Thursday, December 30, 2010

Goal #91: Ryan and Miriam's Wedding

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.
 
Goal #91: Shoot at least five weddings with Devin (3/5)

On November 26th, while many were out hitting up the Black Friday deals or recovering from turkey-induced comas, Devin and I were photographing the beautiful wedding of Ryan and Miriam. I also designed this couple's "Classic, Spanish-infused" wedding invitations (which I loved!) It was fun to create the "first impression" of their wedding and then also be able capture their special day on camera.

© Off Beat Graphics 2010

I normally act as the "second shooter" during our wedding sessions, which means I shoot the candid pictures, watch for details (like stray hairs and crooked ties), hold equipment, anticipate Devin's needs and follow his lead completely. But this time around we were very limited on shooting time and had no choice but to divide and conquer. This meant that I got the opportunity to shoot more than I ever have before.

While Devin was photographing the guys, I started taking portraits of the Bride, which - hello! - is a huge responsibility and one that I wasn't entirely sure I was ready for. Fortunately, Devin has been an incredible instructor over the past few months and as I applied the helpful hints and constructive criticisms he has provided me with, I was able to capture some shots that I was really pleased with. Below are some of the images I am proud to call my own. 




To see more images of this stunning Spanish-infused wedding, hop on over to Devin's photography blog.

Thank you Ryan and Miriam for including us in your day - it was so beautiful! May God bless you as you start this incredible journey together.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Goal #73 COMPLETE (plus an Uganda update)

Another goal checked off my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.  

It's two-for-one day and today you'll get not only an inside scoop on the 28th of 101 goals to be checked off my list - but also receive a quick update on our Uganda trip!

Goal #73 COMPLETE:  Make beaded crosses to sell at Easter and Christmas

This past Easter, my super-cool cousin Marla (the author and speaker - I'm a little proud to be related to her) allowed me to leverage her cyber popularity and host a beaded cross giveaway on her blog. A sweet lady named Gail won and I received a quite a few Easter orders from those who needed to sooth their giveaway losses by purchasing a cross anyways. 

The coolest thing about this giveaway was that God totally used it (along with our respective blogs) to heal a long-standing... shall-we-say "bruised" relationship between Marla and myself. And my, oh my has He helped our friendship to blossom since then! God is awesome and I love that He used modern technology to bridge such a gap. 

Then, just before Christmas, I started offering the crosses again, but this time used one of them to raise money for our trip to Uganda and to raise money to feed kids in Africa through Amazima Ministries. The We're All in This Together cross (pictured left) uses beads made by women in Uganda, Africa and when one sells, I send 50% of the profits back to Amazima to help feed the children of those same women. (You can read more about how that works here). To date, the crosses have provided - 765 meals for a child in Africa!


The process of completing this goal was far more satisfying then I ever dreamed it could be - healed relationships, food in the tummies of some precious children, and support of our Uganda trip. Wow - all glory to God and His amazing ways! 

Quick Uganda update: Thanks to many generous donations from our friends and family (and even some complete strangers), along with a number of odd-jobs (some of them truly odd), we have raised about 56% of our support! God is so good to provide and I have been blown away by how generous so many people have been.

(Edit: 1-21-11 - I made a mistake on the above calculation (I'm an artist - math was never my strong point). We actually just now have 48% of our total funds raised. God is still just as good though and we are still just as blown away at everyone's support!)

We'll soon be having a team phone conference with Visiting Orphans to discuss more details of our trip, so we'll continue to post updates here. Thanks to everyone for your support - both playfully and financially. We appreciate you so much! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Santa?! I know him! I know him!!!

Let's talk about Santa Claus. Because Good Saint Nick's been under a lot of debate lately. The big question among a lot of Christians this time of year is - should you let kids believe in Santa Claus? Will it confuse your kids to be taught about the miracles of Jesus along side the magic of Santa? Will your children lie awake at night, terrified that a fat, old man is going to break into the house as soon as they close their eyes?? Will they be damaged emotionally and question your honesty forever when they find out you lied to them???

Let's dive in shall we?

When I was growing up, Santa was kinda a big deal. My Grandpa Robison collected Santa figurines and postcards and had a genuine passion for making Christmas and Santa Claus as magical for his grandkids as possible. Every Christmas Eve all the grandkids would pile onto the couch with Grandpa and he would recite from memory The Night Before Christmas. Then, as we said goodbye to all the cousins outside my grandparents' house we would hear Santa's sleigh bells in the distance. I kid you not - actually, auditory proof that Santa was real and he was comin' to town!

Then one fateful Christmas Eve as we stood outside waiting to hear Santa, I ran back into the house to grab something. As I rounded the corner through the kitchen - oh what to my wondering eyes did appear? But Grandpa in the backyard, jingling sleigh bells for his grandchildren to hear. 

