Monday, September 17, 2012

Leapin' Lizards

Tomorrow I’ve been invited to speak at my Grandma’s church and tell others about my experiences in Cambodia. I’m nervous and excited but most of all, as I was practicing my words today, I felt a longing to be there. I had just texted my friend Erica that I was missing Cambodia when God decided to give me a little glimpse of it. 

I stopped by my sister’s house to pick up some things she had for me. She’s moving to a new place and was giving away her fish tank and some other things to me and some cute little nephews of hers. She said I could take her plants from the backyard, too, and I was super excited. I have a huge back yard at my house now and no plants!  “I would love to have them,” I told her. So while she was at work, I headed over to grab them from her backyard.

There were about 7-8 plants, I think. Plenty of room in the back of my Explorer to fit them all. I was a little nervous about what could be inside them... my sister has a track record of seeing snakes in her backyard... so I shook them and kicked them hard before moving them. 

It wasn’t good enough. 

As I set the last one inside, something green and slithery caught my attention. Now, I hate snakes, so I was happy when I realized that it was, instead, a lizard. A pretty big green one, but still, it had legs. I could handle it. The boys were standing there as I jumped when I first saw the little creature and they giggled. I said I was going to be brave and grab it. It took me a few seconds to gain up enough courage to grab it, and I did, right there on the tail. 

You know what happens to a lizard when you grab its tail, right?  Not only does the creepy thing fall off, but it scares the rest of the lizard into hiding! That little big guy jumped over the backseat and into Jack’s carseat.  At this point, the kids stopped finding it funny and started screaming and crying. As I’m comforting them and trying to swat a lizard with random toys from the back seat,  a sweet neighbor – remember I’m not at my own house, I’m at my sister’s  - came over and asked what in the world was going on. I told him and he goes “Oh, geez, not lizards, those things are creepy!”

He brought over his broom and helped me a little. Then he (conveniently) had to leave once the lizard disappeared deeper into the car, and left me the broom. About that same time I saw another one.  In my car.  Yep.  Great. 

I opened all the doors and started pulling things out. The kids were running up, peeking in the car, and running away screaming. Over and over again. Yeah. I wasn’t sure if it was for fun or from fear, but it certainly didn’t help me any. 

At some point I decided to take the plants out of the car. I mean, all I could think was that if there were lizards then there might be a slithery snake in one of those pots. As I grabbed the second or third one, I saw another lizard on the pot. I knew it was a different one because it was smaller than either of the others and brown instead of green. I figured would stay on the pot while I set it outside. 

Of course it didn’t, though. It, too, jumped inside the car and immediately hid. With two carseats, toys everywhere, and yeah, I admit, some trash on the floor, too, it became impossible to find those lizards. 

And then I saw one, one who still had a tail. He was on the door so I used the broom the neighbor had left and swatted it away. It went flying across the driveway and slammed into the garage door. I became the coolest mom ever at that point.  The boys watched it as it crawled away, unharmed.  (Thankfully for the kids sake!)

Okay. One down, two to go. Or at least I thought. I couldn’t let myself imagine how many there really could be. I found the second one, which was the largest one, aka Mr. Tailless, hiding in between the seats. With some poking and prodding I got that guy to run out of the car on his own. More giggling and screaming from the kids. They thought they were all gone because I hadn’t told them about the baby one I saw last. 

And when I kept looking and couldn’t find that little guy, I outright lied to my kids and told them there were no more. I know, I shouldn’t lie to them, but come on!  I had a 30 minute drive back home and didn’t need them to be freaked out.

Yeah.  The drive.  I was so worried about driving away with that lizard still in there. Without the plants, of course, because there was no way I was keeping those things inside my car after all that. Sorry, sis. The kids were begging me to never put "leaves" in the car again.  
And that’s how it was like Cambodia. But it wasn’t. In Cambodia there were geckos and lizards everywhere. They over and beside us as we ate at restaurants, they came into our kitchen and bedrooms, and they likely rode in tuk tuks with us. It was expected, so it wasn’t all that strange. I guess I’ve adapted now, though, because the thought of driving away with that little guy stuck inside my car, my closed up, moving vehicle, driving on a 4 lane freeway, freaked me out.  I almost couldn’t do it.

But I did.  I lied to the kids again as I buckled them in their carseats.  And I drove.  But every little flicker of light made me jumpy because I thought it was a moving reptile... my mind was still imagining a snake being in there, too.  At one point one of the kids threw a toy into the front seat and I jumped.  They thought that was so funny that they did it again a few minutes later. 

We finally made it home, with no sightings of the lizard. Thank you, Jesus. Because if that thing had run across my lap or jumped on my back while I was driving, I’m sure I’d have closed my eyes, let go, and started singing “Jesus, take the wheeeeeel!”

Whew.  What a day.

I don’t miss Cambodia anymore for now.  
And I'm not driving that car again for a while.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Maybe That's What It's All About

I’m sitting here in my new house in Sugar Land surrounded by boxes and pieces of furniture that aren't put together yet, and using internet that is coming through my phone because I waited too long to order it, and my eyes are filled with tears.  It’s not because of the boxes, though.  Or the furniture.  Or the internet, though I could use a faster connection.  It’s because I am starting to figure out what it’s all about. 

