April 22, 2011

Thoughts at Thirty

*deep breath*  holycowimturningthirtytoday.  There.  I said it.  I'm officially thirty. Today.  For months and months I've been really looking forward to entering into my thirties.  I have some grand plans for my thirties.  And then Monday happened and oh. my. word. I woke up freaking the freak out.  THIRTY.  I get it- thirty is young.  I suppose in a way, I've felt like I was thirty for a long time.  I think it's because I've always heard that having three kids before you are thirty makes you trailer park trash and if I admitted that I was only 28 when we got our third kiddo that would put me in the ranks with Kid Rock et. al.

But when Monday rolled around and all of a sudden it was my birthday week- thirty smacked me in the face and I panicked.  I got into the HOLY SH!T it's really here mindset.  I lost my sanity.  Here is what my brain said to me:

- I haven't accomplished anything!
- I don't know what I want to be when I grow up!
- I don't have my act together!
- I haven't built an orphanage yet!
- My kid isn't healed yet!
- You didn't lose the weight again yet!
- I haven't shared Jesus with some people that I want to share Jesus with!
- I haven't convinced my husband to adopt a fourth child!
- I haven't learned French!
- I haven't started an orphan care ministry at my church!
- I haven't gone back to Africa to love on the children there.
- On and on and on and on

Y'all, it was heavy.  I thought about eating a whole chocolate pie.  Had there been said chocolate pie around, I probably would have downed it.  Instead, I ate the fun dip I bought for my kid's Easter baskets and called a good friend and griped a whole lot about it.  She said, "Ummm, Megan.  Who do you expect yourself to be?  Katie in Uganda?" (if you don't know who this is- she's about the most amazing 20 something living in Uganda raising a zillion adopted daughters all on her own and ministering to the people there one changed heart at a time)

I thought about that question for a millisecond and then said, "Yes.  I want to be Katie in Uganda."  Actually, I want to go be Megan in Congo. I could list the excuses here one by one why I can't go and be Katie in Uganda or Megan in Congo, but they would just be that- excuses.  But one thing I can do for now is be Megan in Kentucky talking about Congo. Cause I'm ONLY 30!  I ain't dead yet.  There is still time for all the other things.

So today, on my thirtieth birthday, I'm going to tell my story of "Why Congo".

If you go back to 2008- I couldn't have found the Democratic Republic of Congo on a map.  I *may* have had a fleeting thought that it was in South America instead of Africa. (Geography is NOT my strong suit)  I knew that I wanted to adopt and all I had done for a year was bury myself in information about adopting from the foster care system.  For a multitude of reasons, we kept running into dead ends on that front.

My husband came home from work one day and said, "Hey- do you remember the Otts?  He was in the office today and  they just adopted a little boy from DRC."  So I went to trusty google and started looking at Congo.  Lo and behold, it was in Africa- imagine that! 

I don't know about you, but in my mind, Africa had a stigma.  Poor.  Dirty.  Violent.  AIDS.  I had seen reports on the news and people talking in real life for years about how we should "just let Africa die on the vine".  Or the old adage, "It's Africa.  Things will never change."  But then I came across a news article about Congo that opened my mind.  I've looked all over for it and can't seem to track it down.  But in it, a man was being interviewed in an internally displaced persons camp.  The pictures of the camp made my stomach turn.  Little barefoot children running around everywhere in rags.  Women cooking outside of makeshift tents on tiny fires because firewood was scarce.  Sick people lying around everywhere. Soldiers all around the perimeter with machine guns.  Yep- it looked just like the Africa that fits the stigma.  But then the man being interviewed started to share his story.  He was a teacher. A TEACHER. This man had skills and a job and a life and a home and he had previously been providing for his children.  He wasn't just some "poor African stigma".  He was a worker.  He introduced the interviewer to other people around the camp.  A minister, a carpenter, and on and on.  Real people.  Real jobs.  Real lives that all changed when their villages were burned and terrorized by war.

It made me think about the whole subject of "poor Africa" differently.  I wondered what it would be like if this were me.  My husband in finance.  My mom a nurse.  My dad a store manager.  My aunt a teacher.  What if we were all providing a life for our families and then all of sudden that was taken away and the best we could do now for our families was to live in an IDP camp?  There are no welfare lines.  You can't walk up to a government office and say, "My village was burned and now I have no job and all my possessions are gone.  Can you hook me up with some food stamps and a medical card until I can rebuild my life?"  It just doesn't exist.

The shift in my brain came when I saw the people on the news as real people- real people with stories and histories and dreams for their families that had nothing to do with poverty and war and disease.  War orphans.  It almost chokes me to say it out loud.  Children born to real people whose dream for their family was ripped apart.  It hurts.  It's not fair.  That was it for me.  I was sold that this was where our baby boy would come from.  I was in love with the Congo- it called out to me, it haunted me, it intrigued me, it INSPIRED me.

When we announced that we were adopting from Congo, one woman said to me, "Ugh.  I don't understand African women.  Why do they keep having children when they can't take care of the ones they've got?  They've got one attached to each boob and one on each hip and ten in toe behind her."  I'm sure that woman was not the first one to think that thought.  But let's play the numbers.  About 20-25% of the children in Congo won't live to see their fifth birthday.  If you are playing those odds and you want to have 5 children actually make it to adult hood, you do the math.  Then add in children born as a result of rape and lack of rights for women and it compounds.

I'm sitting here looking at my children playing Wii on the floor at my feet.  They are safe and loved with bellies full of birthday cake and ice cream and they don't have a care in the world .  I can't imagine a mother in a third world country looking at her children and actually wondering which ones of them won't make it. Her love for her children is just as deep but she carries a burden I will never feel the heaviness of. Just because I don't know that woman, doesn't mean that she isn't real or that her pain and her fear isn't real.  It doesn't mean that she doesn't have hopes and dreams for her family.  I thank God every day that I was born in a country where I don't have to worry about contaminated water, malaria, or rebel militias claiming the lives of my babes.

To be a true lover of humanity though, means that I will come along side that mother and that teacher and those war orphans and do what I can do TODAY.  What I can do today- on my thirtieth birthday is make those people real for you as well.  My friend Ingrid told me this morning that guilt is a truly useless emotion. (Amen, Ingrid!  You are a wise woman!)  So today, I'm dropping the guilt that I haven't accomplished everything that I wanted to by the time I was thirty and I'll start focusing on the promise of the great things to come in the next thirty years. I'll keep striving to cross some more of those things off the list.  Look out world- my 30's are going to ROCK!  (That's me yelling my message to the world, by the way!)


If you want to come alongside the hurting in Congo- as always I'll love for you to be a part of our favorite charity working in DRC- Our Family in Africa (formerly Our Family Adoptions).  If you'd like to make a donation, I can assure you that it will be put to good use.  Consider it your birthday gift to me!  If you'd like to be put on the mailing list for our monthly newsletter about the great things OFA is doing in Congo and how you can be a part of it, shoot me an email (meganterry01 @ aol.com) and I'll get you added!  Thanks! 

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