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. Have fun!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

12 children

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a woman who has 12 children, 9 of whom are adopted. She is one of the women who I would say influenced who I am today and the family that I have. Two of her adopted daughters were in my class in school and as her family was an anomaly in the community, everyone knew of them.

She was in the audience at a program we gave. When The Good Doctor got around to his usual, ..."we know that not every family is called to foster or adopt, or have a large family, or to have a family band...anyone here do any of these things?" I knew he was in for a surprise this time. Sure enough, she raised her hand and with a big smile told him of her family and her 12 children.

After the program, she had her assistant push her wheelchair over to me where I was delighted to chat with her for a bit.  Together, we talked about what we've learned, her having much more experience (with her 30+ grandchildren, 20+ great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great grandchildren) than me...

We are thankful that God is going to one day say, "Well done my good and faithful servant," not "Well done my good and successful servant."

Sometimes when we pray that God will change a child and his actions, God responds that I am the one who needs to change.

When God calls you and you trust His plan for your life, your obedience will be blessed but not in the ways the world might think.

Joy comes through obedience, no matter the trials.

It was so good to see her smile as she talked about her family. It truly did brighten her whole, frail face. I know her road has not been easy but the joy of her Lord has clearly been her strength.

I pray that someday the same will be said of me.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Train, point, teach, start

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (KJV)

About this time each year, and on into the fall, I start to see blogs and posts about the pain of sending an adult child to college or into the workplace. I understand the sadness at seeing them go but for me, these transitions have been more joy than sorrow. Don't get me wrong; I shed my share of tears as we say our "final" good-bye, leaving another first year student behind. But even some of those tears are tears of joy.

I see my role as parent exactly as I find it in Proverbs 22:6:
Point your kids in the right direction - when they're old they won't be lost. (The Message)

Yes, this is first and foremost to give them a firm foundation and the ability to think for themselves so that as they go, and wherever they go, they will ...
...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind...
...Love your neighbor as yourself...
...You are the light of the world...
...The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind
to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor....
...and so much more...

Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it. (Living Bible)

But I strongly believe my role as parent is also to help my children find their God-given gifts, passions, and talents, and to find ways to strengthen these gifts so that they will be prepared to use them as adults. I need to provide opportunity for exploring their gifts, for talking with mentors and professionals in those areas, and to be guided by individuals who are already doing those things. When possible, to also give them opportunities to test these skills and interests.

Sometimes this is easy. A child comes into this world with her mouth wide open, projecting to the other side of the hospital wing. Sometimes it takes a bit longer, testing out interests in missions, architecture, and flying, before finding that ability to connect to younger children; to guide and to teach the next generation. And sometimes it's right in the middle, waiting until that upper elementary school child gets his hands on a video camera for the first time and you quickly see the creativity to write and the eye for the perfect camera angle and a visual story is not far behind.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (NIV)

This weekend was a parent's delight; the culmination of many years of looking for the way the child should go, identifying a mentor to teach and to guide, searching for camps and workshops to build the skills, and allowing him to go nine hours away to a school known for its technology, professors, and connections in the industry.

Andrew's college has an annual film festival for students to showcase their work. Documentaries and short films are submitted, a select few are chosen and during this weekend are judged by professionals in the field. Andrew submitted three films and had 1 chosen for the weekend. In addition, he and a friend auditioned for, and were selected to be co-hosts for the event. Of course we wouldn't miss it!

Their comedic timing was impeccable and their creativity in developing each segment was top-notch. We laughed and we cried from laughing some more.


And there were some surprises during the event.


T-shirts made by Andrew and Trevor and launched into the audience during one of their sketches.


Andrew told me he would be cross-dressing but that's all he would say. Hillary Clinton and The Donald, making an appearance to lead the voting for the audience choice award, ended up being one of my favorite sketches of the evening.

The best surprise - hearing Andrew's name announced as the winner of the Best Documentary award and having his film also win Best Audio Mix.
The line-up of winners for 2016

With Doug Jones (Hocus Pocus, Pan's Labyrinth, 
Fantastic 4:Rise of the Silver Surfer),
one of the judges

I Am Knightly team:
 Andrew King, Director; Abby Witt, Producer; Landers Pannell, Sound

Enjoying the limelight at the Highbridge reception

But maybe the most surprising surprise was that sweet Sarah was able to keep the secret of Andrew's award all afternoon. Being a part of the design team for the weekend, one of her jobs was to take the top-secret results of the judges' picks and type the winning names onto the certificates. She sat through all of dinner with us and spent time with Andrew in the hours between typing his name and the announcement of the award, and never gave even a hint.


