Posts tagged ‘children’

December 5, 2013

Waiting With Hope: Day 5- Dayna Olson-Getty

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened

And the ears of the deaf unstopped.

Then will the lame leap like a deer,

And the mute tongue shout for joy. Isaiah 35:5 – 6

What does it mean to hope for a child whose prognosis is hopeless?

At our 20-week ultrasound appointment, my husband and I learned that our first-born son had a fatal birth defect. Somewhere in his earliest development, something had gone drastically wrong. Among other disabilities, his spine and skull had failed to close, leaving his brain tissue to be washed away by amniotic fluid rather than forming the intricate folds and connections that would allow him to see and hear and laugh and run. He would never gain consciousness and, without a functioning brain, his life would be very short. On that sunny May day, our doctors were gentle but firm: There was absolutely nothing that could be done – no surgery, no intervention, no treatment – that could save our son’s life. If he did not die before birth, he would die soon afterward. There was no hope.

We had waited for Ethan for a long time, through a whole year of early morning temperature readings and fertility charting, of monthly hopes and monthly disappointments.

The winter he was conceived we were studying the stories of the Sarah, Rachel and Rebekah in our Bible study group. Three generations of women all waited with this same longing, this same fear, this same hope.

The promise of God to create a people out of no people hung on the slender thread of a longed-for but unlikely pregnancy, generation after generation. Nothing they could do, or that we could do, could bring life into an empty womb. Only God could bring life out of barrenness.

When we realized that, finally, we were expecting a child, we knew his life was a gift from God, miraculous and undeserved. But now, our longed-for child, the one whose nursery we’d already planned, the one whose name we had already chosen, the one we had waited and prayed to welcome, was going to die.

I did hope for Ethan in those months of waiting for his birth. I hoped that he knew, in whatever way he could know, that he was deeply loved and cherished. I hoped that he was not in pain and that he would be spared suffering in his birth and death. I hoped to see him with my own eyes while he was still alive. I hoped that our friends and family would see his life as precious too. Those hopes were fulfilled on the day of his birth, as Ethan slipped into life and, two hours later, into death, surrounded by those who loved him.

But my gratitude for the fulfillment of those hopes did not take away the searing pain of all the hopes that would never be fulfilled.

One of the first Sundays after Ethan’s birth and death, I stood in church next to my husband as our congregation sang a song based on Isaiah 35: “Through you the blind will see, through you the mute will sing, through you the dead will rise…” we sang. Tears ran down my face.

What I heard in those words was a wild, unbelievable promise for my boy – that his beautiful feet would yet dance, and that his blue eyes would one day see, that his tiny red mouth would laugh and sing.  It’s a promise as implausible as the promise that Sarah would conceive in her old age or that Mary’s baby would free her people from oppression for all time.  It’s a promise for everyone who, like Ethan, is at a dead end, whose life is hopeless. Without the life-giving touch of God, there will be no life. But with God’s life-giving breath, anything is possible.

The promise and longing of Advent is that we wait for the day when every hopeless, barren dead-end in all creation will be filled with the breath of life. We wait for the day when we will feel a leaping within us, like the baby in Elizabeth’s womb, and know that it is the Holy Spirit, filling the creation with new life. These days of waiting are not unlike the days of my pregnancy with Ethan, as we grieve with shattered hearts for what will not yet be, and long together for what God has yet to breathe into being.

Let us pray:

Come, Lord Jesus, and breath your breath of life into all our hopeless, barren dead-ends. Fill us with the quickening of your Spirit. Amen.

olsongettyDayna is a member of Durham Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church USA) and part of the Rutba House new monastic community. She and her husband Eric live in the Walltown neighborhood of Durham, NC and are parents of one living son, Noah.  Their firstborn son, Ethan, was born and died in 2009. Dayna is hoping this Advent for a heart open to God’s longings for the most vulnerable among us.

November 30, 2013

What Does Joy Look Like? Part 2

photo 1In a couple of days my Kenyan adventures will be over– for this time around– and when I think of the word that comes to mind, all I am still stuck with is JOY.

How in a country with so much need, so much poverty, so much corruption can there be joy?

How in a line of work with so many motherless children and hungry mouths to feed can there be joy?

How in place where getting even the simplest of tasks accomplished takes SO long can there be joy?

But, JOY abounds here.

There has been joy in hearing the children at the orphanage learn more bits and pieces of English and shouting my name as I play with them on the playground “Elizabet, Elizabet!”

There has been joy in remembering that life is indeed about simple pleasures like a cup of tea, the ability to walk the stairs (even to the 8th floor), laugher when bumpy roads make the journey all the more interesting.

There has been joy in the deep waters of relationship– feeling included, accepted and challenged along the way.

In this joy, I have felt a part of such a larger family– a African family, a Kenyan family, even though my skin is white.

