Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NOLA bound!

I cannot tell y'all how excited we are to head to New Orleans next week! So excited I actually decided to write a blog post about how extremely excited I am:)

Although I am stoked to head down there for reasons I will list in a few minutes, I'm also a little nervous.
1. We're traveling with two small kids.
2. We're traveling at NIGHT with two small kids.
3. That means (probably) little sleep, lots of packing and repacking, lots of baking and planning. Baking I can handle, it's the planning I have a problem with. Oh well, here we go!

Why I'm so excited:

1. We get to see our family. Enough said. Adam and I have often discussed since we left how our friends we met in New Orleans are some of the most quality individuals we've ever met, and we love them very much:)
2. Beautiful culture. We can't wait to show Cruz and Javan the French Quarter, the parks, maybe catch some music, etc.
3. The FOOD. Poor North Carolina, you try, you really do. And you do have amazing barbecue and sweet tea - you win that one hands down. But New Orleans whips your tail in about everything else. I will be eating constantly for our entire 6 day trip.
4. The drive. I love traveling. And I really like driving at night, call me crazy or weird, but I do. So, despite my fears about driving with two kids through the night, I'm still excited. (Plus, Cruz now has a DVD player for the car we'll use in emergencies - e.g. when he wakes up in the middle of the night while driving and is screaming his head off - thanks to his Papa John and Grandma C). Yay!
5. Our church. We get to go to Celebration for a worship service at some point that weekend, and we're stoked about that - we've missed our church so much! We also get to see down and meet with the Pastor about supporting us during our time in Africa - another big yay!
6. The Zoo. We love the zoo! We plan on taking the boys to the zoo and several other things at some point during the week. New Orleans has a great zoo:)
7. Snoballs. Much different than shaved ice or slushies or snow cones. I LOVE snoballs. No matter how warm it is, I will be buying a few snoballs. I miss Mr. Austin (although his snoballs aren't the best in town, his sweet personality makes up for it) being right across the street...although my new two-child-having hips probably don't.
8. The Weather. Oh yes, I have actually missed the warm humidity. North Carolina is pretty humid too, but it's been chilly the last couple of weeks and I'm ready to be in the 70 degree weather (which is what it's supposed to be according to the 10 day forecast in New Orleans right now).
9. The Memories. We're also looking forward to showing Cruz his first home again (although he's a little young to understand) and introducing Javan to NOLA. We have such great memories here, we can't wait to show some of those to the boys while we're still in the States.
10. I get to try out some fun new recipes to bring for some healthy snacks for the boys and for us:)

Although there are so so many more reasons I'm excited about going back to New Orleans, these are just a few that popped into my head this morning. Ready or not, here we come!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Through the Eyes of a Child

As an adult, I sometimes find myself envious of my kids...I have two little boys, both still in the “baby” stage (although Cruz already seems to think of himself as grown), and man, do they have it made. In general, children have no agenda, no serious responsibilities, no life-altering decisions hanging over their heads, no pressure to provide for their families - they are expected to eat, play, laugh, sleep, cry when they need something, and poop. No wonder they appear to be filled with so much joy all the time! I have had many incredible experiences with the Lord since I became a Christian, but I have never felt as close to God or understand His love as much as I do now that I am a parent; when my kids were born I finally began to comprehend the love our Father has for us. And most children LOVE life - as I stated earlier, they are filled with joy. One does not have to do much to amuse or please a child, they become enamored with the smallest things and are in love with simply being alive. It makes you wonder when we lose our sense of childlike exuberance...when do we forget to be excited just to wake up in the morning or jump in a puddle? Jesus said in Matthew 18 we are all to acquire a childlike faith, to humble ourselves as children before the Lord; “ 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4. For many children it is easy to maintain the innocence, passion, and humbleness Jesus talked about...but not all.

In cities across Africa and other areas of the world, some children cannot remember a time when their days were not filled with worry, sadness, pain, anger, regret, confusion, hunger, bitterness, and violence. They do not remember running in the rain or feeling their mother’s hug or playing with friends. They do remember the hurting, the threats, the long days and nights, the uncertainty of tomorrow. They are child soldiers.

