Life in the Fishbowl

Living by the Todd Family Motto: "It behooves us to live." I want to change the world.

Life in the Fishbowl - Living by the Todd Family Motto: "It behooves us to live." I want to change the world.

I’ve become a walking cliché

Cliche

A few weeks ago, I wrote a little bit about my new job with an elementary school in the area. Even though it’s a tough job and can be emotionally exhausting at times, I really do love the job. There was one day not too long ago that the whole day was one meltdown after another, followed by one blowout after another. And all I could do was smile. I just couldn’t help myself.

I know.

Predictable, right? It’s like I’m saying this because I’m supposed to say it. Much like an award nominee says “It’s an honor just to be nominated.” It’s so…cliché.

Cliché: A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought…A very predictable or unoriginal thing or person. – Oxford Dictionary (emphasis mine)

Oh, but that’s not all…

I didn’t mention that I also have another job. It’s at a Christian bookstore. I know, right? Where else would you expect a former pastor to eventually wind up? Of course!

Oh, I’m still not done…

Guess what this Christian bookstore does with all of its earnings. All proceeds from their sales go to support ministries that primarily focus on caring for orphans and widows. Earlier this year, there was a stirring in my heart. I started to think that maybe I needed to spend more of my time and talents in a career that was about actually helping other people instead of merely helping other people make money. I realize that’s a bit of a false dichotomy, but that’s how I felt.

So, of course I’m working with kids with special needs. And of course I’m working at a store that’s giving away all of it’s profits.

It’s just so…cliché.

But I’m OK with that.

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Looking back: 10 posts for 10 years!

10 posts for 10 years

It seems this has been a week of significant milestones for this humble little blog. I published my 2000th post a few days ago. And then this weekend marked the 10th anniversary…or “blogiversary”…of this blog. I want to thank you again for sticking with me. It’s been quite a ride, hasn’t it?

Over this ten year span, I’ve written about a lot of different life experiences. Some were great. Some were awful. Horribly awful. Here are some highlights from the past decade…

  1. I shared my seminary experience.
  2. We said goodbye to my nephew.
  3. I discussed my most memorable travel experiences. This list was written in 2006. There are several more memories I can add (like two trips to Florida and a life-changing trip to Ethiopia to bring Mihret home). I’m all about making memories with my family!
  4. When we left Tennessee and returned to Indiana, I shared a few more memorable goodbyes I’ve had along the way.
  5. I’ve shared quite a bit about coaching instructional baseball.
  6. For the second time in less than a year, I had to say goodbye to colleagues at work thanks to layoffs. The day after the second layoff, my father in law died. Man, I still miss him.
  7. Philmont Scout Ranch always manages  to show up in a post or two a year. I think this one about leadership lessons is my favorite.
  8. I’ve shared some fun stories, too. Like the time I had to break into my parents’ house. And how I proposed to Christy.
  9. Of course, our lives were changed when we brought Mihret home. I wrote about that. A lot.
  10. And there’s always Star Wars. Give me that Star Wars. Nothing but Star Wars.

OK. That was actually more than 10 posts. But how can you pick just ten out of two thousand? I’ll tell you how…

You can’t.

Thanks for looking back at the last 10 years with me. I can’t wait to discover what happens next!

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Just in time for Christmas: An Auction for our Adoption.

Family of Six
Christy has been hard at work putting together an online auction to help cover some of our adoption fees. Generous friends, family, and businesses have donated some great items for this event. You should head on over to the auction’s facebook page and check it out.

Here’s how it works. Once you find something you’d like to bid on, write your bid in a comment under that specific picture. Please include your name and email address . If you would like to bid over a current bid, simply comment under the original bid with your name and email address! The highest bid at the close of the auction on November 24th wins! IF THERE IS SHIPPING LISTED, PLEASE COMMENT WITH YOUR BID IF YOU WILL NEED SHIPPING. We will gladly deliver in the Indianapolis area (if you’d like to ask about other arrangements, let me know).

Here are a few highlights from this auction. Hurry! The auction closes November 24th!

One of a kind elephant painting

Elephant painting
Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! We’re excited to present this one of a kind gift to the winning bidder: FOUR (4) tickets to the Indianapolis installment of the Ringling Bros. Circus plus a Certified Pachyderm Painting – what an awesome keepsake!
You can place your bid here.

Hand made paper necklace

Paper necklace
This paper necklace was hand made in Uganda. If you’d like to place a bid, you can do so here.

Silk scarf from Ethiopia

Ethiopian scarf
We bought this scarf from a small shop in Addis during our trip to bring Mihret home. Click here to place your bid.

