It is also a place for me to bring into the spotlight the millions of orphans around the world who are waiting for the Body of Christ to fulfill God's command to "care for orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27)
Soli deo Gloria... (All Glory to God Alone).
Check it out, y'all! Miss MeiMei is walking! Scott took this video after Mei was home only a few days. Everytime I watch it, I crack up. She was so dadgum proud of herself. Since then, she continues to practice her walking and goes further and further by herself every day. What a gift that we got to see her first steps.
Really we have been so amazed at how quickly Mei is learning new things. She had never heard English before and we were told she only said "Mama" and "Baba" before. In the past week, she has picked up a number of English words and a few signs to help her express her needs (like "more" and "please"). She is saying "No" and one of her siblings names as well as a few grandparents' names and "OK".
I am really thankful for how the older children have embraced Mei. They dote on her and take great pleasure in helping her learn how to walk. It is not an easy transition for our youngest, Beniam, as he was definitely 'the baby' in the family. But he is doing so well, and I am really proud of him.
This first week home has been filled with memorable moments. But there have been tough days, too. We had to take Mei into the ER a few days ago as she was having some complications. But, frankly, alot of good came out of this as we were able to connect quickly with the Peds Surgery folks. On Friday, Mei went under anesthesia so they could explore more what is going on with her. It turned out to be hugely helpful to give us a better picture of what we can do to help Mei. It does appear, at this point, that she will need to go to Cincinnati for surgery, which is what we have expected all along. We *think* it could wait a couple of months or so and we will now be working with gastroenterology to figure out how to best keep her healthy until her surgery.
For those out there who are on the adoption journey, I feel compelled to share a 'real' picture of our first week home. So I must add that the most challenging part for me has been recovering from jet lag. I know that may sound silly, but most nights I can only sleep four hours (it was 2 hours the night we went to the ER). After eight days of this, one becomes quite weary and everything else is affected when Momma is falling-over tired! Tough to make medical decisions when you can barely stay awake!
Thankfully, I could also (and will one day) write an entire post about our "Village"- all of the friends and family who have surrounded us with love, prayers, encouragement, and very tangible help as we bring Mei into our home. Because of them, our older kids have thought this whole thing is one big party as they get last minute sleepovers with friends (ER night), early-morning playdates (surgery center day), and a movie date with grandparents... along with nearly daily visits from friends bringing by meals for us. I truly do not know the words to say how grateful we are for those who have chosen to come alongside of us and lift us up in this season.
"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. " (Ecc. 4:10- New Living Translation)
We're home!! We made it safely home Friday and oh, what a joy it was to introduce Mei Chara to her brothers and sister and other family and friends waiting for us at the airport.
I had a lovely post written in my head to share what it's been like to be home with Mei now. I wrote it around 2 am yesterday (or was it the night before?). It was all so lucid at that time, but my head hurt too much to write it down.
So right now all I can think of is that perhaps I ate too many Reece's pieces along with that great jambalya that Bobby made for us and that- mixed with the Benadryl and the four hours of sleep I've gotten the past two nights- has made me a little delirious. Which means I probably should not be posting anything on my blog right now. But many of you don't get to see this side of me, and I always say that I want to be 'real'.
We are so happy to be home. And the only word I can think of to explain how we feel right now is - "overwhelmed". Overwhelmed by God's graces... and all the people who prayed for us and supported us and gave us gift cards and food and took pictures at the airport. And here's a really cool grace that Scott and I calculated when we left Atlanta for our final flight home. We were thanking God for the presence of our cousin, Dell, at the airport the night before when we landed after our 14 hour flight (no, make that 15, since we 'circled' Atlanta for an hour due to storms. I'm telling you- that should be illegal. That whole 'circling' thing. I was personally willing to take the risk to land in the storm. But I digress...) So there was Dell with a huge smile, ready hug, and 2 cans of ginger ale and snacks for the weary travellers! (Apparently someone told her that I may or may not be throwing up so much I'd need a wheelchair.) Anyway, since she is a flight attendant she was able to meet us shortly after we deplaned and stayed with us the entire time going through customs and immigration and all that jazz (which is not a short process when you're bringing an adopted child into the country!)
Oh, and our calculations... we realized that out of 11 airport stops on this trip, we were only 'on our own' for 2 of them! I know that seems like a small thing, but for us it was just a glimpse of how God cared for even the details of our trip. Knowing how much we would be encouraged by seeing friends and family, especially when we were so travel weary.
And for the record- some of those airport experiences where we were not 'on our own' were when we were with a guide in China. I wanted to bring our last guide in Guangzhou home with us. I am telling you- this woman was on the ball. She checked us in at the airport, filled out our departure card (which we were supposed to have already done), and basically held our hands through the whole previous week in Guangzhou.
So back to being overwhelmed. Yes, we are primarily overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness.
Then there's also a sense of being overwhelmed by jet-lag-slash-apparently-i-have-FOUR-children-now. I did have this strange sense when we left the Gainesville airport as a family of six that someone should be coming with us... like a nanny or someone to help us. I thought, "Are they just going to let us walk away with all these kids? Do they really think we can handle this?" And apparently they did, because I tell you that every one of those people got in their cars and just drove away! I mean, originally, we'd said that it is best for bonding purposes for it to be just the six of us for a little while. But I didn't know what I was talking about.
Oh, and speaking of being overwhelmed-- I just have to tell you how very thankful we are for all our family (and friends!) who stepped in to take care of our other kids while we were gone. First there was my stepdad and my mom who took the kids to their house the first few days... well, it was supposed to be a few days except one of my children might or might not have caused an accident that resulted in my mother fracturing her kneecap and ending up with a big brace and on crutches.
Once that grandparent was down, the children were shipped on over to Scott's parents who jumped in to finish off that first weekend. Fortunately, they have no visible injuries from what I can see- although I know there are stories we have not heard.
And then there is "SuperMa", my stepmom-and-dear-friend, whom the kids call "Ma", who came from North Carolina to keep the kids for nearly two weeks here at our house. Not only did she feed, clothe, and bathe (as far as I know) our three children while we were gone, but I think she actually had a great time. They had many fun adventures, and in her spare time she managed to -
-figure out how to fix our comforter whose inner stuffing had gotten all screwed up in my attempt to wash it. As in, there were *large* balls of stuffing in several areas and no stuffing in most areas.
- cleaned the grime out of my sketchy refrigerator.
- accomplish several other housekeeping feats which I will not share because it would make me look bad.
That is all I have to share for now. Except this- did you know it was Christmas today?! Wow, that one hit me like a Mac truck. While this entire Advent and Christmas season will probably be my most memorable yet, I have to tell you that today- Christmas Day- will not be my most memorable. Simply because I do not know how much I will remember- being so sleep deprived and well, kinda overwhelmed. I probably won't even remember writing this post. And when I do discover it is here, I will probably delete it.
