Friday, October 29, 2010

The Moon, the Stars and Everything

I have no idea why planning for this trip to Ethiopia seems so much more stressful. Last time I went I had a day notice to pack and leave to go meet my sick twins. I had never been to Africa, Adam was gone and I was traveling alone. I guess it's because (forgive me I process the obvious while I type)..my only thought was..get to my babies as fast as I can.
This time I have a lot more tension and anxiety built up. I'm not racing there to make sure my babies will survive, Adam is gone will be home this time, I will not be alone (I have a few amazing ladies going with me), I have been there before, I know He wants me there...So, why on earth am I so stressed?
Maybe because I spent a year of my life sick after my last visit? Nope. I know I will be fine.
I think I just feel scattered. This time I have so many reasons for going. Last time I only had 2 reasons -Diezel and Xia-
I'm going with doma, the amazing organization I have been busting tail to fund raise for. This has involved 9 months of planning and working hard. I have never remained this focused outside of my marriage and family ever! God has grown me so much over this time. It's weird-even though I feel more distant from HIM than I ever have ...He has used this time in my life to stretch, grow and be productive for HIM. This past few years I have walked more in faith than ever. It's like HE leads me to where I need to go...then says "GO". So therefore, I go. I work. I plant. In faith...I bury my head and plow.
I'm also going to see Gedese and her family. My heart has longed for them since I said, "Goodbye" almost 2 years ago. I want to spend every moment with them, but will only have a few precious hours. I want to hold Christiana like I did when she was a baby, because in my heart it was just yesterday that I rocked her to sleep. Yet, she is 2 now and will most likely be afraid of me. I want to bring tons of gifts and pack my whole house up for them and lay it at her their feet. I love them.
The twins parents are traveling many miles to spend time with me. I think this is where my burden maybe. I want to give the the moon, the stars, anything and everything. How on earth can I begin to express my gratitude. I have so many mixed emotions regarding the twins adoption. Guilt being a main one. Even though I sat down with them last time and heard their reasons for leaving the twins at the orphanage...I can't help but to feel guilty. If more programs were in place to help families stay together, was my agency ethical in placing the twins, even though we offered to help the family stay together-did they really get that offer or was it a lie, what were they told (we were asked to give them money by our agency director while we were in the same room with them), did my desire to adopt fuel the insatiable greed of people wanting to make money from the business of adoption, but really-When I sit down with them again..and I see them, really see them and listen to them, really listen to them and want to give them the moon, but I legally can't do anything for them, but tell them...I really do love their/our children and will give their/our children all that I have..I guess I need to realize that in itself is giving them the moon.
So maybe that's it..I just want to give more, be more, feel more, do more. I want to give what it is I don't have..the moon, the stars and everything. Maybe that's my lesson. I can't fill the one need people have...It's GOD. HE is the one thing that satisfies. I can't give GOD or be GOD, but I can serve GOD. And in serving GOD their is no guilt. He is the moon, the stars and everything.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Faith is My Hero!

WARNING:
This post is a mother bragging about how amazing her kid is.

On Tuesday Faith (9 almost 10;) had 8, yes 8 teeth baby teeth pulled without general anesthesia. She is in the 4th grade and has only lost 2 baby teeth. Given her small mouth and the crowding of her adult teeth above her gumline she would never loose her baby teeth on her own. She was excited to move forward and transition (insert big sigh) into pre-teen land and not be the almost 10 year-old with all her baby teeth. My only regret was not listening to my gut earlier. I have questioned her dentist for years about her not losing any teeth and again and again was told to not worry. I think he was shocked to see what came out! Faith has an extreme fear of needles and pain. This was done not in an oral surgeons office..so, being put under was not an option. She had her gums and palette stabbed over 20 times with injections. I had no idea after all my dental stuff that the injections themselves produced so much blood. EEEK! She cried and shook all over. I had to hold her down. She was breathing so fast. I just kept telling her, "Breathe baby". She didn't settle down until after the first tooth was pulled. I watched as the dentist used all his strength to pull each of the 8 teeth...


