Monday, June 30, 2014

Hannahs steps

Hannah has been stepping here and there. Here's a video of Abigail and Hannah playing and some unexpected steps that occurred while I was videotaping:

T-shirt Fundraiser

Click here to buy a t-shirt to help support Because of Isaac. Only six days left in this fundraiser. If you were planning on buying one, NOW is the time! 10 colors and styles available! All profits go to support Joel & Criss.

Pig tails

I continue on my quest to find a hairstyle for Hannah that keeps her hair out of her eyes and doesn't permit her to pull the bows/rubberbands/clips out. I gave pigtails a try the other night, and it seemed to work. Check out my two girly-girls!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Reason I Don’t Have Children

Wanted to include a link to a great piece on infertility: The Reason I Don't Have Children by Anna Lind Thomas.

What the fertile should know

I canNOT remember where I got this list from. I am not meaning to plagiarize so if anyone knows where it came from I will happily give credit. This is not my writing, but I can't remember and cannot find this online so I am drawing a blank as to where it originated from. Either way, it is a great list of the things people who are not infertile need to understand about those who are ...

1) Realize that as much as your friend or family member may love your children, they did not grow-up wishing they would get to be an aunt or a free baby sitter. They grew up wishing they could be a mom. Refrain from saying, well at least you are an aunt. You can enjoy some aspects of motherhood that way. In reality, watching your niece or nephew can be thorn in the heart as they realize they really would have been a great mom or dad.  

2) Realize your blessing. The next time your child has you up all night, remember there are some men and women that would give anything to carry your burden. Don't call your infertile friend and whine about how lucky they are not to have children. Also, keep your baby stories to a minimum. Your friend loves you and wants to share that very important aspect of your life but too much of the stories ends up a knife in the heart.  

3) Infertility changes lives forever. Don't tell your friend to get over it and be happy with things the way they are. How long would you grieve if you lost one of your children? Or suffered the loss of a life- long opportunity that would have been life changing and fulfilled your deepest dream? No doubt you may go on living, but you would always have that tender ache in your heart.  

4) Give your friend the gift of understanding. Give them to okay to not go to church on Mother's day. Ask them how they are doing with the pregnancies going on around them. Ask them if they feel they can attend your baby shower. The last thing either of you want is some breaking out in sobs at your shower. It is your day to celebrate. Let them know it is okay if they cannot come to the hospital to see your new born. 

5) If this is a person's second marriage where one partner has children and the other does not, the childless partner will suffer infertility alone. Even if the other partner wants children, they can never understand the journey.  

6) Men also suffer from infertility. It does not make them less of a man any more than infertility makes a woman less of a woman. There are several different things that makes us men and women the ability to procreate is just one aspect of the many.  

7) Encourage them to go to counseling or join a support group. 

8) Infertiity is hard on marriages. The person who does not suffer the medical condition can harbor bitter feelings towards the person who does have the medical complication. Or, they may feel helpless to re-assure their partner that they love them even if the partner cannot give them a child. The person with the medical complication may feel guilt for what they cannot give their partner and seek a divorce to free their other person from being in a marriage with them. 

9) Inferility is financially draining. Realize that this is a medical condition of which the majority of the cost will not be covered by insurance. The cost for invetro fertilization runs around 12,000 for the egg transfer and the medicine cost around $5,000. Surrogacy will include the medicine and the egg transfer cost plus run around $25,000 - $75,000 for carrying the child. Depending on the state the carrier may have parental rights should they decide to not give up the baby regardless of rather the egg was the carrier’s egg or not. Adoption if done privately can be affordable depending on how it is done on a one-on-one basis and will run 1,500 - 10,000 for legal fees. The next most cost effective way is through foster care to adopt with cost running around $2,000 of which some of the expense will be refunded once the adoption is concluded. The next method of adoption is through an agency for national or international adoption with cost running from $25,000 - $50,000.  

10) Adoption is not easy. The typical waiting period is 2-4 years. Most private adoptions fall through as do most national adoptions. International are more successful. If the adoption falls through you are back into a waiting period. Some adoption agency's will have a money guarantees so the will re-match you which may shorten that time period. Adoption through foster care is a process. They first select 40 potential parents, they narrow that down to 5 and then pick a parent from those 5. Then there is the parental severance journey which can and often does end up with the parental rights being restored and then your name goes back into the pool of potential parents (this varies depending on state). All adoptions are an emotionally draining experience. Infertility and childlessness intensifies the emotions of the process.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I am a Birth Mother

I encourage you to take a moment to jump over to this link: I am a Birth Mother. This is an incredibly poignant piece written by a birth mother about the decision she made.

Besides telling her story, she takes the time to share some things that she would prefer people not say to her when they hear she chose to give her child a better life. You can read that list below.

I am especially moved by the last bullet point. I continue to have people, fairly frequently, say something to me (an adoptive mother) along the lines of, "Which ones are yours?" or "Does he know his real mom is?" Of course, I never take these questions personally. I know what people mean. But I do think it is important to understand that a child's real mom is the person whom he calls MOM. 

I am Isaac's mom. He has another mother -- a birth mother. The respect and love we have for Bri is not something I truly feel I could ever adequately put into words. What I can put into words is that she is one person to Isaac and I am another. And we are both equally important parts of his life.

Here is the author's list of things that she finds unhelpful. I hope you can educate yourself with these points and also use them when speaking to adoptive mothers as well. Here are things she advises you not to say to a birthmother:

  • "I'm so sorry, I had no idea." Sorry for what? Don't give me your condolences. I am not in mourning. There was not a life taken. There was a life given. Given by my own accord. Not taken from me. Don't tell me you're sorry. I'm not. 
  • "I could never give my child up for adoption." All this implies is that a birth mom didn't love her child as much as you love your child. This says that the birth mom was careless, or selfish. This. Is. Not. The right thing to say. To that I always want to say, "Why couldn't you? Why couldn't you give your child the best possible life you could at that time in your life? Why couldn't you choose life and love over anything else? Why would you even have to think about that for a nano second?"
  • "Did you not want the baby?" Just. Don't. Of course I wanted him. I wanted him to live, to love, to flourish. If someone said, "hey you can breathe, or he can, what do you pick?" I'd start holding my breath. Just. Don't. 
  • "I'm sure it was the best thing/right thing for you at the time." Does anybody really, truly believe that birth mothers choose adoption for their own sake? It wasn’t best for me. Birth mothers don't think of themselves first. If it was best for the birth mother, she'd probably be the only mother. 
  • "Well you made the right decision." Maybe you think this is encouraging. But it's not. It's quite judgmental, actually. Do you go around to young, single mothers & say, "You made the wrong decision!" Probably not. So don't say that.
  • "Does he know that you're his real mom?" Uuuuuuum he knows that his mom is his real mom. He knows that I'm his birth mom. And by the way, when you say "real mom", do you mean that there are pretend moms, fake moms? What makes a mom a "real" mom? I'm really his real, real-life birth mom. And his real mom, who is real, is his real-life, real mom. Who happened to adopt him.

Military Moment: A new and improved home

A U.S. Marine asked his bootcamp buddy to watch his house while he was stationed overseas. He never could’ve predicted he’d return to find this.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Our Stuff (No, we don't have it yet!)

I am trying to have a good attitude about the fact that we are going on nearly a month late in receiving our stuff. (It's funny that we call it that. Is that all it is? Just stuff? Really puts things in perspective.)

Anyways, we are going on three months without our things.


If I am being honest, we are doing absolutely a-ok. We have everything we need. Loans of air mattresses, a table, buying a cheap couch, and a baby gate have made this totally doable.

However, JB took a month of terminal leave. A big reason for that was making sure he was home and able to help me when the movers came -- to make sure we had time to unpack and get things in order.

It's why we packed out the first week of April. That date gave us a "stuff arrival" of June 3rd.

Yeah. Ummmm ... that didn't happen.

And now JB has to go back to work. He starts his job as an emergency medicine physician the first week of July.

I am trying not to blame the military or make them out as the bad guys. I will never speak badly against the military. They paid for my husband's medical school and gave us an awesome adventure and did many wonderful things for our family. Most everyone in my life is a part of this pride-filled organization.

Honestly, I don't know whose fault this is. All I know is that it is ridiculous that a person can ship out everything they own and people not give any information as to where it is or when it has arrived or when it will be released.

I have connected with four other families who are "on our boat." (Literally, their stuff was supposed to be on our ship.) A few are worse off than us. Their vehicle is on the boat. Thank the Lord our vehicle went out on an earlier boat. (I can't imagine the cost of renting a mini van for over a month!)

Right now we are simply waiting for the port in Baltimore to pull our crate off the boat and call our moving company and tell them that they can load the truck and get us our stuff. The moving company in the USA keeps calling them. They can't really get any reply at all. They just get a, "We'll let you know when we get to it," reply.


In addition, the American moving company has told us that when they do get word our stuff has been released, it can still take a lot of time to schedule a delivery. Apparently, the port only gives the moving company two hours per day that they are allowed to come and load up the truck.

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.

I've also heard that our shipment was miscoded in the Azores. I am not sure if this is correct or not. Could just be a rumor. But apparently we were supposed to be a Code 4 and are instead a Code 5 which means people care even less about everything we own being on their ship.

Again, can't make this up.

Your prayers for our stuff to get here are always appreciated. I know that there are bigger problems in the world, but man would it be nice to get the things that can make our house a home.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Currently Reading

Updated: I finished this book. A very easy, quick read. I didn't find it quite as powerful as recommendations, but I still really enjoyed it. It truly made me think about my life, evaluate its importance, and gauge what I am doing for God's kingdom. In addition, it really made me flashback to our mission trip to Nigeria in 2007. I'll give it two of three stars!

I am starting to make my way through the Facebook list that YOU and people like YOU helped me create. Here is a link to this list in case you missed it. I'm going to try to review each of these books as I read them as well. I'll keep ya'll posted!

First Ponytail (and a digression into bath time)

Firstly, Hannah is requiring a bath every night after dinner. I know a lot of parents who do baths every day, but frankly, we have just never had the stamina to keep up with that. Instead, we go about 3-4 times a week (on a good week). 

Actually, I just last week began the process of teaching the boys how to take a shower by themselves. The more that they can do independently, the better for everyone! (Except for the fact that it means they are growing up -- but that is another story altogether.) I am teaching them with baby soap to prevent eye sting-age. Unfortunately, they decided, while I was out of the room, that the soap should be Superhero lotion and used a half bottle! Note to Mommy: remind kids that soap ain't free!

Anyways, irregular baths have always worked better for us. Sometimes we do all the kids. Sometimes we just do the girls. Sometimes we just do Hannah. We let dirtiness from the day and our energy level determine bath frequency. I also will often do baths in the morning or afternoon some days as well. We found that when JB was working his normal workday in the military, there just wasn't a lot of family time. We didn't want to "waste" it doing baths. So instead, I'd try to do before JB got home. 

Okay, so I digressed a bit. Back to Hannah. She's into wanting to eat herself, and even if we do convince her to let us feed her, she wants to rub her hands in her hair vigorously and deeply and every night without fail.

I try to pull her hair back, both to keep it out of her eyes throughout the day, and also just to keep her from smothering food in it when she is eating. But she has figured out how to pull out any bows or clips (and even tiny little rubber bands!) I put in her hair. After her bath tonight, JB decided to do a full-on ponytail. How many babies can do a full ponytail at nine months old?! This kid has such an incredible amount of hair.

I'm actually not crazy about the ponytail, but I think I'll be using it until she figures out how to pull it out!

I so love being a mom. Each one of my kids is nestled into my heart in a different way. Isaac is his sweetness. Sidge is his passion. Abigail is her girlish charm. And Hannah for her chubby little giggles! What a blessing that I get to love them to oblivion.

Friday Funnies

Sidge was looking at the calendar, trying to figure out when his birthday was coming. He saw the blank day before January 1st and said, "Is that January zero?"


JB was playing with Abigail and grabbed her nose. She put up her hands and said, "Daddy, you take my nose. Now I no smell nothing!"


I have been teaching the boys that they need to set a good example for Abigail because she is watching and learning from them. One of these ways is how they act around traffic and big parking lots which is fairly new to us after our small Base life. We have been teaching the boys to stay five steps away from the edge of the road. Today, they didn't do a good job, and I reminded them to stay five steps from the edge of the road because Abigail was watching.

Sidge thought about this and suddenly, punched himself lightly in the face. "Abigail, I just punched myself in the face because you are watching and I want you to know that is not a good idea."


Often times, we don't tuck the kids in together at night, but last night, JB and I tucked Abigail in together. She tells us a long story about princesses almost every night. This night, at the end of the story, she grabbed both of our necks and said, "I love you dies ("guys")." So sweet.


The kids and Dad discovered a red-bellied woodpecker in the backyard.
Sidge: "Let's call him Ivan."
Me: "Ivan?"
Sidge: "Yes, like Ivan working on the railroad."


JB said good bye to Abigail one morning before he left for his permaculture conference.
Abigail: "Where you going?"
JB: "To farm school."
Abigail: "When I go to school?"
JB: "What kind of school would you go to?"
Abigail: "Seeping Boodie school (Sleeping Beauty School)."


When teaching the game Hotels to the boys, Isaac, when he'd run out of money, would keep saying, "Ugggh. I'm broken."


Abigail and I were playing Frisbee with Scrubs outside. Suddenly he stopped to go potty.
Abigail: "Scrubby is going pee-pee!" she said, crinkling up her nose.
Me: "Yes. Everyone goes potty. You go potty."
Abigail: "Yes, but I go on the potty!"


While playing the game Mouse Trap, Sidge suddenly said, "This is just like the game hotels." Now these games seriously appear to have absolutely nothing in common. I asked him how this could be. "Well, you build stuff in both games. That's the same." A stretch, but yes.


Sidge: "Math is totally boring."
Me: "I'm sorry you feel that way. It's very important. You need it."
Sidge: "Why do I need it?"
Me: "Well, if you are going to be a farmer, you have to know how much the goats need to eat."
Sidge: "Huh?"
Me: "If you have five goats, how will you know how much to feed them?"
Sidge: "That's easy. Five bags. One for each goat."
Me: "Yeah, but what if your goats eat two bags of food each. Then how much will they need?"
Sidge: "Hmmmm ..." (He adds for awhile and comes up with, "Ten!")
Me: "How did you know that?"
Sidge: "I guess I know some math."


After repeatedly burping as loudly as he could, I told Sidge I was going to give him a swat. Since it was a very minor offense, I just lightly tapped his bum so as to indicate I wanted him to work on not being rude at the dinner table. He looked at me and said, "That was not a very hard swat. Were you giving me mercy?"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Some housekeeping

I've had a few things I've been wanting to post lately. I've decided to go ahead and do one "big post" with a bunch of these housekeeping points.

I also wanted to share with you that our Sidge has been doing better and better post-move. I get asked about him a lot. Thank you to those who have been praying for him. We are really seeing the major stress and darkness that had been enveloping him, dissipating praise the Lord.

Okay, here are the things I have been wanting to share:
  • A great advertisement video on encouraging girls to be interested in Science.
  • A great video showing how to cut grapes in one big group!
  • A great video showing how to peel garlic. (My husband does this all the time!)
  • A story on Today about a surprise pregnancy for a mother who had carried another woman's baby through IVF. This gal has always encouraged me for her incredible character and pro-life views. 
  • An online piece on Today -- a letter from the Mom of an IVF baby. I love pieces like this as I always be an IVF mom due to our miracle Hannah.
  • If you have an item you would like to donate to our next online auction for Because of Isaac please send me an email at! We are hoping to unveil the auction in October. Remember, this can be things that are made or things just laying around your house that you are willing to pay shipping for for an online winner. 
  • A request to please consider buying and/or spreading the word about our T-shirts sales for Because of Isaac. We have now sold 24 shirts. Our goal is 75 so we have a ways to go, but we are getting closer. Here is a snapshot of the shirt (which is available in ten colors and both men and women's styles.)

Wee-wind Wednesday

I haven't done my Wee-Wind in a few weeks due to the move. I thought today would be a good day to restart it and to flashback to June 25, 1979. This was the day that my only sibling, Keith, joined the world. Keith's birth marks my earliest memory. I can actually remember going to the hospital to pick up my Mom. She was wheeled out holding him, and I remember thinking, "I wonder if we can keep that wheelchair. It'd be awful to play with!"

Today my brother turns 35. He is married to the awesome "AD" and has two daughters: Charleigh and Baylee. Happy birthday Big Keef! Here are some pictures moving through our life chronologically. 

A picture of our entire family -- Keith and his wife AD and his two daughters and JB and I with our three kiddos before Hannah was born.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I'm not a photographer

I'm not a photographer. But there are moments when I think, "My goodness. If I thought like a photographer all the time, it would be incredibly exhausting." This was one of those moments. I was outside. Abigail was wearing a black and white dress. She was holding a yellow bottle of bubbles and big yellow bows were on her dress. The grass was so green and Scrubby matched so well. I just had to get my camera out! I love Abigail trying to get Scrubs to play bubbles with her. (Normally, he actually goes after bubbles, but he and I had just finished paying Frisbee and he was pretty tired!)

Monday, June 23, 2014

For anyone who thinks Dals don't shed

Another Day of FUN!

JB attended a permaculture conference for three straight days. So with that over, we finally had a day together as a family. Time for some fun. We visited an awesome discovery center about 45 minutes from our house. It had an awesome indoor area and a beautiful 20 acres of wetlands outside. I can't believe some of the shots JB got:

Isaac LOVES to take pictures with his little digital camera. It is his favorite thing to do.

I absolutely love this picture of the boys. Might be one of my favorite ever!

Everyone watching Isaac take the photos. Sidge's hands on hips is a very "Huisman" like pose.

The kids got the choice to go inside or stay outside with Dad. Sidge was the only one brave enough to face the heat to do more "adventuring" with his Daddy.

Our crew!

Sovereign Over Us

Because of Isaac has just fully funded our third couple: Ryan & Briana. And while the money is done, the waiting is not. They are now ... waiting. Waiting for a birthmother to pick them. Their wait could be days. It could be months. It could be longer.

I wanted to share a song with you that Briana shared with me. To any of you out there waiting -- for a job, for a marriage, for a child, for reconciliation .... I hope this song ministers to you.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

It has begun

Hannah has left baby food behind.

She can open every cabinet and get into anything in no time flat.

She is climbing onto the kids' desks too.

She is letting go and taking one step.

And she is starting to make a HUGE mess. She had spaghetti so matted into her hair that only a bath would dislodge it.

Oh and speaking of hair, it is CONSTANTLY hanging in her eyes, and she has figured out how to get out any bow or rubber band I put in it!

(She found big sister's markers today too ... check out the purple swipe under her nose.)

Grocery shopping

On Thursday I went grocery shopping by myself.

I cannot tell you the last time I said those four words in a row:


JB was planning to be at a semi-local Permaculture conference for three straight days. He'll be home in the evenings, but the days will be long, and I won't have a vehicle to make last-minute food runs. I needed to make sure I had everything the kids and I needed for a long weekend.

And, um, I have to cook dinner three nights in a row. That's more times than I cook dinner in a month right in a row.


So I went ...


And during my adventure I discovered two non-disputable truths.

