No Capes

My family and I have this love affair with the movie The Incredibles.  We love how it reveals that these superheroes are actually people with flaws and fears, but through all that they have a purpose:  to be a superhero.  They don’t do it perfectly & their actions don’t make everyone happy and cheer.  In the movie, they get put into hiding when there’s an outrage against a save that didn’t go the way the public wanted; what they were created to do was taken away from them, and it’s depressing.  Eventually, they start doing hero stuff again.  They have this hysterical superhero outfit designer named Edna who helps them with their “supersuits” based on their special gifts.  In a funny part, Edna demands, “NO CAPES!”  I freaking love this because she has seen how so many superheroes lost their lives because their showy, no purpose cape always brought the deceased superheroes to their end…caught in propellers, etc.

I am blessed to know some awesome superheroes; people doing extraordinary, unusual things this summer to share Christ with people through various, non glamorous ways.  These are “ordinary people” to most, but extraordinary to me and so many whom they have and will serve this summer.  Isaiah 6:8 says,”Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.”  Throughout the Bible, those who stepped up and said, “Send me,” knew they were doing something a little scary.  There is never a guarantee that everything will go smoothly, that the rescue mission will go as planned.  When you’re on a mission, you are thrown into the unexpected, not everyone likes you all the time, and it sometimes hurts-  a lot.
Because of this, I ask that you join me in prayer for my friends who are flying with no capes.

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Our Wyld Life Leadership Team rocked Castaway with their love. Our Wyld Life kids couldn’t have been more blessed with these amazing friends who sacrificed time, energy, & sleep to share Jesus with kids in such a real way. From the top left: Colton Thomas, Jack McCoy, Scott Black, Brian Betner, Natalie Willman, Rachel Buckingham, Alyssa Iurillo, Jessica Bradley, Connor Bradley, Molly Cooper, Lauren Feldman, Rachel Phillips, Haleigh Devoe, Sarah Wright, & Noah Haxton. Love them to pieces!

 

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Rachel Phillips leaves TODAY for Nepal to bring Jesus through the power of friendship to our friends across the globe with Reign Ministries. Rachel has been saving money tirelessly by babysitting, teaching swim lessons, etc. for over a year to be faithful to this call. It hasn’t been easy, & I can only imagine how scary this may be, but I know that she is so excited to carry out what the Lord has laid on her heart. I love her so much. Rachel loves a good fish sandwich with tartar sauce, and I hope she is able to have the best fish sandwich in Nepal with new friends. 🙂

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Luke Blackburn (pictured w/ Dallas Clark at a Young Life Campaigners this past winter) is serving in the dining hall this month at a Young Life Camp called Timber Wolf Lake in Michigan on Work Crew. The Work Crew consists of high school kids from all over the country who choose to give a month of their summer to serve kids who are attending camp. There is no pay, but it’s an amazing opportunity for kids to grow in their relationship with Christ and be a part of some awesome Kingdom building. Can’t wait to hear about his experience!

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Kaitlyn Ray, Esmeralda Saldana, and Lauren Hahn are all serving on Young Life Work Crew this summer too! Lauren will be at Timber Wolf Lake next month as a Tawashi, Kaitlyn is currently at Timber Wolf Lake serving countless kids for the month of June (w/ Luke Blackburn), and Esmeralda will be traveling to Virginia to be a dining hall server at Rockbridge. I love seeing these girls fly!

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My sweet girl, Alex, is leaving for her second mission trip, this time to Memphis, Tennessee to serve with Northview Church and SOS Ministries to help build and repair homes and neighborhoods. She’s gonna get her hands dirty, make friends, and grow her heart for the Lord, which is an uncomfortable but powerful thing. We love you, Alex.