You can see in this picture why they were so hard to pull out! Due to the crowding her roots never dissolved. These are the baby teeth of a 9 year old! ....The dentist agreed they wouldn't have come out on their own. These are her four front teeth and her four bottom teeth.





The holes that were left 36 hours after being pulled. The dentist said she would probably be in pain for a few days. Other than almost passing out and vomiting when she got home..she has been a TROOPER! No pain meds. Totally happy, positive and confident.




My biggest fear was not the surgery itself, but how she would respond to it not only physically and emotionally. Most kids have already lost these teeth by the 2nd grade. I'm not homeschooling right now and well...to be honest our school is a good school, but it is also a school with some snooty kids. Most girls in Faith's school at her age are dressed pretty good in all the name brand stuff. They are into looking good and being accepted (I guess this is any school with pre-teen girls) The thing is all my kids seem to march to their own drummer. They are the kids that are slightly different and a little odd just like their parents. Faith never matches and picks even for me some of the most absurd outfits and she always tell me when I question her choice, "Mom, I am me..I like this. If I am comfortable wearing this, then should you care?" So, knowing this about her, I have no idea why I stressed so much about how she would be impacted if and when kids make fun of her.



Afterall...look at this beautiful face and stare at her soulful eyes and see her confident spirit..even if they did, would she care? NO! Faith you are my hero sweet girl. You teach me everyday to embrace who I am, because at the end of the day it's not what others think... it's how much you allowed God to shine through you. And GIRL YOU ARE A SHINING STAR!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Big Rocks

This past week was insanely difficult. Maybe, it's the pre-Africa jitters or more than likely it's the culmination of the past three years of self inflicted stress. Adam is gone again to LA to finish up the film. I leave in a week for Africa. I have often joked about the craziness of our life. Having a massive photo business with 50+ employees, making a feature film, opening a paintball business, buying land to run not only the renfaire on, but multiple festivals, trying to run a skate ministry, adopting 2 very sick kids from Africa, bringing home a sick pregnant woman home to care for, starting a non-profit, blah, blah, blah... Yes, these are ALL great things and yes, by doing them..I believe we are doing what He is calling us to do. But HE also calls us to personal time with HIM, sowing into our children(not just by example, but time), enjoying today and not planning for tomorrow. The thing is He did plant all these visions in our hearts and He did equip us to accomplish them...It just doesn't all have to be at once. I also believe life is not suppose to be in perfect balance..there are seasons. I think Adam and I are just trying to extend the harvest season beyond where it was intended. In all honesty, I have so much resentment built up in my heart because of this. I have been screaming, "uncle" for so many years, only I have done it in a way that was a counterproductive. I play the martyr really well in my marriage. Why am I sharing all this? Well, you know me...I never really hold back...but more importantly, I ask for prayer. I found myself at the beginning of this week pushed beyond my limit, beyond where I could even hold on. I found myself questioning not only myself, but my marriage and who my man was to me today..not yesterday, or last year, or 16 years ago, but at this moment. I felt more distant, and disconnected from the man I love than I ever have. It was scary, nasty and devastating. Over 16 years of disappointments and heartaches and loneliness poured out of me...Needless to say..It was a hard week. I have come out of it more determined than ever that God knew what He was doing when Adam and I fell in love and even though HE called us to so many things..Adam and I need to learn to put the big rocks in first. We both jump into everything 100% and give all that we have...For him it's been work and business (Proverbs 24:27) for the past 16 years and for me (Titus 2:4-5). When I get back from Africa things are going to change. Our focus will be where it needs to be..Our relationship with God, our relationship with each other and caring for our babies will be our big rocks..
I am excited to begin our new life together in 3 weeks.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Where I am...

