is always blessing in it. James 1:27 says, "true religion that God the Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world". Today she has a home and all 3 of her kids are in school. Praise God for His provision. It made me think about how many of us, myself included, list all the reasons why now or maybe not ever is not the right time to do things that don't make sense in the "world's view" or in our view. "Well, my kids are still little, well, I only have 2 extra rooms so that means I could only take 2 kids at most, I better get my business built up a little better before I start taking on extra stuff". . . and the list goes on and on. Last time I checked none of us live among the trash. . . .
     Good sound "worldly advise" isn't "Godly advise". I hear a lot of wordly logic that sure does make sense if we were of this world. But, we aren't. The last part of James 1:27 says to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Wow. God knew that long ago that our biggest struggle would be on keeping our focus on Him not on the world. What does the Lord expect of my family? I am learning that more everyday. It is exciting and scary. Bub and I were at one of our foster care classes and as the teacher was talking Bub wrote, "Miranda, I am scared!!". I wrote back, "me too, but I am more scared to NOT do what we know we are supposed to do", he wrote back, "me too". It is OK to be scared because when we get scared that is when we know that God will step in. Brad said last night that if God didn't show up daily he would fall flat on his face. That his faith. That is where I want to live.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Struck down but not destroyed

     In bible study lately we have been studying 1 and 2 Corinthians. I love the verse that talks about how we are struck down, but not destroyed, persecuted but not abandoned. 2 Corinthians 4:8 says, we are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. It seems like every where I turn there are so many troubles in this world. This verse gives me comfort. My own little family is so "happy". Truly we are a family that loves deeply, laughs often and blessed in EVERY way. But, anytime I peek my head out of my cocoon I see trouble everywhere. Brelee has a little boy in her kindergarden class that I worry about. His mom is a definite drug addict. I worry for his safety and his spirit. He has siblings that I know are suffering at the hands of those that are supposed to take care of them and love them.  Another little boy in Brelee's class just get sent, along with his family, back to Mexico because they were here illegally. They are scared there because the drug cartel is so rampant.
     A few foster care classes ago they showed a video about a little girl, around 9, being beaten, and then later that night, sexually abused by her dad. It was a 3 minute video but afterward none of us could say a word. There are no words. The teachers told us that we would be seeing kids just like this little girl. Except we will have  to deal with it longer than 3 minutes because these kids will be living in our home.  I still get sick when I think about it. But, I know that I am called to face it. To look at it head on. Too many people turn their heads because it hurts. Recently my friend who attends my fitness camp shared about her thoughts on having 2 foster daughters for the past 2 years. She said many people say to her, "I could never be a foster parent, I would just get too attached". She said that when people say that to her it is insulting. She went on to say that she has feelings too. She gets attached and loves. But, she is an adult with a healthy psyche and she can heal. These children are the ones that need to be able to heal. They have been traumatized in every way and they are literally dying for homes and parents that show them safety and love.  I love the way she put that because I hear that comment a lot to. What I say is that yes it is hard to have a child and know that they could be returned home and taken away from me. But, it isn't about me. It's about that child. My job is to love them while I have them. To pour in who God made them to be. To let them know how loved and special they are. That is the focus.
     I am constantly having to remind myself that my life is not my own. That I was bought with a price. I want to lose my life for God's sake, not try to keep it for my own sake, because I know I will lose it. Luke 9:24 says it best, "for whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it". This scripture is one that I think about daily. God has truly broken my heart for what breaks his. My prayer is that my heart doesn't stay broken because I act out of obedience to change situations. I want to be the hands and feet of God. It seems like such a big task for such a fallen ME! But, I choose to obey. I choose to listen. I choose to act. It is an exciting life. It is a daily and sometimes moment by moment decision to live this way. Keep me accountable to it friends.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Who takes care of this little girl?