One more year and there will be another transition in our home, from college to the workplace. We know that with Andrew's degree and skill set, the possibility of him landing a job close to home will be slim. And that's okay. We wouldn't want to ask him to anything other than what God has planned for him since before the day he was born.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Just being real

"I'm exhausted, just a weak moment right now , sometimes it's just really really hard."

I didn't post this a few days ago. But I could have.

It was, however, posted by another Mama of a child with the same condition Victor has.

I appreciated her honesty. And her willingness to be vulnerable even if it was in the anonymously public realm of the internet. I don't know her. I may never meet her but her post gave me the freedom to be honest.

To say that I'm tired of having the worst kid in the class.

I'm tired of being vigilant every time Victor is around someone else because I don't know if he's going to hit or scream or pinch someone else, bang his own head or bite his arm, or all of the above.

I'm tired of missing activities because I have a child I can't take in public.

I'm tired of being screamed at, pinched, and hit by a three year and not being able to do anything about it.

I'm tired of not knowing if this will ever end or if he'll be like this forever, only bigger and stronger.

I'm tired of having others look at me like I don't know how to parent.

And mostly I'm just tired because I'm part of a club I didn't ask to join.

Just before the post by this parent I saw a meme with the reminder to

Get Your Eyes Off Your Problems and On Jesus

and I know it was right. But sometimes I am too tired to do that, too.

I also know that there will be people who don't think I should have published this. Those who think we need to keep our problems to ourselves. Those who prefer to make everyone think their lives are fine and perfect. I didn't write it for those people. I'm not one of those people.

I wrote it for the rest of you who are tired, especially to those who are raising children or adults with special needs or children from backgrounds of trauma. I'm sorry. I'm sorry you're tired and are having a worse-than-usual day. Some of us have been there. We apologize for those days before a special needs child when we might have been the ones who looked at you like you don't know how to parent or who didn't take the time to encourage you when you needed it most.

"...in a hurting world, Lord, we'll be prayer warriors
and not persistent worriers...
We'll bring our messy wounds to our Healer, 
because wounds never heal by time alone...
We'll simply be still and know...and know, really know." 
-Ann Voskamp

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ezekiel's call

What if, in discerning God's call, the assignment came something like this,

"Listen, Cindy, I'm going to talk to you. I am giving you this assignment. It's to a group of people that is known for being rebellious. They don't act as if they know right from wrong. They're obstinate and stubborn. I'm going to tell you what to say to them and what to do in their presence. They probably aren't going to listen to you. They probably aren't going to change. Don't worry about that. Keep doing what I tell you to do. Keep saying what I tell you to say. They will know that I have sent you even if they refuse to change. Don't be afraid of them. And don't be afraid of the circumstances around you even though I promise it will feel like I've plopped you down in the center of thorns, briers, and scorpions. You have to do what I tell you to do no matter what, especially if they continue to be rebellious. Oh, and you will be right in the middle of mourning, lamenting, and woe."

Would I be more likely to follow the call if I knew the outcome would look like failure? If I knew I was called to a people who were going to refuse to listen? If they weren't going to change? And if I knew there would be other circumstances that would add to my misery?

This is, in essence, the call God gave to Ezekiel, found in chapter two of the book bearing his name. And I read it yesterday asking myself if it would be better to just get all the negative stuff out of the way in the beginning, to accept that this call would be difficult and that it would look like a total failure and that I was going to find myself frustrated; mourning, and lamenting a dream that had died?

The reality is crushing because this is our calling. Jesus says...
My calling is your calling. Luke 4: 16 - 21
You will feel like sheep among wolves, you'll be hated and persecuted Matthew 10
Do what I did. In remembrance of me. Luke 22: 14 - 22
Go. Matthew 28: 19 - 20

Thankfully, there was more to Ezekiel's calling. In chapter three, God adds,

"I'm going to give you what you need to get through this calling. You, too, will be unyielding. Don't be afraid. I will be with you. I will lift you up. My glory will be there."

