Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Get weird

"So I am entering my senior year and it has recently dawned on me that this will probably be my last chance to reach out to a lot of friends that I have gotten to know really well..."

This is how my son began his challenge to the congregation during Youth Sunday last week at church. I was floored. Aren't rising seniors usually just concerned with breezing through their classes and getting out of school as soon as possible? That's what I was thinking as I went into my senior year 25 years ago.

"Starting tomorrow, I have 180 days left to make an impression on the students and teachers at my high school. Whether that impression is good or bad, depends on whether or not I allow God to work through me. If dodgeball, Philadelphia sports and the violin are the only things that people remember about me in 20 years, then I have officially wasted my four years in high school and I ultimately have made no lasting impression....

While our youth group missions team was in Puerto Rico, we were challenged to 'get weird' in front of our peers. Getting weird looked different every time. Things as big as getting up and sharing a testimony to the rest of the team, praying for someone we just felt called to pray for, or things as small as dancing outrageously to music or just yelling as loud as we could all qualififed as getting weird, as long as we were out of our comfort zone.

Now I understand 'getting weird' to the extent we had in Puerto Rico might not be completely socially acceptable here...

But what if I acted differently? What if students at area school districts started to notice their friends behave in a whole new way? In a society that teaches us to conform, it is often difficult to step out in faith and just trust that God has our best interests in mind. But what if we tried?

Matthew 5: 14 - 16 says, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden...In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven." Often we gloss over the 'cannot' in verse 14 or we choose to ignore it completely. But if we truly are following God's calling on our lives we CANNOT be hidden. People will see the change in us if we allow ourselves to 'get weird' and step out in faith...

We live in a dark world; there is no arguing with that. In dark places, light cannot be ignored. So what dark place can you make an impact in?... And adults, you thought for a minute I was letting you off the hook. God has put you and all of us in our specific areas of influence that we can have the most impact in. And if we let God's light shine through us, we cannot be ignored. We can bring revival to areas that are spiritually dead.

When we put ourselves out on a limb, people will notice, and change will happen. Our church and youth group has hoped for a revival for years, but the most common form of a 'revival' does not happen in a large group. Often, it happens person to person, friend to friend.

So the final challenge? Start an inner revival in yourself. Get your heart right with God, and when you do, others will notice something different about you that CANNOT be ignored. Stepping out on a limb may be difficult, but the eternal outcomes far outweigh the temporary discomfort. In my last year in high school, I want people to notice a change in me, and then want that change for themselves. That is a legacy worth leaving."

On Sunday after church, our family had a commissioning service for each child for this school year. Our seven year old asked a very good question, "What does commissioning mean?" We explained it as getting your orders. So in a literal sense, we were sending each child into this school year with God's orders to "get weird," to go out on a limb, to leave a legacy, to start revival one person at a time, and to make a lasting difference. It was a special time of prayer as each of us prayed over the others, some going into the public high school, others being homeschooled or cyber schooled but charged to make a difference in soccer or gymnastics or wherever they go.

And Andrew's morning challenge couldn't have been a better charge to all of us in our own sphere of influence. I may have wasted my high school years which can't be reclaimed, but there's always this moment, "for such a time as this."

Monday, August 27, 2012

First day fun

Freshman orientation was last week. Mariana's English teacher made an attempt to get to know her students and asked them to share something about themselves. Figuring it just best to get it over with, Mariana introduced herself and added, "You might have had my brothers, Andrew and Jesse?"

The teacher responded with, "Do you like bacon?"


"Because everything Jesse wrote in English class last year was about bacon. And if it wasn't about bacon it was about dodgeball."

"Um, yeah. That's Jesse. Uh, I like bacon. But not that much."

And thus begins my year with three children in high school.

The boys have been really good about it. They've promised to look out for Mariana. They are protecting her from all the guys and are already sharpening their swords in case anyone plans to ask her to homecoming. Andrew has been acting especially helpful as he clues her in to what's cool and what's not.

We thought this was very big-hearted until we realized that he was just keep her from embarrassing him. So we hatched a plan to see just how far she could go before his kindness turned into rage. Mariana picked out the most outrageous first day of school outfit and just before it was time to go, she came down the steps dressed like this:

He handled it very well. He just shook his head, told her to hurry up and get dressed for real, walked out the door, and sat in his car honking the horn til she showed up in an outfit he could claim as his sister.

And then we got her back after school when we all showed up at the bus stop, waving wildly, to walk her home. Her expression was priceless. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera.