I am in awe of where the whole "Tacky for Africa" headband thing is going. I originally started the tacky movement to simply move some... pardon the expression-Hideous or God awful headbands that a group of beautiful elderly volunteers made for Because Every Mother Matters. At that time my focus was completely on funding the birthing center in Ethiopia. I had no idea how I was going to raise the 15k needed. I just knew I committed to doing it. Then, I never would have thought that those "tacky bands" sold only "grab-bag style"would be responsible for half the money raised. What the original "sweatshop of love ladies"-(my endearing term for the 3 generational family of women who donated their time to sew the original Tacky for Africa headbands) did not only for the mommas in Africa, but for this momma right here is hard to explain! Being able to sell and market what they made in spite of NOBODY ever seeing what it was they were buying..is a testimony in itself. I learned to not only believe in the obvious, the power of God...I learned to believe in the power of a good story. It wasn't me or what the "sweat-shop" of ladies made..it was the story behind the headbands. I also, as hard as it is to admit..I learned about my ability to tell the story. I learned that I have more passion and more skill than I knew I had. Up to this point- I knew 3 things-1. I was a wife who tried hard. 2. I worked my butt off to be a good momma and 3. Even though I made a lot of mistakes..man, my intentions and heart were pure.

Then a few months ago I happened to overhear a mom talk about her cleaning business that employed local refugees. Needless to say, I stalked her that afternoon and begged for a chance to sit down with her. All I could think about was a statement she made.."I have more unemployed refugees who need work than what I can offer". Um...this is a mom of 3 that felt called to open some sort of business that could employ the refugees..maybe 30+ that came to her church! -Amazing woman. Anyway, from the moment she talked about the refugees..I felt this immediate connection. I called everyone I knew, before I even spoke with her-that I was going to somehow combine what I was doing with Because Every Mother Matters with the growing refugee population in my own town, thus helping this local organization. Within a week we had 3 different refugees sewing headbands. I sold completely out of them at the Together for Adoption conference. I had just finished the fundraising efforts for the doma clinic that I had spent so many months working for. I was convinced the headbands were done!.The Tacky for Africa headband success was a double edged sword for me. This was the confidence I needed that people wanted to support not only my local refugees but other amazing organizations like Project Hopeful. I now found a new mission. A new purpose and more importantly a new responsibility. I now knew...it wasn't about me or my original "mission statement"...I had now been around enough non-profits and organizations, that I knew...where my place was and is. I came into the land of "non-profit" wide eyed and bushy tailed..I quickly became aware of the politics and unfortunately..the crap that follows most of them (especially the "Christian" ones) ..My purpose was clear-

supporting those who provide hope to mothers and their families around the world and in our own backyard

So here I am...finally, knowing my place.

Because Every Mother Matter's will fight to support all mommas through multiple organizations.

It will NEVER be about us or me or you...

It will always be about THEM!

We are about to launch our "world aids" headband through Project Hopeful.

If you are going to the mid-Atlantic Summit they will be available for $12.00

They will also be available through our website.

*IMPORTANT* Please Help and repost!

Given the demand we had at T4 the refugees have spent a lot of time sewing about 100 more headbands. They were so encouraged by the demand and excitement that ALL they want to do is sew:) I pay them upfront...meaning for every headband they make(no matter the quality) I personally at this time $4.00 for every band. This week alone I have written almost $500 in checks. I have sold maybe 30..you do the math. We are releasing this week the World Aids Day headband sewn by an HIV+ momma. Until then, please help me, help them....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Day..