And the same reminders are with us today. Jesus says to us ...
Don't be afraid...Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10: 31,39
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened ... Matthew 11: 28 - 29
Peace I leave with you ... John 14: 27
And so much more.

Let us stop judging our calling, and whether or not we want to follow that call, on all of the potential outcomes. The outcome is not in our hands. You have a calling. I have a calling. We will feel like we are failing. We may even fall flat on our faces. Others may tell us we've missed the message; we're doing this wrong. We will find ourselves in horrible circumstances. It will feel like we've been plopped down in a patch of briars and thorns, with scorpions all around. But stand firm, for the One who calls is faithful. You will be given exactly what you need to withstand the hardship. And in the end, we will hear our Father say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Simple pleasures

This boy and his love of water ...

I thought it was too early to break out the kiddie pool so I just got a few small containers in which to put some water, gave him a few cups, spoons, and toys and .....

I should have just filled the pool.

Overheard while he enjoyed his "pool":

"Can you come in, Hopie?"
"I'm having so much fun!"
"I'm staying with Connie."
(When questioned, he told us this was Connie from Adventures in Odyssey)

And a little later after an almost-fall, "I fell into a burning ring of fire!"


Monday, April 18, 2016

Ripples

Our lives have a ripple effect, good or bad. Many times we have no idea how far-reaching the ripple effect is but there are moments when we get a glimpse; either of the ripples that our own actions make, or how those of someone else effect us.

It wasn't until I listened to Pastor Layne speak yesterday, waiting for my turn, that I realized the ripples that have spread to me. He talked about 30 some years ago, when a new pastor, Ken Hepner, had come to McBIC. The pastor was relatively young, with hair down to his shoulders. This was radical for how conservative the church was at the time. Ken had been saved only 10 years earlier and had come from a life of drug and alcohol abuse. I leaned over to the Good Doctor and asked him how it came to be that such a person was even hired, knowing the culture of the church at the time. The Good Doctor told me that there are people in the congregation who were here at the time who are still scratching their heads at that. Only God.

I've heard many stories since we've been here about how Ken Hepner was so passionate about his relationship with Jesus and how he taught a more evangelistic Christianity that was new to this faith tradition that had traditionally been "in the world but not of it." The new pastor wanted to see his congregation meet people where they were; to reach people who didn't know Jesus.  To a congregation that had been taught to follow a list of man-made rules about how they dressed, how they talked, and where they spent their time, he taught relational evangelism and unconditional love. In essence, he taught grace over works righteousness.

Pastor Layne was in college at the time and he was greatly impacted by Pastor Ken. The values and mind-set change that began during that time were obvious to us when we first visited in 2003 and after only one visit I remarked to the Good Doctor on the way home, "This church would be good for our souls." I had no idea. Because of Pastor Ken Hepner, and Pastor Layne's grace journey, my journey would be forever changed.

The very first sermon series after our move was based on The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Having a purpose, meeting people where they were, focusing on grace above legalism - these were all new to me. The ripple was spreading. I look back over the past 12+ years and see where God has taken us and the people that we have met and loved. And I am amazed.

To be honest, I came out here kicking and screaming. I had a very warped view of God. I saw Him as a Being sitting in Heaven, planning life events for me as tests. He was just waiting for me to fail so that He could swoop in and berate me embarrassing Him, for failure to follow the rules or make the right choice. Jesus wasn't a friend, a brother, He was just part of a trinity, part of a story about God in flesh. I didn't know Him, didn't meet with Him. But all of that also changed.

The move seemed to me to be just another one of those ways in which God was testing me and I felt so beaten down that I was convinced I had failed once again. Like Abraham, God had told us to go but had not told us where. The call to leave was clear; the destination was not. And as our time in one place ended but the new calling was still unclear, my response looked nothing like Abraham who simply packed his bags and left. I was packing my bags, but I wasn't happy about it. And then the call from this church and place we knew nothing about. And while that first visit told me it would be good for our souls, I still wasn't ready to accept the truth of that.