Thank you, Lord, for sending these individuals to step out of the every day and say yes to flying with no capes in order to bring Your love to many.  Lord, I pray that you guide and encourage them on their journey.  Lord, stepping outside of our comfort zones takes a courage that only You can provide.  Give my friends and family Your courage & peace that reaches beyond all understanding.  Lord, lead them to those You have prepared for them to reach.  Give them strength and laughter in the face of adversity.  And most of all, may You shine through their hearts, words, and actions.  We love you, Lord.  Thank You for these awesome servants.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

On the Way to School

Where are you going?  Who is walking with you?  How are you preparing to travel?  What do you do when you get to your destination?

I don’t have a lot of time to watch television.  I usually watch tv when I’m folding laundry or accomplish some other household task.  I try to watch something thought-provoking when I do watch something.  The other night, I couldn’t sleep, having an awful allergy attack, and came across a documentary entitled, “On the Way to School.”

I love anything that allows me a peek into a journey outside of my own that is authentic and true.  This documentary is about the journey of kids from Argentina, Kenya, India, and Morocco and how they get to school each day.  Each of their stories follows a one way trip to school in a day, each trip taking from 90 minutes to four hours.  For typical American kids, these kids’ journeys may seem atypical, but I would beg to differ.  Here’s an example of the documented kids’ travel:

Samuel is pushed in a makeshift wheelchair in India by his brothers, Gabriel and Emmanuel: 90 minute journey

Zahira, Zineb, Noura cross the Atlas Mountains in Morocco twice a week: one way takes four hours

Carlos takes his sister, Micaela, by horsepack through Patagonia for a two-hour trek.

Jackson and his sister, Salome, navigate the Chalbi Desert, being watchful of wild animals on their two-hour journey to school.

As Americans, we are often pointing out how blessed our kids are; we have transportation to get them to school, books, technology, etc. to help them build a foundation of knowledge to springboard into where their passions lie.  Often, we use phrases like, “those poor kids over there…” when we examine our circumstances in comparison to theirs.  Watching a documentary like this doesn’t make me feel that at all.  If I really think about it, I see kids who are learning character and endurance, that there are some things worth taking a risk for & that the journey will be hard, but it will be worth it.  I love how the film shows how the kids wake up very early, pray, wash up, talk with their parents, and eat as they prepare for their journey and day at school.  The kids are then told to be careful and to watch out for one another as they are on their way.

On the flip side, I think American kids have a difficult journey “On the Way to School” too; it may look different, but it’s still true.  Many of our kids are trekking through the pressure of performance, depression, social drama, bullying, low self-esteem, etc. to get to and through school.  The struggle is real.  Their journeys are emotional and exhausting; they take great courage to muster up the strength to get in the door and through the day, sometimes.  I would argue that we are all born with a soul that was created for life, and therefore we endure, we overcome, we continue the journey in the face of trouble and fear.  The journey of the soul may look different in varying circumstances, but we are all doing the same work.

As we are doing life together, I was reminded to ask myself and my own children…

Where are you going?

How are you going to get there?

What are you going to do if you face a dangerous situation?

How will you handle adversity?

What’s your purpose for taking this journey?

What do you hope to do after you get there?

Often, I’m under the impression that many of us Americans think we have it all together in comparison to other places around the world.  Well, we have more “stuff” don’t we?  Cars, air-conditioned homes, running water, etc.  I can’t help but think that this is a false belief- the stuff doesn’t make us blessed.  The stuff is just external layers to what really matters…

Where are you going?  How are you going to get there?  What do you do in the face of dangerous situations and adversity?  Why are you taking this journey?  What do you hope to do after you get there?

My experience is that American kids have a hard time answering these questions mostly because their worlds are so cluttered with stuff, or our culture has told them to want the stuff,  that they can’t see the truth of why they are here in life.