I discovered three things in that moment: 1) Santa wasn't real, 2) Grandpa had been setting up those sleigh bells for who-knows-how-many years and 3) My Grandpa was awesome. And that moment - when I discovered the jolly ol' elf wasn't real - is my most favorite Christmas memory ever. (insert "awwww" here)

So my family really liked Santa and none of us were scarred when we found out he wasn't real (I know that is not true for some kids however). For us, Santa was a fun, imaginative tradition - even after we discovered the truth about him.

Even still, I don't think that my own children will believe in Santa the same way I did. Because as much as I love the fun surrounding the Santa myths, there is one thing that I can't quite reconcile with. 

I want my children to grow up in a home full of love and compassion for the poor. I want them each to have a "sponsor sibling" through Compassion International. I want to teach them about the joy of giving. But when I think about raising children in that atmosphere, I can't imagine how a magical elf who delivers toys to every child in one night fits. How can I tell that story to my kids while encouraging them to give to children in poverty who don't have Christmas presents? I’m not going to lie to my kids and “defend” Santa for not delivering toys to Africa. My main beef with Mr. Kringle is that his sleigh seems to only reach the middle and upper class. Even so, a part of me would still like to keep the magic of him around for my own kids, at least a little bit. Is the balance?

I think so. It seems there may still be hope for Santa Claus afterall! Mark Driscoll wrote a great article on the subject that you can read here. I really liked this little excerpt that addresses some of the "issues" Santa causes for some families:

We tell our kids that [Santa] was a real person who did live a long time ago. We also explain how people dress up as Santa and pretend to be him for fun, kind of like how young children like to dress up as pirates, princesses, superheroes, and a host of other people, real and imaginary. We explain how, in addition to the actual story of Santa, a lot of other stories have been added (e.g., flying reindeer, living in the North Pole, delivering presents to every child in one night) so that Santa is a combination of true and make-believe stories. - Mark Driscoll

When my little sisters were even littler, they asked me to tell them if Santa was real. I answered with a mischievous smile, "He is real in your imagination." This answer seem to please them. It gave them the truth about Santa, but to also gave them permission to continue "believing” in him a little longer if they wanted to. I suppose I'll take a similar approach with my own children: make-believing in Santa can be fun, while still being aware of the truth and our own responsibility to care for the poor.

"We just heard Santa outside our window!!! He said, 'Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas! Happy New Year. God bless us - everyone! I bring you good news!" - my little sister, Julia 

(Apparently Santa's been hanging out with Tiny Tim and the Archangles)


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Goal #44- Dates with Devin (9, 10, 11 of 20)

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.

Goal #44: Go on 20 of the dates listed in the books Dates on a Dime and Coffee Dates for Couples 

Okay, so I haven't actually blogged about this goal in months, but I promise - I have still been going out on dates with my husband. Many on them cheap and fun and from the books mentioned above. Here's what we did for dates 9, 10 and 11:

Date 9 of 20: 
Inspired by an activity in Coffee Dates for Couples, we headed to Starbucks for a date with some coffee-themed games. Including using coffee terms to create a drink that describes your spouse. 

Devin picked the terms "hot, sweet, spicy, delicate, nutty, strong, creamy (aka - pale), unique and balanced" to describe me and said I if I was a coffee drink I'd be a "hot, cinnamon dulce, toffee nut, whole mike latte, with an extra shot of espresso and whipped cream." 

I picked the terms "hot, sweet, smooth, nutty, fresh, strong and unique" to describe Devin and said he would be a "hot, two pump sugar, toffee nut latte with an extra shot of espresso and chocolate whipped cream." Yeah. His drink for me sounded way better.

Date 10 of 20: 
From Dates on a Dime: "House-sit for friends or family while they are out of town. Make it a special getaway without leaving town." 

We house-sat for our Bible study friends Greg and Connie, earned some money for our Uganda trip and had a very relaxing time while doing so. 

Date 11 of 20:
From Dates on a Dime: "At Christmastime, pack your car with a thermos of hot cocoa and two travel mugs. Drive through local neighborhoods, sipping your cocoa and viewing the Christmas lights displays. Toast each other when you've found the most outrageous displays."


There is an amazing little culdesac just up the road from us that goes all out for light displays. Every single house on the sac (about ten maybe) is complete decked out with lights and displays and all around Christmas-cheer. My kind of place. 

There was even a house that had a "Walk Through Bethlehem" display built in their huge backyard - full sets and life-size cut outs narrated with Bible-verse plaques. Very cool.