Not gonna lie..it was a really rough day.
I'm hopeful tomorrow will be different...
but then again...
This is life
and
it is hard

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BunnySuess

I feel a deep need to help, to constantly be a voice-no matter how small or even obnoxious it maybe...I tend to go against the grain, forge a new path and quite honestly...I can without ill meaning in my heart offend people. As rough and strange as I am...I am a people pleaser by nature.
I know..it's quite the contradiction. On one hand-I am bold, unique and take strong stands and on this other hand-I desire to be understood, to love, to embrace everyone...It reminds me of the passage in the Word about being luke warm...I guess you could argue my two extremes could be mixed to luke warm and thus be spewed out like vomit...But, I don't know..I think God made me this way. I am able to see and experience two separate extremes. I think my irritatingly honest voice is best heard when mixed with my desire to not only be loved, but to love beyond my ability.

this is hard enough to figure out just being me, Steffany-the person, but man...it's excruciating being this way as a mom, a wife and now the sole driver of the vision God gave me for BEMM.
I will always be, hopefully be, me...a whacked out..beautiful mess...

I am learning to figure this all out. I know a few things...
1. It's not about me
2. I will piss people off
3. My heart's desire is to see EVERYONE...to really see them..to love them for who they are and who they can be...

It's so surreal to be here..at this moment. I run into people, or have people contact me, I see photos on FB...they all say the same thing outwardly, "Steffany, I am in awe of you and all you are doing". When I hear this...my first response is.."Please don't be, I am still me and I can only do this because of HIM"...my next thought is..., "okay, yeah, I have overcome a lot of stuff"...but then my last thought is....."STOP!...Don't you know, YOU...yes, YOU...are SO MUCH MORE CAPABLE THAN ME!" Instead of being in "wow" of me...look inside..look deep...You will see what I already know...That you rock. I will continue to be me, a dork, a person who is wrong more than she's right...I will make you mad sometimes because I can be quite annoying...The thing that needs to change is...YOU thinking you are any different than me...In fact, we are quite the same. A person who wants to simply love people and desires to love more than they know how.

And why is this called BunnySuess?
Ask Adam...
The one I simply want to love more than I know how

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tacky for Sveta


I don't know where to begin...



From the beginning? I don't even know what the beginning is or was like...I can only guess..because I don't know the whole story..So, why don't I just share the facts..
There are 2 sisters in the Ukraine without a family. One has HIV..I have no idea how long they have been orphaned..I have no idea when the last time someone..anyone tucked them in at night. The only thing I do know, is there is a family who is desperately trying to adopt them. They actually leave in a few days in hopes to bring them home. To a mom, a dad, a family that will tell them, "You are worthy'. It's like an invisible thread that has bound this family to these sisters halfway around the world. That invisible thread is held together by a love so deep and a faith so complete that this family has NO IDEA how they are going to financially pull this off. They do believe in miracles. And I believe that EVERYONE HAS THE ABILITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIFE OF ANOTHER!



There have been some awesome organizations and individuals working hard to spread the word through raffles, blogs, facebooking and donations.
Project Hopeful
Funky Fish designs
(You all know how much I love them) has donated items to the raffle

It still hasn't made a dent. I read this post from the family that is adopting the girls and it broke my heart....
So, I'm going to do what I can do...I donated some of my coin here and I am also personally buying two TACKY for AFRICA Headbands and am going to hold a 48 hour raffle. For every $5.00 you donate for Sveta-You will be entered to win one of our brand new stock of headbands.
Two winners will be chosen by 5pm wed.



Directions-
DIRECTIONS FOR ENTRY: Go to www.projecthopeful.org use the “DONATE” button on the home page. **PUT “SVETA” IN THE MEMO WHEN YOU MAKE YOUR PAYMENT.**
Two winners will be chosen by 5pm wed.


PLEASE HELP US SPREAD THE WORD!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hit me With a Brick...

