Cutting It Close

Tell me if this sounds familiar….

One kid has a toy. The other kid wants that toy. Kid two whines and complains incessantly, trying to get what he wants. Kid one protests and tells kid two to leave him alone. Drama escalates. You get dragged into it. People scream. Nothing is resolved. Everyone is stressed, and the toy that started the brouhaha has been forgotten in the fracas that ensued.

My husband and I used to try to be diplomatic in such moments. We attempted to get them to share, to take turns, to negotiate and find a solution to the problem themselves. Sometimes, that worked, but there are days when no amount of talking it out, no amount of stone cold logic will solve the problem. On those days, I institute what I’ve come to call the “Occam’s Razor approach to parenting.”

Never heard of it? Let’s start with a little history.

The principle was created by William of Ockham, a Franciscan friar who lived in the 14th century. A philosopher and theologian, he wrote about logic, epistemology, natural philosophy, political philosophy, metaphysics, and ethics. Though he wrote a great deal and taught at the University of Oxford, he is best known for his principle called Occam’s razor. Basically, it states that “entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” Some Latin versions read like this:

Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate.
Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora.
Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.

In other words, all things being equal, the simplest solution is best.

keep-calm-and-use-occam-s-razorNow this applies in different ways in the sciences, technology, and philosophy. But it’s application to parenting is simple. Take the case I mentioned above. Rather than waste time fighting or trying to reason with children, I choose the simplest solution. In this case, taking the toy away from both kids. Problem solved!

Kid doesn’t like food? Don’t serve it to him. (We often place a bowl of plain oatmeal in front of the offender on this one. Helped cut down on kvetching pretty quick.)

Can’t agree on what movie to watch? Don’t turn one on.

Fighting over Pokemon cards? Catch ’em all yourself!

One kid accuses the other of cheating at a board game? Pack it up.

Kid doesn’t listen to you because he’s looking at a tablet? Take it, and give it back only when you feel like it. Or, simper and better still, don’t buy a tablet at all.

As you can see, the applications are limitless.

I can hear your objections already. “That’s not fair,” you’re saying. “Why should kid one go without the toy? He didn’t start it!”

You’re correct. I am punishing kid one to an extent. However, if you parent more than one child, you know that they change roles constantly. There are days when kid one is the whiner, the beggar, the aggressor and kid two is the aggrieved party. (Only Mary and Joseph had a perfect kid that didn’t start anything.) If both kids know that something they want can be taken away because of dickering, both are less likely to start a fight. With us as the common enemy, the boys have a reason to put those negotiating skills to use, which is what we were trying to get them to do in the first place. This principle has cut the drama in our home down by at least half, and we’re all happier for it.

How about you all? Do you handle things a little differently when the kids start tearing each other’s throats out? Thinking about trying this method? I’d love to hear your feedback, so leave me a comment!

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Heart of Stone, Heart of Flesh

There are times when “God did it” is the only answer that makes sense.

Last Thursday, Wayne and I attended a “Family Meet Up” event in Atlanta. In essence, it was an adoption fair where representatives and case workers from all the regions in Georgia came together with information and flyers about kids who were available for adoption in their areas. The goal? To match prospective adopters like us with adoptees in need.

I expected the event to be interesting but perhaps not overly busy, but every time I’ve gone to a foster care adoption event, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find the place is full of interested families and single parents. Well, as per usual, this place was packed to capacity, and folks were asking questions, giving and taking names, and making connections like crazy. It was overwhelming to say the least.

Wayne and I visited each booth, each of which had a different theme. Some were simple and cute: a cowboy themed “Adoption Round Up” and another called “Matchup Madness” that was, you guessed it, all about basketball. My two favorites were a Lego themed one called “Build a Strong Family” and a Peter Pan one called “From Neverland to Foreverland.”

Well, we finally got to the Frozen themed booth (“Some People Are Worth Waiting For”), and something interesting happened. No, it didn’t make me like Frozen—that isn’t even a possibility. They had several sibling groups, so we started asking questions of the case worker in charge of finding them permanent homes. We were discussing a brother and sister, and then she dropped a bomb.

In the brochure, it stated that the boy had a “medical condition.” It turns out that condition is cystic fibrosis.

The entire time we’ve been looking to adopt, one thing Wayne and I have agreed on is that we cannot adopt a child with special needs. Our reason? We just don’t have the bandwidth. We both work outside the home and have only a handful of relatives nearby, all of whom are several hours away.

My reaction to this news should have been an audible gasp, a cluck of the tongue, a “Poor baby,” and a subtle return of the flyer to the table. Thanks, but no thanks.

But none of that happened. Instead, I said, “Tell me more. How did they come into care?”

I didn’t back away. And almost a week—and a few hours of research into CF later—I still haven’t stopped thinking about that boy and his little sister. And though everything in me is saying, What are you doing!? This is too much for you to handle. Get real.You’re not strong enough…loving enough…faithful enough…patient enough…spiritual enough, I still can’t quite let go of it.

