Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Adoption

Ah, adoption. One of the most beautiful things ever invented by man, or, more directly, inspired by God. I've obviously shown you how it's touched our family and continues to. For example, today was a reason for excitement connected to Adoption. We found out we have an extra month to get our dossier wrapped up! While we've technically finished our part, we need a couple more things from other agencies (namely our USCIS clearance) to be officially done with the dossier (and just so you know, the word Dossier almost makes me nauseous now after three times :) ). I haven't however, really told you how it all started, or what my view has been through all these years of experience.

I think my parents had always known they would adopt from the second they got married. My parents heard enough about it through the Christian Music community of artists they listened to and through friends who had adopted that we certainly knew what it was like. After my little brother Josh was born, My parents decided it was time to begin adopting children. Honestly, I kind of forget what it was entirely. I remember the social worker coming for our home study, seeing monthly pictures of our little Guatemalan baby, but I don't think anything really registered until my parents packed us all up in a van they had hired a driver to bring us down to JFK in and we were down in JFK airport in NYC awaiting our case worker with our tiny little girl. Back then Guatemala allowed children to be escorted out of the country by a social worker from the agency, so rather than my parents having to find a bunch of people who could watch us while they were in a foreign country, my Parents decided it would be better to have an escort for this time. My Parents got all excited when they saw our Case worker pushing a little stroller with our 6-month-old peanut in it. My Mom got to hold Gabby first, and hence got the welcoming baby spit-up :) which is a joke among the family to this day. After that, we got in the van and headed back home. I remember Gab was really out of it, and was pretty cranky until we got home. Once we got home, Dad plopped most of the already sleeping kids into their beds. I, however was up way past my bedtime.


This photo was taken at about 2 a.m. As you can see ,my 8-and-a-half year old sis was quite a peanut as a baby. :)

For the longest time, we were a family of Six. We didn't mind it either. And then, in 2008, my little brother Josh started lobbying for a little boy in China we were sponsoring. I won't show his picture since he's adopted now , but I'll guarantee you he was the cutest little guy I'd ever seen. He did this Popeye face as we called it that was simply precious. My parents prayed about it and decided we were gonna be a family of Seven. We found out our little sponsored child in China had already been referred to a family, so we stumbled across an agency called All God's Children and decided to adopt from Ethiopia. Our Dossier was done pretty quick, and then we were told to wait up to four months for a child to be referred to us. A month later, we got an e-mail with this little face:



 We were captured instantly. Even now, I couldn't believe how tiny and cute my little man was then compared to now. We signed all the papers, were completely ready for a court date so we could pass court and then travel to get him (you didn't travel for court with Ethiopia when we adopted). and then, our road  bump came. In transit to Ethiopia, our Dossier had gotten lost and we needed to redo our whole dossier. We redid it as quickly as possible and then we were back on track. Within a month or two we had passed court and were getting ready to head over. We decided just my Dad would go, and we would anxiously await them at home. My Dad had a problem-free trip to Ethiopia and within a week he was home
With Addisu. He has completely transformed our lives, and I feel that entirely. we all get our special times when Addisu likes to hang out or be with us, and I enjoy those greatly. I love him so much.

 Well, at this point, my Mom had found the Adoption blog community. She found out about Reece's Rainbow, and when we decided to do a yard sale to support them about 6 months later, my Parents decided to go again. This time, we will be bringing home our beautiful Jenny.

That's one adoption story for ya. I strongly advise you to consider if you haven't, and if you have once or twice, consider doing it again. It is truly taking God's call to care for the orphan and the widow to heart. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How blest we are with His Word

Over at Shining City Teens, my buddy Tori has been blogging about her experiences evangelizing in Peru. I can tell you from talking with her that It's every bit as amazing as she cracked it up to be. On that trip and in her latest post, Tori talked about how she realized the true hope and wonder of the Gospel. This weekend, I experienced it in my own way

This weekend has been quite productive. Not in a crazy way, but as compared to my normal lounging, swimming, and/or relaxing summer weekends, I kept myself a little busier. On Saturday, my church accommodated some Migrant workers who had five children ready for Baptism and one girl celebrating her Quincinyeta (It's a coming-of-age ceremony in the Spanish community that celebrates the girl's turning 15, as well as dedication to God to live a holy life). The proceedings consisted of celebrating mass, during which all these things took place. It was clear to see these people were so happy to have a church to celebrate these events in. They seemed so happy to hear the Gospel as well. I got the feeling that it was something that kept their spirits up. A lot of them probably don't have that much money, and I can't imagine travelling around the country to scrape together enough money to make a living. At the end when Father Oliver (our parish priest) encouraged them to come back anytime or as much as they could, they applauded him. It made me realize how thankful I should be that I have everything  I do, and that I have two parents who can get me and my siblings to Mass every week. 

