Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Crystal Springs Science

Each month during the school year over the last 4 years, the kids and I have attended a science class at a beautiful preserve near our home called Crystal Springs.  The classes vary every year, from amphibians and reptiles, to water conservation, habitats, emergency preparedness, etc.  You name it, we have probably learned about it.  The best part is that a majority of the class time is held outdoors and is hands-on.  This month we made terrariums out of plastic 2 liter bottles.  First, the teacher made a slit in the bottle.  Then the children had to fill it up with the kinds of materials that would make a suitable habitat, like sand, leaves, soil, rocks, and plants.  After the habitat was complete, the real fun began - catching the bugs to live in the terrarium!  We took the bottles home and observed them for a few days, making notes about what we saw. 

Alana showing the habitat in her terrarium:

Jayde and her friend, Hannah, searching for critters:

The outdoor classroom at Crystal Springs Preserve:

Easton proudly showing his completed terrarium:

Hands-on learning is just more fun, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Strawberry Festival

Wow!  It's been a whole month since I last posted.  What a busy month it was - it flew by!  One culprit/time stealer was the Strawberry Festival.  For 11 days our family eats, sleeps, and breathes the Festival.  Our wardrobe is strawberries, our desserts are strawberries, you name it, we have seen it or own it that relates to strawberries. 

This is Alana with her cousin, Morgan, at the parade:

Here's Easton with his best friend, Ethan, and his cousin, Waylon, at the parade:

Jayde and I at the parade together:

My friends Sheri and Monica and I took our girls (we each have 2) to the All-Star Weekend concert.  My eardrums hurt afterward!  These are the girls, all excited to see the boys:

My sister, Ginger, and I at the Jeremy Camp concert:  Can you guess who's who?

Festival time is always fun, but I'm always glad when it's over!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pray for Ethiopian Orphans

This week MOWA (Ministry of Women's Affairs) in Ethiopia (a government agency) announced that it will start cutting the adoption hearings at the end of this month by 90%.  They will go from seeing 50 cases per day to 5.  The reported story so far states that they are doing this to try and cut corruption from the system.  The funny thing is, Ethiopia has one of the very lowest corruption rates (about 5-7%) of any country that handles adoptions.  Some of the things being reported just don't add up.  This could be temporary or permanent.  No one knows.

Therefore, there are a lot of families that are concerned right now.  Some have children already referred to them, some don't.  Everyone wonders how this is going to play out.  What it would mean is that the children in orphanages and transition homes would be there a long time before they get to go home to a family.  Not just months, it could be years. 

The Ethiopian AWAA chat room family has started a prayer chain.  There are multiple families praying every hour during the Ethiopian work day.  My time slot is 7 a.m. Florida time.  That's 3 p.m. in Ethiopia.  It is so wonderful to be a part of a group of people who turn to the Lord first and ask for His will to be done before anything else.  This group really is like a family.  So uplifting.

Please join us in prayer.  When you think about it, pray for the waiting families and for peace for them all.  Pray for the children who are waiting to go home to a forever family.  Pray that the hearts of the officials will be changed and the Holy Spirit will lead them to do what is right for all of those little ones who need help and healing.  Pray that any attempts Satan has in store to try and end adoptions there will be intercepted.  I believe Satan hates adoption because God loves it.  I believe he will probably do anything to try and make it hard for children to come to loving Christian homes. 

God is in control.  I love the song by Twila Paris.  Here are the lyrics:  

"This is no time for fear
This is a time for faith and determination
Don't lose the vision here
Carried away by emotion
Hold on to all that you hide in your heart
There is one thing that has always been true
It holds the world together

God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
God is in control, oh God is in control

History marches on
There is a bottom line drawn across the ages
Culture can make its plan
Oh, but the line never changes
No matter how the deception may fly
There is one thing that has always been true
It will be true forever

He has never let you down
Why start to worry now?
He is still the Lord of all we see
And He is still the loving Father
Watching over you and me

watching over you...watching over me..
watching over every things..
watching over you..watching over me..
every little sparrow..every little things... "

God is in control.  He sees.  He sees each family.  He sees every child that needs Him.  He has a plan.  His timing is perfect.  Always.

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Father's World

During Christmas break, I felt the need to change up some things in our schoolwork selection.  I had been eyeing the Geography program from My Father's World for 2 years.  I finally decided to order it.  Love, love, love it!

Wow.  I really want our children to grow up with a heart for missions.  To love the people God created.   To love the outcasts, the poor, the widows, the people who seem like they will never be reached.  God knows them all.  Every hair on their head.  This program has been such a blessing!  It's called "Exploring Countries and Cultures".  Every two weeks we "travel" to a new country.  The kids have their own passport.

They get a new sticker every time they enter a new country.  Right now we are still in North America.  There are fun activities to go with every country. 

One of my favorite books that came with the program is Window on the World: When We Pray God Works by Daphne Spraggett with Jill Johnstone.  It talks about different people groups from all over the world.  You learn what they believe, and why they need God so desperately.  Then you get an opportunity to pray for them that week!  It's been amazing to see the kids' hearts turn toward people they don't even know and pray for them. 

