Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sons and Sheep and Coins...Oh My!

Humor me for a moment as I declare that last Wednesday night, during worship time at ReWired (our Wednesday night worship gathering for youth at Crossroads Church of Walton County), it hit me that I am in a position to compare myself to the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. I know, I know. That role is usually reserved for God, but let's start at the beginning of this rabbit trail that happened in my heart and mind.
For those of you who don't know, this past Sunday was "Orphan Sunday". It's a day to raise Christians' awareness about the 147,000,000 orphans in the world and give 'em all a kick in the pants to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Well, we have some stinkin' amazing students at our church who I think seriously out-give and out-serve most Christian adults, so my dear hubby decided that we would do "Orphan Wednesday". How cool is that? I mean, I have been in youth groups where no one would show up for that night. What? No advice on dating or how to make more friends? Like I said, our students are amazing. So naturally my mind was thinking through this beautiful process that we are in...bringing a little girl who currently has no momma or daddy into our family forever. I just got a little dreamy imagining the moment when someone would hand her over to me and I would bawl and smile. Then I thought about bringing her home and my other kids waiting at the airport to see their new sister for the first time. And that's when it hit me. Will my sweet little biological kids ever have a moment when they're sick of all the fuss about their adopted sister? Will they wonder why they always have to hear Mommy and Daddy talk about and pray for money to get their sister home? Will they be jealous of the time we spend filling out paperwork and fundraising and packing to leave? Will the time ever come when they ask, "Why is everything all about getting this girl here?!"
As of now, my girlies are just as excited about getting their sister home as we are. Every time they find a dollar in their pockets, it goes towards the adoption. Every night when we pray and at every blessing, they pray for the money to get her home and that God would take care of her until she's here. They've painted pictures to hang in her room. When they play house, one of their dolls is always their little sister that we adopted. They are just as smitten as we are. But I just started to stress about them getting sick of it all and wondered if it was wrong of me to act any differently about this little one's arrival. I mean, obviously a lot went into getting Alana, Nevaeh, and Pax into the world as well. They cost quite a bit of money, and we decorated rooms for them and bought them clothes and blankies. And I fell asleep quite often dreaming of the moment they would enter the world and I would hold them for the first time. But let's just say that I wasn't Googling about where they were every day. Or searching for any blog or website that pertained to where they came from. Or wearing tshirts and necklaces to raise awareness about them. Nor did I have an app on my iPhone that told me every day what the weather was like where they were. It's just different, and I started to think that maybe I need to tone it down around my children so that they aren't like, "Wow. Mom sure does love our brown baby. Guess we're too boring and white for her.".
Now in my rational mind, I really don't think that would ever happen. Just because I know their hearts are so into this. But, you know how a mother's mind can be. And God was so gracious to me in that moment. As I sang (or at least as close as I can get to singing!), the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the story of the prodigal son. Usually when I read that parable I wonder, "Am I being like the older brother lately? Do I resent the grace that God is bestowing on someone else?". That's usually my application. But last Wednesday night, I immediately told God, "I see. I know how that father felt.". I now know what it's like to feel like there is a sense of urgency to get one child home. And I understand that what might be perceived as favoritism is actually just the knowledge that my bios are safe and with me. All of me and all that I have is available to Alana and Nevaeh and Pax at any time. But this sweet little African princess of mine is far away from me and my protection right now, and that calls for action. The parable of the lost coin, or the 99 sheep that the shepherd was willing to leave for a while to get that one sheep home. Oh, MAN, do I get it. I have already begun to feel guilt about leaving my American babies for a week when we go and pick our little one up. It will be the longest I've gone without seeing them EVER. But I've just been saying over and over to God, "Thank You, thank You, thank You. Thank You soooo much for relieving me of that guilt and reminding me that it doesn't imply in the least that I love my bios less when I am going crazy pursuing this lost, lonely girl." (I mean, I KNOW I don't love them less...there's just the worry that it will be perceived that way.) Nope. The shepherd didn't love the one lost sheep more than the 99. It's just that the 99 were already safe and sound with their protector, and his love for that one was great enough to cause him to single-mindedly pursue it.
The parable of the lost coin is probably the one that I can picture myself in the most. Probably because: 1) the main character is a woman, and 2) I lose things a lot and have to "sweep the house and seek diligently until I find it." But it is SUCH a beautiful picture to me now that I'm on this journey. She had 10 coins, and 1 turns up missing. All of the coins were of equal value, but only one was missing. So only one got searched for in a panicked frenzy and only one caused her to "call together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.'"
All of this has left me with two things. First of all, an immense amount of gratitude to my Father for His crazy love for me. I mean, the first adoption journey that I was a part of was when He adopted me. And all of the love and urgency and pursuit and intensity and thinking of nothing else that I have shown for my pales in comparison to the love and urgency and pursuit and intensity and focus of our Heavenly Father. Every day as I run to the mailbox hoping and praying that our I600 approval is in it, it crosses my mind that God was thinking of me waaay before I was a part of His family too. What a great God!
The second thing that I am left with is the hope that Alana, Nevaeh, and Pax are much more gracious and loving and accepting than the prodigal son's big brother was. But if they have their moments of pouting or anger, I pray that God will help me to be as merciful as the father in the story was. That I would be able to impart to them the understanding that "they are always with me, and all that is mine is theirs. But it was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your sister was dead, and is alive; she was lost, and is found."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