     It has been about 3 weeks since we have been home from our 2nd trip to Haiti. I feel myself slipping back into habits here in the US such as wanting to buy things I don't need, wanting to go out to eat because I don't feel like going to the store or being lazy about doing what I know that I need to be doing. People in Haiti don't have the luxury of not preparing dinner. If they are lucky enough to find something to cook they do the work to prepare it. I know that they eat it too. Even if it doesn't taste that great. That is my kids and my excuse too often. "I don't really like this so I am going to throw it away". I will eat something else later. We do that because we can and we have something else to eat. I know  that this is the wrong attitude.  It is so easy to forget to give thanks in all things because we have so much. Before I go any further I want to give thanks to you, Lord, you are are the giver of all good things. You are good. You are love. You are my provider and my sustainer. I sure thank you God for who you are and who you are making me to be by your Holy Spirit living in me. It's easy to talk about being more thankful but how often do I do it right then and there? I want to live in the moment and not take anything for granted.
     When we were in a village called Leveque talking with the people that lived there I asked everyone to go around and do a "popcorn" sort of thanksgiving prayer. I started with, God today I am thankful to be in Haiti with all of these beautiful people" (JR our translator repeated this in Creole). Then I waited for one of the 30 other kids to say something. Finally, someone said, "God I am thankful for being able to wake up today". Another said, "I am thankful that I had something to eat". Another said, "I am thankful that I woke up", another said, "I am thankful that I will be able to eat something today". This is how the rest of the popcorn prayer went. Just a few simple thank you's like waking up and having the chance to find something to eat. And they were truly thankful for that. WoW!! How often do I overlook waking up and eating!! God was already at work opening my eyes to the way He POURS out blessings on me and has always POURED out blessings on me. Why would He do this? Because He loves me. But He also wants me to use my blessings to bring glory to Him. To make a difference in this world.
     We were out at Leveque about 4 hours that morning and the entire time all of us were holding at least one kid, sometimes 2 (or 3 because they liked to ride on backs too). When we left we looked for  someone to hand a little girl to that my friend Christie had been holding all morning. I asked JR to ask people where this little girl belonged. He told me that the other kids said that her mom had left. I promptly said, "well who takes care of her?". She surely had someone because she was not even 2 years old. After inquiring again, JR told me, kids. Kids?Kids! Yes, kids. Broken hearted we hugged and kissed her and then sat her down on the rocks, got on our canter, and drove away. Did we cry? Yes. We were sad? Brokenhearted!! Did our emotion as we drove away do anything for that little girl? Nothing. She is still there (I pray she is still alive) but nothing has changed for her. As we visited with other missionaries that are in Haiti they said that this situation is very common. That kids all over Haiti (and the world) are being cared for by other kids. That is so sad but I also feel some sort of comfort knowing how God even enables children to do His work. I understand more and more the scriptures that talk about the heart of children. Matthew 18:4 says, "I tell you the truth, unless you humble yourself like this child you will never enter the kingdom of heaven". Kids are so humble, so pure in heart. I take some comfort in knowing that the heart of kids are so good and that at least that precious baby girl is being cared for by precious innocent hearts.
     I talked to my friend Christie today who still feels the tug on her heartstrings (or more accurately in her spirit) from leaving that little girl that day in Leveque. She said a few days after returning from Haiti her husband, Markwayne, came into their bedroom in the morning, flipped on the lights, and told her that he couldn't stop thinking about that little girl in Haiti. He told her to call the MOH and see what could be done to get her into a place of care and that they would take care of the finances to make sure she stayed there until she was grown. One child at a time. One act of obedience. One life changed forever.

Here she is. . . with Bronson holding her. That is our translator JR in the background and Sarah on the left.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"No you Aint"