As early as nine years old, children in many countries are ripped from their homes and forced to fight through various tactics (brainwashing, drugs, etc.) for a cause and people which are not their own. Several decades ago, children were discovered as an invaluable commodity during war efforts, and thousands of children have been used in such ways in the years since. Leaders within the armies who engage in child abduction and the formation of child soldiers, choose to enlist children in their numbers for some of the same reasons I discussed at the beginning of this article - children are innocent, infinitely trusting, easily teachable, and very naive. In many cases children can also “go undercover” and gain access to places that adult soldiers cannot...often slipping into dormitories at schools and abducting other kids. Sadly, because they are so easily abducted and manipulated they are also seen as very expendable.

We can hardly comprehend the terrible things these children go through after they are abducted, but what about after they come out of their enslavement? Many former child soldiers have no home to which they can return, no family

or friends to help them deal with their horrible experience and get their life started again. The children are forced back into society with virtually no assistance or counseling or job training; and the people of the community in which the child soldiers live (understandably) do not know how to handle what has happened, so they usually ignore the children completely. Different organizations and programs have started to pop up in these countries in order to help both the former soldiers and the communities learn to adapt better and help one another. The programs offer counseling (most former soldiers suffer from post traumatic stress disorder), job training, basic hygiene skills, etc.

Several years ago my husband and I felt God calling us to help with the rehabilitation of child soldiers and their communities. God has given the world such a gift through children, through the creation of a new human being, and our hearts are burdened with the knowledge of the suffering these particular children endure. Their innocence and exuberance has been stripped away in many cases, and they have lost their youthful energetic approach to life. It is our prayer to live among former child soldiers and join in the healing process in any way God desires. And you can help too - feel free to call us or email us at any time to learn how you can help support our efforts on the mission field in Central African Republic, or for more information regarding child soldiers, our particular calling, etc.

Adam and Cori Willard


For more information about child soldiers, feel free to check out some of these resources:

Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War by Jimmie Briggs

God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir by Michael S. Sweeney

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children by Faith J.H. McDonnell and Grace Akallo

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Standing Up.

"If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."

A lady mentioned this phrase to Adam and I this week during a conversation we were having, and I didn't think anything of it at first except that in the context it was said was really funny (the lady was claiming basically if you weren't a Baptist then you would fall - aka our nondenominational church was wrong). Anyway, that's not what I want to discuss here...I've been thinking a lot about that phrase today. Maybe not the phrase itself, but the cascade of thoughts and emotions I've had since the first thought.

Lately it has been extremely hard for me to find any motivation to do anything, except surviving. I would love to blame this realization on the babies, and granted my life is busy because of the boys, but the more I think about it, the more I come to understand it's been hard for me to become motivated my whole life. I would LOVE to lay down at night and be satisfied with what I accomplished that day*. I feel like I have lost a lot of my passion, my drive, my desire for things I used to be excited about...I think these things have just been replaced by a new passion, a different passion, for my family and my sons, but it has felt really strange lately. I am completely, madly, totally in love with my sons and "working" as a mom, but it's like every relationship - no matter how much you love someone, you'll have a fight eventually. Momhood and I are fighting right now.

I believe that when you become a parent your life changes in many many ways, all of which are for the better...the changes may be difficult to swallow at first, but they are better. However, I think it's time I stand up. I want to stand up for myself in ways I haven't allowed myself to in a long time. I blame the boys for being tired and not accomplishing more around the house and in my personal life. For two months now, I was supposed to start exercising and get a haircut. OK, exercising would be more difficult, but how hard is it to take a couple hours out of one day and get a haircut? I blame them for not reading the Bible like I should or forgetting to send out support letters one day...the important stuff. The dishes can wait. I do feel like housework is important (after all, it is part of the job description...kidding. But really.) but it's more understandable to let that sort of thing slide when you have babies. It is not ok to blame my kids when my desire to walk closer with the Lord gets put on a back burner.

So, tonight, I'm standing up. I may not believe you have to stand for one denomination or else you'll fall, but I do believe you need to stand up for Jesus. And I've been sitting down far too long. Far, far too long. I think I'm going to become one of those people - I need to set some goals, and I need some accountability. I've seen more and more people posting their goals on their blogs, maybe I should do that? It definitely hurts more to fall in front of people than when you're by yourself.