We are Silly People

I wonder, has God whispered in your ear to do something that sounds impossible or exhausting or both? Chances are, if you're really pursuing Him and listening to Him, He has. I'm there. I hate to harp on money (I think I've been around Jono too long :) ), but it's my blog. So I will reiterate how stinkin' impossible it seems to come up with THOUSANDS of dollars to adopt and host a precious orphan. THOUSANDS. Every time I say it, I'm like breathless. And, I'm not gonna lie. Thinking about having a special needs 4 year old from another country in my home for a month sounds slightly exhausting. Not to mention the LIFETIME of opening our home and family to orphans that God has clearly called Jono and I to. As in, no retirement. No year-long vacations. No "empty nest".
In the midst of all that, God has given me a group of astonishing young ladies to lead in bible study, a small group of kindergartners to teach, and He's dropped people from other NATIONS at our doorstep to reach for Him. At times, I could easily believe the people who tell me, "That's just too much for someone with 3 young kids to do.". Actually, agreed. It is too much. But, lucky for me, God went ahead and dealt with me on this very issue today in His word.
In 1 Peter 4:10-11 it says, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies--in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."
You know what? I am to do the things that God has called me to do in HIS strength...not my own. And why? "In order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." When I serve in my own strength, I get grumpy and tired and judgmental and I start to have a martyr's complex. But we simply cannot sustain a life of service and sacrifice in our own power. EVERY GODLY WORK REQUIRES GOD'S POWER. That makes so much sense, but for some reason when things start getting complicated our first reaction is to switch over to our power...which is no power at all. We're such silly people.
I also read Matthew 14:15-21 today where Jesus feeds the five thousand. You know, Jesus could have fed those people any way He wanted to. He could've whistled down some manna. He could've called each person over to Himself individually and handed them some food Himself. But instead He gave the provision to His followers and instructed them to dispense the food to the people. Is that not great?! What a BEAUTIFUL picture of what Jesus wants to do with His church today. Yeah, He could just create a new mom and dad for every orphan, or make birds carry food to the people who are starving, or make clean water flow out of a big rock to the people who are dying from a lack of it. But that is not His plan. We are the church. We are the "hands and feet." When we Christians in the U.S. sit back with our abundance and keep dreaming of how we can get more and more without dispensing anything to those in need, it's about as foolish as if the disciples in that story had taken all that food that Jesus provided and sat down under a tree to gorge themselves on it wondering when Jesus was gonna feed all those other people. Oh, we really are silly, aren't we?
Well, back to the whole "how are we gonna have the money and strength to make this whole adoption and hosting thing work" issue. I figured it out.
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times you may abound in every good work." -2 Corinthians 9:8.
Hallelujah! Is that black or white or what? If God deems our hosting and adopting a good work (which the bible would lead me to believe He does), He will give us bookoos (sp?) of grace and make us sufficient in all things (read: money). Aaaahhh. Yep, that's me exhaling all of my worries and stress:)
Now I just hope that all of the disciples out there will pass out the fish and bread like they're supposed to.