*Finally added some pics... I'll have some more soon of Mei's homecoming but for now I added pics of some of our 'airport angels'. God's little graces along the journey that were such a huge blessing to us! Scott is pictured with Lucas in Atlanta and then with Kristi in Seoul. A very, very tired mom and Mei pictured with cousin Dell in Atlanta. And, finally, Mei pictured with our fantastic guide in Guangzhou.*
Yesterday was an eventful day! First, we toured Yuntai Botanical Gardens with two other families and our guide. The gardens were absolutely gorgeous and it was wonderful to be outside in this warm Guangzhou weather. It was evident that Mei enjoyed being outdoors as well, and especially liked it when we'd take her out of her stroller and let her walk around. She is still needing to hold onto our hands while she walks but she loves to try walking and moves along quite quickly.
In the afternoon, we drove with our guide and the Cobb family to the New Day Foster Home in Zhongshan, about an hour and a half from our hotel. It was so very worth the trip to meet Doug, Janice and their daughter Sarah Grace as well as the ayis and children at New Day South. New Day South began only a year ago when Doug and Janice moved from Beijing to work on creating a similar model as what they'd been a part of in Beijing- the original New Day Foster Home. The one in Beijing has been so successful- it includes a foster home that cares for about 60 children at a time, until they are adopted, as well as running a manufacturing business and an English language school.
Right now, New Day South provides a home, love and medical care to seven children. It was such a joy to meet each of these children and get to play with them! The home will continue to grow as finances allow. I cannot wait to show you more pictures and introduce you to each of these precious children! In the meantime, I've included in this post one group shot that features a few of the children and their ayis... more to come!
Also, I've included pictures
We arrived in Guangzhou safely Friday night. While we enjoyed our time in Shanghai, we are really grateful to be here. The final day in Shanghai Scott and I both were really struggling with homesickness, and while we still miss our other children immensely, coming here to Guangzhou has put the wind back in our sails.
First, we were delighted to reunite with Philip and Chrissy, our dear friends from back home. And of course, we were thrilled to get to meet their new daughter, Li Rose! She is absolutely precious.
Since all American families must spend the final week of their adoption trip in Guangzhou, where the American consulate is located, we have been refreshed to be around many other Americans, meeting their children and hearing their stories. We also really like the city of Guangzhou itself, and today will be touring some gardens with the Cobbs and one other family.
We will also have an opportunity today to visit the New Day Foster Home later today. The Cobb family has connected with the couple that runs this home designed to care for orphans with a need for immediate surgery or other severe special needs. Our two families planned this trip before we left, and God opened the door for us to be able to bring some medical supplies to donate as well. We are looking forward to meeting these precious children today and learning more about how we can support the work of New Day from back home in the states. Thanks to Dr. Massias and all those from the Orphan Care Ministry who jumped on board so enthusiastically to help donate the items we are bringing today! We look forward to reporting back on our trip soon.
I've attached a few pictures so you can see what we've been up to. The first photo is of Mei enjoying the new toys (apples) she found at our hotel in Guangzhou. The second is a view of the first gardens we visited in Shanghai. The 'gardens' are actually many little buildings and landscape- rocks, water, trees- making up the home of a very wealthy man. Now it is not a home but open for tourists to see how the wealthy used to live. Then there is a picture of the Jade Buddha temple we visited in Shanghai, and finally a photo of the three of us standing in the People's Square with a great view of part of the city behind us.
We are so thankful for each and every one of you who are continuing to pray for us. We continue to be in awe of how well Mei is doing. She is blossoming more and more everyday and is so comfortable with us. Oh, and I haven't told you the best part!! She is saying "Mama" and "Dada"... and pointing to us! She knows who we are for sure. I just wish you could hear her say it. I thought my heart was going to stop the first time she said it. Then later the same day she said it in a crowd and pointed to me across the room- oh my goodness! What a gift...
“Advent is about awakening again to the inner miracle: God with us. “
So thankful that Mei is with us. Just with us. And my heart dances with wonder and joy as I recognize His grace that she would come now. Right now in this season of Advent with our hearts all slowed down and waiting and remembering the Gift. “Emmanuel”- God with us. Mei has always been a gift- that gift of 'chara' joy she's brought to our family as we've learned to trust Jesus to bring this all to fruition.
And here as we walk out this miracle of adoption, we are awakened again to the nearness of God. Somehow... now two adoptions later it is still a mystery to me... Somehow God takes what was broken and bereft of hope and breathes new life into it. He takes a child- alone and sick and scared- and a family on the other side of the planet who knows that they are not yet complete... and makes a new family. He redeems that which seems lost. Because that is what He does. And it is all just grace that we get to be a part.
Jesus, awaken my heart to see you this season. Amidst all the things that we have made Christmas to be- all the “magic” we must create to bring "joy" to the season... As if you were not enough.
O Lord, let me not be blind to the miracle... Love come down.
You came. You came into our mess, our brokenness. You came!
Jesus, I just want you to know that is enough for me. You are enough. Always enough.
All the longing
All the waiting
And now- here she is
The gift... the child
In all our longing
And all our waiting
May we never miss
The Gift... the Child
We've been gone one week now, and tomorrow we leave Shanghai and fly to Guangzhou. The last couple of days we have spent touring the city with our guide in the mornings and just hanging out with little Mei in the hotel room in the afternoons and evenings. Scott and I are both constantly saying how amazed and thankful we are with how well she is doing. Today even our guide could not believe she was the same girl he first met two days ago. A few days ago, she would just sit limply, silently and stare. Now she is playing happily with blocks and reaching out to us to get us to play with her and tickle her. She is cruising along the furniture and smiling constantly. It's like her little personality is just coming alive. It is beautiful to watch.
Mei is also quite the eater. I have honestly never seen a child eat this much! She is a tiny 17 lbs right now, but I imagine by the time we are home, we'll find she's already gained some weight.
We are doing well. Sometimes I feel like I am in sensory overload trying to take all of this in and process all we are learning and seeing while also bonding with our new daughter. So I am trying to release it all to the One who orchestrated all of this. I am just in awe that we are here... that Mei is with us now... that God has seen fit to make us family. Oh, how he loves us...
With Hearts Overflowing,
Haley, Scott and Mei Chara
Hi Everyone, it's a special guest blogger today. Haley emailed photos and I had to get them up here for all of you to see. Mei Chara is an amazing, gorgeous little girl!
The note that Haley sent with the photos included "the pic of mei crying is of course, on 'gotcha day' right after we met her. well, right after scott showed her the rabbit :-) she screamed for a few minutes. then the orphanage director talked to her and told her we were her 'mama' and 'baba' (daddy). then she calmed down. the two pics of her smiling with scott were shortly after that. i think i was kinda scared and thought of her as so fragile but scott went right to work tickling her and trying to make her laugh. so now she is in love with him."
I love this family! Can't wait to have you all home!
Mei is officially ours!! We met her for the first time yesterday morning. They brought her to a room at the orphanage where we were waiting with one other couple. She let her nanny (ayi) hand her over to me. Then Scott showed her this little lovie thing we got her with a rabbit on top. Turns out that Mei does not like stuffed animals. She burst into tears. At first we thought it was Scott, but upon trial and error, we found that it is indeed those darned stuffed animals that she abhors. (There was a big red bunny at the offices at Adoption Day today and she freaked out!) I'm planning to have the kids hide all the stuffed animals at our house before we get back home! It's a darn good thing we don't have any live ones , cause I don't think she would like that at all!