The entrance to "Bethlehem"

Bikini Bottom made an appearance as well (Sponge Bob.) 


Another favorite: 


::SIGH:: I love Christmas time. And my husband. And cheap/free date nights.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Goal #16: Top 100 Books

A portion of my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here. 

Now that all that Twilight nonsense is behind me, I thought I'd start on Goal #16: Read ten books off of the BBC’s Top 100 Books list. You know, get some real literature into my brain. ;-)

I love to read. When I was younger, I would literally get grounded from reading because I would hide in my closet and read novels when I should have been doing do homework. (I know, I was such a rebel.) With my love for literature still firmly intact, I am extremely excited to start this goal and what better time to start then when I have an 18-hour, van-at-maximum-capacity ride to Dallas looming before me? (Never mind that I tend to get extremely car sick while reading - I'll figure something out.)

I'm not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed that I have only read eleven out of one-hundred of these "must read" classics? Oh well, I'll have ten more under my belt after this goal is completed! 

Thus far, I've chosen nine-of-ten books to read and I just picked up Jane Eyre at the library to get me started. Now I want your feedback as to what my tenth book should be.

Here's my list so far:

#1 - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams [check!]
#2 - Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell [check!]
#3 - Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë  [check!]
#4 - Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
#5 - The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger 
(EDIT: I'm replacing Catcher with A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving due to some questionable content of the aforementioned book)   [check!]
#6 - The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas [check!]
#7 - Animal Farm, George Orwell [check!]
#8 - Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
#9 - Holes, Louis Sachar [check!]
#10 - Chosen by my readers. What book off this list do you think I should read? 
(The books I've already read are: Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Great Expectations, Persuasion, Emma, Anne Of Green Gables, A Christmas Carol, The Secret Garden, Memoirs Of A Geisha, and Lord Of The Flies)

Can't wait to see your suggestions! 

EDIT 12/27/10: Based on feedback here and on my facebook page, an overwhelming majority is recommending/almost demanding that I read The Great Gatsby, so my list will be completed with is book! Thanks everyone for your recommendations!
 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vampires for Africa (part 3)

Dum, dum, dum, dum DOOOOOONE!

I did it - I read the book I swore up and down that I would never, ever touch. Before making such a declaration though, I should have remembered the famous words of a French pigeon named Henri, "Never say never." (An American Tail anyone?) 

Anyways. 

For the sake of the orphans (I know, I'm such a pathetic attempt at a martyr), I read Twilight and earned some financial support for my trip to Uganda from my conniving best friend (a true Twilighter if I ever knew one... which I do. Quite a few actually. I'm even related to some of them. By blood. har. har. har.)

Anyways. (again)

The big (or small, depending on your vested interest in the book) question is: Have I been converted? Have I experienced "the change"? Have I undergone the "transformation" into a Twilight fan? 

Not hardly. But I have searched deep within my sardonic opinions of the series (and the ensuing pop-culture obsession that it caused) and put together a short list of things that even I can begrudgingly appreciate about the book.

1). The cover art for the Twilight series is brilliant - absolutely beautiful visually and the artwork depicts the theme of each book in an interesting, metaphorical way. As a designer, I can't help but to admire that. 

2). My heart did flutter once and only once - during Meyer's very accurate description of the usually beauty of the Arizona desert - a beauty that, having lived here most of my life, I love and appreciate in the same way Bella does... did. Before she became consumed with Edward and nothing but. 

3). The book is PG-rated. There are no vulgar or over-sexualized scenes (which are irritatingly common in secular literature and are becoming increasing more common in teen literature - i.e. Gossip Girls). The few violent scenes that did appear are not described in an overly-graphic way either (but I don't know about the follow-up books.)

4). The book's spin on the classic vampire is interesting. The historical account of Meyer's brand of blood-suckers (or non-blood-suckers in this case) was the only part of the story that I was intrigued to know more about. Unfortunately, there existed amidst this engaging tale of vampires one regrettable element that rendered my dislike for the book unwavering:

Bella. 

I must honestly (and reluctantly) admit that had Bella not been in this story, or rather, had she been depicted in a different, less obsessive way, I would have quite enjoyed the book. However. How-e-ver, Bella's desperate, unhealthy, all-encompassing addiction to Edward ruined an otherwise potentially pleasant read. That, and I didn't personally care for Edward's arrogant, controlling personality but I already mentioned that here

One last little tidbit of fun before I move on with my non-vampire-obsessed life: This video, How Twilight Should Have Ended by HISHE. 



Oh. So. Funny. (And I couldn't agree more - because really, how long can you drag out an inevitability? For four long books apparently.)