A few months ago, my CEO preached on the moment in Joshua 4 when Israel crossed the Jordan on dry land and erected twelve memorial stones to remind them of God’s miracle. At the end, he invited each of us to come to the front and select a stone of our own from the pile in front of him. We were supposed to use it either to mark something God had done for us or something we were praying for him to do.

I drew this….

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I keep telling God I’d like a little boy and a little girl, ages eight and six respectively.

Guess what the brother and sister we talked to that case worker about are? Yep, eight and six.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Or maybe that’s the reason CF hasn’t scared me off yet. I keep thinking about how hard those kids’ lives have been, especially his. Not only does he live each and every day wondering who is going to feed him, shelter him, and take him to school. He also has to wonder if he’ll get his breathing treatment and if someone will help him clear the mucus from his lungs. He has to wonder if anyone will take him to the doctor when he’s sick and get him the many medications he needs. If someone will hold him when the coughing just won’t stop and will love him as their child even though they will be asked to attend his funeral one day.

And the thought of a child being asked to bear all that leaves me furious and brokenhearted at the same time. Me…the woman who never wanted kids and who, even after she said yes to adoption, added the caveat “but absolutely no kids with special needs.”

If that’s not a moment where you have to say,”God did it,” I don’t know what is.

I’ve been praying for God to change my heart, to break it for what breaks his, and to soften it in preparation for all the challenges Wayne and I are going to face. I’m essentially asking him to do what he promised in Ezekiel 36:26-27: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

I’m starting to realize that, no, I will never be spiritual enough or strong enough. I will never be sufficient for the task to which I’ve been called. But I’m not supposed to be. However, Jesus is all that and more, and recognizing that has given me a peace about our adoption that I’ve not experienced in the many months we’ve been attending classes, filling out paperwork, and meeting with case workers.

I’ve come to understand that a heart of stone doesn’t protect me or keep me from getting hurt. It only prohibits me from feeling the emotions (both good and bad) that I need to experience to become who I am meant to be. God doesn’t give us a heart of flesh only to leave it exposed to the elements and susceptible to wounds. Quite the opposite is true. The apostle Paul tells us, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).

I may not adopt this little boy and girl, but the sudden and inexplicable willingness to do so taught me a great deal about myself, God’s design, and how he does indeed purpose all things—even a headstrong, unwilling mom—for good.

My Compassion Sunday Project

April 21, 2013 is a very special day, and not just because it’s my 35th birthday. 🙂 It’s also Compassion Sunday. On this special day, people in churches around the world share their stories and tell others about the joys that come with sponsoring a child through Compassion International. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to host the event at my home church, but there is something I can do. I can be an advocate.

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How can you resist that face!?

My goal is to find a sponsor for one special little guy from El Salvador. His name is Lisandro, and he’s six years old. You can read all about him, and choose to be his sponsor, by visiting my Compassion Sunday Page.

If I get Lisandro and another child sponsored, I win a $50 gift for one of my own sponsored children. Talk about a win-win-win-win!

El Salvador (which means “Republic of the Savior”), which is roughly the same size as the state of Massachusetts, is both the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. Approximately 5.75 million people currently call it home. It lies within the Pacific Ring of Fire and is often impacted by earthquakes and volcanic activity, both of which occurred last in 2005.

Severe weather (both droughts and heavy rainstorms) also impact the people and national prosperity. It currently has the third largest economy behind Costa Rica and Panama, but that doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It also has a large crime problem, especially gang-related crimes and juvenile delinquency, and boasts the highest murder rate in the world. However, thanks to some successful initiatives gang-related violence has been down over the last year or so.

According to The Encyclopedia of Nations, “The wealth in El Salvador is held by a small minority of the population who made their money from coffee and sugar and have now diversified into finance and commerce. Land reforms and, property redistribution in the 1980s improved the situation for many small farmers and peasants, but there is still a substantial divide between the rich and the poor. According to a report from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), El Salvador’s per capita income is the fifth lowest in the Western Hemisphere (when adjusted to reflect the cost of living).

The health-care system in El Salvador is in a state of disarray. Medical unions are resisting government moves toward privatization, and as a result strikes by hospital personnel have become common. Supplies of basic drugs and medical equipment are often inadequate. Hospital budgets are used up to pay salaries, with little left over for other costs.

The education system in El Salvador is weak. According to the USAID report published in 1998, less than 50 percent of Salvadorans graduate from the sixth grade, only 1 out of 3 complete the ninth grade, and only 1 out of 5 complete high school. The Ministry of Education has worked to improve the quality of schooling in El Salvador, and some of its efforts have met with success. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reported in 2000 that programs designed to increase community participation in education at rural schools has increased student enrollment. The school day has been extended as well. Also, in 1995 a program was introduced integrating health care and public works agencies with education initiatives to ensure students had clean water, regular medical examinations, and nutritional monitoring.”