In fact, Mei is terribly fond of Scott. As I type this, she is sleeping on top of him, as this is the only place she likes to take a nap so far. I think he's in heaven.
I'm quite sure that little Mei loves her Baba (Daddy) so much because he makes her laugh. Her personality is very, very shy and quiet. She looks around, taking everything in. And no doubt, she is scared! So it was a big deal when Daddy got her to laugh. It is really cute- she just does this chuckle thing. Like she's entertained but still holding some inside. She is very reserved, and so super duper sweet. Really, she is amazing!
She is learning to trust us, beginning to cling to us more and more in new situations. She definitely prefers her Baba, but is now warming up to me as well, thankfully.
Mei Chara is really a joy, and we are so thankful to have this time here to get to know her better. I feel like we discover something new about her every few minutes. Mostly, we've been spending a lot of time at the hotel, but tomorrow and the next day we will do some more touring of Shanghai before we head out for Guangzhou on Friday.
The kids back home seem to be doing really well. We got to skype with them the past two nights. (Thanks, Berry, for helping get 'Ma' all set up!!) They were so thrilled to meet Mei today and just loved the fact that she blew them kisses.
I have been having migraines and some issues getting good sleep. But this afternoon has been much better. We are so grateful for all those who are praying for us. Please keep our dear friends Philip and Chrissy in your prayers as well as they met their daughter, Li Rose, yesterday and she is just having a tough time adjusting and may be a little sick as well.
So we are super grateful for those who got Scott's facebook message and prayed for us. You will be happy to know that your prayers were answered! Primarily, in the form of Ms. Kristi Reinig. Kristi is a friend from home who has been living in Korea for the past few years and had arranged to meet us at the airport for what was supposed to be only a three hour layover. Once Scott was able to arrange for us to stay longer, Kristi jumped in and set us up in a hotel that she was familiar with. She was truly a godsend yesterday. She helped us contact our family back home as well as the guide who was to meet us in Shanghai. I have no idea how we would have done all that without Kristi!
So we have made it to Shanghai now. I have recovered nearly all the way, and we both slept very well last night. We met our guide, Stephanie, again this morning and she took us to some popular tourist sites here in Shanghai. Scott was so pleased because he was able to eat this dish that he had been wanting to try- it's like a dumpling with sweet pork inside. We both agreed it was fantastic!
We feel very comfortable here and are really enjoying Shanghai. The funniest and most unexpected thing that we have experienced so far was people wanting to take a picture of us while we were out touring. I wasn't expecting this, I suppose, since we are in the city. But our guide told us that the people that wanted pictures were visitors from other areas who had never seen young, white people. I felt like Mickey Mouse at Disney World at first when we posed with a little Chinese girl so her dad could take a photo!! Scott joked that we should smile alot when we were walking around because people kept covertly pulling out their cell phones and grabbing a 'secret' shot. I am not quite sure yet if this attention is because we are looked at like celebrities, being from America, or just plain weird, although Stephanie assures us it is the former!
Tomorrow is the day that we meet Mei Chara. I cannot believe the day is finally here! Please pray for us that we will have wisdom and love to know how to care for her if she is scared. We will share pictures as soon as we can!
As we are now less than 10 days away from flying off to China to bring our daughter, Mei, home I have been so blessed to read the words of David Platt, author of "Radical" and pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, as he and his wife are in China right now bringing home their newly adopted daughter. He wrote on his blog (here) yesterday some powerful and poignant words that serve to me even now as reminders of why we're so crazy for "this adoption thing". It isn't because we just love kids or because want a big family. We adopt because we have been adopted by our ever-loving, Almighty Father. We love because he has first loved us. We see more clearly now than ever just what Abba Father has done for us and want so desperately to enter into that same love and sacrifice that he has shown and done for us.
I strongly encourage you to take a moment to read what he's said. You will be blessed. I have no doubt.
Your brother sharing in God's adoptive, redemptive, unending love,
**We found out our travel dates yesterday!! We leave December 8 and return December 23, just in time for Christmas together!**
So here's the scripture that sent the tears running down my face in church yesterday morning...
To set the stage... Babylonians had ransacked Jerusalem and the city and beautiful temple were now rubble. The people were in exile. Seventy years later, God let a few come back to rebuild and amongst them was Zerubbabel. Certainly, he was overwhelmed and afraid at the task that lie ahead as he surveyed the ruins. But God spoke to Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah, and here's what he said:
“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ' Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty. 'What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground.” (Zech 4:6-7a)
Our pastor helped clarify what was being said here--
---” not by might”- meaning your resources
--- “not by power”- meaning your human strength
Then he told us that from where they were standing there was actually no mountain in sight! God is talking about the 'mountain' in Zerubbabel's mind- this incredible task that lies before Him that seems as impossible as moving a mountain.
And in my heart I heard “Yes, this obstacle before you appears to be a mountain, but soon it will be level ground. And it will not be by your resources or your strength that this adoption comes together.”
As our pastor shared on the next verse, I felt so much like the presence of God was right there with me, speaking to my heart.
“Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it! Then the Word of the Lord came to me: 'The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. '” (Zech 4:7b-8)
You know what the capstone is? The last piece. The finish. God is going to see this task through to completion. God is going to see this adoption through to completion! It was like a promise to us that God has not just left us dangling here. Our hands have prayed and worked to lay the foundation of Mei's adoption... and our hands are going to hold this little baby girl very soon. He is going to see this through. You know why He's going to do it this way? For His glory...
“ Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.” (Zech 4:9)
These words were like grace falling all over me this morning. Washing away all this doubt that had weighed me down for the past few weeks. And reminding me... confirming the words that had been with us for many months... that we kept coming back to when we doubted what God was doing or if we were hearing Him right.
“I will make you into a threshing sledge... You will thresh the mountains and crush them... I will make rivers flow on barren heights... I will turn the desert into pools of water... I will set pines in the wasteland... so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:15, 18-20)
To our hearts he has spoken
- “Scott and Haley, I am going to provide for you when you think there is nothing there. That everything is dried up. Because I make deserts into pools of water. You walk in faith with me and you will get to see this... these miracles that I will do for you and for Mei.”
These aren't just strange words from thousands of years ago. God still speaks to His people, and He still moves mountains.
And I really don't know if anyone reads this blog, but I know that I have to tell of the wonders of the Lord. As my offering of thanks... and “so that people may know... that the hand of the Lord has done this.”
May we be found faithful... May we simply be found faithful...
Last week we found out we have TA (Travel Approval), and tomorrow we should know our travel dates and our consulate appointment. The time is near! We will be leaving soon to meet our precious daughter, whom God has birthed in our hearts, and bring her home to her new family.
We are beyond amazed that this part of the journey is nearly coming to an end. This is a day we have waited and longed for. And yet, I must confess that the excitement was mixed with a decent amount of worry and fear. Until today.
As it stands today, we are still short of the finances that we will need in order to be able to complete this adoption and travel to bring Mei home. Throughout most of this adoption, I have had a tremendous peace that God is going to provide everything we need. In our minds, the amount needed for an international adoption is astronomical- not something that we could even touch with good planning and control of our finances. Many would call us foolish for even beginning this adoption considering what appears to be a serious lack of resources on our part.