Thanks Megan for your support - I truly appreciate it despite the package it arrived in. Now if I could just find about two-thousand more dollars worth of diabolically creative fund-raising ideas... 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Vampires for Africa (part 2)

Well. I did it. With much reluctance, I sank my teeth into Twilight (bad pun intended and inspired by too much of Stephenie Meyer's mediocre-at-best writing abilities.)

In case you missed it, I have been diabolically coerced into reading Twilight by my so-called best friend in order to raise money for my mission trip to Uganda, Africa.

I am through the first nine chapters. Bella has just discovered her unconditional love for Edward, Edward has confessed to being a vampire and I am in serious danger of dislodging my eyeballs from rolling them so often. 

However, as I'd hate to offend any of the Twi-hards out there, I won't mention how much I dislike being inside the head of a whiny, neurotic, obsessive teen girl. Nor will I bring up the fact that I think Edward is a creepy, controlling stalker punk and I want to smack him.

If I was bringing up things like that, I might mention how unintentionally funny I think this book is. Favorite laugh-out-loud lines so far:

"I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me." - Bella

"Aren't you hungry?' he asked, distracted.
"No." I didn't feel like mentioning that my stomach was already full - of butterflies.

I might also mention (if I were mentioning things) that I recently had an amusing conversation with Megan (the cunning behind this scheme) that further solidified my opinions of the book.

I told Megan that, even to someone like me who had read her fair share of cheesy chick-lit novels, Twilight seemed incredibly ridiculous and very poorly written. I challenged her to counter me on the latter point, as she is a high school English teacher after all. 

"Well yeah." She retorted smugly, "It's written for teenagers."

I was baffled and quite unsure why she seemed so proud of that fact. "Yeah." I replied. "Which is exactly why I didn't want to read it and why it creeps me out that so many grown women are obsessed with this book!" (pointed look in Megan's direction)

But, because I'm not mentioning my true thoughts on Twilight (believe me, this was the edited version), I will end with this disclaimer to the above criticism:

I've never written a novel and I don't claim that I could (the biggest difference between myself and Ms. Meyer). Also, I think vampires are cool, they've always being one of my favorite fictional creatures. However, I've read enough good literature to know when a story (even chick-lit) is lacking. But that's just my opinion and I know a whole lot of people don't share it. ::shrug:: You say "tomaytoes", I say "tomawtoes." You say romantic vampire, I say crazy stalker. Whatever.

Onward I trudge through the remaining fifteen chapters. I will get to Africa, even if it means finishing this book. 







Thursday, December 9, 2010

1970s Serving Tray ReVamp

I have yet to do a revamp on this blog, but recently I found the perfect project to feature as my first:



My mom unearthed this little gem in her garage while hunting for items to donate to our Uganda garage sale. It is a retractable hor o'dourves tray from the 1970s (I'm pretty sure it was a wedding gift to my parents 35+ years ago.) It even has little jars and spoons to hold garnishes, dips or candy.

It was solid walnut and in very good condition and while I loved the design, the colors were a bit too blah for such an awesome piece.


So out came the sandpaper and spray paint. After removing the hardware, I started with a few coats of primer.


Then I covered they tray with a glorious shade of cornflower blue which matched our apartment perfectly. (I also sealed it with an acrylic sealant spray)


After adding a few little details created with some ivory acrylic paint, a rubber stamp and the back-end of a small paint brush - Voila! Lovely. Chic. Adorable.


(It looks even better with desserts on it, but you'll have to take my word for it as I forgot to take a photo before the cookies were gobbed up at our Elf Party.)


Cost: The tray was free (thanks mom!), I already had the ivory paint and the stamp (the same stamp I used on our wedding invites). The only thing I bought was the primer and blue spray paints, which I used 40% Off coupons for, so the total cost was only $7.19. Not bad for such a cute, portable and unique piece that makes me feel like a "real" grown-up hostess with the mostess.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer...

... is buying a goat for a family in poverty.

Errrr.... Okay, so that totally doesn't rhyme and was a pretty pathetic revision of the famous Elf quote. Regardless, that was the idea behind our second-annual Elf Party.

Devin and me in all our elfin glory

Last year, we watched the movie Elf and asked guests to dress as Christmas elfs and to bring a toy for a child in the Phoenix Children's hospital. This year, our party took on a more global approach and we did something that will have a lasting, life-changing impact.

We got the movie ready, baked up some yummy desserts and asked our friends to come dressed as elfs and bring five dollars to help us spread some true Christmas cheer to a family in need. 

Courtesy of World Concern
Pooling all our money, we bought a goat for a family living in poverty through World Concern's global gift guide! (We also had a little extra and were able to buy vaccinations to keep the goat strong and healthy.) Once full-grown, a goat can produce about a gallon of milk a day and provide a poverty-stricken family with much-needed nutrition, as well as sustainable income (as the extra milk can be sold at market.) 