For years my kids have asked me to decorate the house for seasons...my response is always.."Money and time should be spent in things that matter"- My house is always just that- a place to lay down your head and dream of a better tomorrow. I am constantly in survival mode. Most of our towel racks have been yanked off the walls by ambitious children. My walls are smudged with hand prints and cracks. Not to mention the toilets, my carpets are ruined and the daily kill my cats bring in! With my husband gone most of the time- I am responsible for yard work, cleaning, upkeep, I even crawl on my roof 2x a year to clean the shingles and 12 skylights, housewashing, anything I think needs to be done, care of our kiddos, dinner for 8-12 a night...So, when my kids request seasonal decorations....My initial response is....NO WAY!....Then I think... HOW DUMB AM I? How Selfish...? We chose this life of chaos . Not them...They want decorations? They want a sense of normalcy? Then..I need to suck it up and do it!

Pics to follow:)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The End.....?

When I went to the Together for Adoption conference in Austin, I was pretty set on the fact that the Tacky for Headband era was over. My plan was simple-bring 120 with me. Sell them. Give 40% of the money to the refugees that made them and the rest to Project Hopeful. I did not want this to be a "BEMM" project. I wanted this to be about serving the refugees in my community and an awesome organization(Project Hopeful). Period. Sell them and move on. Um...Turns out HE had different plans. I sold out of the headbands quickly. I was able to give the refugees more money than I thought and had a blast supporting Project Hopeful. When my last headband was sold I got an email from a local friend who just finished running a race with a tacky headband...apparently the headband did a great job not only holding her hair in place, but being a super cute accessory. She wanted to throw a headband party! Then even more ideas came my way-(I can't wait to share them) Anyway, it was obvious the headbands weren't done. As I looked around at all the t-shirts that said, "It's not about me"...I realized..I maybe done, but God's not. For every headband I sell-It means a local refugee family is supported by their own two hands, it means another great cause can be supported whether it is BEMM or another awesome cause! So, I came home..ready to go. Ready to keep going. Keep selling. Keep spreading the tacky!
Then it happened...The whole vision of Because Every Mother Matter changed. It was no longer about the mommma's over there, it became about the mommas here. How, as an organization I can connect, empower women and families in my own community and at the same time help mommas/families across the world. I am excited to start working with local mommas/women who are overcoming domestic violence as well. Imagine the impact! To help a momma in need locally by empowering her to create a product that she is paid for that will in turn be sold to bring hope and change to a momma overseas!?
My challenge....
What I thought was the end became the beginning...yet, it may end...WHY?
We lack sewing machines. I delivered fabric to the refugees over a week ago and we keep running into the roadblock of the broken sewing machine!

So, here I am...wanting to help people help themselves by helping others and then this...
We are back ordered on our headbands. Have a huge upcoming launch of a limited edition product. This has the potential to not only feed families here, personally empower them, but also support several non-profits!

The need- We need either sewing machines or the money to purchase them.

If you would like to help purchase a sewing machine you can donate to the right. If you would like to donate one...please message me

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Twins Parents

In 3 weeks when I travel to Ethiopia I will see the parents of my twins. We are so blessed to have met them before. My children actually have a video and pictures of all of us together. We got to cry together, pray together and share a moment that many adoptive families could only dream of. In the past few years we have exchanged emails, phone calls and pictures. In my heart and spirit I want to give them everything I have! They gave me their children. They entrusted us with the gift God gave them. When I found out the twins had parents my heart broke. Poverty is no reason for a family to be separated. We did everything and offered all we knew to keep them together. Yet, their story goes deeper than that. It is more solid than earthly treasures, their reasoning dives further than my soul can go...The point is...I love them, I want desperately to give them everything. The only thing I can give them..is the knowledge that their/our kids are loved. I know this, but I still want to do something tangible. I get to spend a day with my twins parents and I don't want to show up empty handed. By law I am not allowed to give any gift that has any monetary value...I send pics regularly...ideas? What on earth can I bring or give to symbolize how much they mean to me?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wonderfully Terrified

