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Raising Global Children from a Home in the Suburbs (Giveaway!)

One of my goals as a parent is to raise global children. So far, we have had only one opportunity to take our kids outside of the United States. Visiting Canada was fun, but we would like them to see and hear and taste cultures and languages and foods that are vastly different from North America.

In lieu of taking them ourselves, we’ve chosen to expose them to the world out there through stories, television, and movies. Two of our favorite shows to watch as a family are Survivor (where contestants compete in remote areas or islands in other countries) and The Amazing Race. One of my friends recommended The Amazing Race because of how well the show covers the cultures and customs of the countries each team visits during the course of the race. It isn’t touristy at all.

The Good Lie DVD + Blu RayLast Friday for our family movie night, we watched a movie just released on Blu-ray and DVD December 23. The Good Lie is directed by Ron Howard and tells the survival story of a group of children orphaned during one of the many civil conflicts in Sudan in the 80s.

It’s breathtaking and heartbreaking. It really brings to life the way we never know what battles others are fighting. These children watched their parents die at the hands of soldiers, walked hundreds of miles to find safety, and lost siblings and friends on that long journey. Finally, they received asylum in the United States.

Their transition to life in Kansas City shows just how clueless we are here in the Global North about how people live in other parts of the world. We take so much for granted. Our ignorance and lack of appreciation often comes across as rude, thoughtless, inhospitable, and callous.


Watching this movie was very moving for me personally. But watching it with my kids and seeing them grapple with the themes was even better. Even my youngest, who usually loses interest in movies after awhile, was thoroughly engaged and connected with the story and the people. We’ve talked about it since that night, we found Sudan and Ethiopia and Kenya on our world map and tried to wrap our minds around walking nearly 1000 miles without shoes.

I highly recommend the movie for many reasons. It’s very well-made, it’s based on a true story, the actors who play the Sudanese children are from Sudan, and it’s a very important insight into our own culture as well as that of others. I think we could use a little opening of our eyes and exposure to the experiences of others around the world.


I have a copy of the movie on DVD and Blu-ray that I get to give away to one of you! Please leave a comment sharing what you are doing to understand the world outside our nation’s borders and/or to help your kids or others you influence to do the same. I will select a commenter at random at 10pm eastern time on Friday as my winner, and I’ll email you to find out where to send your prize. Or, if you don’t want to wait, order your copy here.

Wishing you and yours true peace on earth this Christmas Eve.

Mary the Mother of Jesus In a Wheelchair


One year for our little church’s Christmas pageant, I cast Elli as Mary.

After all, Mary doesn’t say anything the night of Jesus’ birth in any of the stories. So it didn’t matter that Elli couldn’t speak or sing. We draped her in blue fabric (why is Mary always wearing blue?), pinned a head covering on, and wheeled her up to the platform among the 3-year-old angels with their wire wings and garland head pieces, the shepherds in their terrycloth robes, and the wandering cow and donkey wearing sweats with felt patches, ears, and tails. I set the brakes on her wheelchair behind the little manger with its baby doll Jesus.

Read the whole story on A Deeper Story.

I Don’t Love Christmas

Christmas ornaments of Elli

I met Terry 17 years ago, when Scott and I first started dating. Terry and his wife were Scott’s roommate’s parents and had unofficially adopted Scott into their family. As Scott’s fiancé, they opened their arms and hearts to me too.

I used to tease Terry each November because as holiday decorations appeared with more frequency and intensity, so did his grumbles. His favorite shirt was Oscar the Grouch saying “Bah humbug.” I couldn’t figure out how someone could not like such a happy sparkly holiday.

When Elli was born, I had to shift my expectations for the holiday. We got VERY pragmatic. We did what worked for her, we learned what she hated (she found live music overwhelming and deeply upsetting), and we adjusted. We were too busy keeping her alive to notice what we were missing. For the most part. Occasionally, the reality of Elli’s challenges would punch me in the gut, like when our church’s children’s choir would sing. Seeing them always put Elli’s challenges into stark relief — she lost so much when her heart stopped beating. But mostly, we enjoyed the modified activities and the memories we made with the kids each Christmas.

I don’t know if Terry has always disliked the holiday (I’ve never asked). But today we have more in common than our love of Scott. We’ve both lost our oldest daughters, and I’ve joined him in my aversion to the holiday.

I have to think there’s a connection.

The Christmas season is fraught with expectations, isn’t it? We have all these manufactured images of happy intact families, beautiful decor, sumptuous feasts, bountiful gifts, and glowing snowy scenes. And for those of us who celebrate religious events during this season, we feel pressure to have some ecstatic spiritual experience. But our lives aren’t like that. Even if you haven’t lost someone to death, divorce, or distance, real-life relationships are messy and unpredictable. Budgets ebb and flow. Ornaments break. Lights burn out. Food gets burnt. God goes silent.

I think the Christmas season was easier when Elli was still with us, because we tossed out all the expectations. We recognized her limitations and ours, and we adapted.

I guess that’s what I need to do again. I need to recognize that holidays will always include an element of grief, and I need to expect and embrace it. This will be our sixth Christmas without Elli. It’s also our first without a couple of much-loved grandparents — both Scott and I lost grandmothers this year.

One of my former colleagues told me about the Christmas after her brother died. She said her parents tried to skip the holiday, flying the family to a beach somewhere to escape the painful memories and the aching chasm of his absence.

She looked at me hard when she said, “Joy, it didn’t work. You can’t skip holidays. It was terrible.”

So we don’t skip it, bad as I want to. Every year, I push myself to drag out the boxes and hang things up knowing they all have to come back down in a month. We shape our activities around our kids just like we used to. (Well, with an exception. This year, one of the kids has been relentless that she wants us to do Elf on the Shelf. I posted about this on Facebook awhile back, but I can’t do it, y’all. I just can’t do something like that every single night for a month.)

I still have hope that this season will be spiritually meaningful, not just depressing, sad, and exhausting. And I think maybe I’m finding a thread to hold onto when I think about Mary’s pregnancy — the waiting and discomfort, fear and weariness, pain and failure to meet her society’s expectations (she was pregnant before marriage, you know), all the unknowns she and Joseph must have felt so keenly. It’s exactly how I feel this year. Maybe I can love Christmas after all… just in a completely different way.