Our Elf Party was a great success and we (somehow) crammed 22 people (including a toddler and two pregnant gals) into our tiny (err... cozy) living room for the Elf viewing. Devin, dressed as Buddy the Elf, was our baristia and cranked out some rather delicious peppermint mocha lattes and spiced apple ciders. The dessert tray abounded with deletable confections (including my Grandma Yoder's famous butterscotch walnut brownies - um, yum.) Many of our friends were incredibly good sports and pulled together some most excellent elf costumes:

My nephew, sis-in-law and brother-in-law

I loved Max and Alex's homemade felt elf ears

Had there been a prize (oops!) the couple in front would have won for best costumes

One more of Devin as Buddy the Elf  
 (thank you Savers, Good Will and good-ol'-fashion creativity)


Great amounts of Christmas-cheer was had by all, including many swells of the irreplaceable cheer brought about by celebrating Jesus' birth through such openhearted giving. There is simply no joy like it.  

Thanks to all our incredible friends for joining us in this goat-buying venture! You've helped make a true, lasting difference for one special family (in either Bangladesh, Haiti, Kenya or Myanmar.)


P.S. Considering the goat will provide food (milk) for a family in need through a charity, I'm checking this off as Goal #68: Organize a food, toy or diaper drive for a charity at Christmas time)


 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Vampires for Africa

This post is written all-in-good-fun and is in no way meant to offend. The party specifically mentioned has given her express permission to be poked fun of.

If you have known me any length of time or have ever been around me when the topic of the Twilight series (sorry - "saga") comes up, then you know that I am vehemently opposed to reading those books. Ever. It's not that I think the books are evil or amoral. I don't have something against vampires or teen romance (well, maybe a tiny bit on that last one). I simply refuse to be associated with the crazed fans of Twilight - neither the screaming teenage girls or the age-inappropriate, not-so-secretly-swooning grown women. Nothin' doin'. Not now, not ever.


Well. Cue the exception to the aforementioned declaration: I love orphans more than I hate Twilight and I have a very devious best friend who just happens to be one of the crazed fanatics mentioned above. So, when I sent out a letter telling my friends and family that I would be looking for creative ways to raise money for my Uganda mission trip, unbeknownst to me, my fate was sealed. 

For two years, my "best friend" (hereafter refereed to as "The Devious One") has badgered me with pleas to read Twilight. My response was always, "Not gonna happen." To which she would respond, "Will there ever be anything that could get you to read it?" 

Knowing that, while devious, my best friend is not likely to cause me bodily harm to get me to read a book, I would reply, "If I am ever on bed-rest, I might-maybe-could-possibly be talked into reading it, otherwise - forget it." 

Then one fateful day, The Devious One laced her pleas with guilty-ridden whispers of, "If you were really my best friend, you would read this book. It would mean so much to me and I'm asking you to do me this one favor - as my friend." This went on for fifteen straight minutes until the desperate entreaties ringing in my ears had to be stopped at all costs. In a frantic huff, I agreed to read the first five chapters - one for each year of best-friendship. The Devious One however, was only momentarily satisfied and I could see in her eyes that she would not settle for only this.

Then, before I knew what had happened, The Devious One was offering me financial support for my Uganda trip if I read the entire Twilight book. (How's that for creative?) Now the whispers rang with words of, "How much do you really want to go to Uganda and work with those orphans? Enough to read Twilight???"

The Devious One's schemes have worked and after two years, she has finally discovered a way to force my hand into reading Twilight. However, before I start this venture, I am looking for a few more Twilight die-hards to join in The Devious One in sponsoring my reading of this much despised book. I know there are a number of you who know exactly how deep my distaste goes (J.S., S.H., J.D. - you know who you are), so this is your chance to prove to me how wonderful this book is. Any takers?


If so, leave me a comment saying you'll sponsor me on this devious challenge of madness, then go to www.visitingorphans.com and click “Donate” in the upper right hand corner. (Specify the donation for my trip – “March 18-27, 2011, Uganda Trip” and designate the funds to “Jennifer Hanson”). All gifts are tax deductible.

Check back here for an update on my progress - I'll let you know when I start and what I think once I'm finished. 

It's on.
 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Julia-ism

Julia-isms: funny saying from my baby sister

In honor of "Turkey-Day," I will bestow upon you this little gem...

On the way to church one Sunday, Julia was sitting in the back of the van singing "Hush Little Baby" to her doll. However, her rendition of the classic nursery rhyme was a little... well... unique:
"Hush little baby don't you cry,
Mama's gonna buy you a turkey.
And if that turkey doesn't die,
Mama's gonna buy you an oven." 