Which brings on the next instance. Today was obviously Sunday. So, like every Sunday, my family wakes up early and we all go to Church together. As I thought about the day before, I realized how blessed I am to hear God-inspired words every Sunday. What amazing messages it holds. Even the Psalms, which aren't even part of the gospel ,are amazing to read. Knowing that King David, one of the greatest servants of God, had struggles and experiences just like yours can be both comfort and counsel.

So my point? Next time you're sitting in church, reading your Bible, helping on a mission trip or whatever, remember how blessed we are to have the Gospel. Don't just look at it as some smart people saying smart things; look at it as God's word directly to you and those around you. Look at how it can save,change, and renew faith and lives.

"The Word is alive, and it cuts like a sword through the darkness, with a message of life to the hopeless and afraid. The Word is alive, and the world and its glories will fade, but His truth it will not pass away. It remains yesterday and forever the same, the Word is alive."

Casting Crowns, "The Word is Alive"      

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wonderin'

Well I'm wonderin' 'bout the road ahead of me, wonderin' 'bout the things you said to me, wonderin' if these dreams will ever do? Well I'm wonderin' bout the way I spend my days, wonderin' if its even worth the chase, wonderin' if they're stealin' me from you.

-Tobymac, " Wonderin' "

Since I've been home from camp, I've had so much thoguht to process. Everything that went through my mind, changed, or started. On top of those things, there's real life as well. As most of you who know me would say, I tend to be a little bit quieter and more contemplative at times. I think a LOT about everything. I'm almost like my digital camera. When you go to playback mode, the lense zooms out and shuts off. Likewise, my eyes and ears tend to shut off and I'm left in my own thoughts. Lately, though, a couple of things occupy my thoughts.


Our little girl. What are her days like? What does she do? Is she well taken care of? What will it be like getting to actually go to Eastern Europe and pick her up? What will the plane and train rides (each about 12 hours apiece) be like? When we have to travel with her, what will that be like? How will she react ot me, a six foot male as compared to all the short little European women who run the place? What will we find out about her then and when we're home? I'm so excited to be picking her up. Taking pictures of her, taping mom's reunion and my first meeting with her (Mom and Dad will have already taken a trip before this one), getting to see her home country, and being on the recieving end of the welcome-home party at the airport and/or house when we arrive back.


If there is one thing I haven't mentioned Camp Veritas doing, it's turning my heart to consider the Call. Many of my ancestors considered it in their youth, and I would consider it an honor to be one. Just one problem: Priests have to take a vow of Celibacy (fancy word for no spouse/family). If it isn't clear yet, I LOVE little kids. I can't comprehend the joy of having my own and growing old with the most amazing person in the world to me (mind you I don't know who that is quite yet, or haven't gotten to that level with anyone I know). However Priests do minister to families a lot, and I'd have lots of loving people surrounding me. I'm still young, though, so I can consider for a couple more years.


School. It's that time again! I'm doing an actual Homeshooling program for High School to get a Diploma (as opposed to my Mom using multiple resources to make a custom curriculum) so It's easier to get into college. How will I do? Will I be able to pay for college or do well enough on My SAT's to get a good scholarship? Only time will tell.

And Last but certainly not least, am I living a life that praises God as much as I try or am I falling short? Probably falling short. But how much? Where can I improve on?

Then again, I think we all have our own struggles, And there are things we're all, well, wonderin' about.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Camp Veritas- Finale

That morning, I was up bright n' early and ready to go out with a bang. I had overslept about 37 minutes the last two mornings, but the second I opened my eyes, I shot them open and jumped into the shower. They had us do most of our packing yesterday afternoon, so I just packed up the last couple things and headed over to morning prayer and breakfast. The last morning is always pretty quiet. Some people sleep a little later, others are packing, others hangin' out and saying goodbyes to friends, and some reunite with Parents. All of me and my buddies kind of hovered around and waited. We had the excitement of our beloved archbishop coming to celebrate Mass for our last hurrah as well, so Ryan was flustered preparing for his arrival as well.


Let me tell ya a little bit about this guy; he is the biggest, funniest ,holiest, huggiest guy you are ever gonna meet. I've gotten to see him on about 5 occasions, and I absolutely adore him.

                                           My biggest surprise, though, came a couple minutes later. I was walking by the snack bar building when I heard a voice shout "Hey Caleb!" This was one of those moments. That voice was so eerily familiar, so unforgettable. But I almost didn't recognize the face I heard it from. The second  I did, though, it was all I could do to keep from crying. "You know me!" he exclaimed. and I certainly did. It was Max Shnicker, a boy all of the way back from '08. When I had first met him, he was a 16-year-old from Maryland with a crew cut and a young personality. Now, he was a long haired, bearded seminarian for my archdiocese. All week his brother said he couldn't remember where it was he was going to college, but He knew it was a male Saint whose name started with J. I should have known it was St. Joseph's, our seminary. I shouted "Of course I do!" The second I recognized him and we embraced. Embraces came still more when my parents arrived with Addisu and Gabby. We were all in tears to see each other, and were so happy to be together again. Mass was amazing with the Archbishop. Ryan even gave him a T-shirt for the camp (the archbishop claimed he fit quite snuggly in a medium and did not need a large)


I even got to talk to him!



Good-byes were hard this year. Lots of great people, so many great times, so much we all have to Praise God for. But in the words of Michael W. Smith, "Friends are friends forever, if the Lord's the lord of them"



Two of my best buds from this year.  I will never forget them. Ever.

On the ride home though, I had lots of time to think whilst I sipped a Frappe we picked up from a McDonalds's on the road home. I felt like this year, everything was much more strong emotionally, friendships, hardships, worries, good times, all of it. I tried to figure out what had changed from 2008 to 2010. It came to me pretty quickly once I thought good and hard about it. In '08, I went in (as well as all of us), we were young. We loved God to a certain level. We were all ready for a good time. By the end of that first Camp Veritas, all of that had changed. God's glory was on the forefront of our hearts, and we were growing in the Lord. In 2009 we all came back, looking ot take that love and form it into our lives so it changed us radically, and indeed that happened. And by this year, we were all grown up and living it in our own way. Some of us who were campers were now counelors. Some joined the Marines. Some even entered the seminary. While I'll still go back next year and for many more, the change God willed Camp Veritas to activate in kids has happened in the majority to my generation. While there will always be a new camper in my group, Ryan's given us the tools to prepare the next generation for the love of Christ within us through answering the calls Camp Veritas has given us. Thank you to Ryan and all the staff of Veritas for turning us towards God so wholeheartedly. For now, though. I'm happy to be home :)  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Camp Veritas- Part 5

So Thursday was pretty uneventful. Our Usual schedule ensued, but we had a couple events that were exciting.



(this pic wasn't taken that day, but It's a good picture of us) One of my greatest mentors, Fr. Luke Sweeney, the Vocations Director (or counselor) for my Archdiocese arrived that day. Very spiritual, very friendly, and a great teacher.



The Rock Wall. Yes, that lunatic at the top is, indeed, yours truly. The rock wall can only be compared to the climb that is your life's journey . At times your extremely confident and know exactly where you're going . And at other times, you have to stretch to find the next foot or handhold even if you're scared. And once you get to the top, It's all so worth it.



(Forgive my slightly crummy picture quality. Neon lights don't like my camera :) )

My pals the Kids (Mike and his wife Heather) gave a testimony to their marriage that night at our second pool party of the week. Such a beautiful marriage is .:)

Then came Friday. We all knew it was our last day, and there was a bitter sweetness in the air already. That didn't stop us from having some fun though.

  video

This was, bluntly put, a TOTAL BLAST! so much fun, and totally worth it.

From there, the day went pretty normally. Some fun sports and good times. That night though, is probably THE REASON the week is so amazing. That night, Fr. Sweeney took the Eucharist in the monstrance and stood face to face with us, Jesus Christ literally in his hands. Before that, they read the reading from the Gospel where a woman with deep physical afflictions was healed simply by touching the tassel on Jsus' cloak. To have The Eucharist directly in front of you was amazing. Anyone would tell you had they been in that room that there was something heavenly in there. All i did was look at the Eucharist. Didn't touch it, breathe on it, anything, and I knew God was there. After that,  I went to confession one more time before the end of the week. I really felt complete and clean and like I was in union with God, if only for a little bit. After that, we sang some praise and worship before heading to the Basketball court for the talent show. Before that though, I helped get the chapel ready for accommodating our parents tomorrow. After that,  I dropped by my cabin and picked up my guitar from my cabin and got a pepsi on my way there.   

Allow me to give you some background on Talent night at Veritas; the first year, I did the whole thing completely on the fly on my own. I think I truly DID NOT realize what  I was getting myself into. I became the "guitar guy from Camp Veritas" When I came back the next year, everyone begged me to get back up there. This year it was a little different. With our camp at it's biggest size yet, talent night was gonna be strictly group skits. I still managed to get my guitar in though. As I walked across the court to the performing area, people screamed, called my name, and applauded me. It felt so awesome  I was in shock. I rallied up the crowd and my group rocked our performance. While we did great and I got my usual back-slaps and "good job"s, My sister's group really stole the night and rocked Salve Regina (love you sis!) 

We hung out for a little bit before it was bedtime. Tomorrow was our last day, and I sure wasn't ready for the excitement that would bring either... 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Camp Veritas- Part 4

The next morning I ran through my usual make-myself-look-presentable for the day stuff and then I moved on to say some prayers before Br. Joachim led the morning meditation. But before that, I realized I hadn't done something yet this week. Even though it had only been about 36 hours since I arrived, there had been  to Confession every second of the day, and I just hadn't. I let the fact there was a "big line" get in my way. But as I saw that Fr. Justin, a Priest I'm both close to and who was our chaplain 90% of the week, sitting in the back corner of our makeshift chapel, I figured I'd seize the moment and go. While I'm not going to go into a huge dissertation about it. Confession really is so amazing. When you go, even though there's a Priest talking, listening, and sitting next to you, you know Jesus is there as well. You feel so liberated and free afterwards that it's hard to deny then as well. That day my counselor, Nick needed to cover some fireman duties, and so I'd get Mike (aka slippy guy from yesterday) as my secondary counselor.



Mike is one fun guy. He's a pretty killer athlete, and his wife Heather (Ryan's little sister) is pretty good too. Another couple that was around from year one who have just been great people to know :)

Our days activities went all pretty well. I even had some fun at our cantina (snackbar) with some campers who are now counselors

 

If my family had been there, I swear I would've been in the midst of perfect family of people. Never a dull moment. Always a funny one.

As I'm sitting out on the porch there. Brother Joachim's head pops up under the bench (on the left) and asks me if  I want to serve mass. For those of you who know me that are in my parish, you know I live for Serving Sunday Mass. It's an amazing way to participate and I love it entirely. 

From there came some dinner and some good fellowship. I always love hanging with the guys from my group, but a couple times that week I'd sat with Father Justin and the sisters of Life that were there. They've always got good advice and stories to tell. Never mind the fact we tend to talk about 15 minutes after Dinner's actually finished :D

from there we had praise and Worship. That night, we sang a song that wasn't in the songbook they gave us, but I had heard it before. Never until I actually sang How He Loves Us by David Crowder did  I realized the beauty of the song and what truth it has. While I got teary during a couple really great songs over the week. the beauty of this song overpowered emotion. Check it out in the linked text or look it up on my playlist at the bottom of the page. 

From there, we had the first pool party of the week. They start out by having someone giving their testimony, followed by us hanging out in the gym or pool areas, or just chatting and socializing with other campers. That night was gonna change a lot of what the week would mean to me. Even though he has gotten to for every year so far, Brother Joachim gave his testimony again this year.


This year however, he ended it with a bang: he had all of the kids the Friars bring up with them from the Bronx join him at the head of the group. He told us how these special kids were his testimony for the rest of his life. He then said he even had one going into the Marines. My first thought was that something like that would have spread through camp by now if that person was there, but when I was talking with some of the kids afterwards, they told me that one of them that was at the camp was in fact who Br. Joachim had been talking about. This guy had been around since '08. He had been the big prankster, the funny one. Never would I have thought this would be his vocation in life. Slowly throughout the week I talked with him about what training would be like, what it would consist of, and what had inspired him. But this was going to be a part of something even bigger I'd take away from the week. By the end of the night, I had had a lot of fun. My whole "Touch somebody's life if God wills it" agenda was far away from my main consciousness, when, all of the sudden, it snuck up on me. I was waiting with the rest of my group for Nick (who was back by now) to come and pick us up when, all of the sudden, one of the guys said something that took me completely off guard. "Ya know, Caleb" he started, "at the beginning of the week, we had rain, I was homesick, and I wasn't finding any real friends. But I saw how you buddied around with all of us and kept your spirits up, and I knew I could do it if you could."

I was in complete awe. I managed a quick "Aw, thanks man, it means a lot," but beyond that I was dumbfounded. I swore god had just floored me. Then we got back to my cabin, and Nick dubbed me his secretary because he said I was always organized and on-schedule. To top it all off, I got asked by my group to play the song we were gonna sing on guitar. It was just perfect. Absolutely perfect. I was beyond overjoyed. A great end to a great day.   

Monday, August 23, 2010

Camp Veritas- Part 3

I woke up the next morning nice n' early (7:00) and had an hour before morning prayer to get showered and prepped for the day. After that, it was onto morning prayer. Morning Prayer was really a great way to start off every day. It consisted of Br. Joachim, one of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (explanaition coming in a sec) reading a part of Matthew Chapter 11. After that, he would kind of give a meditation/explaination on what he had just read. To explain the friars, I could easily leave it at the phrase "amazingly spiritual and fun" all in caps and leave it at that. But I'll go a little further :) The Friars are a group that was started about 25 years ago based on the way our Beloved (and iconic) St. Francis ran his friaries. At this point, they're touching/evangelizing/living in almost every area of the world, and they have to be one of the most fun group of Religous men I've ever met. Here's a pic of Br. Joachim one morning:


Probably one of the greatest conversions ever to happen, so holy, and so humerous. He's been there since '08 as I have, and I respect him very deeply.

From there, all of us had a quick breakfast and a Rosary to pray before heading on to the day's activities, with continuing beautiful weather (NOT!)



Yep, my group had pool first period. on a foggy, 70 degree day, we got to go in a 70 degree pool who's heaters were taking a while to turn on. And, oh yeah, we're in the mountains, remember? LOTS of fun :D

Next, I had lake.