I have tasted the delight that is dessert at the end of the day– eating it because it’s too sweet of a moment not to indulge.

I have seen with my own eyes the beauty that is children feeling noticed by just one person– human heart to human heart.

There’s something about Africa that always stirs my soul and for this reason I haven’t been able to do anything less than wake up here with a huge smile and a prayer, saying to God (in the spirit of the writer Anne Lamott): “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Joy has come to me this week in cupfuls, bowlfuls and more than I can even take in. My spiritual bags are quite overflowing as I start to pack. And so I testify- taste and see that the Lord is good!

November 24, 2013

What Does Joy Look Like?

I’ve been in Kenya for over five days now– and all I can say is that even with difficulties (there have been some)– this place causes joy to rise up for me. It’s hard not to keep smiling!

What I mean by joy is not just happiness (though there has been that too), but what that soars, what is deeply anchored in the soul of things, and what opens eyes to the larger picture of what God is doing in this world and what the words of Jesus are truly all about.

Words like:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . .
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

For our eyes have tasted this kind of blessing over these past days and we couldn’t feel more inspired to be do this kind of work. We’ve experienced the blessing of being in the place where we are to be for right now. And even when there are moments of sadness, moments of questioning like “Why does the world have to be so unjust?” (we’ve seen lots of this too), it’s a beautiful kind of living to be here.

Blessings like having beautiful orphans wrapped around your legs and arms, allowing you to love on them:


Blessings like singing Christmas carols with young men with developmental disabilities with smiles bigger than you’ve ever seen on their face or yours either:


Blessings like watching kids who don’t normally get Christmas presents discover the joy of blocks and bubbles:


Blessings like watching the very best Christmas play ever with some of the most beautiful actors you’ve ever seen:


We are so happy to experience joy looks that looks like this.

May 25, 2013

Wisdom from Children to the People of Oklahoma

Some school children in Edmond, Oklahoma wrote these notes to be put in a disaster relief box given out by Feed The Children this week. Words to live by:



May 9, 2013

And It All Goes Back to Candy

At the end of the day, no matter where in the world you are, there’s one thing that always makes kids excited: the candy. Even the big kids like my husband . . .

April 16, 2013

One Day Without Shoes

Today, I am participating with my friends at Feed The Children in their pledge to go one day without shoes. It’s a cold day in Oklahoma and I have missed wearing shoes for sure, especially when an errand I needed to do took me on the streets of downtown OKC.

It’s an emphasis begun by one of Feed The Children’s partners, TOMS shoes to raise awareness about childhood poverty around the world and what it would be like to be even without the most basic life necessity: shoes. Feed The Children is participating, staff-wide for the second year now.

We were invited to write a name of a child on our feet– as a way to walk in solidarity with them for the day. I chose Dorcas, a little girl from the area of Tumaini, Kenya.

Dorcas is an 10-year-old girl who lives in a community without running water. Her home does have electricity for which she is thankful. She contributes to her home by carrying water/ wood, cleaning and caring for her younger siblings. Her favorite color is red and her favorite food is rice. Dorcas hopes to become a teacher when she grows up.

Consider sponsoring Dorcas or a child like her (as Kevin and I have done) through Feed The Children’s child sponsorship program. You’ll ensure she never goes a day without shoes again.

Or, consider buying a pair of TOMS shoes, knowing that as you do a pair will be donated because of YOU to a child in need (and many of these kids are participants in Feed The Children’s programs!)

I can’t help but be reminded on this day as I participate with countless others in this emphasis of Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Bringing shoes to kids in need is good news indeed! Thanks TOMS for your leadership in this great effort.

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September 23, 2012

I’m Not Smart Enough

Excuses Series: I’m Not Smart Enough–Mark 9:30-37

Have you ever found yourself in a situation or a conversation with someone and have wanted to throw up your hands and say, “This is all just over my head. What you are saying is beyond me!”

Maybe this was a time you were in Algebra in high school and your teacher put up the formula, x+y= ? and pointed to you for an answer. The clueless look on your face said it all. “I’m not smart enough to answer that. Math is just not my thing. Could you ask someone else?”

Maybe it was a time when you moved to a new place—a place where the primary language was not the one you learned since childhood. Someone directs their attention to you, seeking to have a rapid fired conversation and all you can say with the confused look in your eyes, “I’m not smart enough to understand you. Could you please just talk to someone else?”

Maybe it was a time when you found yourself at a dinner party with some well-educated folk. Before too long the conversation goes in the direction of topics or current events to which you know nothing.  When it seems to be your time to contribute, your dazed expression says back to the group, “I’m not smart enough. Could we please just talk about something else?”

In all these situations and countless others that you and I could encounter in a given week, the most human response is silence. We are people who disengage when we don’t understand something.  Our excuse that keeps us from greater depths of relationship or knowledge is simply, “I am not smart enough.”

In the same way, in our gospel lesson for this morning, we encounter a group of Jesus’ disciples who were also fans of using the excuse, “I’m not smart enough” when the cost of discipleship intensified.  They too allow silence to be their response.

And this is the scene: Jesus has just returning from a long trip to Caesarea Philippi has come home to Galilee—Capernaum to be exact, the only place throughout the gospels where Jesus is known to have had a house during his entire three-year ministry.  Jesus’ ministry is climaxing. Like the moment the dramatic music begins to play in the middle of a movie, signaling “now is the time to pay attention” (can you hear it now?) so to was Mark 9’s place in the larger plot.

Jesus knows that his time on earth will so be coming to a close. He needs his disciples to not only to be prepared for all that is to come, but also to see things more clearly.  Previously, Jesus had asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s answer of “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God” had shaken the foundations of this ministry. But, there was more. This was it (look with me at verse 31): “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days later after being killed, he will rise again.”

And is the case with Jesus, every moment was a teachable experience, every moment was an opportunity to life to life to fullest—to help his followers truly understand what life in the kingdom of God was really like.

But, like a tough Algebra lesson or an over intellectualized dinnertime conversation, verse 32 tell us the disciples’ response, “But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask.”

Jesus, you see, had just let them in on the future and the glory of all that was to come, but what do they do? They SAY NOTHING. Their silence speaks to their excuse of—“We’re not smart enough.”  And by this I mean, not that the disciples had mental or intellectual challenges or disabilities, but that they allowed their own fears of the unknown to keep them from going the next step in their relationship with Jesus.  They held on to the crutch of the excuse of, “Whoa, wait a minute Jesus . . . what you’ve said is just a little too much for us. We just started to love you and commit to follow you for the rest of our lives and now you tell us that you are going to die and then rise again. We just don’t comprehend.”

The problem wasn’t the confusion. It wasn’t even the lack of understanding. It was the ego. It was the disciples being too fearful of what others might have thought of them that they wouldn’t even ask their questions aloud. Fear held them back.

Jesus, I believe, would have had no problem entertaining their questions IF they’d only been courageous enough to say them.

Instead, the disciples opted for another way. They clung to these pristine images of themselves—as the chosen, as the put together ones, as the ones who were of course smart enough to know everything that they already needed to know that they said nothing. They couldn’t dare ask Jesus a question because what if they admitted their doubt, what would this say about them? (Met someone like this in church lately?)

As we keep on reading, it all becomes plain to us. Because when the disciples and Jesus finally got to Capernaum, Jesus takes them aside. “Hey boys, what have you been fusing about with one another on the way?” Though they’d not fess up to it (again there’s silence) scripture tells us that they’d been busy debating who among themselves who was the greatest.

Can stop right here and call out the ego once again?

This band of travelers were so concerned about where they fell in rank, how folks around them sized them up, and how important they seemed in the mix in the end that such sentiments led to an argument.  Their greatest concern was looking bad in front of Jesus.

No wonder then, when Jesus is giving them such a “come be part of my life, my future, and see me for who I really am” kind of moment that thy let the excuse of “I’m not smart enough get in the way.”  For, they were embarrassed to be seen as they really were—scared, confused and clinging to the excuse of not wanting to seem less than.

Because in the end, it didn’t matter, to Jesus how intellectual they were.  Or what they did or did not understand. Rather, it was if they brought their whole selves to God—their doubts, their fears, their questions.  Because if they brought all of this to God Jesus was able. He was able to transform their doubts to faith, their fears to belief, and their questions to life-sustaining peace.

In fact, Jesus takes this conversation one step further—giving the example of including children in worship by calling over a small one in this teachable moment. Jesus declares in verse 37: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Or, in other words—hey, boys, take some lessons from the children.  Maybe you don’t need to worry so much about who is the greatest or where you rank. Just be.

Several weeks ago when Kevin and I were in Africa with Feed The Children, we had as you might imagine countless opportunities to spent time with and observe communities of children. On our first full day in Nairobi, Kevin and I along with the rest of the staff in the US delegation spent time at the Dagoretti Children’s Center—an orphanage run by Feed the Children for those who have been abandoned by their parents. The children, who live there, though faced with great pains of wondering why their parents abandoned them as they grow up, are among the lucky ones. They are fed, clothed, and loved unconditionally by a staff of committed caregivers.  According to the World Food Program statistics, a developing nation like Kenya, one in four children are underweight due to malnourishment. Children under 5, are regularly not feed properly because their families fear these babies won’t make it to their 5th birthday (so why bother to share such valuable resources with them?).

It’s truth to say that children are vulnerable.

But it’s also truth to say that children can be some of our greatest teachers—for they tell us the truth.