Laughter - something I'm thankful God has blessed us with. 
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy those turkeys, but I do not recommend given them to your babies.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What if Christmas is more than we've made it?

In light of the fact that many people will be running out to hit all the post-Thanksgiving sales this weekend, I thought I'd share this video. I saw this for the first time two years ago and still get chills every time I watch it. Something to think about as you brave the Black Friday crowds this long weekend...

(For some ideas on meaningful gift-giving, check out this post.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Two"

It always amuses me to hear my dad explain how he became the father of five kids. He likes to say that he started out wanting two kids and that my mom talked him into a third and then God talked him into adopting a forth... but then God dropped two little girls "temporarily" into our laps instead. (read that story here)

Today, my family joyfully celebrates my sisters' six-year adoption anniversary. For the occasion, I thought it would be fun to share some thoughts I wrote shortly after my sisters were adopted - a little glimpse into my mind as I processed the new additions to our family.

Two
by Jennifer Robison
January 28, 2005


My parents are adopting a little girl. I can’t wait! I’m the oldest and only daughter- I’ve always wanted a little sister to spoil. I’ll dress her in pretty dresses with bows and frills. I’ll buy her dolls and do her hair…

Then again… maybe I like being the only girl. It after all, has its benefits. There’s only so much room on daddy’s little finger.

Less room. Let room in the house, less room in my parent’s hearts, less room in the car on cross-country road trips.

Less time. More stress. Less money. More noise.

Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.

What? Two? Two! There are two of them now?

Two little girls. Two under the age of two. Twice the time, half the space. Two times the diapers, two times the work.

Wait a minute! I’m twenty-one years old! I’ll be over the hill by the time they enter high school! Let’s look at this logistically- I’m away at college. I’ll never get to know them. I’ll be known as “that’s sister of ours far away in college.” That hardly seems fair. Perhaps we should send them back.

But back to where? They have no other place to go. When I imagine what their lives would be like if they did go back… No pressure or anything, but the fate of these little girls lives lies in your hands!

Life might be less complicated without them…but would it be better? It would be a lot quieter without their constant chatter, without their contagious laughter. 

This would be easier if they weren’t so darn cute!

What harm would it really do if they stayed? They need us... and maybe we need them too.

We’re their second chance. And they’re our chance to make a difference; to do something really worthwhile with our lives.

Less room? Less room for selfish motives.

Time? More time to put someone else before myself.

Two? 

Two. Two more hugs in the morning, two more kisses at night.

Two little girls.

Two precious lives that I have the opportunity to influence.

Two precious hearts I have the chance to fill with love.

Two precious souls that I have responsibility to impact for eternity.

How could I say no to that?

Christmas 2008





Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Uganda or Bust" Garage Sale

Garage sales are an interesting breed ain't they? You never know what you'll find or the types of folks who will show up. The "Uganda or Bust" garage sale that Devin and I had this past weekend was no exception.

The generously donated items given to us by our amazing friends and family

Thank you to my brother and sister-in-law for allowing us to invade their always pristine garage for two days.

It was interesting to sort through the collection of items that people donated for our sale - clothing styles spanning (at least) two decades, workout tapes that - despite the best of intentions - never seemed to make it out of the box, brand new books and some well-loved, along with all sorts of odds and ins - all with a story. There was one particular set of male unmentionables that certainly must have had a story behind (ahem) them and I was glad the family member or friend whom they belonged to remained anonymous. 

The variety of people who show up for garage sales are even more interesting. I think we met the best and the worst of the garage-sale junkie bunch during our sale. One sweet lady didn't buy anything, but gave us $5.00 for our trip anyways. Another gal, after talking us down $8.00 in price, returned almost immediately and paid the full price when she realized the sale was to fund a mission trip. People are so nice sometimes. Other times however... $20.00 microwaves go missing and Tasmanian devils disguised as middle-aged women tear apart all of your neatly organized clothing piles, buy one shirt and leave the mess all over the garage without a second glance. ::HUFF::

But then, sometimes God shows up and puts things in perspective while teaching you a lesson on provision...

The missing microwave incident had just been discovered and Devin was trying to re-organize the clothing disaster when a lady showed up and began chatting with him about our trip. He found out that she just happens to be an advocate for Compassion International. And of course, a huge part of the reason we are going to Uganda in the first place is to meet our Compassion sponsor children! How's that for God dropping some encouragement in your lap just at the right time? But it gets better (as it often does with God-stories), she gave us a $45.00 donation for our trip just because she was so excited that we get to meet our girls. Wowzer  - what a blessing! And what a cool way for God to provide for the stolen microwave and then some!