P.S. Props to the book "Get Uncomfortable" by Todd Phillips for a couple of quotes in this post. It's a great on-your-own study or curriculum for a group.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I'd like to think so. But only in the sense that 1 Corinthians 2:14 talks about...more on that in a sec. Let's rewind a few days. As many of you know, our family has hosted orphans over Christmas the past two years. It is an AMAZING get to show the love of Christ and the love of a family to a child or children who otherwise would never know it. Totally indescribable. But when it came around this year to sign up for hosting, we "obviously" decided to just be a support for others who were hosting and not do it ourselves. After all, we are in the midst of an international adoption which is requiring every extra penny that we have. Not to mention that, if everything goes perfectly, there is a chance that we could be traveling to Africa in January to get our baby. So it would be irresponsible to host...right?
And then it hit me. Or maybe He hit me. First of all, did I think that I needed a sign from God to bring an orphan into my home? What? The sky needed to split open or something? The Holy Spirit brought to my mind verse after verse where the Lord says, in essense, TAKE CARE OF ORPHANS!!!! No, Heather, you don't have to pray about it. Yes is ALWAYS the answer when it comes to the least of these. Sheesh, I'm ignorant sometimes. Then as that started to settle in, the obvious worries started popping in my head. Mainly money, money, money. I mean, we're begging and scraping and selling stuff (both our own stuff and products for a fundraiser) just to get through this adoption. Where are we gonna come up with another $2500? And then, that same Holy Spirit that John 14:26 says will teach me all things and even remind me of the things He's already taught me said, "5 loaves and 2 fish, Heather. Just offer whatcha got. I am God and can probably cover the rest." I'm not sure if He really said it that sarcastically, but He had every right too. So I mentioned it to Jono. He, of course, had the same money fears, but I assured him that I would contact the people at New Horizons and just offer what we have. If they didn't feel like it could work, at least we had been faithful.
Now we're into yesterday. I'm looking through the darn photo listing trying to figure out what kid to put on hold. Yes, it's excruciating. But I slowly came up with some criteria:
1)Scholarships! Since we have absolutely NO moolah in savings to help this procedure out, I narrowed it down to the kiddos with scholarships. Plus, a lot of the kids with scholarships have them because they are overlooked due to disabilities. Double whammy!
2)Young and/or special needs. This is because my girlies are such little mommies and, aside from the perfect match of Oksana and Vitya last year:(, they would feel much more like part of the family helping out if the child needed some helping out.
So I narrowed it down to two children...Bogdan, a 4 year old boy with some speech delay and Nadia who has cerebral palsy and is 6. I emailed New Horizons and shared EVERYTHING with them. Their advice was to go with Bogdan since he would be a little easier...especially since I already have little ones. I told them I'd think about it. I did not even feel right about saying, "Yeah, give me the easy kid.". But then, that little boy was such a cutie and so young. What a stinkin' struggle. I woke up early this morning begging God to make it clear which one we should host. I even said to Him, "I wish You would just pick for me. Don't make me pick.". But when 9:00 rolled around, He hadn't sent me a telegram, so I decided Jono would be more comfortable with a little boy. That was it. I couldn't think about it anymore and I put him on hold. Then, guess what? Twenty minutes later my phone rang and it was New Horizons. The message went something like this, "Hey Heather. We've had something come up. One of the special needs girls from Latvia just had her host family back out on her and all of the paperwork for Latvian kids is due today. If we don't get a new host family for her, she's gonna be pulled from the program. She's 4 years old and was born premature and suffers from a degree of fetal alcohol syndrome. Would you be interested?" Why am I always surprised when God answers prayers? Like I said, I'm quite ignorant sometimes. So God picked Liga for us. Check her out...Presh, huh? Now, back to 1 Corinthians 2:14. It says, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." God is so good to give me what I need to hear in His word at just the right time. I looked up the word "folly" in the dictionary, and it means "a foolish action, practice, idea; absurdity. Does that not describe exactly what first pops in your mind when you think of us doing this? Hmmm...example of absurdity:
1)Adopting. In the words of one kind stranger, "It's just a lot of money to end up with a broken heart. Them orphan kids always end up breaking their parents' hearts." So sweet.
2)Adopting internationally AND inter-racially. Do you have any idea how many times I've heard, "Why not somewhere with white kids?"?
3)Hosting while broke and in the process of adopting.
And I won't even boggle your mind with all of the other absurd things God has rolling around in my mind. Let's just suffice it to say that someone looking at it with their natural eyes just can't accept it. It's a "foolish action and idea". But spiritually it makes sense. To God it makes sense.