 

Alright, I don't care what weather it is, I could spend my life on the lake. Make a little house and chapel on shore, keep that yellow kyak (you can se it in the bottom right corner), get some books, endless food and a guitar and I'd be set for life. It's always peaceful. Always beautiful. A little shard of heaven's beauty.

After that, we had some lunch and two sports. Then, we had the tug-of-war we normally have on Sunday as a kind-of ice-breaker activity for campers. ALWAYS so fun.



For those of you who think you're seeing what you're seeing, yes, that is a Priest and a Friar in their full length, black and gray habits, participating in the Camp Veritas 2010 tug-of-war. I think we get some of the most fun-loving, religous, friars, nuns, and priests that exist.

After that, we had an egg toss. In the past, my partner's always been the one that got egged. This year, it exploded on me. I brought my hands out to fast to get an egg me and my partner had already dropped twice and it gave me to yellow elbow-length gloves. After spraying my arms with a hose, I watched the other people finish off the toss. As soon as we got back to our cabin, I washed, soaped, and deoderized (i.e. slathered my arms in soap and deoderant. Hey,I was desperate, people) my arms until the scent of eggs was finally zapped. After that, our day got pretty interesting. Daily Mass went off without a hitch, but at dinner, things got, well, interesting. We were all in our cafeteria, mostly waiting on the dinner line. I was catching up with my counselor from last year as we waited in line when all the sudden, it began deluging in the extreme sense of the term. A rumble of thunder comes, and then all of the sudden, BLAM! and a flash of light. Needless to say, a couple of teenage girls out of the 200+ people in the cafeteria screamed bloody murder, but something else had happened that I didn't find out about until a couple minutes later. To say the least, we realized our building had just gotten struck by lightning and that we were all fine. Well, all except one of us, that is. Mike, my counselor from '08, who may as well be the big brother I never had, had been running pel-mel and barefoot from his cabin when it started pouring. The good news was he had slipped into the cafeteria half a second before the lightning struck. However that was the bad news as well. He literally slipped straight into the cafeteria. He ended up being OK though, so it was all fine in the end.

That night, we had adoration in front of the Holy Eucharist that involved singing praise and worship songs and having plenty of time to pray with our Lord physically before you. It's just such a mystical beauty, to be there. Once you've been there, prayed there, stood there, cried there, you have no doubt that there is a God and the he really does exist in his full majesty.

After that, we got to hear brother P.T. (short for Pierre Touissant) give the story of his conversion and vocation story (this pic was taken at another time).


  I love those nights. They happen out on the lake. You're sitting there with some of the best people in the world around you, a warm bonfire blazing at the center of the group, listening to the most pure form of a love story that ever existed; that of falling in love with Jesus and experiencing joy beyond compare.

After that, you get some time to hang out on the volleyball court/cafeteria area. I got out my guitar and me and a buddy just jammed for two hours. A great ending to a great day. Tomorrow would have its fare share of joy too though....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Camp Veritas- Part 2

So the rest of the posts on camp will be either the days or experiences I remember clearly. Some days were pretty normal, but some of them I'll always remember so clearly. The general run-of-the-mill day for me ran by waking up an hour before breakfast to get showered and get to some morning prayer before breakfast, then breakfast. Pool first period (freezing cold water on a freezing cold morning makes for EXCELLENT penance hahaha) then the lake (I could have spent my whole day out there. I LOVE being in and by the water), followed by lunch, two hours' worth of sports, then time for everybody to hang out at the canteen/snack bar before going to mass. After that we ate dinner, participated in adoration/praise and worship, a testimony around a bonfire at the lake (SO beautiful) and then some free time before hitting the sack and starting the cycle again. But let's start from day 1.

Day 1 is pretty much your orientation. For me and Elizabeth (she's gone with me since '09) that really meant getting to reunite and catch up with all our old friends we loved so dearly. It's a great way to kick off the week. Every year we've gotten sunny (if not a little hot and buggy at times) and beautiful weather every year for drop-off day so far. Oh, yeah except for this year...


Rain. It was coming down in such voluminous amounts for such a period of time it wasn't even funny. If it hadn't been for the fact I was majorly too hyped up on camp excitement I would've been SO annoyed. But I was in such good company and a spirit of reunion I didn't let it kill me or the fun. Once you've been there and experienced just how present God is that week, not even a bolt of lightning (more on that later) will get your spirits down. After giving us about an hour or so to get used to and/or reunited and reoriented with the campus layout, they got us into our groups for the week and we rushed to our cabins so we weren't all crammed into the big cafeteria. Once we got back to the cabin and I saw my group, I realized how much God was already blessing my week. I had two Firemen from Long Island for counselors who were going to run this place like we were a bunch of Long Island firemen trainees. I liked them from the start. One was a big, manly, hysterical guy and the other was a stocky, well grounded guy who was gonna make sure we were well taken care of and well behaved. My group consisted of some good old friends, as well as some new guys I found myself liking already.