It has been a little scary, and many times we were found on our knees together crying out to God for guidance and direction. Lord, what do we do? Do you want us to fundraise? How will we get the finances to see this adoption through?
And every time He would give us an answer that was not what we expected and required far more faith than we thought we had. Usually it was somewhere along the lines of “Wait. Trust. Remain faithful to me.” We questioned again... so sure that we needed to “do more”. But whenever we asked, the “do more” turned out to be “keep giving... keep trusting.” His word was opened up to us in a way we have never ever experienced before, and we have clinged to His Words and sought Him desperately in prayer. And He has provided beyond our wildest dreams.
Yet here we are. Two weeks before we leave for China and, in our eyes, things are looking a little iffy. And I let the doubt come in. Perhaps we were being foolish? Perhaps we had heard him wrong. Maybe I should have grabbed on a little tighter, worried a little more, done more (even when I felt Him telling me to wait)--- And then the scariest of all was this little whisper in the back of my mind, “What if God is not who He says He is? What if you really can't be this free... this hopeful? What if He doesn't come through for you?”
But because my Father is so gracious and so very merciful, He has come and spoken to my heart again. And the doubt is gone, and quite frankly I want to laugh and dance and celebrate because I know my God is going to come through! And I want to write this now. When it is not done yet. Because I serve a God who has promised to see through to completion the things He has started. And all I want in the end is to be found faithful... to be found praising Him and giving thanks instead of giving in to the temptation to be anxious (Phil 4:6-7).
“Hope is the ability to hear the music in the future. Faith is dancing now.”
** Tomorrow I will share with you the specific scriptures that God has used to strengthen us as we wait upon Him. Crazy cool stuff that I never saw this way before the sermon this morning in church... Oh, how I pray that it will be an encouragement to you as you seek to be faithful in whatever God has called you to as well!
To our sweet Mei,
Your room is ready. Our hearts are ready. Your brothers and sister are ready. In just around a month, we will meet you for the very first time. (And my heart stops beating for a second when I write that line.) What an underserved and awesome miracle God has done in bringing us together!
There are some things we want you to know before you come home. We want you to know that it is ok to cry. That we expect you won't really like us much at first. We are not looking for a fairy tale. Somehow, by a working of God in our hearts, you are already our daughter. We will love you whether you reject us for awhile or embrace us immediately. We will choose, by the grace and strength of God, to love you with the kind of love we have known from Jesus- relentless, pursuing, patient, unending. We will falter in this, most assuredly, but we will not give up. We know we are taking you away from everything you have ever known in your life, and that we cannot even use words yet to explain to you what is happening. It is ok to be scared.
A couple of weeks ago, I was reading in my Bible in the book of Isaiah. God has used many of Isaiah's words to speak right to our hearts as we prepare for you to be a part of our family. This time we felt like God gave us some words just for you. These verses tell about what God has done for His people, through Christ. But they also tell about what is happening to you-
"You will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow
You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD's hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God,
No longer will they call you Deserted...
But you will be called Hephzibah (my delight is in her)...
for the LORD will take delight in you...
(You) will be called the Redeemed of the LORD;
and you will be called Sought After,...
No Longer Deserted."
(Isaiah 62: 2b-4a, 12)
Sweet Mei, you have always been loved by God and precious to Him. We want you to know that now you will also be loved by a family. You will be given a new name- the one your birthmother intended for you. We have sought after you ... And we will delight in you. Soon you are coming home.
“There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health except it be sickness; and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health…
It is a good thing to be without a trouble; but it is a better thing to have a trouble, and know how to get grace enough to bear it.” ~Spurgeon
Know how to get grace enough.
It is a better thing to have a trouble, and know how to get grace enough to bear it. And we get grace enough to bear it — when we run into the arms of Grace who bore it all, into Him Who is more than enough.
So I thought I would post this as my "Amen"...
This, too, is grace.
I have a migraine. It has been with me for about three days now. I've struggled with them for years, but I've been getting them more often lately, and sometimes there is simply nothing I can do to treat them. The pain has been changing, too. They were getting better, now they are diffferent, and there are other symptoms. My body is weak.
Two years ago.. a year ago... when I was sick quite often, I felt abandoned in those sick seasons. I cried out to God: “Don't you see I have these children and home and husband? Why do you give these to me and I cannot care for them?” I hated this weakness... this not being able to be who I thought I should be.,, this being so unpredictable, so needy. I cried in physical pain … in shame … in discouragement. I would give anything to be healthy.
Last night I lay very still on my bed, trying not to move so that it would not hurt so much. And I cried. I cried tears of joy. I told Scott I would not trade it, and I am serious. I mean, I want to be healthy, but if it means I would have to trade the gift that has come through this trial … I would not trade. Because if I can know real joy in the midst of the things in this world that scare me most.. that I previously feared the most... right in the midst of chronic pain, right in the midst of me being 'useless', broken... then what can now defeat me?
Slowly, over much time … (I am a slow learner)... God has redeemed... transformed what I only saw as ugly into something beautiful. Because that is what He does. He takes our mess, our brokenness and he does not change it... he redeems it... he transforms it. He did not take my migraines away. He gave me joy in the midst of them. Would the healing have brought Him glory? Yes. But it could have been explained away, I suppose-- 'those doctors finally found the right remedy'. But the joy? Outside of drugs that may produce a very short-term sense of euphoria (none of which I take, by the way!)- this joy can only be explained by a loving God. Who wants to give me more than healing. He wants to give me Himself.
I know that my suffering is meager, truly meager, in light of what so many others are suffering with today. But I am not writing about my suffering. I am writing about His grace. And all I know is the story I have been given. And I tell it only to give Him glory.
I am not saying that it is always pretty. My children and my husband can confirm that I am messy and broken and I lose my patience easier when I am sick. But I am just saying that it is good. That it is redeemed.
A friend tells me “I don't know how you do it. How you keep smiling when you are in so much pain. I would complain all the time!” And I have said it, too, to others... in other situations. “I don't know how you do it”- (whatever 'it' may be... go through the loss of a loved one, watch your husband leave for yet another deployment while you parent four kids at home, work and serve in rough conditions, etc.).
But I promised myself that I would never say this again. Because I do know how. If we will trust... He will be who He says He is... all that stuff in the Bible about rising on wings like eagles... All those promises for strength and hope and joy when we should not have it- judging by our outer circumstances. All that singing in prison with Paul and his crew. Of course. It is all the same. When our turn to suffer comes... and we run to Him... He gives us what we need for that moment, that day. “His mercies are new every morning”. He knows what suffering our tomorrows will hold, for He holds tomorrow. And when we wake tomorrow He will give us the mercy, the grace for that day.. as we trust in Him.
“Even though I walk through (insert what we are 'walking through')
I will fear no evil, for you are with me...” Psalm 23
So this is what I would not trade. That deep, unshakable knowledge that he is with me. There is no greater gift.
Thank you, merciful Father, for the migraines and the fatigue. I can say it now and I really mean it. Thank you.