Premier Designs Autism Awareness Spectrum Necklace, bracelet, and earrings

Autism necklace Autism bracelet
This beautiful necklace, bracelet, and earring set from Premier Designs can be bid on here.

Family Photo Session

Lantern Tree Photography

A one-hour photo session from Lantern Tree Photography ($150 value). Shannon took our first Family of Five portraits. It’s so cool that she’s part of our journey to become a family of six! You can bid on this session here. Please note that this photo session must take place within the Indianapolis area.

But wait! There’s more!

There’s so much more available in this auction. Please go check it out and bid to your heart’s content!

Thank you for your ongoing support!

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2000 posts!

I started blogging 10 years ago this month. I think it’s kind of cool that I’ve reached this milestone during this month.

image

With an average of 200 posts a year, that’s a lot of writing. Some of you have been with me from the very beginning. Some of you are visiting for the very first time. To all of you who have shared this journey with me, thanks for being part of my little corner of the interwebs!
And I look forward to celebrating another 2,000+ posts with you 10 years from now.

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We’re sending a Northpole gift to Ethiopia with love

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias #NorthpoleFun #shop

The Christmas Spirit has come early to our house this year! Because our adoption agency has officially matched our family with an older boy in Ethiopia, we can start sending him emails, letters, pictures, and care packages. That means we are able to send him Christmas gifts this year.

Let me say that again.

We’re sending Christmas gifts to our son in Ethiopia!!

To Ethiopia with love #NorthpoleFun #shop

Of course, we’d prefer to celebrate the holidays with him here with us at home, but we’re going to make the most of this opportunity and share this Christmas with our son who happens to be halfway around the world. It’s tempting to want to go overboard. But we won’t. I promise. We won’t. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved in this story.

I’ve thought long and hard about what to send him. We still don’t know a whole lot about him. What makes him tick? What’s his favorite color? What size clothes fit him best? Does he believe in Santa Claus? I honestly doubt he’s even heard of Santa. What about snow and snowmen and snow angels and snowballs and snowball fights? Has he ever had a snowball fight?

Well, considering that the coldest month only has an average low of around 40 degrees, it’s highly unlikely that he’s ever seen any significant snow accumulation. So it’s even less likely that he’s been involved in a snowball fight.
Avalauncher #NorthpoleFun

There’s always a chance of a white Christmas where we live. So this young man is in for a pretty big shock when he finally experiences Christmas with his new family. Thanks to Hallmark Northpole toys , he’ll know exactly what to do with the snow (once he gets over the initial shock at how cold snow actually is).

Northpole Collection at Walmart #Northpole #shop

The Avalauncher is available only at Walmart. It is a handheld launcher that sends ping pong sized foam snowballs soaring into the air. It’s such a blast to play with that we bought two of them . It also comes with mini cardboard targets so you can work on your aim in preparation for your next epic indoor snowball battle.

Avalauncher targets #NorthpoleFun #shop

Based on the upcoming movie on the Hallmark Channel, the Northpole toy line is full of fun toys, decorations, and gifts for the holiday season. You’re sure to find a gift for kids and adults of all ages.

In keeping with the childlike spirit of Northpole, I can’t wait to share this little piece of holiday fun with our new son! We won’t be sending the Avalauncher itself. He’ll have to wait until he’s home with us to play with that. But we are sending snowballs and the targets so he can practice his aim and be ready for an all-out snowball battle when he finally comes home with us.

We’ve already had several skirmishes and ambushes over the past few days. I think that tend will continue throughout the holiday season – and beyond!

I can’t wait for him to receive this package. I also can’t wait to have our first video chat with him. Who knows? Maybe we’ll break out the Avalaunchers and snowballs and have an epic battle that spans halfway around the world. That would be pretty memorable. And making memories a key part of the holiday season.

 

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My dirty job

I have started working as an Instructional Aide in a Life Skills classroom at an area elementary school. Here’s what I experiencedexperienced during my first week:

I’ve been hit.

I’ve been scratched.

I’ve been spit at.

I’ve been pooped on.

I was *this close* to getting thrown up on.

And I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Sure, it’s tough. And it isn’t for everyone. But I think this is the most fulfillment I’ve felt from a job in a long time because I have the opportunity to launch a life every day.

"I have become convinced that if God stands a child before you, for even just a minute, it is a divine appointment. You have the chance to launch a life, if you will. You never know when you are making a memory." - Wess Stafford, "Just a Minute" page 15

Yeah, it’s a dirty job. But I get to do it. And it might not get much better than that.