If you would like to help get Liga to America this Christmas, click here to donate.

I know every time you hear from me it's asking for money, but all I know to do is throw it out there and see what God does.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Just Call Me Billy Mayes...

I interrupt this blog (that has been slightly neglected lately) to bring you an excellent opportunity!! I know you have been sitting around wondering, "How can I help those crazy Long's raise the $3200 that they need, like, now for their adoption?". Well, look no further. Now, I'm not much of a salesman. In fact I HATE trying to sell people stuff. But this is different. 1) Because desperate times call for desperate measures, and 2) Because the products that I'm about to push help feed hungry kids and orphans in Uganda and Haiti!! How awesome is that?!? What was that? Tell you more? we go.
First up we have the super cool, beautiful, and unique Ugandan magazine necklaces...

Purchase one of these for $25 and money will be donated to Amazima Ministries and the wonderful women of the Karamojong tribe. The Karamojong women create these beautiful necklaces by hand from recycled paper. The goal is to help these women maintain sustainable income for their families. Also, 50% of the profits will be sent to a feeding program in Uganda. Not to mention, $10 will go towards bringing my baby home:)

Next, we got lots of shirts. And not just any shirts. These babies raise awareness about the 147 million orphans in the world. I mean, that's a triple win: raise awareness, feed kids in Uganda/Haiti, and actually help bring a specific orphan into a family. It doesn't get any better than that, people.Hello, pink henley. Don't you look both comfy and adorable:)...
Always wondering what to buy the athlete in your life? Why, a black, dry-weave athletic shirt of course...
My personal fav...
And for those chilly days, a long sleeved tee...
You should check out, see the great work that they're doing, then get this shirt to support them...
Now, all the shirts pictured above are $35, and word is these baseball tees are the softest shirts in the world and fit great. But I can hear a few of you groaning..."$35? What do you think I am? A rich American with a roof over my head and plenty of food in my pantry that will spend $35 going to a movie and sitting on my rear eating popcorn and drinking a coke? Gimme a deal!"
Well, will do. Here's some $30 jewels (and they still do the triple play: help us, feed a kid in Africa, and be a voice for those without one)...

And here's some that are only $25...

And,hey, for $20 let's get the kiddos involved. This cutie comes in hot pink or mint green and in sizes 2T or 3T...
And this long sleeved tee comes in 2T, 3T, & 4T...
And these come in youth sizes...
And last, but not least...actually, it's the most, there's this vintage zip-up hoodie for $50...So, there you have it. That's what I'm hawking. And I'm doing it unashamedly, dog-gone-it. Lemme know if you're interested in anything or have any questions about any of the products. I know the pics are pretty small, so if there's one you kinda like but want a better view, just holla and I'll hook you up with a better lookie.
Hey, what was that? Did you guys just hear those jingle bells? Yup. Christmas is a-coming and when you start going haywire buying gifts, think of me:)
To place an order, just comment here on the blog, facebook me, or email me at