1. Grocery shopping by yourself is an entirely different experience than grocery shopping with one, two, three, or four children in tow.

In fact, it is even different than grocery shopping with your husband. Last week I had told my husband, during an experience with our family of six at the grocery store, that I would leave the shopping to him. "I just don't like it," I said. "It's not for me." He was glad of this because he does the cooking, and he doesn't like my "frugal" choices when it comes to something as important as food. (John buys quality. I'm trying to do the same but the Dutch-girl in me wants to spend as little as I can.)

Grocery shopping by yourself means next-to-no talking. You can move slowly and leisurely and think and just be. It was absolutely and utterly glorious. No one asks you any questions. No one touches anything they are not supposed to. No one gets in a fight over the steering wheels and fake buttons in the little cart. No one wants you to buy anything with sugar (except yourself! You can buy a candybar on the way out and eat it without sharing any of it!) There are no bathroom breaks or diaper changes or crying. No crying at all!

It's even better away from the Base. On Base, I see people I know constantly. That really interrupts your "in-the-zone" flow.

I had a simply amazing hour to myself. And not only because I was by myself but because of the reason I will list in my next point.

2. Grocery stores in America are simply unbelievable.

I really planned on avoiding this topic on my Blog. I mean, I've written about the lack of choices while overseas so often that I truly felt I just needed to keep my yap shut about it. Who cares about that? I have been warned, repeatedly, that people don't want to hear your, "When I was in ___ stories."

But my Blog is very different than conversations I have in person. This is my Blog. People read by choice. And if you don't want to hear my, "When I was in ____ stories" you can totally not read anytime you like. (You obviously can't avoid listening to me in person nearly as easily.)

People may not care that much about the difference in grocery stores.

But, well, see, the thing is I care about the differences in grocery stores.


I cannot even begin to estimate how much bigger a typical Kroger is than the Commissary we shopped at in Turkey and the Azores. If I had to guess I would say at least six and maybe even as much as ten times as large. You really could not spend more than about thirty minutes in the Commissary on either of my previous Bases. It was just too small.

But in the USA?

I venture to say I could spend hours.

Today I saw an ENTIRE cereal aisle! Box after box after box. Oh to have those choices when I was so sick and pregnant and just begging to find something that sounded good. An entire aisle! Incredible. There is an entire section of the store devoted to organic and natural and healthy foods. The deli counter is full and bursting at the seems. I think there were donuts nearly everywhere I looked. There are no empty produce shelves. The produce is colorful and rich and not over ripe. Oh and the ice cream freezers seemed to go on without ceasing!

I honestly just couldn't help but write this blog. I couldn't help but share the beauty I found today


Sigh ...

To my Turkey friend Stebbins, this might be just as good as a cold Coke!


Speaking Again

My friend Angelica who lives in Japan has lead the efforts to get me to speak via webinar at her church in Japan! I'm excited, and always a bit nervous, to get back into the speaking saddle. I have also committed to speak at a MOPs group in the early Fall as well. I'm cautiously considering speaking engagements, remembering my vow to keep life slow and simple. Either way, speaking at this event makes me feel like Angeilca isn't quite as far away as she really is! :)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

NIV Adventure Bible for Early Readers

Ready for Adventure? The Adventure Bible for Early Readers takes you on a fun, exciting journey through God’s Word. Along the way you’ll meet all types of people, see all sorts of places, and learn all kinds of things about the Bible. Most importantly, you’ll grow closer in your relationship with God. Here’s a quick tour through the features:
  • Life in Bible Times - Articles and illustrations describe what life was like in ancient days
  • People in Bible Times - Articles offer close-up looks at amazing people of the Bible
  • Let’s Live It! - Hands-on activities help you apply biblical truths to your life
  • Did You Know? - Interesting facts help you understand God's Word
  • Words to Treasure - Great verses to memorize
  • Twenty special pages - Games and other Bible fun, all with a jungle safari theme
  • Book introductions, a dictionary, and color maps
  • Includes the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) that is perfect for children learning to read and explore the Bible for the first time on their own.
I was immediately impressed with the cover of the book. It is, in short, really cool. It is 3D and just something that will grab kids attention.

This 1,584 page book says it targets ages 6 to 10 years old. I think that is probably pretty close to accurate, but I personally feel that my 6 year old is a little young to fully appreciate this Bible. He looked at the cover, smiled, and quickly handed it back to me. 

I can read this with him, but he can't really claim ownership of something this large quite yet. However, while Scriptures may be confusing for early elementary school children, they will be able to start gleaning information from the added features which are colorful and sprinkled throughout the book. Having parents read the word aloud and discuss the topics would be beneficial even if the child can't quite read the book himself yet. And, as children get older and understand more about God, the Bible can come to life in their lives.

A huge thank you to who is letting me have a copy of this awesome Bible in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Of course it's a first world problem!

In 2007, my husband I spent a month in Nigeria with three friends.

We worked in a Christian HIV center.

We saw people dying -- literally wasting away as we watched. We saw bodies of those who had just died. I watched a man faint in front of me and die as my husband and one of our friends tried to help. We saw children starving. We saw a man who had just blown his hand off in an explosion unable to get medical care because he didn't have money. We watched people turned away from surgery because the hospital couldn't come to an agreement on a $10 post-surgery exam. None of the people we fellowshipped with had running water or more than occasional electricity. JB diagnosed a woman with blood pressure so high, he thought she might die on the spot. I sat next to a little boy dying liver disease. His mother asked us to help. Our friend Ajit explained to me that without a transplant (which was impossible) he would die. There was nothing we could do then. I saw people who lived in sheer squalor. I saw people eternally grateful because I gave them one Tylenol. I repeatedly met people diagnosed with HIV. Children dying from a disease they didn't ask for. Women dealing with infertility who had no means of improving their chances. Wives of cheating husbands condemned to live with HIV. Widows. Orphans. You name it. We saw it.

(The woman in the picture top right above is making lunch at a local orphanage where dozens of teenage boys live without parents. The picture at right is a young mother holding vigil at her sick baby's bedside. And the man below is facing complications of HIV.)

I returned to America completely changed. I remain changed to this day. While I can sometimes forget what I saw, I am quickly reminded of the wonders of my own life. I will always remember the challenges I witnessed in Nigeria. It will always impact my perspective.

I am greatly aware that every single problem I have is a FIRST WORLD PROBLEM.

But that does NOT mean it is NOT a problem.

I write this post because I am so incredibly sick of every first world person I meet prefacing any complaint that they make with, "I know this is totally a first world problem."

They preface it that way because so many well-meaning people remind them, continually, how much worse it could be.

Of course it could be worse.

It can always be worse.

Unless you find the person who has had it the absolute worst in the whole, wide world, then it can be worse.

Even for those people in Nigeria. Amidst rampant HIV and poverty and death and squalor, I would overhear conversations about a lost cell phone, a broken engagement, a gossiping friend, an overly nosey neighbor.

You know ... normal stuff.

Every person is entitled to grieve their frustrations and sadness and pain. Obviously, we do not want to be bitter. We do not want to forget the blessings in our life. But we are also entitled to moan because we burned dinner. We are allowed to groan because our favorite pair of shoes broke.

I do not believe we need to preface our problems with, "I know this is such a first world problem to be complaining about."

Of course it is.

We live in the first world!

And let me tell you that people who live in the third world, still complain over first world things. They get frustrated by small things that really don't mean much in the grand scheme.

I write this post not for the person doing the complaining but for the person on the receiving end of the complaint. Do NOT tell the complainer, "Well, it could be worse." Do not make them feel badly about sharing a difficult part of their day.

Instead, pray with them. Love them. Hug them. Of course we should all remember how good we have it. Of course they could have it worse.

But we can also remember to show love, compassion, and encouragement to everyone -- no matter what world they live in.