All in all, we raised nearly $700 through the sale. Which means that the extra travels costs for our Compassion girls to meet up with us are more than covered, along with the supplies we'll be bringing for the orphanages. God is so faithful.

Thank you so much to all our generous family and friends who donated items for our sale. We appreciated this blessing so much! (And thank you to my dear, sweet husband who did the majority of the work planning and running the garage sale! You are amazing.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Happy National Adoption Day!

Katie (3), Julia (2)
On November 22, my family will celebrate the six-year anniversary of the adoption of my little sisters Katelyn and Julia. The girls were two and three years old when they were adopted and they remember the day quite well, so their anniversary is celebrated much like a birthday in our family. I am so grateful that God brought my sisters into our family! I can not imagine our lives without them.


I remember when my dad first called a "family conference" to discuss the possibly of starting the adoption process. Together the five of us (my parents,my two younger brothers and I) weighed the "pros and cons" of adoption. The pros were easy - we'd get a cute new sibling and give that child a forever family. The drawbacks were less time, less money, less space, more work, more patience, more sharing... that list just seemed to go on and on.

After we spent a while laying out these challenges, my dad very gently asked us one simple question. A question that still comes to my mind when making a decision that requires me to sacrifice something for another. He simply asked, "Can anyone think of an unselfish reason not to do this?" We could not.

Then seven and a half years ago, my mom got a call from our caseworker for an emergency placement of two baby girls (6 and 19 months). They were to be dropped off at our house within a few hours, but would only need a place to stay for two weeks. One and a half years later, our whole family (and a number of our extended family) went to the courthouse and made the "temporary two-week placement" officially-official-forever.

I am so glad that my parents followed God's command to care for the orphans in this way. Adoption -  the wonderful and the difficult - has been such a blessing in our family. Thanks to my parent's example, adoption is now something that my husband and I also plan to make part of our family story in the future. 

Julia (6), Kate (7)
Julia (7), Katie (8)
Our Forever Family

Religion that God our 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. - James 1:27

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Letters That Make a Difference

I started Goal #57 this week - Write my Compassion sponsor children once a month for a year.

Compassion International started an initiative that I stumbled across recently (perfect timing I'd say) that asks child sponsors to write their children on the second Friday of every month. I have been a sponsor for four years, but I never truly grasped how deeply important sponsor letters are to a child in the Compassion program. The letters these children receive from their sponsors are often the only words of encouragement that those children ever receive and you can not believe how deeply wounded they are when they do not receive a letter on delivery day. Yes, there is a delivery day. Which means that all the children line up at the Compassion centers and hope (a word so foreign to most of them) that their name will be called and that their sponsor has remembered them. When their name is not called and they walk away empty handed... my heart aches just thinking about that kind of disappointment. (Read a beautiful story about delivery day here.)

I was the kind of sponsor that wrote my kids when they wrote me, but never really made a huge effort beyond that. I loved getting letters from my two girls but was really challenged recently to invest into their lives even more, so I committed to Second Fridays as a way of engaging Goal #57. Wouldn't you know that just days after I made that commitment, I received a letter from my oldest sponsor child that just melted my heart. Here is a little excerpt:

"I have written this letter to thank you for paying my school fees and to tell you about my school because I love it. I greatly thank you for my schooling because if it wasn't for your paying, I don't know anybody who would have done it. I do even thank God who joined us together because it was because of the love he has for me. Most of the young people going to school are in Compassion because most of the have no parents like me and others are abandoned by their parents when they are still young so they live hopeless, not ever thinking that there is someone thinking about their well-being. They don't even know that just a prayer for them can make a change, so I do really thank you and God who have loved me. You are trying to make me be somebody in the future." - Nazziwa, 19 years old

Wow. Just... wow. 

So here is my challenge for any of you sponsors out there:  Write your kids. It means more to them then you could imagine.

If you can't afford to be a sponsor, but your heart aches for those little empty hands on delivery day, consider being coming a Word Sponsor. You get to write to children who have financial sponsors, but whose sponsors can't write them (example, I know of a guy who has 60 sponsor children through Compassion, I'm guessing he would need to take advantage of the help of Word Sponsors).

Lastly, I saw this video about the impact sponsors can have on a child. It interviews past sponsor children who are adults now. Incredible. Watch it. (pretty please)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Radical Lab Rats

*Part Nine of the Radical Read-Along with Marla Taviano

 
Well, I and all my world-wide-web reading buddies have made it through the last chapter in Radical. I am one part relieved to be finished, one part excited about all I learned and one part scared to death because now that I'm done reading, I have to actually do something with what I've learned. I am reminded of the very first quote I pulled from the book way-back-when in chapter one:

“My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to him.” (page 3)

Reading Radical was quite the eye-opening journey and now that it's over, it seems it's actually just beginning. In the final chapter, Platt challenges readers to put his theory that something is wrong with American Christianity to the test through The Radical Experiment - five challenges, one year and a life turned upside down (or right side up?).