I had a difficult conversation with my daughter yesterday.  It went something like this:  “Alex, my heart is hurting because your reason for talking with me in the past few weeks have been mostly about you wanting something.  I miss hearing about how you’re feeling.  I don’t want our relationship to just be about the stuff you need or want, although it’s my pleasure to provide for you.  Can we talk about how things are going in your life?”  She started to cry.  I didn’t apologize for saying this, but I recognized that she was felt sorrow at me lovingly confronting this.  Many people say, “Well, we should take our kids to developing nations and/or do volunteer work.”  Yes, I agree with this.  This is always good for the soul to stretch, but my daughter has done a mission trip to Ethiopia (where her brother was born), she does local volunteer work, etc.  She is very aware of what it looks like to have stuff and not have stuff.  I know that the hard work lies with us, as parents and leaders, to lovingly guide our families back to our core- who we are and what we are about.  It’s in the daily work that the difference lies.  The rest is a great memory to connect it to.

The kids in the documentary are, without the distraction of stuff, connected to their core.  That is a blessing that I have a choice to intentionally lead my family to.  I do have the choice to fight through the distractions and act upon that.  Sometimes we get lost.  It’s just truth.  The struggle to not let schedules, sports, ego, and materialism are a constant struggle here in our household; we are as typical as they come.  But often, I feel the Holy Spirit nudge at my heart when I feel the chaos taking control asking me:

Where are you going?  How are you going to get there?  What do you do in the face of dangerous situations and adversity?  Why are you taking this journey?  What do you hope to do after you get there?

And then I overcome with the desire to stop and act upon it.

Samuel, the older brother in Kenya, describes the purpose of his long, dangerous journey to school each day like this:

“I want to fly.  I want to see rivers and mountains.”

And I believe he (and us) can.

It’s a Beautiful Day: Celebrating our Family

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On February 14, 2011, we received this picture of a two month baby boy named Getiso; that smile brought me to tears.  Three months prior to receiving this picture, we lost our first little boy, TJ, very suddenly to pneumonia right before we were getting ready to fly to Ethiopia to hold him in our arms forever.  Like this special mom, I wanted to hold this little boy with my heart and my arms and was scared to death that maybe I wouldn’t be able to.  Many questions floated through my heart:  Would I be able to hear this little boy call Steve, Alex, and I mommy, daddy, and sissy?  Would he be ok until I got there?  Had we grieved enough as a family after losing TJ?

Could?  Should?  Would?  We leapt in and said yes.  We would risk our hearts again.  It was worth it.  God had called us into it, and we would not leave the call of our family.  It was terrifying.  I honestly didn’t know if I could trust God to pull us through, but we said yes anyway.  In all honesty, as parents, you fight for your children.  You fight through loss, pain, fear, the unknown… and so, we fought for Getiso just as we had fought for TJ.

In early June of 2011, we boarded the 24 hour flight to Ethiopia to come to this:

IMG_4121The gate to Hannah’s Hope in Addis Ababa.  We had seen pictures of this gate for over three years.  We dreamed of walking through it.  On the other side would be the answered prayers for our family; it was surreal to stand there.  And I knew standing there, that if they didn’t open the door, I would have done anything to climb over that gate for my boy.  The fear, the sorrow, the pain was gone.  I felt a magnet in my soul ready to connect with my son.

They brought us into the baby room at Hannah’s Hope, and all I could see were smiling faces of kind, brave women.  The only word I could utter was, “Getiso?  Getiso?”  Two steps further, and I could see the back of his beautiful brown head with wisps of hair in a bouncy seat.  It was him.  It was my son.  Tears came out of my eyes before I could catch a breath as I kneeled down to pick up my son for the first time.  Steve, right behind me, had tears streaming down his face, and someone took our first family photo:

IMG_4145That week was what people would say was “Cloud 9.”  I couldn’t imagine our lives without this boy whom we planned to name Jesse Getiso Craig.  We were able to share tears over our boy TJ, visiting his grave, sharing sorrow with the special mothers and staff at Hannah’s Hope, knowing that he was loved, coming to the realization that we were not becoming a family of four, but in truth, a family of five; we would just have to wait to see our son in heaven.  That ache for my first son will always live inside me.  I long for the day when I see him with Jesus.