But it was. I have grown more in my journey in the past 12 years than in all of the years before. Mostly, my views of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit have changed. Jesus is a friend with whom I can meet. I can trust Him. When I meet with Him in my safe place, we're always at the beach. Usually I find Him running or dancing with me - two things I would never do in front of anyone else. Sometimes we simply walk together. And this morning, as I "went up on the mountain" to process the events of yesterday, to give Him the glory and the mistakes, and to hide in Him, I was able to let Him hold me in a long embrace. This is huge. No one hugs me. I don't let people in. But this is a start.

And those ripples, they impacted me in another way. Yesterday I talked about my name change. That was actually in response to a sermon preached by Pastor Layne. I think it was in that first year after we moved here. I can't tell you the theme of the sermon or the Scripture passage. Being 100% a visual learner and having no room for auditory memory, that's pretty typical. But that morning we were given a small stone. We were instructed to take it home and to ask God to give us a new name and to reveal it to us. It was during that week, as I prayed with my small stone that I sensed God saying that my new name was Joy. No longer to look at life from a grace-less lens, from a bitter and angry and shame-filled view, but through Jesus' eyes and filled with joy for the journey.

I can only pray that my ripples make the same impact on someone else.



Sunday, April 17, 2016

Grace, grace, and more grace

We are in the middle of a sermon series on Galatians and grace. Several weeks before the start of this series, I received an email which was sent to several "recovering legalists" (I actually prefer the phrase "recovering Pharisee" coined by one of the other members of this group of reformers). As each of us grew up in denominations or cultures of legalism, we were being asked to share our journey to grace as a follow-up to the sermon on our appointed Sunday. This was my day and The Good Doctor insisted that posting what I shared would be a good idea. And since he's always right...

(Note: This is the original version, the non-four minute version, the before-I-had-to-take-a-bunch-out version.)

"As one of the recovering legalists who was asked to speak during this sermon series, I’ve been spending time in Galatians at home, trying to condense my journey into three or four minutes. One thought kept coming back to me and that is how amazing Paul’s understanding of grace is in light of his former life, as someone who was considered a Jew among Jews, a follower of all the rules.

Paul’s credentials are found a few books after Galatians, in Philippians 3: 4b – 6, NIV

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But not being raised in the Jewish tradition, Paul’s credentials probably don’t make as much impact on me as they did for his original audience. I don't have any personal experience with circumcision, I know very little about which tribe is better than another, and I have never participated in the persecution of the church. Wanting to bring it a little closer to home, I tried a different translation – the Recovering Legalists Version…

Philippians 3: 4b – 6, RLV

If you think you have impressive credentials, I have more: dedicated to the Lord in the Mennonite Church as an infant and sprinkled in baptism at the ripe old age of accountability, of the Pennsylvania Dutch in the United States, from the Anabaptists of Germany, many of whom lost their lives at the hand of the Church, a strict and devout adherent to the do’s and don’ts of the conservative tradition, a quiet and fiercely humble defender of the purity of my religion and its unwritten yet strongly held laws, a Mennonite of Mennonites; in regard to the law, circling my wagons, steering clear of anyone not belonging to the faith, and making certain that I am in the world but not of it; as for righteousness based on the law, a meticulous and faultless observer of everything set down by tradition, years before my birth.

*Some late manuscripts include the following: 

as for the Mennonite Game, fluent; at Dutch Blitz, unbeaten.

Now it made sense to me – this worshiping of culture and the man-made rules of that culture. While I am very thankful for my Christian heritage and the family, church, and school in which I grew up, the rules, the man-made constraints, the false humility….and the lack of grace for myself and for anyone else who didn’t follow the rules of my denomination – were very clearly brought into the light, and I realized something that should have been obvious from the beginning…

God’s Grace gives me freedom to live my story and to let you live your story.

I have my grace story and you have your grace story.

God is the Author of our stories and He uses His Word, the Holy Spirit, and other trusted believers to guide us into our individual stories.

The thing about stories is that what draws us into a good story is not that it looks like all the others – but that each one is different, creative, and unique, fashioned by the most brilliant Author.

Growing up, too often my story was squelched by the constraints of man. The list of dos and don’ts was long and it’s purpose was to keep us in the world but not of the world; to protect us from that big, bad world out there. In this view of the world, there is little room for grace. It took me years to learn to give and to receive grace. Because if you’re a good first-born Mennonite girl, you follow all the rules. You feel like you don’t need grace because on the outside, you look like the perfect rule follower. And if you haven’t learned to receive grace, then you are really poor at giving it away. Really good at seeing those “other people” who obviously need grace because they aren’t following the rules, but terrible at giving grace.

How freeing to realize that if God has written my story, a story to bring Him glory, then that’s the only story I have to fit myself into. I was never made to fit into someone’s human constraints for my story.

And like Paul, my journey from works righteousness to grace involved a name change. Living a life of legalism had left me negative, bitter, and burdened. Living under a set of dos and don’ts will do that to you. It gives you the false perception that you are doing this Christian thing right and most other people are not. On the one hand you convince yourself that since you’re following the rules, you’re a good person. But deep inside, you know you’re not – your faults and shortcomings are all too obvious. Following the rules, you were led to believe, made you the perfect Christian. But your sin issues told you otherwise. And trying to hide the fact that you weren’t perfect, heaped on more guilt and shame.

It was a moment of breakthrough in my journey when about 12 years ago, during a time of prayer, I sensed that still, small voice saying, “I am giving you a new name. Your name is Joy.” It might not have been the lights and flashes Damascas Road experience of Saul-turned-Paul but the effect, for me, was the same. I knew I wasn’t joy-filled and only pretended to be so in front of others because, well, that was another one of the rules. The fact that Joy was my middle name was a powerful part of my transformation. I realized that God intended me to be Joy all along; but I just had been loaded down in the bondage of guilt and shame for so long that joy was non-existent.

It was a long and slow mind-set change for me, to learn that there isn’t a big, bad world out there that I need to protect my perfect, rule-following self from but that I was just as big and bad inside and just as in need of forgiveness and grace. I was created to follow the story written for me, receiving grace for the times I fail so that I can give grace to others - so that I can be an encourager to others on this journey to Christlikeness. So that I can give and model grace, grace, and more grace."

I knew it went well when a gentleman approached me afterward to say, "That was really great but as a pastor's wife I can't believe you wore pants to speak in church." I will admit to a moment's pause with just enough time to think, "I can't believe you would say that to me after a sermon on grace..." but then I realized who was speaking and that he was really saying, "I get it. I've been there. I'm a recovering legalist, too...and I'm just messing with your head!" 





Saturday, April 16, 2016

The winners are...

After polling some family and friends, we've narrowed our favorites down to -----

just 18...

...just a few.


This guy just moves so much and those eyes go every direction and he doesn't know where to look and....

we finally discovered that if we stuck him in a tree, he couldn't move as much. Here our biggest problem was keeping him from licking the tree!








Friday, April 15, 2016

I'm so happy!

Well, it was time once again for the annual photos.

The weather was beautiful, I was dropping a child off to work at Allenberry, I had two helpers ...
so there was no good excuse not to take the pictures.

Except that my visually impaired, hyperactive, defiant two year old is not the most photogenic.

But it was time.  And the conditions were ripe.

I'm saving the best (best is relative here) photos until we can agree on which ones they are.  In the meantime, enjoy these photos from the end of our shoot. I made the mistake of getting closer and closer to the water as we went. As soon as Mr. Victor heard his favorite item in all the world (after Johnny Cash, A Boy Named Sue, small fries, and donuts, of course) there was no stopping him.

At first he thought it was a bit chilly so I thought I'd be safe and the butt would stay on the log as I had requested.

Silly me.

But look at that...



Pure bliss....


He said, "Mommy, I'm so happy!"


Well, good, 'cause if Victor ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. That's how the saying goes, right?


This was when he got tired of hearing me say, "Turn your face to Mommy...Smile...Show me your eyes...No, big eyes, not slits...Turn back to Mommy...Smile...Look at Mommy...Smile...Show me your eyes - big eyes..."
And this is when we knew it was time to go home.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Best birthday ever

A good birthday should include all of your favorites, right?

Donuts.




Small fries.

Musical cards.


Musical toys.


Musical instruments.






Singing Happy Birthday.



A Boy Named Sue.




Eating cake.


A long-anticipated visit from your favorite singer.












Chatting with your favorite singer.





Listening to your favorite singer.




Jamming with your favorite singer.


Johnny Cash, of course.

The kindest,

gentlest,

most patient

Johnny Cash who ever lived.

(Thank you, Michael!)