The other book I love the most is Kingdom Tales by David and Karen Mains.
You need to order this book even if you don't use My Father's World!  It reminds me of the Narnia series, but shorter stories that you can read daily to your kids.  The kingdom represents Heaven and the king represents Jesus.  All the characters start out so unloved, but are redeemed by the King.  The kids literally BEG me to read this every day.  I don't know what we'll do when we get to the end.  I guess we'll have to start all over!

"Exploring Countries and Cultures" comes with all the books you need as well as student sheets.  The children make a notebook to hold all the things they learn about each country.

The notebook is split into sections by continent.

I highly recommend My Father's World! 

On a side note, there is another book I purchased a couple years ago from Queen Homeschool called Material World:  A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel.  It's wonderful. Photographers went into many different countries and recorded what life is like for an average family in that particular country.  It shows pictures of their daily life and then the one that really gets you - a picture of each family outside their home with ALL of their belongings that are normally inside the house.  That includes furniture, clothing, kitchen supplies, everything.  It is a wakeup call!  You should see the majority of the families across the world and what they have compared the the family from the U.S.  No comparison!  (I realize this picture is sideways and I have no idea how to rotate it - bear with me:)

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  Matthew 28:19-20

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why Ethiopia?

This entry is something I feel the need to write because of how many times I have been asked the question, "Why Ethiopia?"  Now, that is a perfectly valid question when phrased nicely.  But a majority of the time that's not the end of the sentence. It usually morphes into something like, "Why not here?", or "Shouldn't Americans take care of their own first?", or - here's the kicker - "Are you trying to be like Brad and Angelina?".  I mean, seriously?  Please show me in the Bible where it says to only help orphans in your own particuar country.  You can't.  It's not in there.  I would like to give an answer that everyone will understand and agree with, but there's no way that's going to happen.  Everyone has their own opinion about what should and should not be done about orphans.  I am not here to argue with anyone.  All I can do is try to explain it the best I can.  The only opinion that matters to Alan and I in the grand scheme of things is God's, and whether or not we are in His will.  So here goes.  Please overlook all my grammatical errors.

When we first felt led to adopt, we looked into local adoption.  We didn't feel called to adopt a newborn infant, we felt like God wants us to adopt an older child. They are harder to place.  So that ruled out private adoption and left adopting through foster care. We have a few friends who have been down that road and we counseled with them.  It was unanimous that we should have the child in our home first for a long list of reasons that I will not go into now.  We decided that we didn't want to have kids coming and going from the house, not because of us, but because of our children.  They want more siblings and we didn't want to have them fall in love with the kids in our home and then have to see them leave, possibly multiple times.  I understand that a lot of people will not agree with that logic, but that's where we stand.

OK, moving on.  After we made those decisions, the obvious choice for our family was international adoption.  Now, just to give you an idea of how God can change people's hearts, a few years ago Alan said we would NEVER adopt outside of our own country.  Just like a few years before that I said I would NEVER homeschool.  You see how that one turned out.  It's all God, baby.  He changes the hearts of people.  I can't do that.  You can't do that.  Only God.  This time Alan was the one who said we could go international as I sat there in astonishment.  Was this the same husband God gave me almost 14 years ago?  The answer is "No", because God has been working on Alan's heart (and mine) and doing a wonderful work.

I digress again.  So once we made the decision to go outside of our country, we contacted America World Adoption Agency.  They were recommended by Steven Curtis Chapman's adoption website, and we had heard nothing but good things about them.  They sent us information on every country they work with.  That's when some more major praying took place.  Where should we go? 

The next part is going to sound crazy to anyone who is not a believer. How do you explain the Holy Spirit to someone who has never had an experience with Him?  You CAN'T.  So if I sound crazy, you can skip this part.  Because ultimately it comes down to the Holy Spirit speaking to us.  We were praying about where to go.  During that time every article, newsletter, email - you name it - screamed "Africa!"  We would pray and another picture of Africa would come from somewhere.  At that point we narrowed it down to three countries, two of which were in Africa.

The whole time we kept seeing things about Africa, every time I would finish praying, I would hear God whisper, "Ethiopia" to me.  Alright, I realize some people are going to think that's absolutely crazy, but it's true.  Then one day Alan came home and said, "How about Ethiopia, because it seems to have a slightly shorter wait time?"  I calmly replied, "Yes, that sounds good", while my mind was screaming, "Yes!  That's right, Father, it's been Ethiopia all along, hasn't it?"

I could give you many statistics about Ethiopia, like:
-The average income is $100/year in U.S. dollars.  Almost 82% of the population lives on less than $1/day.
-Malnutrition levels are among the highest in the world.
-Ethiopia is home to 4 million orphans, or 12% of all children.  More than half of these were orphaned because of AIDS.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, there are approximately 115,000 children waiting for adoption from foster care in the U.S. Most of the ones in the U.S. live in a home and have food to eat, while the ones in Africa live in mud huts or orphanages where many have bloated bellies from malnourishment.
-Only 18% of children reach grade 5.
-Infant mortality is one of the highest in the world - 49/1000 births.
-Life expectancy is 43 years.

There are so many more facts like these.  But ultimately it came down to following the Holy Spirit's leading.  Hopefully that will answer some questions.  Please tell all your friends not to refer to "Brad and Angelina" when speaking to adoptive families.  It's not a compliment. 

Hope this post wasn't too harsh.