*I realize how defeated I sound right now, I am not. I also realize that raising two boys is productive in itself. And I know I don't need to be obsessed with my "performance" from the day, I can still have a productive day without finishing a checklist of items.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Grieving "things"

As Christians we are taught from a very young age to not become caught up in material "stuff"...nice cars, the newest trends, a fancy house. This is not to say (in my opinion) these things are wrong or that Christians shouldn't/can't strive for a better than average financial standing, but the Bible is definitely clear about where we need to store our treasure. I have always interpreted this to mean we aren't meant to be consumed with the "things" of this world or allow earthly possessions to get in the way of our walk. On a more personal note, although my family was always blessed growing up and I never went without the essentials, I have never considered myself to be materialistic (save my love for shoes of course...everyone has their vices!). I always imagined myself living among and serving the "least of these" so I didn't think having a big house or new clothes was important to me...

Then we started seminary and experienced several interesting living situations - we found ourselves living in New Orleans surrounded by amazing houses and dreams of rebuilding and designing our own house (after Katrina there were a ton of houses you could buy pretty cheap). However, we knew we wouldn't be living in the US for too much longer, so it wouldn't be worth it unfortunately to buy any property...instead we settled into a extremely small, kind of ghetto, but quaint one bedroom apartment on campus (I'm being very generous to Willingham Manor for those of you who know what it is). We've moved several other times since then for lots of different reasons, the main one being we needed more space for our growing family (TWICE!). All of this to say, I'm pretty used to packing up our "things" and trying to be as simplistic as possible by getting rid of excess stuff along the way. We moved back to North Carolina in May after graduation and believed after we found an apartment and settled in we wouldn't have to move again until we made our big move to France at the end of the year....or so I thought...

Last week we found MOLD growing in our apartment. Nasty, disgusting, growing like crazy, MOLD. Not only was it in our apartment, but it was making it's home right next to the window where my boys sleep beside each night. Gross. And not liveable. Needless to say, we were pretty upset and went to talk to our apartment manager right away, and although the company is great and this lady is as nice as she can be, they aren't willing to fix the problem completely. So, as parents, there's no way we were going to let our babies sleep in a mold-infested house longer than they had to. We debated and deliberated for days and came up with a solution we think will be best for our family: we're going to move in with my parents again. I know, I know, right about now most of you are thinking we are absolutely nuts, and we probably are, but it seems like the best option. Once we decided that, we only had a few days to sign all of the papers and move our things out (which we're still in the middle of doing)...if you know Adam and I, we aren't for moving slowly, and this is no exception, although this one isn't entirely our choice:) Thus I come to the point of this blog post: boxing up our life again.

But it's different this time. This time I'm not boxing up our "life" and our "things" for a few days or even a few weeks while we drive across the country or move somewhere new. I'm packing our things up for years, possibly. Can I just say I was not as emotionally prepared as I imagined I would be for this moment? In my head and my heart I knew I had almost a whole year to prepare myself to say "goodbye" to our American life: our extra clothes and shoes, our boys having their own rooms and a semi-ridiculous amount of toys, my very own kitchen with my own cooking supplies, etc. Granted, I realize I'm not saying goodbye to American life altogether, we're still going to be here until the end of this year, but still...I admit it, I am completely, totally grieving "STUFF". A day hasn't gone by this week that I haven't shed a tear (ok, several...maybe some sobs too) over all of our things being sold or given away. Don't get me wrong - I am beyond stoked at this new adventure in our life we'll be going on soon...I just didn't expect this part to happen so soon. My parents are still living in a small rental house in Greensboro until they sell their house in Charlotte, so we really are having to get rid of almost everything, or else store it until we return from overseas. I'm having to pack boxes that say FRANCE/AFRICA on the label...oh my goodness. I admit it, I'm definitely more attached to material possessions than I thought I was...this week has been hard, we've had to make a lot of tough decisions, but it has been healing as well. I honestly believe when you make a choice like we have to follow God's plan for us and head overseas, living all of our loved ones and "stuff" behind, there is a grieving period. And I'm in the middle of it...and it will probably not be a short grieving period, throughout this year and while we're gone, I'm sure I'll feel different stages of grief. It is still so liberating and healing to know that God knew this was going to happen - He knows how we feel and even feels with us. Our God is a God of emotion as well and it's just nice to know that's ok to grieve (in a healthy way of course) and that our grief is one step closer to the bigger plan He's had for us all along.

As for living with my parents, feel free to throw up some prayers for all involved...:) But that will be ok too!