And then that 'thanks', that bending to the will of my loving Father... that is a step toward joy. Not my will, but yours be done. And I will give thanks, surrender, and receive. And what is the gift but joy... joy that only comes through suffering. A joy that cannot be taken away.
This, too, is a grace. It is a gift of Jesus. Hard eucharisteo.
I no longer feel abandoned in my seasons of illness. You know what I feel? I feel … held.
“I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us- yes, the many good things he has done... according to his compassion and many kindnesses.” Isaiah 63:7
Introducing... new pictures of our daughter!!
I love naming our children. It is something that we pray about together, and we ask God to show us a name that has meaning for each child so that as they grow to learn and understand where their name came from they can see a little glimpse of how God sees them and how we see them.
Mei is our daughter's birth name, but not what she is called in her orphanage. So, in effect, we are changing her name. Scott sent me an email recently that I think describes perfectly why we wanted to name her Mei.
"Mei - plum, beautiful, charming, attractive, rose
Qi - fine jade, outstanding, distinguished, special, pretty
When I read the meanings of the names she was given by her birthmother, I'm overwhelmed with the amount of love she must have had for Mei. Even with Mei's medical condition, she was seen as beautiful and special. We have been entrusted with a precious gift. May we honor the sacrifice made by this loving mother."
Her middle name came as a result of the incredible joy that God has brought into our home as we began to move forward with Him in this adoption journey. What He did in my heart to bring me to a place of surrender, left me with a new freedom from things that had weighed me down before. I felt like I jumped and He caught me and I wished I'd jumped sooner because I had no idea how quickly He would catch me or how amazing it would feel to be carried by God. All of this He has done already, before Mei has even come into our home. But all as a result of the faith jump that we took when we said 'yes' to her and to God. We have tasted a joy that is not dependent on circumstances and therefore cannot be taken away. God used Mei to bring that joy and so we are giving her the middle name that is the Greek word used in scripture for joy- "Chara".
The idea actually came while reading what is now my favorite book of all time, "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. Here's a little quote ...
"Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy".
When I jumped out on this faith journey, I stopped grasping ... trying to control my days, my future ... and God gave joy. And Mei Chara is the tangible gift given when God poured out the joy. And all I know to do is give thanks. From the depths of my soul I give thanks. And pray that one day our Mei will know the joy she brought into our home before she even arrived here.
When I shared the story of how God moved in our hearts to begin another adoption, I wanted to be vulnerable about my weaknesses in the hopes that those who read this testimony would see more of God's graciousness and mercy than they would of me. As an adoptive mother of a child from Ethiopia, I have gotten far too many "Ooohs and Aahhs" (ok, well and some "ughs", too!). It is those moments where I feel like there is this light shining on me, and I just want to disappear ... or say the 'right thing' so that somehow they could see through me to Him. And how do I explain that I am nothing? Nothing but loved and redeemed and empowered.
For us, as for many families, the inspiration to adopt a child is borne out of an overwhelming realization of the love God displayed for us in 'adopting' us. Yes, it is true, Scott and I are moved by the needs of orphan children, more than I could ever express. There has been for years an ever increasing burning-burden-intense love-thing going on in our hearts and souls as we grow deeper and deeper in love with these children. And God just keeps calling us deeper in, further still.
But the call has always been to HIM. It's just that the two intertwine so beautifully. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus goes so far as to say that when we do anything to care for "the least of these children of" His, we are caring for Him. And while Jesus used this term, 'the least of these', to explain who He was talking about, in no way did He consider them 'least'. This is how the world sees them - the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the orphan, the sick, the widow. But they are by no means least to Jesus. The reality is that He spent the vast majority of His ministry on Earth with the 'least'- teaching, healing, touching, visiting their homes, using them as examples of those who are the greatest in the Kingdom of God. And ultimately, He identifies with them. This is why Mother Theresa calls the poor "Jesus in disguise".
Perhaps some of my story earlier could be misunderstood. The truth is that while I have loved Jesus and loved orphans for some time now, I also like control and planning. (Although, I will say those two latter qualities have taken a hard hit in the last year!) So this was about laying those things down. It was about surrendering to God's plan.
But now? Now we are fully and completely head-over-heals excited about bringing this child into our home. She is our daughter. And while in the world's eyes, she is certainly among 'the least of these' ( or she would not be where she is now), we see her as the greatest. She is a gift to us. Her value is limitless ... eternal. And when she comes into our family, we pray we will love on her and serve her as if Jesus Himself were in our home... And if, by the grace of God we do (on a good day), you can look back at the fearful, self-focused woman still living/dying inside of me and together we can acknowledge God's greatness... His amazing grace in using something so broken to bring Him glory...
Soli deo gloria
(posts I am referring to can be found in April archives, beginning with "Not On Our Radar")
The Chinese characters above stand for "Family". We are one step closer to Mei becoming a part of our family! A few days ago we received our LOA (or Letter of Approval)- our official acceptance from the Chinese government saying that we can adopt this precious child. It brings such joy to know we are one step closer to our sweet baby girl. At this point, we expect to travel in December.
"God sets the lonely in families..."
So I think that God is preparing my kids' hearts for a new little one in our home. Case in point.. A couple of weeks ago, our dear friends, Vipul and Kindra came for a visit and brought with them a present for my children to play with... their little one year old treasure, Anlon. Seriously, the kids were enamored with Anlon (he is adorable!) Being the computer dunce I am, I have not figured out how to get pictures into the body of my post... only how to insert them at the top. But I thought I'd share these photos above... one of the kids surrounding little Anlon; then Zoe and Beniam taking turns pulling him in the wagon and giving kisses; and one of Vip with all the kids. Really, it was a joy to have them with us for a short time... Vip and Scott have been friends since high school, and they are just really precious to us as a family.
But I have to say, for the past few months really, I have been amazed with Beniam. This little boy is in love with babies! I am embarrased to admit that I was actually surprised. I honestly thought he'd be disinterested or perhaps a bit rough with these little creatures. Our Beni-Boo is all boy, all the time, after all! His favorite way of showing love with his bestie, Mack, is some sort of wrestling, hitting maneuver that most parents would put their child in time out for.
Anyway, the bottom line is that anytime Beniam has an opportunity to hug, kiss, feed, stroke, or otherwise love on a baby, he is all over it! In July, Ben stayed with my girl Alison and her family for a couple of days and I heard stories of how Beniam loved on their baby boy, kissing him on the head and saying, "Hi, shoogie. Good shoogie!"
Oh, and, yes, I know that Mei will not be a baby when she comes home. However, even though she is 2 1/2, her size and development are much further behind. So, in many senses, she will be more like a one year old.
And, finally, an update on Mei. Oh wait, there is none! Ah, yes, it's the waiting phase in all its glory. For those who know adoption lingo, our LID, or log in date, was August 1. We are now waiting on LOA, or our Letter of Acceptance. Let me tell you, that will be a happy day at our house! Unfortunately, there has been such a wide variation lately amongst the time families are seeing from LID to LOA- some as little as 34 days and others as much as 154. After LOA, it is about 2 months to TA (or travel approval). So we wait and we pray.