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Practice Hospitality

Have you ever had one of those days that just seem to have a theme? Well, that was today for me. The day could be summed up in one word...hospitality. And now, as I'm about to go to sleep, I'm quite amazed at how kind God is to give me "theme days". Really. Any one of the incidents may have only been chalked up as "interesting" to me, but all crammed into one day they are clearly a kick in the pants (in a gentle, God kind of way that is.).
It all started with an amazing new bible study that I started called "Get Uncomfortable" (by Todd Phillips and available at LifeWay if you're interested). In lesson 1 you're supposed to read through Romans chapter 12. Well, I did it and decided to make a list of the "to-do's" in that chapter. There were quite a few, and one of them is "practice hospitality." I took a moment and thought, "I want the Long's to be more hospitable." Good thought. The end.
Next, Jono and I were driving to an apartment complex were refugees from lots of countries have been placed by the United Nations. Our youth ministry is going there Saturday to take family photos and give them to the people...framed and free. Most of them don't have pics and it's a good way to get whole families out to meet them. So we were taking a group to pass out fliers advertising about the photo shoot. On the ride, I kinda threw out to Jono that I want us to be more hospitable. He agreed and before long we were vowing to open our home to others waaaaay more frequently. We even discussed how fast our grocery money seems to go and that, maybe, it doesn't seem like quite enough because pretty much 100% of it is spent on us. I wouldn't put it past God to make money supernaturally disappear because we're hoarding it. And I, quite frankly, don't blame Him either. Money has often been our excuse NOT to have people over more. Lame, I know. The convo ended. And theeeennnnn....
We get to the apartment complex, and an awesome man who has made it his ministry to reach out to these people is there and offers to take me on a few home visit with some Kareni families. I tried to keep the squealing and happy-dancing to a minimum, and off we went. These are people who, for the most part, don't speak English and have only been in the US for a year or less. They are brought over mostly because they have been kicked out of their countries due to ethnic cleansing. So they are in a culture they TOTALLY don't understand and have EXTREMELY little. Well, we are welcomed into our first apartment, we remove our shoes at the door, and then everyone sits down in a circle in the middle of the room. Furniture? Nope. Clean? Nope. Much conversation happening? Mega nope. We charaded ourselves through a couple of statements, but mostly just smiled and tried to learn how to say everyone's names correctly (which was mostly a fail for me). By the time we left apartment one, I was having a nervous breakdown. I was apologizing to my friend for being so awkward and not having a clue what to say or what to do and I promised him that I would get better. Then he enlightened me. "We're the only ones in the situation feeling like we need to talk and do something. Hospitality is such a big deal in their culture that just having someone in their home and being in each other's presence is priceless to them." Yes. There's that word again. This was probably the point at which I caught on to my lesson of the day. And it was all that was on my mind for the next few visits. Really, how many of us put off having people over because the house isn't clean enough or we're not quite finished pulling all of the decor together. "Once I get my house how I want it, we'll have people over all the time." I've said it before. When we do have people over, isn't it usually good friends and people that we're comfortable around? No awkward silences? Really, friends, America is a wonderful place to live, but our culture has stolen from us a beautiful gift. I left those apartments craving to be a part of a community where random people just walk into my house. Where I'm comfortable inviting someone who I have NEVER met before in and not having a clue what we'll do or what we'll talk about. Those people have less square footage than most of our master bedrooms, and had more visitors in their home today than most of us have had this whole year. Oh, and I forgot to mention that every time we went to a different apartment, some of the people that we had met at the last apartment would show up and just walk on in. I finally stopped asking, "Oh, do ya'll know each other?".
So I hope that my daughters look back over their childhood and remember our house being a place where hospitality was practiced. I hope that they understand that to "love your neighbor as yourself" means that our home is as much for others' use as it is for our own. And I hope that if their grocery envelope seems to be ever-empty, it will cross their minds to possibly spend more of that money on feeding others.
So, who wants to come over for dinner??? :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dear, Women...Love, Titus

Something that I hope that my girls "get" (even before they are adults) is the importance of the command in Titus 2:3-5:

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled."