Being a "detail-oriented-doer-type" myself, I really appreciate that Platt didn't just offer a critique of the Christian version of the American Dream, but actually gave a clearly mapped out process for changing it. Here is the Experiment's challenge and here is my take on each point:

1. Pray for the Entire World
This one seems overwhelming for sure, but the simple idea behind it is that if a whole ton of people prayed for a whole ton of people to go and minister to every place on earth, then we would see a huge awakening. It's based in the idea of "the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few, so ask God to send workers" (Luke 10:2). There is a great resource that Platt mentions here that helps to break down the task of praying for the entire world into little bites at a time. 


I hate to admit it, but I've never been much of a prayer. I think it's just a spiritual discipline I missed learning somewhere along the way, so the idea of praying for the entire world was incredible to me. But the "bit by bit" approach is something I think I can do if I commit to it and assume that this would be a great way for me to start learning how to really pray.
 
2. Read Through the Entire Word
The challenge is (and it makes perfect sense) that if we started reading through the Word of God every day (along with praying for the nations) then God's heart for the lost and His will for our lives would be so clear and so deeply rooted in us that the next three steps of this Experiment would easily fall into line with our changed hearts.


I was raised in the church, I've called my faith my own since middle school and I have read a good portion of the Bible. But I have never actually read the whole thing, which I find ridiculous since I say I believe this Word which I've never gotten around to reading. I want to know God's heart better and I know that time in His Word is the best way to do that - I just have to be disciplined enough to do it. 
 
3. Sacrifice Your Money for a Specific Purpose 


This challenge is exactly what it sounds like - live on less and sacrifice more so that you can invest in a gospel-focused ministry.

There are a number of purposes that Devin and I already sacrifice our money for (most of them focusing on ministry to the poor and orphaned) and when I read this challenge I thought, "What if I've already sacrificed, but am to the point where living this "sacrificial" way is the norm? Do I sacrifice even more?"

We live on one income and still give much of it away, we drive one car (one very old car) and live in an older apartment with old, second-hand furniture and have no plans to buy a house in the near further. We live a lifestyle that many reading Radical would consider already "radically downsized." So I was feeling pretty good about this particular challenge. Then I came across this: Who Are the Joneses?  and realized I am still living in luxury and still have plenty of abundance to share.

4. Spend Your Time in Another Context
This challenge involves the importance of serving others and sharing the gospel in another country. While Platt doesn't suggest that you have to go on a mission trip to be a "good" Christian (because that would ostracizes every Christian living in poverty who is unable to afford a mission trip), he does speak to the importance of the experience of seeing and serving people in another cultural context than your own. 

Again, I thought, "Right on! We are going to Uganda in March - score one for the Hansons!" But then I read this article: When Helping Hurts which cautions about short-term missions trips and now I'm all sorts of turned around.

5. Commit Your Life to a Multiplying Community

The final challenge for the Radical Experiment is to invest in your local community and do this with/through your church family. 

This is a complicated one for us for many reasons that I can't really go into, but I will say that we are making steps to engage in the needs of our local community and bring our church along with us. That's all I can really say at this point.

*  *  *

So that's the challenge presented by the Radical Experiment. For those of us who have gone through the Radical Read Along together, we are probably all wondering the same thing - who's in and who's not? 

I look at the five points listed above and think, "Yes! I want to do this, I know I should do this and I know God can help me do this! I know I will be forever changed if I do this!" And then there is the "Buuuttt..." that lingers in my mind. This is a huge, life-alter, turn-me-upside-down-and-inside-out kind of commitment and I won't lie to you - I kinda rushed through reading this chapter. I want to commit to this, but I don't want to do it just because I feel like it's "the thing to do." My heart is (amazingly enough even after all this stretching and growing) not in the right place, my motivations aren't entirely pure. They are laced with peer-pressure and in-the-moment-excitement. This is a big deal and I want to take it seriously. 

I think that yes, my husband and I will very likely commit to this Experiment (or some similar variation of it) but right now, I've got to pray that God will bring my heart to the right place and make sure that I've got the right focus before diving in. I've got to seriously discuss it with my husband. Otherwise, if the commitment isn't genuine, I know that my motivation will just fade off along with my commitment. This challenge is something I really want to allow into my life and it's too important to halfheartedly commit to.

So that's where I'm at. Thank you to all who shared your heart and your stories during this journey - it has been a pleasure to take a little peek into your world.