I will say that it had never occured to me until recently that we may not have Mei home before the end of this year. But that is a very real possibility now. It literally makes my heart hurt, and yet, I have confidence in the One who orchestrated this whole thing. It is His story, for His glory... and it is His love for Mei (and for us) that inspired and guides this whole thing. So there we rest, in that love.
If you would like to learn more about advocating for children with Down Syndrome, check out Reece's Rainbow. If you would like to learn more about starting an Orphan Care Ministry at your church, leave a comment on this post.
Her name is Olesya. She is a real child. She lives in a formerly Communist country in Eastern Europe. Olesya was born with Down Syndrome and considered shameful to her family and her society. So her family's doctor suggested that they put her in an orphanage with other special needs children, and here she has lived for four years. At age four she weighs fifteen pounds. She cannot walk. She is never hugged or played with. Olesya's crib is shared with another child in a dark corner of the orphanage. Here she spends most of her days, too drugged to want to do much because she is given tranquilizers to be sure she is not a bother to anyone. When Olesya turns five, she will be transferred to a mental institution with adults who sleep in cribs and children who are atrophied and wasting away because they are never moved.
Perhaps this is not the kind of story you were hoping to read in your Family News this month. Perhaps you wonder if it is sensationalized or a rare case. But it is neither. And, if you are like me, you are saddened but feel far removed and helpless to do anything. But be encouraged. God is working in the hearts of His followers in our country, and He is entrusting us with the stories of these forgotten children. And His people are responding.
In the past few years that we have been involved in the world of adoption and orphan care, we have been truly amazed at how God is taking ordinary, once fearful and self-consumed believers and filling them with the boldness and faith to care for “the least of these”. To be sure, it is not easy. Yet I have never met one family who regrets beginning this journey through faith. Or one who would ever go back to their old way of life before they knew... before they responded. For what they have gained is far more than what they have lost. (Though what they have lost seems like 'everything' in the world's eyes). What is more, they “consider it all rubbish” for all this they have lost “for the sake of Christ”, and now they know just a bit more the “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ and being found in Him” (Phil. 3).
Oh, would you like to hear the rest of Olesya's story? For hers is a story of redemption. Shortly before she was transferred to the institution, Olesya was adopted by a couple in Colorado. Their decision was unpopular. After all, one can only do so much. Olesya was beyond help. But this couple knew they had been called by God to rescue this child, and they counted it all joy. (Although, they would tell you it is they who have been “rescued” from all that weighed them down before they stepped out in faith.) Today, Olesya lives in a home with brothers and sisters who love her and parents who nurture and care for her. Oh my goodness, I wish I could show you pictures of this incredibly gorgeous little girl. She is growing quickly in just a year and her face is full of joy. This family would tell you honestly their journey has not been easy. But they also will tell you that they came to a place in their lives where they gave up their God-given-American right to “easy”, and said “whatever, Lord.” So, no, they don't often get “easy”... but they do get a living, breathing picture of redemption living in their home each day. And they get joy. So much joy. So much laughter. And so much Jesus. What more could a child of God ask for?
Although the world is full of suffering it is also full of the overcoming it. Helen Keller
I mentioned when I was sharing the story of how we began the journey toward adopting Mei that we spent a significant period of time looking at pictures and reading about children who were waiting in China for a family. It was difficult at the time because we just wanted the Lord to show us who our daughter was so we could open our heart to her and pursue her adoption. But He had other plans. Ultimately, yes, we began the process to adopt Mei. However, there was a point in this time where my heart did open wide... and it was not just for Mei. Over time, each of these waiting children became precious to me in a way that is hard to explain. I think it was because each picture I looked at I wondered, "Could this be our daughter?" And so in the wondering, the love began to grow.
This journey that began for our family in 2007 has always been about more than just adoption. For me, there has also been this calling to 'be a voice for the voiceless'. Recently, I have felt God showing me so many more opportunities for how to do this. One is to advocate for orphan children who need families. I am so very excited to be able to use our blog to do this a little more, and you will be seeing more in coming days! (And not just little ones in China... older kids here in Gainesville, too!)
But for now, I want to introduce you to "Adelyn". Our friend (whose blog God used to start this whole journey) recently told me about Adelyn and I have posted her picture and information below. She is in the same orphanage as Mei, and I would so very much love to be a part of helping find a home for this precious girl. So I hope you'll read about her and join with me in praying for her. I look forward to rejoicing together when the Lord raises up a family for her!
2 yr old
Adelyn likes playing with other children
She is very curious and observant
Adelyn speaks in four word sentences,
like "The candy is Sweet"
Scoliosis, a Rib deformity & Spina Bifida of the lumbar vertebra
More specifically: Scoliosis with a shape of “S”, 9th and 10th hemi-vertebrae deformity, spina bifada of the lower thoracic vertebra and lumbar vertebra, dispart-twig deformity of the right 5th and 8th ribs.
In April (at 2 yrs 3 mths) it was noted that she could crawl on her hands and knees, stand, walk when holding a hand or railing.
For more info on Adelyn, feel free to comment or email me: email@example.com.
The first time I met you, you were asleep. It was naptime and all the infants at Hannah's Hope Ethiopia were swaddled all cozy in their Moses baskets in the common area. Except you. You were too big. So there you were in that miniature crib on the end, sleeping all soundly. I knelt down next to you and touched your face. And I marvelled at those impossibly long eyelashes. Should I wake you up? I longed to hold you. But I do not believe in waking sleeping babies unless you are saving them from an emergency like a fire or tornado.
So I waited, trying to soak in the moment. (Which was smart because it was the last time you would sleep that soundly for about two years. *wink*) Then I heard it. Here in this place where I was so far from my world... where everything felt so unfamiliar... I heard these familiar words playing softly on a nearby radio.
Every blessing you pour out, I'll turn back to praise
And when the darkness closes in, Lord, still I'm gonna say
'Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be your name.
Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be your glorious name.'
You give and take away... You give and take away.
My heart will choose to say... 'Lord, blessed be your name.'
This song, of all songs! This, I knew, was His gift to me. This very song... that was on our lips and in our hearts through every step of your adoption process. When we wanted to worry but sang instead. When we wanted to fear the unknown but worshipped instead. When things we held so dear seemed surely to be lost... and by His grace alone, we learned how to praise His name in the storm.
It was one of two moments that week that I felt God's presence in a way that I simply cannot explain in words.
Then because Daddy and I could wait no longer, I picked you up and held you close. Slowly, those big brown eyes opened... wider... and wider... and wider. And for about six months or so, that was your signature 'look'. Eyes, wide as saucers, taking in the world around you, all the while clinging tightly to Daddy and me. And, us clinging, too... clinging so tightly to Abba Father. (Eyes mostly drooping from lack of sleep and delirium.)
As I sit here today in this quiet place and remember these things I have 'treasured in my heart', truly all I can think to say is this... Blessed be your name, Jesus.
Look at this beautiful little one! This is Li Rose, but before I tell you about her...
Lots to celebrate around here! Before we left on vacation almost two weeks ago, our dossier was finished and mailed to China. We had waited awhile for immigration so this was very encouraging to make it to this step... DTC(Dossier to China).