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Powerful stories, the magic of film, and the Heartland Film Festival

Heartland Film Festival

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been intrigued by the power of story. I’ve been especially interested in the way a story can be told through the magic of film. I’m sure that my interest in powerful stories and magical films was enhanced by my love of one movie in particular: Star Wars.

Me with my ceramic Darth Vader nightlight

Yes, this is me a long time ago in a galaxy not-so far away. Star Wars helped me appreciate the power of good storytelling and the magic of the silver screen.

While I don’t believe Star Wars is the cause of my love of story and film, it certainly magnified it. My eyes were opened to a whole new magical world because of the artful storytelling of George Lucas and his editors.

In middle school and high school, I wanted to become known as “The Next Steven Spielberg.” I was the first Scout in our Troop to earn the Cinematography merit badge. I took as many creative writing and film-related classes in high school as I could. I entered Milligan with a plan. I was going to graduate with a degree in Communication and then move to LA where I was going to attend film school. My ultimate dream was to take the story of Elijah and present it on the silver screen. And then, after making that blockbuster, I was going to spend the rest of my filmmaking career telling moving, inspiring stories through the medium of film.

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

But I still love a good story. I love how film can transport you to another time and place. Sometimes even another dimension. I love how a well-told story can make you laugh with delight or move you to tears. It can challenge your beliefs. It can poke around at the tender parts of your soul, prodding you to make a difference in the world around you. It can inspire you to act. Sometimes, it can even change your own life. And yes, it can also provide a place to escape the trials and troubles of the day.

Stories that challenge. Stories that inspire. Stories that move you. Stories that make you want to create. That’s what I think film does best.

Heartland Film Festival Logo 2014

And that’s why I love that Indianapolis is host to the Heartland Film Festival, Indiana’s largest and longest-running independent film festival. Over a course of 10 days in October, this festival shines the spotlight on more than 130 independent films and gives audiences access to more than 100 independent filmmakers from around the world. And it’s all right here in the Crossroads of America. The Heartland Film Festival is one of the many reasons to love this great city.

In addition to shining the spotlight on some amazing storytellers, The Heartland Film Festival is also a qualifying festival for the Annual Academy Awards® within the Short Films Category. This means that the winner of the Grand Prize for Best Narrative Short Film will qualify for consideration in the Short Films category of the Annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules. That’s a pretty big deal.

This year’s festival has almost completed its run, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. You still have today, tomorrow, and Saturday to catch a screening or two. For some strange reason, the powers that be have decided to grant me a media pass to this year’s festival. So maybe we’ll run into each other while we’re catching some powerful stories on the big screen. You can check out the lineup and screening schedule here.

This is an amazing event. It’s one that truly puts Indianapolis on the map and introduces some great filmmakers to the public eye. I hope you take advantage of this opportunity before the festival ends Saturday night. I know I will.

Tickets are $9 if purchased in advance, $11 at the door.

My friend, Leah, ended a six month blogging hiatus in order to share her experience at this year’s Heartland Film Festival. You should check out what she has to say.

I’ll see you at the movies!

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Be a better princess with the Sleeping Beauty DVD

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias #DisneyBeauties #shop

Sleeping Beauty DVD at Walmart #DisneyBeauties
With the release of the Sleeping Beauty DVD and Blu-Ray, Disney has re-introduced one of the classic Disney Princesses to a new generation. As I mentioned before Mihret is a big fan of all of the Disney Princesses. So in honor of the release of Sleeping Beauty from the Disney Vault, we dressed up in our royal best and visited our local Walmart to celebrate.

In Store #DisneyBeauties

As we were shopping for the DVD and other princess goodies, Mihret and I talked about what qualities we liked in the Disney Princesses. Sure, they’re pretty. And most of them can sing with beautiful voices. But there’s more to being a Princess than these external characteristics. To be noble requires a goodness that comes from deep within your innermost being. The beauty of the #DisneyBeauties is truly more than just skin-deep.

#DisneyBeauties shopping spree

 

We bought a few Princess related items while we walked and talked in the store. I hope these items will help reinforce the strong inner virtues that the Disney Princesses possess. They can be some pretty important role models for Mihret.

Princesses are kind-hearted.

Princess Aurora is a kind-hearted soul. She fills her parents’ lives with sunshine. That’s a pretty remarkable reputation to have, isn’t it? She lit up the room with her joy. Even in the midst of difficult circumstances (what’s more difficult than having the self-proclaimed Mistress of all Evil wanting you dead?), we can choose to live our lives in such a way hat we’re always filling other people’s lives with sunshine.

Can’t we?

Sunshine #DisneyBeauties

 

Being a Princess means you’re kind-hearted and bring cheer to others. That is certainly a Princess quality I hope my daughters display throughout their lives.

Princesses are determined problem solvers.

Do you remember when Mulan climbed that pole with those weights tied around her wrists? She was determined to solve that puzzle. She didn’t give up. She had the courage and determination to get the job done with whateveer it took.

Puzzle #DisneyBeauties

 

Mihret shows similar problem solving skills when she’s putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Much like Mulan, she is a very determined girl who refuses to listen when someone says, “You can’t do that.”

Princesses are creative.

Dinglehoppers…

Snarfblats…

Ariel’s creativity shines when she explains what all her gadgets, gizmos a-plenty, whosits, whatsits galore, and thingamabobs. Her creativity and her inquisitive nature work hand in hand, don’t they? an adventurous, curious, creative spirit is something that should be encouraged in our daughters.

I know.

Reading that might make you a little bit nervous. Free spirits like this can get into trouble pretty easily. And that makes parents like me a bit uneasy. Daughters like that can keep you on your toes. They might even make your hair turn white.

Kind of like King Triton’s hair.

Creative Coloring #DisneyBeauties

 

You know something? I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love having daughters who aren’t afraid to color outside the lines a little bit. it seems like their creativity knows no bounds. And I want to do whatever I can as their Dad to keep encouraging them to be the creative and curious free spirits I know they are. It’s just a small (but important) part of what makes my daughters such beautiful Princesses. And I want to keep encouraging that spirit to grow within them throughout their lives.

It might cause some bumps along the way. But the ride is worth it. Princesses make the journey one for the storybooks. I know mine have.

Oh, and Mihret also wanted me to tell you that Ariel is pretty neat because she can swim around and around and around. So she has that going for her, too!

What’s YOUR Princess like? How do Disney Princesses inspire her?

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A former pastor’s plea: Encourage your pastor.

Recently, I found myself looking through some archived emails of mine. I was searching for an old piece of information. I don’t remember what I needed, exactly. But I remember that I needed the information for some type of job application.

Mr Popular

During my quest, I stumbled upon some conversations that happened during the years I was pastoring that small church in East Central Indiana. While I believe I have completely moved on from that experience, having let go of whatever bitterness I had harbored (remember when God kicked me in the teeth?), I’m not gonna lie. Reading some of those emails hurt my heart.

Not one of the emails I had read was positive. My inbox was full of messages that pointed out what I wasn’t doing right. They focused on the negative. Not one of the 8-10 emails that I skimmed had a positive comment. That still hurts my heart.

It hurts my heart because I know I’m not the only pastor to have received emails like this. It hurt my heart because I know that many pastors have received emails like that this week. Maybe even today. And at the same time, they haven’t received any words of encouragement. I know it’s easier to point out areas improvement instead of talking about what was done well, but a constant barrage of negativity, continually hearing things like…

“You didn’t do _________.”
or
“You forgot to pray for _________.”
or
“Why haven’t you brought more young families to our church?”
or
“We’re not growing. What are you going to do about it?”
or
“Why haven’t you visited _________ yet? She’s had a hangnail on her pinky for a week!”  - OK. I’m only half joking about this last one. You’d be amazed at how some people get worked up about the silliest of things, though.

A constant barrage of negative attitudes, criticisms, and complaints with no reprieve can wear you out. Pastoring can be a lonely profession. Being a recipient of such discouraging messages over and over again only makes things even more isolating.

It’s no wonder so many people walk away from the pastorate.

I know this isn’t the goal of most people who complain and gripe and criticize. But it happens. And this isn’t healthy. There’s already a spiritual battle taking place around our church leaders. Let’s try to minimize casualties due to friendly fire, shall we? So let’s do something about it. Let’s all work on being an encouragement to our pastors and anyone else in church leadership positions.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up - 1 Thessalonians 5:11

This month is Pastor Appreciation Month. It’s a good time to start fixing this heartbreaking trend. But please don’t stop when the calendar switches to November.

Here are some ways you can encourage your pastor all year long:

1.) Send a note.

You have no idea how much impact a simple note or card can have. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. All it really needs to say is “You’re doing a good job,” or something like “I appreciate you because _______” or even a simple “Thank you.” These simple gestures don’t take very much time but they are powerful.

I used to keep a “Feel Good” folder tucked away in my files. Whenever I was having a really tough day, I would pull that out and look through a couple of the notes and cards I’d received over the years. These items are always a beacon of light whenever times are tough and it feels like the darkness is creeping in.

