Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Love Looks Like - Part 3

Wish I could say my hiatus from writing was because we were doing something wild, crazy and fun, but that is not true. I've been (what felt like) deathly ill with the flu in bed for days on end, then to the couch/chair and now in the midst of a lovely recovery!! Happy and thankful! The flu hit first with the guys (except ONE guy who somehow managed to escape it all!), then the girls.

There is one journal entry left to share about sweet M's journey to family. I thought a lot about her time in Ethiopia while we were all sick last week. You see, being desperately ill played a big part in our precious wee-one landing in an orphanage in Ethiopia. She was born with TB in circumstances where she could not receive the medicine she needed. What must that feel like ... to hold your child in your arms and not be able to give them what they need to get better? Even at the orphanage, supplies and nourishment were very limited, but it was a better option to sustain her life at the time. We're so far removed from the needs of precious humans around the world who need basic things just for survival .... clean water, medicine, food. Often we're so busy caught up in making sure all of our children have enough activities and entertainment that we have left no room in our hearts and minds for such greater things of importance.

At the time of this last journal entry, our daughter had made it to the Gladney Care Center and had plentiful sources of food, medicine and was just waiting to finish the course so we could go to get her. How confused she was .... already having left the arms of her ill birthmom, then leaving her first orphanage to yet another place that would only be temporary. Her pictures show the walls that were building up in her ... yet we REJOICE that in each of these places she was DEEPLY LOVED and we know that played a HUGE part in her thriving in her forever family. We are so very grateful for all those that cared for our precious child, before we could do so ourselves. It was truly AMAZING. They will never be forgotten.

Today, my precious child we received your court date. Ever since learning about you, I've been asking God to work a miracle during this part of the process. So much time has been lost. I've been asking Him to redeem some of that time. I've seen your pictures and you are transitioning from the innocent wonder of the baby phase to such a cautious and guarded little girl. I long to see you .... precious one ... and work to build that trust and see a glimpse of a wee-smile out of your heart.

So many months I have longed to hold you and whisper into your ear how much I love you. I can't change what has been lost, dear one ... but I will love you forever. Waiting expectantly for you. Love, Momma

As I work with adoptive families and talk with many prospective adoptive families ... one of the obstacles in the early phase is trying to determine if they could love someone that wasn't born of their flesh. I hear it time and again. This is part of the reason I have shared with you a little glimpse into one Momma's heart .... I couldn't imagine being able to love my children any more than I do. Before I ever saw my daughters with my own eyes ... I would have given my life for them ... it's that kind of love. It doesn't always happen like that ... for some the journey is different ... but it's a journey worth taking.

During the last few days as we've been measuring and serving up lots of doses of pain reliever, fever reducer and cold meds .... I stopped to remember that time in my daughter's life there wasn't any medicine for a far more serious illness. I want to never forget or take for granted all that God has done in her life. I am humbled by all He's done in MY life .... to give me a heart to love ... and to be the ultimate example to me of what love really is.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moms ... meet my friend, Mary!

Here's a shout out to moms! We're almost half way into January of a NEW year. Are you feeling defeated already? I know at times I sure have been. Maybe you KNOW a mom that's probably going through the same thing! I'd love to share about a couple of books that a sweet friend of mine, Mary, has written.

Family Feasts for $75 a Week is such a great resource! It's full of fabulous ideas on cutting costs in the kitchen as well as an amazing variety of recipes! Home school moms ... this would be a great addition to your curriculum. Seriously! I know my family will be really happy when I try out some new recipes this year!

A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family ... the title makes me smile. No matter if you have 1 or 11 children, this book would be a wonderful blessing for you! Mary tackles topics such as "Parenthood and Stress", "The Supermom Myth", "Encouraging Sibling Friendships" and the big one ... "Money"! I found myself nodding along in agreement with so many of her great insights.

Back in October, just before my grandpa and then my own dad passed away, I got the absolute treat of meeting up in real life with Mary at the Together for Adoption conference in Austin, TX. Mary was there as a guest blogger (if you don't know about her blog, you must check it out! at owlhaven.net). I was there through my work with the ABBA Fund. We got to meet up over a scrumptious dinner and chat about many things that we share in common ... family, adoption, marriage, teens, multi-ethnic family, motherhood, home schooling. Yeah, you get the picture, I wish she lived next door! ;) Speaking of pictures, that is my only regret! ... we didn't get a picture. :(

Sometimes this mothering gig can feel pretty lonely ... I hope today you have been reminded you are not alone. Even if you don't have many friends right in your vicinity ... know that there are others across the globe who are on a similar journey.

What Love Looks Like - Part 2

As I was saying ... yesterday brought about a treasure that had been packed away since our move. What amazed me was the fresh reminder of HOW committed a family is before they EVER see their child's face. It can be hard for outsiders, even extended family, to understand that kind of love and commitment. But, as I read our daughter's journal, I was made fresh aware of how deeply that commitment was to get to her. So, for you fellow adoptive families ... I know you'll relate to this next journal entry. For those of you on the outside of that ... perhaps it will give you a peek into one momma's heart and what the process is like. The photo shows where our sweet babe spent her first nine months of life. She had the crib back in the far corner. I wrote about that experience HERE.