     Today my kids and I and my friend Mindy and her kids headed back over to the apartments to talk to the kids and we hoped some parents. I felt myself getting nervous as we pulled up and about that time Bronson said, "mom I feel nervous when we go here". I told him that we needed to pray and that God would take care of us. I said that we have to get out of our comfort zone and that these kids needed us to encourage them. When we pulled up no one was around. For the first 10 minutes we played Mindy's family vs mine in basketball on the goal with no net. Soon kids started coming around. We gave them snacks and started playing some games with them. We played a version of Simon says that we called, "God says". Then we played red light/green light and then sang a few songs. Then, I told them a bible story about David and Goliath.
      I noticed that some adults were standing around quite aways back from us. They were all circled up talking to each other.  One of the mom's called her kids over to her. They had to get up from listening to the story I was telling and run over to their mom. After I finished the story I walked to my car which was about where the adults were standing. Brax was asleep in my locked car. I hated to wake him up so I just parked right by where we were playing. As I walked over to look in the window at him to make sure he was still asleep I heard the little girl say to her mom, "but mom, all we were doing was listening to a story". She said NO YOU AINT!! Go get your sister, too!! I was so sad because that mom wouldn't allow her 3 kids to be a part of what we were doing. She wanted no part of us!! I heard another group of adults say, "there's that coaches wife again!".
      I felt such spiritual warfare taking place. We were not welcome there, that I knew. But, I also knew that God wanted us there. He desires spiritual transformation in that apartment complex. I am not sure what to do because maybe I need to try and explain what we are doing to the parents. I am not sure how to help the people there to understand that we care about them?  We aren't there to judge them or "turn them in" we are there to LOVE them. I know that they aren't used to that. "The church" usually doesn't minister like this. I know that they are thinking were are probably the police or work with DHS. They don't want us "checking in" on their turf. So, what do we do? I think we keep going, keep praying, keep loving on the kids that are allowed to be around us. My flesh already wants to quit. I feel rejected, unwanted, and in danger. Who knows what they will do to keep us away? But, do I have to fear? God tells me 365 times not to, so I am going with that.
     I understand why people don't help. Don't do more. It is hard, so very uncomfortable. It is really easier to help in a place like Haiti. We are welcome there. The minute we get off the bus in a village we are welcomed with hugs, hand holding and big smiles. Why is it that kids in Haiti smile more than the kids in this apartment complex? The kids in Coweta have shoes on, clothes on, clean water to drink, a place to live, a school to attend. But, the spiritual darkness is apparent. I keep repeating to myself that Haiti is my mission trip, Coweta is my mission field. This is a spiritual truth that is hard to let sink in. People say it is dangerous to keep going back to the apartments . That I for sure shouldn't take my kids. My kids are innocent and that I don't need to put them in danger. What about the kids at the apartment complex? Are they innocent? Do they deserve love and attention? Of course they do. I can't drop my kids off so I can go "minister". I want my kids to see the me in action; being the hands and feet of God. When they are there with me, they are getting to be the hands and feet also. Isn't that we are called to do? Many of the disciples of Christ died a horrible death because they chose to follow Jesus. They were obedient. I want to be obedient too. I desire to live a life worthy of the call and I want to teach my kids to do that as well.
     Today I was thinking about our friends that we met in Shawnee.  They live a surrendered life for Jesus in a place that you are not allowed to be a Christian. They took their 3 small children there to minister and had their 4th child on the mission field. When parents are called, kids are called too because that is family. They are in Morocco living for Christ. Right now I am just called to Coweta. I think I should be able to be obedient if they can be obedient to leave everything and move to Africa! I see the kids faces, the adults faces of the apartments we were at today and I know that God created them to have a relationship with HIM. Who is going to tell them that? Who is going to pray for them and show them how loved they are by their maker? We want to do that but how?  As I seek advice I am hearing a lot of, "I wouldn't do that if I were you". "That is not safe, those people aren't going to change."
     It's the same thing I hear when we talk to people about foster kids. We have 4 more classes and we will become foster parents. We went to some friends house on Friday night who have 2 biological children (10 and 1) and 4 foster children, 4, 6, 8, 10 years old. And a Chinese foreign exchange student. They live in a 3 bedroom house and the mom home schools all of them!! When we left that night we were so encouraged to witness a family that lives out the model, "To live is Christ, to die is gain". What the heck is my excuse? I live in a 6 bedroom home with plenty of room for kids that need a home. Several comments have been made to me that say, "as long as your own children don't suffer, or as long as your own kids don't get attention taken away from them, or as long as your own children still get everything they need. This really, really bugs me. My kids are loved being belief and they always will be. Will they have to sacrifice when we take in foster kids? YES!! They will have to share their parents, share their toys, share food, share attention, share everything. Is this wrong? Some say yes. This is when I remind myself that I am pleasing my audience of one and no one else.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Questions NOT to ask when you are in Haiti. . .

February 1st, 2012
I have so many stories from the 2 trips that I have taken to Haiti in the past 8 months. I am going to start trying to write some of them down so that I do the trips the justice they are due. I think I will start by sharing some stupid questions that I asked while in Haiti. If you know me you know I am never short on what to ask someone. I should have been an interrogator because I am great at coming up with questions to ask people. I really do want to know the answers to them too. I am a sticky beak (this is what my college teammate, Jaimie, who is from Australia used to call me) That is a nicer word that calling me nosey. But, some of the questions I asked my interpreter to ask people in Haiti were really dumb. . . live in learn right? So here they go. . .
1. I asked a 12-year old boy, what is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? He smirked and said, "ANYTHING!!". Now, remember people in Haiti don't get to be picky like we are in America. He doesn't ask him mom in the morning to make him a waffle or doesn't get to ask his dad to stop by the donut shop on the way to school. He eats anything he can get. If he is lucky that day he actually gets to eat period. One meal. Anything!!
2. I asked a lady that was very pregnant, "when are you due?". Our translator, JR, who spoke English well, didn't know what I was trying to say. After explaining to him that I was trying to figure out when her baby was coming he asked her the question. She wasn't sure. I later was told that women in Haiti have no concept of when there baby will be born because they have no concept of time. It's not like they check their calendar daily and have a due date or even a due month. The MOH president told us that many ladies think that they are pregnant for 3 years!!
3. When going around to different "houses" (I have to put a quote around the word house because it is NOTHING like what we think of as a house in America) to pray with people I kept asking, "what can I pray with you about? Or do you have any prayer request? Well in a country that has very little food and hardly any jobs, and virtually no medical care you can probably guess everyone's answer to me. They would say, "I need food, I need a job, I am sick (or my baby is sick). After about the 15th house, JR told me to stop asking what they need and just pray for them!! You would think I would have caught on before he had to tell me!