2.) Watch what you say.

There are times you have to be critical. I get that. I understand that. Criticism isn’t a bad thing. It’s important. It helps people grow and improve. We have to help each other get better. It’s part of how iron sharpens iron.

BUT…

Don’t let the only things that come out of your mouth be negative. Consider following this rule: for every criticism/complaint/negative comment you make, say three positive things. It might sound silly, but it’s a simple reminder to keep our eyes on the positive.

And even when you need to say something critical, make sure you’re still speaking life. We are called to be life-givers. Not soul-suckers.

Speak life. In all you do and say, speak life.

3.) Help protect your pastor’s family.

Pastoring is tough. It can be even tougher on a pastor’s family. Family Life has some pretty good suggestions about how you can encourage your pastor by helping to protect your pastor’s family.

4.) Bring a guest.

You want to make your pastor’s day? Maybe even your pastor’s month? Invite a guest to participate in a worship service with you. You don’t have to make a big deal about it. You don’t even have to introduce your guest to the pastor. If you’re part of the majority of churches in America, your pastor is probably begging you to bring a friend some Sunday. Imagine what an encouragement it would be if your pastor found out that you did what you were asked to do!

Avoiding friendly fire.

When I was ordained 15 years ago, I remember being told by a few people during the service that I was now a “marked man.” In other words, we are in the midst of a spiritual war and choosing to step into a role as a church leader means that you’ve decided to allow a giant target to be placed upon you. Satan wants to see the Church destroyed. A great way to do that is by destroying her leaders.

I firmly believe that a spiritual war is waging all around us. As we are fighting in this war, however, let’s make sure that the target that’s on our leaders doesn’t get moved to their backs. Let’s avoid wounding our pastors with friendly fire.

I’m open to suggestions!

What are you going to do to encourage your pastor this week? These four ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. I’d love to hear your suggestions. We’re all on the same side. Let’s work together to encourage and lift up our church leaders in ways they’ve never experienced before! When we do that, we’ll have a tiny part in changing the world.

I admit that I haven’t been as good at being an encouragement to my church leaders and pastors as I should be. So while I’m waiting for your awesome suggestions, I’m going to go sit down and write some notes to some members of our church staff.

I hope you’ll join me.

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Our daughter’s princess makeover

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias #DisneyBeauties #shop Disney Princess button #DisneyBeauties

Hear ye! Hear ye! We are in the Presence of Royalty!

We celebrated Mihret’s birthday over the weekend and it looks like we have a little princess on our hands. I don’t think that should really come as a surprise to anyone, though. From Princess Sophia to Princess Merida, she loves all the Disney Princesses. Her favorite, however, is Ariel. She could watch The Little Mermaid all day, every day if we would let her. I don’t know if it’s her stunning red hair or her amazing swimming ability or her beautiful voice or her creativity or her curiosity or some combination of these characteristics, but Mihret is a full-blown Ariel fan. So we just had to give her this little gift before her birthday party. It was like she had her own little princess makeover this weekend.

Mihret the Mermaid #DisneyBeauties

She was in heaven as she wore this costume around the house all day. With Halloween just around the corner, she’s going to have a lot of opportunities to dress up as Ariel all month long! There is a wide assortment of Disney Princess Halloween costumes available, but I know which princess will be gracing our presence this year.

An event fit for a princess.

In addition to her birthday and Halloween, I’m pretty excited about another event where Ariel-Mihret will be making an appearance. As a special way to celebrate the release of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty DVD and Sleeping Beauty Blu-Ray, Walmart is hosting a special Disney Princess event this coming Saturday.

Sleeping Beauty DVD at Walmart #DisneyBeauties

Grab your favorite princess (or prince), dress them up in their royal best as you party with the princesses this Saturday. Here are the details:

When?

Saturday, October 11
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where?

Your friendly neighborhood Walmart store
(click here for a list of participating stores)

Why?

Here’s just some of the fun that will be happening:

  • Disney Princess coloring and activity sheets
  • Photo opportunities with a cardboard Sleeping Beauty
  • Disney Princess cupcakes samples
  • Disney Princess character balloons (available for purchase)

A royal deal awaits.

In addition to the fun activities, there will be a special in-store coupon available from American Greetings at participating locations. It’s good for $3 off of any $10 purchase of Disney Princess themed party supplies. You don’t want to miss out on this royal deal, do you?

Join the fun!

I’ll be there with my mermaid princess. Will you? It should be an event that dreams are made of. You can join in the fun all week long by following the #DisneyBeauties hashtag on Twitter and Instagram!

 

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