So, without further ado, here's my group:


While this pic wasn't taken until Friday, It's the only/best shot of my group. You can see my two counselors on either end of the group, and the rest of us scrunched in between them. A truly great and invaluable group of guys. we weren't without our faults, but we got along well enough and had a great week.

From there, we went to the makeshift chapel for the week and heard Ryan give a talk.


What an inspirational and Godly man. I admire him so much. He's like family to me, and his kids are the most precious little quintet of kids you'll ever see (next to ours of course JK).

We got to hear him give the first talk of the entire week (as is tradition) and then his dad, Grandpa Young gave a little intro to the mass that would happen after dinner. Ryan's parents are EVERYONE'S grandparents. Every year they treat you like you're their grandchildren, and they are such a beautiful model for a married life in its fullest.

So after that, we had dinner and then mass. In the middle of mass, it hit me like a brick in the head; my family ISN'T HERE! While I was relieved to remember I did in fact have my sis there with me, I hadn't been apart from my family for more than about 6 hours at a time that whole summer. I wasn't sure how I'd make it through. So I simply put it in God's hands and said "God, I offer this pain up to counter my homesickness and maybe even use that emotion that would be wasted on too much worry to touch some one's life by my actions and deeds to make it worth it for them personally. Did I? Well, you'll have to read on a little bit later in the week to find out!

I went to bed that night feeling like I had a great week ahead of me and that I had goals to accomplish. I had a talent show to rock, sports to win, and lives that needed to be touched, however God might lead me to that. And what morning and the rest of the week would actually have in store,and how God would blow my expectations completely out of the water, only time would tell.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Camp Veritas- Part 1

Hello All! I'm back and feeling very renewed and rejuvenated. But before I tell you about my experience, I should tell you about the camp itself.

Camp Veritas had its 1st year back in 2008 (which I attended!). It was the brain child of a guy named Ryan Young. Ryan had seen slowly but surely his entire family (he's one of 9, yes 9 kids and their parents!) came to a deep, fond, and devout relationship with Christ. But he realized that God had done that for a reason, and felt like that reason was Veritas, a camp where kids could be enriched and educated in the Catholic Faith  (the Camp gets it name from the Latin word for truth). To start out with, Ryan had about nothing besides his vision and his family's support. Slowly but surely, He gathered up a handful of counselors, about 60 campers and a beautiful campsite to rent out for a week. I found out about it through a small ad they put in my school's newsletter (that year I was in a Catholic school). To be honest, at first I did NOT want to go. If the kids were anything like the "Catholic" kids I had met at my school, there certainly wasn't going to be any kids who thought of their faith like I did. But after thinking and praying, I decided I'd give it a shot. To say the least, I think I entered a portal into earthly Utopia, maybe even tasted Heaven. I made lots of friends, fit in perfectly, and am still friends with most of them today. I got up the courage to perform at our talent show, and everyone who's seen me perform wants me to perform again. The amazing feelings  I came back with got me through a tough year of losing the school  I was gonna go to, the lows and highs of an adoption process, and losing a pro-life leader at the head of our government. When I came back to camp, I experienced an amazing healing and utter skyrocket into faith at new heights, and all levels of my life. So this year, I was SO excited to come back and see all my friends and regroup spiritually again. and so, over the next couple posts, the story shall begin......  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Addisu!

Alright, so even if yesterday wasn't Addisu's technical birthday, it was his big birthday celebration. Me and Elizabeth are leaving for a Camp for a week (which I will blog about when I return) and we all wanted to celebrate Addisu's birthday together.

Last year, even though Addisu was home, he had only been here about a month and a half. He still didn't get our culture our language ,or anything besides "Mommy," "Daddy," "Cabe (me)," "Debeth (Elizabeth)," Joshua and Gabby were his family. He didn't get why exactly we stuck some big chocolate cake in front of him or why we gave him presents in wrapping paper, but he kind of went along with it. This year though, was different. Difference Numero Uno:


This little guy LOVES his cake now. As you can see, he doesn't have the whole three-year-old portions thing down, but at least he knew he wanted "Chocate Cake" for his "Birtday."

Last year, we were getting him some little developemental toys to get all of his fine motor skills up to date even though they were pretty great already. This year he got this. Difference Numero Dos:

  

Addisu had been enjoying Gab's Dora Kitchen set (seen adjacent to the workbench), so we figured we'd get him the boy equivalent. and needless to say he was surprised instead of confused. I tried to upload the video, but it wouldn't let me because it was probably too long. alas the trials of blogging :D

But nonetheless, Happy birthday Addisu! It's been a crazy 13 months, but we wouldn't change it for the world!

See you in a week! I'll be back with pictures and plenty of posts telling of my time at Camp Veritas!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Should you be Hungry for more?


I figured I would do this post for multiple reasons. A) I thought I'd give you an idea of my literary tastes, and B) Review the first book in a series that will release its final chapter in a short while: The Hunger Games series

Elizabeth lent me her copy to read after she and my buddy Tori (look for her blog in the "Links and Resources page") had sang its praises as one of the best novels of late. To say the least, I did nothing but read for the three days it took to read this. The story is very compelling and definetly a good thriller novel as well, on top of being very compelling in the fact that it puts us in a reality not too hard to imagine, and makes your really think about what you would do in Katniss's situation.

This book (and the two following, Catching Fire and Mockingjay) are centered around and narrated by a girl named Katniss Everdeen,aliving about a hundred years into the future. North America is now a piece of history long forgotten. Rebellions, fammons and starvation ravaged and eventually obliterated the country's existence. Out of its ashes rose Panem ( ironically very close to the latin word for bread), a country made up of 12 (technically 13) districts and ruled by one supreme Capitol. Katniss lost her Father in a mine explosion at a young age, and took on the job of risking her neck to illegally hunt for food in the wilderness outside the impoverished District 12 she calls home. Her only true friend besides her little sister is a boy named Gale who hunts with her. Every year, the Capitol assembles what is known as the Hunger Games. Established after a now-decimated District 13 waged a sizeable rebellion on the Capitol, the games consist of taking two kids (one of each gender) ages 12-18 from each district and pitting them all against each other in an arena. The objectives? For the kids, it's to be the last one standing, thus winning food and riches for your district. For the Capitol though, its a public example of what they will and can do to the districts in order ot keep peace. When Katniss's little sister gets picked out of thousands of names from their district, Katniss steps forward to save her timid sister from certain death in the arena. But the catch comes when the male tribute, a boy named Peeta, is chosen. Katniss remembers Peeta's kindness to her years ago in a time of need. Now she will have to not only survive, but possibly kill him and other teenagers to survive and win. will Katniss make it out alive? Will she have to kill someone she finds herself increasingly attracted to?


   As stated before, the compelling story, twist on the future, and the "what would you do?" aspects of the story make this thing stick in your hands like crazy glue and really learn to care for the characters and their plights. On the other hand, some people may not agree with some of the choices our protagonists make. While it's clear in the arena who's more adverse to killing and who's not, other moral lines get blurred a little bit. (Spoiler Warning!) While it is noble that Katniss pretends to be in love with Peeta to keep them both alive (and is, in truth unsure how much she's just acting), she only reveals to him much later that she does not return Peeta's feelings towards her. While it is meant to be for survival purposes, the two do share a sleeping bag to combine body warmth on a couple occasions when it gets cold. So while it may be for survival, in an age where so many moral lines are blurred about such topics, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable putting that in my book.

     In the end, I very much enjoyed the Hunger Games. Being set in such a unique storyline as well as reading this girl's every thought as she experiences hunger, pain, love, and loss makes it all the more compelling. But I can only hope that by then end of Cathching Fire, and certainly by the end of Mockingjay, Katniss has a better idea of the difference between survival and morals.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Brotherhood

So as you may have picked up yesterday, I am a big brother to a BIG and growing brood of children. At this point, I've seen what it means to be a big brother from almost every angle. The first time when it happened with Elizabeth, I was kind of clueless being I was an 18 month old. At this point I see it as having a fellow teen I can talk to about anything who'll always be there. When it happened with Josh, I was just beggining to understand what having a new addition was like. Now I realize it's a different concept from having little sisters because of being the same gender . When it happened with Gab, I realized how much I LOVED having babies in our house. At 7, I was the ultimate baby-sister lover who made up some silly nickname for my new baby sister every time  I saw her. Now I realize how much adoption can change your heart/ the way you, um Older-sibling-ify (I don't know of any word like parenting for older siblings) things. When it happened with Addisu, I saw more of what it meant to be a bigger influence/example/caretaker to a sibling. This time around when we go for Jenny, I'll be seeing what kind of culture change an adopted sibling can go through since I'll be traveling to Eastern Europe to pick Jenny up.

With the benefits of being an older sibling and learning so much, responsibilities come as well. Things like sitting in the back seat of your family's van to assist your youngest sister with the pain of two recently pulled teeth so your mom can drive safely, or watching your baby brother while your Mom goes to a doctor's appointment. Mom and Dad have both said that these things are majorly helpful. I couldn't help but think why that was. It didn't kill me to hang out with Gab for a slightly longer car ride or help out with Addisu a lot. The only thing that could come to me was that there isn't a lot of that going on in my generation. Teens REALLY don't like to do that kind of stuff just because it's helpful. It gets in the way of them doing, well, what we like to do. I'm not always very obliging to help out. Sometimes I'd like to do something other than play wii or jump on the trampoline with Addisu. But I see it as our duty to be great role models to the next generation so they can avoid some of the mistakes (drug addiction anyone?) that our generation has been manifested in. I know some of you may not necessarily have biological siblings, there is always some little guy or girl looking up to you. From the little kid that passes you in the mall to the kid at church who manages a quiet hello to you every Sunday. So my point? 1) If you have little siblings, treat them like gold. A good relationship with your sibs will be invaluable when you all grow up. And if you don't, be a good role model to the little kids all around you.

 What God has promised is for you, your children, and those far away (Acts 2:39)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My world

So far, I've done two posts (two very good posts in my humble opinion :) ) I've covered the main purpose of this blog, and one of my favorite art forms (film) Now, I figured it was high time I more formally introduced myself.

This is me! I'm a pretty simple teenager trying to live for God and spread his message through the life I live. I'm pretty bookwormy, love going to a good movie, Playing my guitar (performing is something I'm getting comfortable with as well!), and helping take care of my family's three-year-old tornado (more on him in a sec).


This is my little sis. My best buddy. We'll do anything from talk about life to see a movie together to read the same book to try the other one's musical tastes. Having a teenage sibling when you're a teenager rocks :)

 
This is my little bro. My oscar-winning actor, my comedian, the fun-lover. We'll wrestle around in the pool, go see movies together (a trend that runs in the family), play outside, and other fun boy stuff like that :)

 
And now let the adopted generation begin! This was our first adopted addition from Guatemala, and boy did she open our hearts to it! (read on to find out why)


 
This is him! Our family baby from Ethiopia, home just over a year, and a 3 year old package of adventure! Hysterically daring, surprisingly sassy, and incredibly cute.


And last but CERTAINLY not least, my two loving parents. These two have obviously had a pretty strong 16 1/2 years together to bring 6 kids into the world/out of a third-world country. which brings us to-



Jenny! This is our little baby We are bringing home from Eastern Europe! To follow the adoption more closely, visit Hope4everychild.blogspot.com


So that's the Fam! they'll all make their appearances at some point, and they mean SO much to me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Inception- As dreamy as it seems?

So as a general disclaimer to y'all, I AM NOT opposed to all levels of culture, just the ones that Jesus would have taught us not to follow or buy into. I still shop at my local mall, wear normal clothes and read lots of mainstream books. I also see LOTS of movies. My recent gold mine came in a package called Inception.

While I hadn't mustered the courage as a 13 year old to see Dark Knight in theaters, I had greatly enjoyed Batman Begins when it came out on DVD. I found the reality and morale the story carried incredibly compelling and intriguing, so naturally when I saw and read about Inception my interest piqued. It certainly sounded interesting. Let's give a story rundown (this may contain some minor spoilers, though so readers beware).

"It allows you to build whole Cathedrals, things that could never exist." So says Dom Cobb to his mentor about the dream worlds he makes his living off invading. But Cobb knows better than anyone what can and can't be done in these alter realities. All that reminds him of what's real and what's not is a little top that will only stop spinning in the real world that reminds him what world isn't a figment of his imagination. Cobb hires himself out to major corporate powers, stealing their competitor's secrets from their subconscious mind (otherwise known as Extraction), in hopes they can clear up some issues that keep him from seeing his two little kids, Phillipa and James. When Cobb and his best pal Arthur botch a job and end up being hired out by the person they were sent to extract information from, they're given a big challenge: instead of extracting and idea, planting one. In turn, Cobb can go him Scott-free and raise his kids. Cobb needs to assemble and prep a team ASAP, and they need to seize a small window of opportunity to perform their job. But if one thing goes wrong as they descend multiple layers of subconsciousness, they could end up in in a mental void, unable to wake up. Will they perform Inception successfully?

Right off the bat, I LOVED this movie, the special effects, action, story, and characters all made for a summer masterpiece. But one thing pokes you the whole movie: how, just how far, would you go to achieve the greater good? In order to perform Inception, the team has to spew lies like a train would smoke. In order to wake up if no one else can, you have to commit suicide, kind of making it seem insignificant ( most of the time the characters think twice before they do though).

So in the end, Is it worth seeing? Totally. But just remember two of the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not lie and thou shalt not kill. Remember that, and then become entranced in the world of Inception :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Begining the Fight

Recently, I saw a commercial on TV. It was for an "Endless" Personal indoor pool. The thing was just long enough for someone's body lengthwise, and it had a bar at one end you could hold onto as a current of water was propelled at you (making it one "endless" lap). To me, it seemed like a perfect example of what our culture doesn't want you to do: swim against a tide. We're living in a world in which culture has no room for uniqueness or difference of beliefs; we're supposed to go with the crowd, no matter how dumb/dangerous/wrong it seems (or is). The ideas of the past (like Christianity or Morality) are now obsolete. And to that I say...

Wrong.

God is still calling us to be his children. To love him, to fight for our beliefs, to do what he taught us, no matter how "Uncool" we look to most of society.

Welcome to the fight. Welcome to my blog. Let's start fighting the tide.