You know what else was wonderful about it? We weren't alone in our celebrating. Some dear friends of ours also completed their dossier at the same time and were DTC as well. It has been a great joy to share this wild ride called adoption this time with friends here in Gainesville. Philip and Chrissy are a part of our small group community, and I have known Chrissy since she was a freshman in college! We even worked together in campus ministry for a season. We love this family dearly- their heart for the Lord, for serving others, and for missions.
Philip and Chrissy are in the process of adopting a little girl from China as well, whom they have named Li Rose. She is extra-close to my heart, because we got to play a small part in helping them find their daughter... Gives me soooo much joy!!
Well, the celebrating continues this weekend as we will be helping to host a party in honor of the Cobb family. We'll be gathering with their friends and family to celebrate their upcoming adoption... At the same time, our small group family (and other eager friends) have come together to make available a number of items that we will be selling at the party to help raise money for the Cobbs to complete their adoption.
If you are someone who loves adoption and would like to be a part of bringing home Li Rose, please consider heading over to the Cobb Family blog to see some of these items. You'll find Ugandan magazine bead necklaces, hand-made swaddling blankets, tutus, and more. Perhaps you have a gift you need to buy or you'd like to begin your Christmas shopping early... Either way, I hope you'll be blessed as you 'meet' this family through their blog.
The challenges come, and our faith is tested. We read the Word to each other and email his promises during the day. We pray together and our faith is strengthened, and we know the peace that does not come unless it comes through storm.
"Consider it PURE JOY, my brothers, when you face trials
of many kinds..."
Our focus slips. We fall into control mode and we want to fix this. What we once decided to consider 'pure joy' seems to wear us down.
"Your faith is so weak..." the enemy whispers.
Strange that he whispers that for this has been our prayer: that we would be found faith-FULL. And this is what we tell when others ask how to pray for us in this adoption: Pray that we would be found faithful.
We desperately need wisdom from above and know how to find it...
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God..."
But then those words... I remember them. "Your faith is so weak..." And I wonder if I will just mess it all up anyway. If perhaps I will not hear from God or be guided by Him because I am not ready for these gifts of suffering for Him, of hearing from Him. Perhaps I will not be found faithful.
And then I read these words. These words I have read now nine hundred times since my friend Dawn led me to these verses my junior year of college. These words God spoke through James and I know them but never have I focused on just these three... right in the middle... not really the 'point' of the passage, I suppose.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him."
Without finding fault!!!
My heart jumps when I read those precious words and I remember once again Amazing Grace and that, no, even I am not out of the grip of that grace. And I move from doubt to that place where it feels like I am standing under a waterfall of grace and it just keeps flowing. If I stay here long enough I think I just may be convinced: He gives generously... loves lavishly... without finding fault.
For I am no longer defined by my faults, and in this journey, yes, I will be found faithful. Not because I'll 'get it all right'. But because all is made right in Him. And, stray as I might, at the end of the day, I will be found in Him.
And ever before me will be this that He asks of me... only to Believe.
"But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt
because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and
tossed by the wind."
So will you pray for us... that we will be found faithful? That we will hold unswervingly to that hope that we profess... knowing that He who promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23). And that when we screw up... and I do mean when... will you pray that we will call on the One who gives so generously without finding fault?
And can I pray for you as well? I would love to know how I can lift your needs before our Father. It would truly be an honor, and I will look forward to rejoicing with you as God hears our prayers... Just leave a comment or email and know that I will take seriously your request for prayer.
Any scripture not specifically labeled can be found in James 1:2-6
So here's the deal. I am not really good with this whole not-saying-your-real-names thing. It just feels so impersonal... and plus I always forget. So I convinced Scott (that would be my husband) that I just had to use our names. Which is fun cause now I can write a post about how God gave us our new daughter's name.
But for now, I wanted to share with you this video we made after we brought Beniam home from Ethiopia. I have been working on his three year post adoption report and thought I would celebrate almost being done with sharing this video!
And yes, his name is Beniam. Beniam Ananya. "Beniam" is the Ethiopian version of "Benjamin", which means "son of my right hand". Ananya was his birth name. And I will never forget the feeling of the presence of God in the room as Ben's birthmom told us the story of how she decided to name him Ananya. Ananya is actually a biblical name... it translates as "Hananiah" whom you may also know as "Shadrach" in the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being saved from the fiery furnace. I'll share the story soon! But for now, I hope that you will enjoy the video... our way of marking this special time in our family and also of celebrating the gracious God who brought this family together.
"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are amazed."
Our hearts continue to long for little M... Our oldest daughter had her sixth birthday last month. Z is a girl who knows what she wants in life, so when I asked her if there was anything special she would like for a birthday gift I was sure she would have an answer ready. And she did. You know what she said?
I was taken aback at first, having braced myself to respond if the gift she requested was something we couldn't afford or didn't think she should have. Her request was simple enough. She wanted her little sister home. God is preparing all of our children, and it has been beautiful to watch.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed when I consider that we have missed the first two years of our daughter's life. Wow. So much happens in the first two years of a child's life. I can hardly even stand the thought that we will be away from our other children for two weeks when we go to China to bring Little M home. But two years?! We have missed so much.
But then I am reminded that the One who is bringing her into our family has not missed a thing. He was there when she was born and the day she was given away. He knows what makes her laugh and what makes her cry. He has been by her side for every one of her many hospital stays.
And you know what this realization causes inside of me?
Because it isn't about me! And the reality is that this is true for every single one of my children. Even the ones that I have parented since birth. Far too often I fall into this thinking that everything about my children's future depends upon my stellar parenting. Which is an awfully heavy weight to bear, considering how much I mess up as a parent. And all that comes from this kind of thinking anyway is 'control- mommy-mode', and nobody wants a piece of that. That's some freaky stuff, y'all.
What I long to learn now, and what these journeys of adoption have been teaching me, is to release my children to their Father every day. To parent out of a place of faith and grace. Faith that God is in control, and He loves these precious little ones far more than I do. Grace to let them be who God created them to be and not burden them with heavy expectations or the worries of a mom who always fears for them.
Don't get me wrong. Just like with our youngest adoptive son, there will always be a heavy sadness there when I think about the time I missed with Little M. I know that there will be a huge learning curve for me to get to know her and understand how to best parent her. But you know what gives me hope? This verse...
“The Lord confides in those who fear him...” (Psalm 25:14)
So I will ask Him to confide in me. I will turn my back on the worries and fears and quiet my heart and wait. I will wait for Him to speak to me. I will ask Him to confide in me about His precious daughter, Little M. I will take all the energy I would have spent worrying and fretting and spend that time praying instead. Teach me, Lord, how to love her and serve her and teach her in a way that she understands.
And I will hang on this promise-
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to him.
But when he asks, must believe and not doubt.
Because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea
blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6)
So I will believe. For this is the “work of God”, is it not? To believe. ( John 6:29 ) And just think... as I sit and type, He is actively caring for my sleeping ones here in our home and their little sister on the other side of the world. All at the same time. Let the strivings of Supermom cease. There is someone far more capable.
Never have I loved this man more than I have in the past four years. Since that day when God began to answer our prayer – Break our hearts for what breaks yours. And how many times since have I heard him pray this even when the breaking has been so hard?