If you're a Christian, and you're a woman, you're older than somebody. If you're not teaching and pouring into a "younger woman", not only are you being disobedient, you're helping create a whole generation of women who will just flounder around in the areas of being a wife and mother and godly woman.
Every Sunday morning at 9am, I meet with a group of 11th and 12th grade girls and we study and debate and struggle through the hard words of Jesus together. I've been meeting with this exact group of girls on a weekly basis since they were in 6th grade. Now, I and they will admit that I'm no Beth Moore. But I am older. And that seems to be the only requirement in this verse. It doesn't say the older, wise, super-duper godly women. Just the older. And I figure we can all approach it one of two ways:

1) Maybe when you were their age (whatever "they" is younger than you), you were close to God and you stood strong and you know all the struggles that they will experience and you can coach them on how to live as you did. There's an older lady in my life like that. She's an amazing mom who, I'm pretty sure, has never raised her voice at her kids. Ever. To her I often say, "How are you like that?!?".
2) Maybe when you were their age you screwed up in every possible way that you can. There's lots of times that I tell my small group a "Here's how not to handle that situation...believe me...I know" story. I say wisdom is learning from other people's mistakes so that you don't make the same ones.

Regardless of your approach, these are some necessary relationships that need to be happening within the body of Christ. I think that my 11th and 12th graders need to be teaching and pouring into some middle schoolers (which, I'm proud to say, they are), and some middle schoolers need to be talking about God to some elementary aged girls, and I even tell my 6 and 4 year old daughters every Sunday that they need to look for someone that they can teach about Jesus. Sometimes they'll say, "But our teachers are teaching them. Why do we have to?". But I want it to be ingrained in them so that they will always be women who play a part in passing on the legacy of godliness to the next generation of girls.
The lie that you have to be some old sage of a woman and bake your own bread and call your husband "my lord" is from Satan. I think he's had too many of us fooled and talked out of this responsibility and it shows in our "christian women culture."
So, find you some younger girls and dig in. And if you have daughters of your own, go ahead and start getting them in on this. Otherwise they'll be thirty-something thinking, "One day when I'm a little older and wiser, maybe I'll do that Titus 2 thing..."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No-Spending Days

So we Long's are really trying to live more simply. We're getting rid of a lot of stuff (as I've mentioned in previous posts), and working towards having a bigger giving budget. It seems like every day one of us calls or texts the other with some new "lets get rid of it" idea or "what if we..." comment. It starts getting pretty crazy when you become convinced that Jesus REALLY meant to "love others as you love yourself". I don't say that to sound holier-than-thou or anything. I mean, we're still spoiled rotten when we think about it. But when you start cutting those strings that "stuff" and "wealth" have on your heart, you start experiencing moments of freedom and it gets downright addicting. Sooo...
My challenge to my family and yours is this:

Go 4 days a week without spending any money.

Is that extreme? It's really not so much to me since I'm at home doing school with my girls Monday through Thursday anyway. I seldom leave the house on those days, and if I do it's for an appointment or something. Definitely not to go shopping with the munchkins. But there is the occasional night run to the grocery store or Jono eating lunch out with someone. And you know how the "I'm just running in to get some milk" can turn into "well, the fall scented candles were on sale...".
We usually do our grocery shopping together on the weekends anyway, and if I have somewhere else I want to go, it's usually on the weekend too since that's when Jono's off and can either keep the kids at home or at least go with me to help control the chaos. So really, it may only mean a few breadless days for me and planning meetings after lunchtime for Jono (when he can get away with just ordering a water?). A small sacrifice that has the potential to keep a few extra buckaroos from disappearing.
Maybe you're not at home the majority of your week and going 4 days without spending a dime seems catastrophic. Do 3. Or 2. Or even 1. It's baby steps. Just skipping your usual Starbucks run one day a week can mean $20 extra you have at the end of the month to give to an awesome ministry you know of or to a person or family in need. That seems like a pretty good trade to me.

P.S. As of today, our 2 vehicles are on Craigslist. Jono's gonna get a cluncker (unless I can talk him into just getting a bike) since he works 1.5 minutes from our house, and I'm getting an older van with fewer little buttons that do wonderful things like open and close doors. Oh's just a car right?