We had to go home for three and a half weeks without Jesse, waiting for the US Embassy to approve that he could come into the country as a US Citizen.  Those three weeks were excruciating.  I remember lying in bed in the morning, wanting more than anything to run into Jesse’s room to hold him.  We were almost there.  And then on June 13, 2011, we arrived in Addis Ababa exhausted and thrilled to reunite and be a forever family.  In the adoption world, we call it Gotcha Day.  I snapped this picture that day:

IMG_4321In all honesty, I had no time for pictures.  I just wanted to hold my son.  This daddy/son moment was one I couldn’t resist; looking into one another’s eyes saying, “Hey daddy.  Hey son,” was more than I could capture in the retelling of a story.

When I tell you that our family’s story is one of the greatest stories I could every tell, is an understatement.  I would experience the risk of loss and longing all over again, one hundred times over to have this family.  And then I can’t think that this was not a bravery that we could have ever mustered up ourselves by pulling up our bootstraps.  It was clearly Christ’s courage planted in our hearts that gave us the joy to go beyond what we thought we could handle emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually.  This is our testimony; that Christ is in our own hearts, which gave us the seeds of hope that grew into this:

126-1280Block Party 11 - 083DSC_0085DSC_00842012-05-27 20.01.59306026_4052623076289_895356993_n51faaac5d1242.preview-3002012-07-15 18.03.21JesseG._Clothing_B&W-3YLAmazingRace007CRAIG_0049IMG_5621Amen.

And our first son, who lives forever in our hearts:  Teagen James Sidrak Craig. We love you deeply and madly.

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Breakfast is on Doug Tomorrow

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We returned from Wyld Life Camp Tuesday morning, all 103 of us, simultaneously exhilarated and exhausted.  We had so much going on inside of our hearts, and yet doing an overnight bus ride never allows for much sleep.  It would be safe to say that 99% of our campers went home and crashed for a few hours before actually doing anything else.

For the next five mornings after camp, I invite anyone who would like to join us for morning devotionals.  It’s a great way to model a friendship with Christ and give our friends a jump-start into starting their own quiet times.  Connor, Jack, and I were catching up on the patio of Mama Bear’s, waiting for our junior high friends to arrive Wednesday morning when two gentlemen walked over.  They began to thank us for sharing Jesus with kids; they must have seen our Bibles.  We shared that we just came back from Castaway in Minnesota and were doing morning devotionals with kids who wanted to learn how to do quiet times to continue to grow in their relationship with Jesus.  They thought that was awesome, and one of the gentleman shared that he went Castaway when he was 15 years old.  We were laughing at our Young Life connection, and then he shared 2 Corinthians 5:17 with us:

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

We said our goodbyes and gathered our junior high friends together and began to dive into our devotional.  Before I knew it, one of the gentlemen appeared and handed me a card.  I said thank you, thinking it was a business card, and that I would reach out to him and say thanks for the encouragement.  He was gone before I knew it; I looked down at the card and saw that it was a gift card to the coffee shop for a generous amount.  All it said on the card was, “From Doug.”  I was floored.

The most common doubt I hear my junior high and high school friends say is that it’s so hard to believe in God because you can’t physically see him.  For me, I see God all the time; this encounter was a perfect example.  I see God working through people all the time, and it makes Him as real to me as the chair I’m sitting on.

I see God when:

  • my son sings “Jesus Loves Me”
  • someone is crying and their friends wrap their arms around them
  • I’m exhausted after a long day, and I come home to the house all picked up
  • my daughter asks me questions about what Jesus has to say about life
  • a community comes together in the midst of tragedy or to build something beautiful together
  • a stranger gives me a gift card to our favorite coffee shop to share with my Wyld Life friends for devotions.
  • And the list goes on…

Thank you, Lord, for making yourself known to me and others.  Thank you for your son, Jesus, who paid it all so we can walk with you.  Thank you for the Holy Spirit living inside of us as a guide.  May we see you more, hear you more, and feel you more in our every day life and walk in the encouragement that you are always there loving us.  Thank you for my friend, Doug.  Please bless him and keep him.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen.