Sunday, December 16, 2012

This Parent's Perspective

I am often thought to be too sarcastic...rough....guarded....bordering on cold....not emotional.  People have said versions of this.  Let me tell you the truth.  These are all a front.  They are a self protective front of which I am fully self aware.  A front for a deeply emotional and sensitive girl...

And this weekend, namely yesterday, I had the wind knocked from me...leaving nothing but bottled, raw emotion. I think we are all affected watching twenty six and seven year olds lose their lives.  How can we not be? I have read arguments and debates and words about gun control....people who homeschool who are thankful their kids don't worry about this scary stuff....those talking about mental illness, incorrectly describing Asperger's syndrome.....this same number of children dying of preventable illness all over the world.... I get all of this. I do.  It is all, well most of it, worthy of conversation.  Just not today, not yesterday.   Say that I am hiding behind emotion, whatever you want.

I just can't breathe every single time I think about it.  I have seen children die.  I have held a dead child and yet tears suffocate me when I think about my own children, five and six year old boys, in schools very much like the one in Connecticut having a round of bullets emptied into their small bodies, stealing the world of their laughter and joy while in a place where they feel as safe as they do at home.

I caught myself being constantly convicted throughout the weekend at my frustrations....the not listening, talking back, fighting with each other, singing inappropriately loud in the car, stepping into yet another person's personal space....and there it went...the air from my lungs... I had to still discipline and redirect and correct but I kissed more heads and was much more patient as we attempted wrapping Christmas gifts and baked cookies and wrestled.

How do you not look at these children, all lost in minutes, not to illness or accident but merely going to school,.... how do you not see your own children...imagine the loss and devastation? If you don't have children....your friend's child, your niece or nephew, god son or god daughter?  Stop for a minute.  Stop thinking about guns.  Stop thinking about your politics.  Stop watching the news (I had to do this).  Stop and let your heart step into the grief you would have if placed in the same situation, the loss of your child, by any means really.  You can not stay there.  The whole of it swallows you and you run to your kids' bedroom and tell their sleeping bodies of your love and listen to their breath and memorize their scent because that brief descent into grief allows you to know it really may be the last just might.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  Matthew 19:14

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Opportunity

"Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional."

I love this quote.  It sums up the life Natalie and I have been blessed with.  I had a friend tell me the other day that Natalie and I haven't chosen an "easy life."  He told me that he finds strength in the way that we live life.  This was one of the greatest compliments paid to me as our life is not easy (living apart in med school, infertility, adoption, moving 10 times in 8 years, HIV adoption, Natalie working 90+ hrs per week, me balancing a career, kids, church, etc.).  To know that my friend views that we do this willingly, happily (most of the time) and with the goal of loving people is encouraging. 

For the past 2 1/2 years, I (JT) have worked for Family & Children's Place as Associate Director of Development.  FCP's mission is "to strengthen our community through healing the trauma of abuse, violence and neglect and promoting safe, healthy and stable families through research based services."  I have been honored to work with some of the best therapists and counselors our community has.  To see the cycle of child sexual abuse end at our Child Advocacy Center is amazing.  I am humbled to have been chosen to advocate for the most vulnerable population of our community: abused children.  I have seen our community rally around this cause and finish a campaign that raised $11.5 million to open a state-of-the-art CAC dedicated to the treatment of  victims of sexual abuse.  I have solicited gifts that were tens of thousands of dollars and connected many people to our mission.  As I look back on my time, I realize that I am the blessed one. 

As we all realize at some point in life, nothing lasts forever.  For the past six months, I have felt a nudge that said maybe my time at FCP was drawing to a close.  I did not know what the next step in my career would be.  Natalie and I were very prayerful in seeking what a career change would look like.  Most of you know that we are very passionate about our church, The Avenue.  We have been involved in The Ave since its infancy.  It is a church plant on campus at the University of Louisville.  I have the pleasure of serving as an elder here.  

The Avenue has to function differently than most churches.  90% of our attendees are younger than 25.  As you can imagine, our weekly offering is often low.  We joke that sometimes people tithe a half eaten bag of Doritos.  Our goal at The Avenue is to plant churches on 100 secular college campuses in ten years.  Read more about that plan here.  In order to achieve our vision, we have to generate revenue.  I was approached by The Ave staff about coming on board with the task of helping us become financial sustainable.  My title will be Business Administrator and will allow me to wear a number of different hats including: starting an Orphan Care outreach at our church (very cool), mentoring/discipling college students and young adults and connecting with the UL campus.       