In less than 3 weeks I leave for Ethiopia and I am wonderfully terrified. It has been 2.5 years since I first landed on the other side of the world by myself, scared, exhausted and completely submitted in heart, mind, and spirit. From the moment I walked out of the airport, looked all around me and took a deep breath...I knew from the depths of my being-I was home and I would be back. Never in my wildest dreams could I have planned what happened next. From my twins who at times we wondered if they would survive, bringing a sick and pregnant Ethiopian woman home with me for a year, being sick for the majority of a year with typhoid fever, hep A, tissue parasites, meeting our twins parents, seeing such beauty in the midst of absolute devastation, helping people take what may have been their last drink, worshiping God in way I never imagined, and feeling so alive yet, utterly broken all at the same time. It has taken me over 2 years to "recover" from my last trip. I know that sounds absurd. Just saying it makes me feel dramatic and slightly stupid. I have had to cancel 2 trip to Africa in the last 2 years due to health issues or timing. I do know that THIS is the right time and I do feel good, but I am still wonderfully terrified. This time, I will not be bringing home dying children, nor in all likelihood a sick pregnant momma. I also chose to vaccinate this time. The chances of spending the next year of my life incredibly sick is pretty low...I will get to see Gedese and her family (the sick pregnant Ethiopian lady), I will also spend some time with my twins parents. This time we will be traveling out of Addis to work on establishing a womens health center in a remote village. I think I am wonderfully terrified because...I don't know what will happen... just like last time, I went exhausted, scared, but completely submitted in heart, mind and spirit and it's humbling to look back and see what He has done in my life and in the life of others. What will He show me this time? How will I respond? And how will I be able to once again leave a place that I feel is my home, to come back to where I am now and just WAIT and patiently count down the days until I can go back again..to look around, smell the air, and feel that freedom that I felt 2.5 years ago...Yes, I am wonderfully terrified.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stop Preaching...

This maybe one of those..do I even write this post. How much do I share post. A get off your soap box post(speaking to myself). I have read so many, "What T4 meant to me" type posts. I have been moved. I have cried. I have screamed. I have been angry. I apologize upfront for what I may say. My goal is not to offend, create a spirit of defensiveness or to point fingers. To hear that there are 163 million orphans worldwide should not sit well with anyone! Can you even really grasp that number? I read somewhere that in this world...right now..over 22,000 children will die today. Stop. Just process that. Really. I have 6 kids. I think about their smiles, their dreams, their hearts. Break that down. Stop looking at the NUMBER. Look at your own child...Imagine they died today. Your best friends kid died today. A friend of a friend's child died. Yes, does the church need to do something? Yes, if every "Christian" adopted would things be different? Yes. The truth is...Your church may not do anything. Your Christian friends may look the other way. My question? Why is 163 million orphans a church issue? A "Christian" issue? Really? And this is where...at this sentence, I will create enemies-This is not about being Christian or not Christian....We are talking about 163 million children without someone tucking them in at night. We are talking about 163 million children who have no-one to tell them, "I love you".
If I were to die today....the spiritual orientation of who holds, feeds, cares for and loves my kids is not what I would think about. I would just want to know...that someone...anyone cares and will love them. My children could be raised by a homosexual Jewish man for all I care. I do NOT say this blindly, lightly or ignorantly. The gospel will reach the hearts that have been opened to it. PERIOD. I was raised agnostic, ran away joined the circus, supported myself on the streets and swore I would never have kids...etc...I now have 6 children, a foster care license and 2 kids from Africa. Yes, I am a "Christian" today, but my faith and walk will not guarantee that my children will walk the same path or visa versa.... Is 163 million orphans too much to even comprehend? No. My God is huge. But, to think they only option or the best option is a Christian family...is well, limiting. The environment or the family a kid is raised in does not predetermine how God will use them.You have zero control on how God works, but you completely control how you will respond. Stop preaching and start reaching.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Calling All Bloggers

I miss reading blogs. I miss catching up with you all. I miss my blog list. Having a blog roll makes it so convenient. I don't have to go searching for you. So, for the whatever time...I am creating one again. Please leave me a comment and link to make finding you easy. Yeah, I'm talking to YOU!