Then the honor and beauty of watching this man embrace an orphan child and choose to call him his own. And this son... yes, he bears the honor of his name- meaning “son of my right hand”- for he has a daddy who loves him to pieces and his place in our family is no less than the firstborn son.
And his heart continues to break and he doesn't protect it and I know there will be many more orphans who see the love of their heavenly Father through this man.
Just like I have.
About three years ago, S set out to find out what it would truly mean to love me “as Christ loves the church” (Eph. 5:25). The timing was opportune as my health was unpredictable. There was a new baby, we were now 'outnumbered'... and an often-sick mom. So he served. And he gave up a lot of things. He sought God when his heart was weary or frustrated by his circumstances. God answered, and more strength came and he is happy to serve.
At the end of the day he was tired. He would crash next to me in bed. I was tormented that I could not be strong and be the wife and mom I wanted to be... I thought I should be. I hated that the burden was all on him. I cried and he listened and grace happened. And all I know is that this man who fumbles for words spoke so loudly with his actions that even this anxious heart of mine could not deny the resounding theme of God's extravagant love for me. And it felt like I was standing under a waterfall of grace as I began to see more clearly that that love is not based on what I do but simply upon the fact that He has chosen to love me. Love is always a choice. There is a deep freedom in knowing you are loved when you feel you have nothing to offer.
I hesitated to post these words about my husband, because I promised myself that if I ever started a blog it would not be 'polished'. I previously had been very wary of all this internet stuff- blogging, Facebook, etc. I guess I felt like everyone posts all the good, and their lives seem far more glamorous or godly or whatever-I-am-not leaving me with a tinge of guilt or jealousy far too often. So this is always on my mind, and I want to be careful of this. In this case, when posting about S, though, I thought this- “We're never promised another day, he and I. And folks usually wait till someone dies to say all the wonderful things and I want to take these opportunities to say them now” Knowing all is a gift of grace...
S has his weaknesses, of course, and is far from perfect. He's frightfully forgetful. Every other day it seems, I find his dirty socks in some strange place, removing them this morning from my place at the kitchen table before breakfast. And, you know, I suppose I could go and on and on, but isn't that what we women always do and how I long to be the one that builds him up rather than tears him down.
So Happy Father's Day, S. You make me to smile.
Through this season of prayer and seeking God through His Word, S and I had become convinced that indeed God was leading us to begin the process to adopt a little girl from China with 'special needs'. It was all so different than the process we went through to adopt B from Ethiopia. This time we were looking at photos of 'waiting children' and asking God to show us which one we should adopt. It felt so strange to make this choice and often we felt paralyzed and unsure of where to go from here.
We spent hours looking and reading and praying. Sometimes I wondered if we were taking too long, but now I can look back and see what God was doing in that time. Every child we looked at I wondered, "Could this be our child?" So with every child, my heart was opened to see them as a son or daughter, not just a picture or a statistic of yet another orphan that I could not help. With each passing week, I became more willing to say "Whatever, Lord. Whatever you want. I just want to love one of these precious children." And following this season of searching, my heart has broken more and more for children waiting for a family- their faces are etched in my mind, and I am totally confident that God will use these things that have happened in my heart for further use down the road.
Then one day I think we were just ready. And we saw this picture of M and S said, "That's her." We did not know much about her at all, and her special need was one we had not considered before. That night we put her file on hold in order to have it reviewed by an international pediatrician that could tell us more. When I was getting ready to go to sleep that night, I began to think more about little M's 'special need' and I thought maybe this wasn't something I was comfortable with after all. I just let my mind focus on her medical records and lost sight of some other things. My heart was heavy and I was worn out. I sighed and rolled over to turn on the alarm for tomorrow. As I did this I whispered out loud a quick prayer, "What do you think, Lord? Please speak to me." (Thinking that I was checking out for the night and the prayer could maybe be answered tomorrow :-) ) I pushed the button to check the volume on the radio and these are the exact words I heard-
He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He’s the kid with the story no one would believe
He prays every night, “Dear God won’t you please
Could you send someone here who will love me?”
Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means
I had heard the song before but could not help but believe that God had answered my prayer directly right after I prayed it. So I prayed once more before I slept- Ok, Lord, I will love her. Just for who she is. I will not focus on her medical needs. Send me, Lord. I will go to her and I will love her and I am sorry that I ever looked at her as anything other than a child that needs a mommy.
After this I thought we were good to go, but there was still the need to speak with the doctor and try to understand more clearly all of the things that were revealed in her medical file before we could formally move forward. There is alot that isn't necessary to share here, but suffice it to say that our conversation with the doctor was difficult. We were already so attached to this little girl, and I went to bed that night in a heap of tears wondering again if we could really do this. (Later, God did some pretty stinkin' amazing things, and we were able to find out that the things that the doctor was most concerned about did not in fact exist!) But at the time, we didn't know all of that and it was time to make a decision.
Sunday we went to church with heavy hearts. What were we doing? Was this all crazy after all? Lord, we are here. And we so long for you. We so want to hear from you. You have been so faithful to us. In your mercy and grace, we are asking that you would speak to us clearly one more time.
Can I just tell you that we began to worship and every. single. song we sang spoke right to our hearts and right to this situation. And all of a sudden in both of our hearts at the same time we knew God was answering our prayer. Then after a few songs, we sang a song that was new to us and took us completely off guard. After a few verses, we both realized that we could not sing the words to this song (and actually mean them) and not move forward with this adoption. (I know this is getting long guys, but I had to include all the lyrics here so you would know what I mean.)
I just want to close my eyes
And act like everyone's alright
When I know they're not
This world needs God
But it's easier to stand and watch
I could say a prayer and just move on
Like nothing's wrong
But I refuse
'Cause I don't want to live like I don't care
I don't want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse
To sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose
Not to move but I refuse
I can hear the least of these
Crying out so desperately
And I know we are the hands and feet
Of You, oh God
So, if You say move
It's time for me to follow through
And do what I was made to do
Show them who You are
'Cause I don't want to live like I don't care
I don't want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse
To sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose
Not to move but I refuse
To stand and watch the weary and lost
Cry out for help
I refuse to turn my back
And try and act like all is well
I refuse to stay unchanged
To wait another day, to die to myself
I refuse to make one more excuse
'Cause I don't want to live like I don't care
I don't want to say another empty prayer
Oh, I refuse
To sit around and wait for someone else
To do what God has called me to do myself
Oh, I could choose
Not to move but I refuse
As we sang this song, we both started to cry a little... then alot... then it was all too much and we had to sit down and do this funny holding each other and crying thing... and then we were seriously laughing at each other and at the situation. It was like God was right there with us saying "You asked me to show up. Can I make it any clearer?" I think we were crying because we were so overwhelmed by His presence with us- He felt so near- and because we were joyful. HE IS NEAR. That's why we can do this. He is always near.
So that's the story of how we came to begin this process to adopt little M. Honestly, I feel pretty vulnerable sharing about all of our weaknesses and doubts. But I promised God whenever I shared this story that I would be honest about who I am- weak and broken- so that it would be so very apparent who He is- gracious and strong and enough. Always enough.
"Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." (I Cor. 12:9- NLV)