So, on the day that Kevin and I were touring the Center, we spent some time playing with the children around the center. However, as Kevin made conversation with his usher for the day called Moses—an elementary school aged boy at the center whom had been assigned as Kevin’s buddy for the event, Kevin asked him what he thought of the food we had for lunch. Kevin thought he was just making conversation with the child, asking what he thought would be a simple question with a simple response of something like, “I like it very much.” But instead, he heard about how slow he felt the kitchen staff were in bringing out the food and wasn’t as good as it used to be, much to the embarrassment of the center director. But children can not be controlled as any parent knows– they say what they feel.  (We later learned that this child only recently started attending American school where he’d grown accustomed to the pace of life being much faster than African standards).

I think this kind of honesty in our vocalizing our thoughts—though it may be shocking to our adult sensibilities is exactly what Jesus was getting at when he encouraged the disciples to welcome the children.

Didn’t Jesus also once say that “whoever finds his life will lose it, but who whoever loses his life for my sake will find it?”

Or in other words—we can’t be people who are so concerned with saving face that we miss out on the peace, the joy, the hope that only Jesus can bring to our souls. We can’t be so concerned with looking stupid by asking questions that we don’t speak up. We can’t be so concerned about what our neighbor in the pew sitting next to us would think if we truly got into the quietness of the prayer time or the hymns that we are kept from worshipping.

Because truly, today’s gospel lesson asks us how it is that we are going to deal with the big questions of life. Are we going to be held back by our egos? Or are we going to tell the truth about what we think, where we are, what we hope for and what we most need?  And if we are going to do this, we have to start asking some better questions–

Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers and spiritual teachers says: “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”

So, what about you today—are you going to be silent? Are you going to shuffle around trying to find your rank among your peers—hoping that you are the top of the list, the greatest if you will?

Or are you going to trust in Jesus to work out what you can’t—what you can’t understand, what you do not know (and may never know)? Are you going to speak up and as God the big questions when you need to?

Questions like: why do children suffer in this world? Why do good things never seem to happen to me? Why doesn’t my husband seem to love me anymore? Why can’t I seem to find a good job? Why do I not feel your presence, God when I pray?  Why can’t you make my wife, God, come to church with me? Faith, I just don’t understand how you get it, God! And the list could go on and on.  God can take our questions—any of them—there’s no shame in simply asking!

Today, let our excuse of “I’m not smart enough or I’m don’t understand” not hold us back any longer to the relationship that our Lord has for us today and for all the days to come.


August 10, 2012

A Conversation with Kevin

Hear more about the passion and excitement my husband Kevin has about his new job. It’s more than a job– it’s a ministry and it is great to watch him shine! I am so proud.

We are currently preparing for our first trip with Feed the Children overseas– leaving a week from Monday for Malawi and Kenya.  We’ll be visiting with schools, orphanages, and community leaders that are a part of the larger FTC family. I’m most excited about meeting the children and being able to love on them and find out more about what we can do to encourage them. Best of all, this trip is something that Kevin and I will do together.

If you are interested in learning more about Feed the Children or how you can give to support this great work: click here.

June 4, 2012

Let’s Feed the Children


Today is a purely personal post. It’s a post of celebration and hope and excitement about the future as it relates to my family.

As many of you know, Kevin, my husband, accepted a position back in April to become the new President/ CEO of Feed the Children— one of the largest domestic and international relief agencies. It’s an organization for that helps ensure the 12 million children at risk of going hungry in the United States simply do not. It is an organization that in 2011 delivered over 104 million pounds of food and other life essentials to children in need and their families around the world. They do great work!

Considering Kevin’s master’s degree in international affairs, work experiences in large corporations and most recently as the Chief Operating Officer at a non-profit in DC, and his heart for using his leadership skills to fulfill his Christian calling of service– he rose to become the perfect fit for this organization seeking a visionary and energetic new leader. 

Today is Kevin’s first official day on the job. He couldn’t be more excited to get to work with Feed the Children! I know he will love his new job even with all of the new responsiblity it will bring.

Though the transition will be hard for us in the beginning, as I continue to work here in DC as a pastor and he spends a lot of time in Oklahoma City learning the business, I couldn’t be more proud of him. I am cheering him and Feed the Children on and today, I’m asking you to do the same.

I know it would mean so much to Kevin (and to me too) if you took a moment this afternoon if you are a Facebook or Twitter user and post a comment of support for Kevin and his new work.  Let’s let the great staff at Feed the Children know how wonderful their new leader is going to be for this organization.

Feed the Children on Facebook

Feed the Children on Twitter

Or, even better, consider making a donation in  celebration of Kevin’s first day and all the good that you know he is going to do with this wonderful organization by clicking here. If you know Kevin, you know that your donation will be put to great use, especially in this organization that already has a four star rating with Charity Navigator.

Thanks so much for your support in this new adventure the journey,


April 23, 2012

Wordless Monday: the Future of the Church