Here are some reasons I am excited for this switch:

-I love working with college students.  College students are passionate about "doing" not talking.  They hate the "lip service" generation and want to be the hands and feet of Christ.  They are passionate about social justice.  They keep me young and I hope I can provide counsel and wisdom.
-I get to continue to do what I do best which is helping people find and connect to their passion.  Plain and simple, this is where I find my energy and happiness.
-Pace of life with our family.  This job will allow me to pick my boys up from school every day and have more time at home to help Natalie.  This is priceless to Natalie and me.  Since Natalie started residency, we feel like we are burning the candle at both ends.  This switch should allow a little more margin and rest.
-I get to work with some of my best friends.  Read more about those guys and girls here.

Our family is so excited about this move.  I am saddened to leave behind so many good relationships at FCP but know that I have left this place a little better than I found it. 

I will finish with the best career advice I have ever been given.  It is advice that I strive to live every day and something I have repeated to many of my friends.  I had the pleasure of working for the all-time winningest college basketball coach, Don Meyer.  He has told me at least a thousand times that the key to a successful life is:

-Find your gift
-Develop your gift
-Give your gift away to as many people as possible

Monday, December 10, 2012

25 Days of Christmas

I have shared my trials and tribulations of failed pinterest ideas.  However, in looking about trying to add more holiday ideas to my arsenal since I love Christmas (the secular and the Jesus), I came across the idea of Light Em Up.  Basically, it is doing something each day during the month of December to teach your children to give back to others during the holiday season.  If my children are like yours, they receive more than their share of gifts from family and friends and such.....I thought this was a great idea, and while I am not perfect at it and am learning and trying to teach Chernet and Tedi why we are doing it...

A couple of ideas we have completed....
~ taping quarters to the pop machines at the children's hospital (aka my work) so that the next person got a free soda
~ pushing in carts at Wal-Mart
~ buying the cashier her favorite candy, which happened to be M&Ms
~ writing thank you notes to 3 people for being good friends to us
~ decorating the house on Daddy's birthday to let him know how special he is
~ baking cookies for the nurses at my clinic to thank them for the last three years
~ taking coffee to the teacher who does the car rider line in the cold(ish) weather each morning
~ buying coffee for the car behind us at Starbucks

These are just a few of the "days" we have done so far.  And you know, we do Santa. We do Elf on a Shelf.  But we also do Love of others...and giving back and if you feel one cancels the other, sorry... I don't hate that my parents that lied to me about Santa...I love every single memory of it...Trust me the lies of Santa are NOT the reason for my adulthood "issues".... but what I did learn from my parents (despite their Christmas "fibs") was giving up so others could have...putting others above myself, my children most of all.   I only hope in small little ways I impart this to my boys as the Christmases and years come and go. 


When Chernet came home 4 months ago, we did not know if we would ever go out to eat or return to our sense of normalcy.  He was crazy....untamed, resistant to love and to discipline.  That child is one I rarely see glimpses of home...  But I remember them.... I can remember those days... for good or for bad. 

When he started school, he invaded other children's personal space.  He did not listen to the teacher.  He did many many things that pushed other children's limits.  I remember those days.  I feared because of those days my son would not make friends, be accepted or be allowed to move on.

Thankfully children do not have the MEMORIES of adults.... Last week, Chernet had his Christmas performance at school.  They did one song with instruments, one with singing, and one with dance.  As we circled the school looking for an open entrance, Chernet grew more and more excited.  We walked into the lobby and one little boy screamed his name and ran to hug him.  Then, the other door opened and another little boy saw him and screamed, "CHHHHEEERRRNNEETTT" as he ran to hug my son.  I got choked up as Chernet turned to say "my friends" with a huge smile on his face. 

I am thankful that children do not have my memory and really do forgive and forget.  If only we adults operated more in this mindset.  Nonetheless, I am thankful my boy has friends and is moving past things from four months it is time for me to do the same!

More Family Pics

A couple of blog posts back I posted a few pics from our family photo session.  You really should check out  whether you are an adoptive family, a bride, a family or whatever.... the pics are great...  Here are a couple of our favs.

Family Evolution....Christmas Card Style