179 days left, everyone!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Yes, again

I am continually challenged by my teenagers and I know that they are continually challenged by the leaders and teens around them at church. This morning was youth Sunday and it was the most God-filled youth Sunday I have ever witnessed. These teens are on fire and radical, deeply in love with Jesus and willing to do what He's asked them to do. I wish I could have been like that when I was in high school. But I can't sit here wishing for the past when the future is in front of me, just as it is for my teens, even though mine is most likely shorter.

In recent years I've been challenged by writers like Francis Chan, Richard Stearns and David Platt. At a recent speaking engagement, I challenged the audience with the books on my "dangerous" list*. Each of these has impacted my life so much that I can no longer be the same person. I can't continue as a comfortable American Christian. There's a dying world that I'm called to serve. We're all called to serve in our own way. For us, that involves stringed instruments, musical theatre, and adoption. For you, who knows? But God knows.

So with a willing spirit and a desire to follow God's plan for our lives, and after a period of prayer and fasting, our family has made the decision to pursue another adoption. Crazy, I know. We're sending a child to college in a year, why would we choose to now fundraise for an adoption? The answer that has come from the peace of being in God's will is this: Trust Me.

Trust me for your finances. I will provide. We've decided that The King's Strings is a great place to begin to fundraise. We're using the sale of our CDs and nose flutes to begin our efforts. And already, at the second concert where we announced our plans, a woman handed me more money than the cost of the CD and said, "Keep this for your adoption." And this morning at church another answer to prayer as the funds for another expense were taken care of. God is good.

Trust me to give you the child that was meant for you. In my moments of doubt, I wonder if we can handle another child who comes with significant trauma. But God is good. At the end of the service this morning, the teens who had been on missions trips stood around the front of the church and we were invited to approach any of them for prayer. John and I decided to go up to a middle school student who had shared a testimony of trust and who just has joy written all over her. She asked how she could pray for us and we told her that we were adopting again. Her childlike prayer included asking God to give us a perfect child. It made me smile as I thought about the imperfect children that I already have, knowing that there is no perfect child (and as an imperfect parent, I wouldn't want a perfect child). But her statement reassured me that God has a match already prepared for us and as I pray for the birthmother and child, I can rest in the knowledge that it will be a child chosen by a perfect God, to be a perfect match for our family.

Trust me to be with you in this journey that I have chosen for you. One of the teens this morning shared her experiences in learning that if God asks you to do a difficult task, He doesn't then leave you to go it alone. Oh, how true. We also sang Forever Reign (Hillsong) this morning and these words have been so real to me lately:

"You are good, You are good
When there's nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You're the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life,
In You death has lost its sting

Oh, I'm running to Your arms,
I'm running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are Lord, You are Lord
All creation will proclaim
You are here, You are here
In Your presence I'm made whole
You are God, You are God
Of all else I'm letting go

My list of dangerous books. Read only if you're ready to have your life turned upside down.
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
Crazy Love by Francis Chan
The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis
Radical by David Platt
Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gerbil farming

A few months ago Eden informed us that she wanted a cat. That idea got nixed because I, and several of the children, are allergic to cats. Then she decided she wanted a rabbit. That would be fine with me and we used to have rabbits but that was when we had a larger property and the neighbors were all dead (our house was in the middle of a cemetery) so we didn't have to worry about folks complaining of the smell. She tossed around the idea of an indoor rabbit but I wasn't sure that would go over so well with the dog and I didn't want to find out the hard way, either. Next on her list was a hamster. Having heard that gerbils are easier than hamsters, I convinced her that this would be the perfect pet.

In our family, before owning a pet, you first have to save up your money. Second, you need to read everything you can about the ownership of your chosen animal. In this case, that also meant watching a lot of youtube videos about gerbil care. Okay, they weren't all about the care of gerbils. (You haven't seen anything til you've seen Gerbils of the Caribbean!) In our quest to find gerbil reading material, I found a book called The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter. This memoir, about an eccentric father who raised thousands of gerbils for sale all over the world, caught my eye but not because it reminded me of my father. No, it reminded me of myself for believe it or not, I was once a gerbil farmer of sorts.

It all started back in about 4th or 5th grade when I decided that if I wasn't allowed to get a dog, a gerbil would be the next best thing. But I also decided that two gerbils would be better than one. And since I also thought babies were really cute, I decided that I needed a male and a female. The owner of Duffy's pet shop assured my parents that he would buy back any resulting litters and so my gerbil farming days began.