“It” being the right now.  I’m so happy to live here, in a great house, in a great neighborhood, and so close to many of my loved ones, but I couldn’t help the feeling of wondering if all this is enough.  After being in Cambodia, which seemed like such a “big” thing for me, this feels almost small.  I catch myself wondering how I can do more.  More for God.  More for others.  More for sweet young girls and boys caught in the nightmare of human trafficking.  Just more.

And today God brought comfort to me in the midst of it all.  He sent me a nice man to connect my gas so I’d finally have hot water.  I’m thankful for that, for sure, but He did even more.  He made both him and me stop what we were doing and have a conversation that changed the way we both look at our current circumstances.

“Mike” asked me where we were moving from.  It’s funny because I never know quite what to say to that, and I just answer simply, “Cambodia.” Of course, that always leads to a million questions and this time was no different.  Before I knew it, he was hearing my whole story and his eyes were moist with tears.  I felt God nudging me to find out more from him so I started asking him about his life.  I couldn’t believe what he said to me. 

He’s been feeling a call to missions for quite some time but his wife isn’t ready.  They have boys the same ages as ours and she, understandably, just can’t fathom taking them away from here to become strangers in a strange land.  Well, I don’t know if you remember how I reacted to my husband’s revelation, but let’s just say I completely understand his wife’s reservations.  I then shared how God had changed my own heart and how much the boys and I fell in love with this place we never wanted to go. He smiled and told me he was inspired. 

And after he left, I realized that maybe that’s what it’s all about. 
Sharing my story.
Listening to others.
Or, what I should be doing anyway... Just yielding to God when He tells me what to do. 

That’s not a little thing at all.  That’s what it’s all about.  That’s what life is all about.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mercy Project - a guest post

There’s an estimated 7,000 children who work in the Ghana fishing industry. Some of
these children are as young as 5 and 6 years old.  All of these children are slaves.
–Mercy Project

Today many in our country will take a day off from our jobs to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers.  No matter if we’re celebrating at home or at the beach, we’re entering into a tradition that has largely been shaped by Labor Unions - organizations that are dedicated to protecting workers’ interests and improving their wages, hours, and working conditions.  Today as we lounge around or hang out with friends and family, we’re not only celebrating hard work, we’re honoring fair, ethical working practices and the laws that prevent discrimination, abuse, and child labor in our country.  Without these laws in place (and enforced), the most vulnerable members of society suffer.  Who are the most vulnerable? Children. 

Today as we’re celebrating the systems in our own country that strive to prevent injustices like child trafficking and child labor, we’re mindful of the many child slaves around the world who are unprotected and the organizations, like Mercy Project, who are working to free them.

As a mother, it’s difficult for me to imagine my children working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I’m unable to wrap my brain around the thought of my children engaged in long, hard days of physical labor, eating one meal a day, and then falling asleep at night on a dirt floor filled with other slave children.  Yet this is the daily reality for kids who have been trafficked into the fishing industry in Ghana, Africa.  As with much of Africa, there is a great deal of poverty in Ghana. Unfortunately, this leaves many mothers in an unimaginable position: sell their children to someone who can take better care of them or watch them starve to death. Most of the mothers are told their children will be given food, housing, and an education. Instead, the kids are often taken to Lake Volta where they become child slaves and their mothers never see them again.  Thankfully, Mercy Project is working to break the cycles of trafficking around Lake Volta by providing alternate, more efficient, sustainable, fishing methods for villagers – ultimately eliminating the need for child slaves.  Because of the work Mercy Project is doing in Ghana, the first group of children will be freed this month from Lake Volta.

We invite you to watch this moving, 10 minute documentary about the issues surrounding child labor and trafficking in Ghana and most importantly the hope Mercy Project is bringing to children and entire communities in Africa.  Mercy Project is the only NGO working on Lake Volta addressing the injustice of child labor and child trafficking at its root - by strengthening the Ghanaian economy and eliminating the structures that cause the demand for trafficked children.

Whether these ideas of child labor, child trafficking, and modern-day slavery are new to you or you’re aware of these injustices, but need to hear some good news every once in awhile, we invite you to become a part of what Mercy Project is doing in Ghana.  When Mercy Project frees their first group of children this month, we can all celebrate together.

Learn more and get involved by –

• Watching Mercy Project’s short documentary (above)

• Following Mercy Project on Facebook

• Connecting with Mercy Project viaTwitter.  

• Spending some time on Mercy Project’swebsite.  

• Sharing about Mercy Project’s work in Ghana with your friends.  

Although child trafficking, child labor, and the unstable economies that result in these injustices are a tragedy, we’re grateful for what Mercy Project is doing to protect the vulnerable and for allowing us to be a part of this story.   While we’re commemorating labor laws and ethical work in our own country today, we invite you to follow along on this journey with Mercy Project to protect and free children in Ghana.

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

" serving the best interests of children, we serve the best interests of all humanity."
Carol Bellamy

“When the lives and the rights of children are at stake, there must be no silent witnesses.”--Carol Bellamy

"God does not want us to merely give the poor perfunctory help, but to ponder long and hard about how to improve their entire situation." -- Tim Keller in Generous Justice  

"If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong." -- Abraham Lincoln