This is where we come in. We can help bridge the gap by sponsoring children in the rural areas of this country—those who qualify as “have nots” in their country. For $38 a month, just a couple of meals out for us here in the United States, someone can sponsor Lisandro and provide both him and his family with access to clean water, food, healthcare, education, and–most importantly–a place where he can learn about Jesus Christ. Compassion International is a top-notch group to work with. You have constant access to your records, and you receive letters from your child regularly. So you know the money you’re giving is doing the greatest good possible. It’s an amazing feeling to know you’re making an impact in a child’s life, even if he or she is halfway around the world. We can do great good as God’s people!

Check out my Compassion Sunday page linked above if you’re interested in getting involved and visit the other Compassion bloggers’ pages to see if the children they’ve selected for this special project speak to your heart.

26 Lives in 5 Hours

For anyone who already sponsors a child through Compassion International, I don’t have to tell you how rewarding it is. If you aren’t already doing so, I highly suggest you check out their organization and see if there’s a child you’d like to sponsor. For $38, about one dollar a day, you provide a child access to a church-based child sponsorship program that provides so many wonderful things.

When families find out they have a sponsor, you can only imagine how overjoyed they are. Someone they will likely never meet reached out to help them in Jesus’ name, and the money that might otherwise go toward one more meal out or a new pair of shoes for us can do so much more for them. Here’s a video Compassion recently released of a family finding out their child has a sponsor. I can’t understand what they’re saying, but I don’t think I need to.

I also highly recommend getting involved with serving as a Compassion International volunteer at one of their sponsorship events. It’s very simple to do and only takes about five hours of your time. Wayne and I volunteered to help match sponsors with children at an event located here in Marietta as part of a Fresh Grounded Faith women’s event.

It only took five hours of our Saturday, and we helped match 26 children with new sponsors!

Wayne and me behind the booth.
Wayne and me behind the booth.
All the packets arranged by continent.
All the packets arranged by continent.
Just take a look at all those cute faces!
Just take a look at all those cute faces!
These beads were a gift we gave to every person who chose and child and made a first payment. Gorgeous, yes?
These beads were a gift we gave to every person who chose a child and made a first payment. Gorgeous, yes?
If you're interested in the beads, visit this site. They're made by women in Uganda.
If you’re interested in the beads, visit this site. They’re made by women in Uganda.
I saw this sweet little girl in the stack and put her on top. I said that if no one adopted her, I would. But thankfully, she got her sponsor that day!!
I saw this sweet little girl in the stack and put her on top. I said that if no one chose her, I would. But thankfully, she got her sponsor that day!!
Wayne liked this little guy.
Wayne liked this little guy.

Now, I warn you, this can be addictive. It is so much fun to help people find the child God has in mind for them, to help them search the world over right at the table. Some folks had a country or gender in mind, but many were open to anything. We had one woman ask for a child with special needs, and we dug through the packets until we found the little guy she was meant to help care for. Others told us, “Give me one that’s been waiting the longest” or “Which one has the greatest need?” It was great to see so many people who wanted to help others.

Working the table as a volunteer made me realize how much I need to bone up on my knowledge of countries like Togo and Columbia. If I am more educated next time, I can point people towards the countries where children are at the greatest risk of sex trafficking or where AIDS is still running rampant. I knew enough to muddle through this time, but I want to be able to help people make the best choice when sponsoring a child.

The other warning I have is that once you’ve looked at these photos, you can’t stop thinking about the kids in them. As Wayne and I went through the unused packets after the event and saw how many children there were on the list who had been waiting more than six months for a sponsor, we decided to go through that priority pile and choose two more. Two of those 26 are now ours.

We are now the proud sponsors of four Compassion kids—Edmond in Burkina Faso, Paromika in India, Tania in Nicaragua, and Brayan in El Salvador!

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Children of the Kingdom

Well, here it is—my first ever Q&A! It appears in the June issue of In Touch Magazine, which can be viewed by clicking here. The entire magazine discusses the idea of success for people of faith. After all, what the world calls “successful” and what we believe it to be are often antithetical.

Dr. Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids, Inc. was kind enough to allow me to interview her by phone to discuss how to raise children with a kingdom view of success, to be “in” the world but not “of” it. As a teacher, I know how difficult it can be to raise a child to view things rightly, but I only worked with them a few hours each day. For a parent, it’s a constant battle to instill good values and reinforce them so that, when the time comes for them to leave the nest, they’re able to withstand the pressures and temptations of the world.

My goal for the piece was to allow Kathy to share her knowledge with parents, to both edify and enable them to do what God has called them to do. I’d love to hear your feedback if you’re a parent or someone who’s involved with raising children, so please leave it here or on the magazine page, which can be accessed using the link in the first paragraph of this blog. Also, if you enjoyed this piece, you can subscribe to In Touch Magazine for free by visiting our registration page.