The next step was to name the two critters in the large glass aquarium. After hours of poring over the baby book, I had the perfect names for my gerbils; Tedi and Hazel. Tedi, I chose, because it means "gift of God." If you don't think a gerbil is a gift of God, then you don't know my love for animals or my parents' aversion to pets. I can no longer remember why I chose the name Hazel.

Of course it didn't take long for Tedi and Hazel to start a family and one day I woke up to find a pile of wiggly pencil erasers in the corner of the cage. Those erasers grew up, got fur, and before they could start families of their own, we headed to Duffy's pet shop. Mr. Duffy gladly bought those gerbil babies for resale for .75 each. I was in business! The next litter came along and things were going well. By the third litter, however, Mr. Duffy had decided that he had too many gerbils and didn't need mine. Uh oh. Now we had a problem. Somehow, without the help of ebay, Craigslist, or Facebook, we were able to sell all of them on our own. This went on for about a year while Mr. Duffy steadfastly refused to buy anymore of my gerbils. I think Hazel had finally had enough of the breeding business, too, because she started to eat her offspring. Not a good choice if you want to remain in my good graces. Tedi and Hazel's cohabiting days were henceforth over.

All this gerbil breeding and selling made me quite the expert on gerbils, or so I thought. There was the time I sold two female gerbils to a friend from church but a few months later her mom found a pile of wiggly pencil erasers which grew up to look an awful lot like their parents. Whoops.

But what goes around comes around so my daughter is now the one to enjoy gerbil ownership. She tells people she wants to be a breeder when she grows up. I quickly add, "of gerbils," lest anyone get the wrong idea. For now, she has two females so the breeding business will have to wait. She does seem to take after her mother in the naming department, though. After much thought, she decided to name them Mary and Jo, short for Josephine. As in Mary and Joseph. They're Biblical gerbils, you see.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

At the pool

I can't decide if it's ignorance or racism, or both, but I do know that it still has me reeling.

Having two non-white children, I am often asked if we've experienced racism in any way. Before today, there have been only a few times where this happened and in each case it was off-color jokes or a comment from one person to another. One example was when one person asked another if he would please refill her cup of coffee while he had the pot. He responded by saying, "What color do you think I am?" As soon as he said it, he looked over at me and was immediately repentant. In the end, I think he realized how easily a racist thought can slip out and I believe he will be more careful about what he says in the future. I'm also thankful that neither of my children were around when this incident happened.

This afternoon, however, it happened in a place that I would least expect it, the pool at a church camp. Granted, HopeAnne was the only non-white in the pool at the time. A lifeguard came over to her and yelled at her for being in the pool without a parent when I was, indeed, just a few feet away, supervising both Hope and Eden. The lifeguard's response was, "Oh, I'm just checking." While I was trying to determine her true motives, and while trying to keep the Mama Bear Claws from showing, I watched as another mother carried her toddler to the pool, lowered him into the 4 ft. deep water in front of the same lifeguard, and walked away, clearly not planning to supervise her son. Why was that child, obviously younger than Hope, allowed to swim without a parent, but my child was not?

I don't know and I may never know. But I will continue to be vigilant, to teach if necessary, both my children and the people with whom we come in contact. Learning to respect your mother isn't just about respect for me, but also learning to respect that store owner who follows you around the store just because of your skin color. Or that police officer who pulls you over and expects a fight from you because of your skin color. I'm sorry that that is the world in which we live and I'm sorry that you will need to educate others. But I will never say I'm sorry for having a colorful family.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

That's embarrassing!

I told a story at dinner tonight and at the end, Mariana said to me, "That's the best thing I've heard all day!" So, I guess I might as well share it here.

Isaac needed some chapstick today when he went to Allenberry, so I sent mine along with him. Later, feeling like my lips were a little chapped, I pulled out my brand new Burt's Bees chapstick, and applied a liberal amount. I continued on my errands, including a stop at the library where I went in and chatted with the librarian for a moment.

Back in my car, I was checking the rearview mirror to back out of my parking place when I noticed a flash of bright red.

Hmmm. That's interesting. I wonder what it could be?

A second glance showed my face, with lips of bright red. Pulling out the tube I realized my mistake. Instead of buying chapstick, I apparently had purchased lip shimmer - in a bright rhubarb hue. And I had applied a very liberal amount. At least I had stayed within the lines. And thankfully, the Good Doctor always has a stash of napkins in his glove compartment. (I tried to take a picture but it didn't have the same effect. Sorry.)

I have learned two very valuable lessons today.

1. Always read the label before applying anything to your face. Especially if you are going out in public.

2. There are reasons why your teenage daughter looks in the mirror so often. I would be wise to lay aside my aversion to said objects and check out my appearance a little more.