Journal entry: (this entry was six months into the process and it would be still 5 MONTHS before we'd see her face, let alone the remainder of the wait to get to her)

What a week it has been. I got really ill after my gallbladder surgery. It turned into a horrendous ordeal ... but now I'm back at home. You, my precious one, were on my mind through it all. I wanted to give up .... the pain was just unbearable. But then I'd think of you and I knew you were counting on me. How can I ever express to you how much I love you? My soul aches to come to you and wrap you up in a momma's love. "Are you okay?" is a question that haunts me every day. "Will you know it's me? ... when I see you for the first time?" "Will my voice comfort you?" Our paperwork is nearing completion!! We are so excited. We pray that it all goes through quickly and that miraculously we'll be united in little time. We want you home ... I long to know that you're safe. As much as I love you ... I know that our heavenly father loves you even more. It is a comfort to know that He is in control. What a glorious day it will be my precious one .. to finally see you. Love, Momma

Adoption isn't just some flippant "idea". It is a commitment that goes as deep as the very make-up of the human being. I think that's often why criticism cuts so deeply. Maybe you're a family in process and you know that kind of pain. Maybe saying "yes" to adoption meant turning from your extended family in some way. Maybe you have fears that you can't even vocalize. Rest assured that the One who called you will be faithful. He's ALL about adoption. Not just adopting children who have no family .... but about YOU!

Losing my earthly father recently has made me even more deeply aware of the Father's love for me. Often my heart aches for those still waiting. Yet, I am reminded that they don't wait alone. The One who created them is waiting with them .... waiting for you and me to CARE. Will you care? .... care about what He cares about? There are so many ways to serve the Fatherless.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Love Looks Like

Today, as I was cleaning out bedrooms and unpacking a box of books (yes we are still trying to settle in to this house two YEARS later) ... I came across a treasure. It was a journal I had for our second daughter's adoption. There are only a few entries .... which proves how much the process itself and life was consuming us .. there was little time to write. The year of her adoption was one of the hardest we have ever faced on every level. We were in the midst of searching for wisdom on what God was leading us to do concerning ministry ... it was also the year of our middle son's horrific sledding accident ... and many other challenges thrown into the mix. Yet it was also an incredible year of God pursuing us, leading, challenging and guiding us in such powerful ways. The journal entry below would have been written probably a couple of months before this photo was taken when our sweet girl was very ill with TB. (this actual photo is once she was at our agency's care center on her road to wellness) It's amazing to look back and see how everything was woven together.

Journal Entry ~

To my dear one ... half way across the world,

Oh my precious child ... starting your journal is so long overdue. Our journey to you began months ago. Once a decision was made everything began happening so quickly and we found ourselves overwhelmed by paperwork and fund raising. Days became weeks and weeks became months. We are now through our home study and much of the paper work.
Let me record for you some testimony of what led us to you. It began in my heart wee-one. I heard the Father calling me to you. There were so many things that I did not understand. I never dreamed we would adopt again. There were surely too many mountains in the way. But the Lord was relentless ... He kept on prodding me to research, to pray .... to believe in His infinite plan. While we were open to another domestic adoption .... I knew that this time would be different. I knew you were far, far away. After some time, I poured out my heart to your Daddy ... telling him about all the things that the Lord had been showing me. We both wept and committed our future and yours to the Lord Almighty. Never have we turned back. We have seen God do amazing things thus far and we continue to trust Him for all the details that lie ahead.

Oh how I long to hold you ..... to see your face and touch your sweet skin. It is so painful to not be with you right now. You are already so much a part of our lives. There is so much to tell you that I don't even know where to begin.

Not everyone understands why we would travel so far to get you ... but do not fear my child ... I heard your cries and I felt the Lord move and we are coming. A whole family waits for you.

Oh how I love you ... but even greater is the love of the One who created you and holds you in the palm of his hand.

Love~ Mommy

I sat there just amazed, once again, today. I was reminded that this is what LOVE looks like. Many people in our lives didn't understand ... but GOD understood. He was the One who called us on this journey ... and He was the One that stood with us day after long day of the journey.

For the waiting adoptive family it can be really overwhelming ... you love someone SO MUCH that you have NEVER seen. I know many of you reading know the kind of love I'm talking about. So to you, dear families .... let me just encourage you to HOLD ON. Do NOT lose heart. Do NOT give up. The One who called you will be FAITHFUL. And even now ... as you wait ... He waits WITH your child ... HIS child. He knows every fear you have ... He knows every single obstacle standing in your way. You can TRUST Him. Know that you don't wait alone ... He's right there wanting to walk WITH you.

Soon we will celebrate three years with Arsema. Three years .... that just blows my mind. Tomorrow I'll share a couple more entries ... I'm so thankful that God showed us what love looks like. Do you know His love? You are the reason He sent His son, my friend.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Thoughts on Color ...

You'll want to read the previous post HERE.

We did lots of research when we were in the adoption process of our first daughter. Knowing she would have a different ethnic background than we did, we had a huge passion for learning all we could. Some things we learned from reading books, going to adoption-prep classes and on-line info. Other things we learned ..... well, in various ways.

I recall the time we were told by a member of our extended family ... "well, at least it's not like you're gonna live 'near' the grandparents and rub their noses in it". This reference was made concerning our daughter would likely be African American. It still hurts. I think it should. It would be wrong for me to harbor bitterness, but I must not be out-of-touch with the reality that probably others thought such things and weren't as bold to say them. On a brighter note I am so thankful for grandparents that have loved our daughters well. They didn't make the choice to adopt ... but they have made the choice to love our children ... and I think in doing so their hearts have grown bigger.

Parents raising children in families of multiple ethnicity face many factors that most families don't. They face the fears of whether their kids will be treated equally, have the same opportunities, be welcomed in whatever community they live in. A mom who has both a white daughter and a black daughter wonders if one will have limited prospects for a mate. If you don't think that's true ... TALK to families raising diverse families ... it's real. What about the issue of inter-racial marriage? Some people "accept" a white family adopting a black child, but if one of their white children would choose to marry a black mate, there's a line that has been crossed they can't accept. That too is REAL and going on. I've seen how such prejudice can wreck an entire family unit. Ken Ham has some interesting material on this topic. Even if you don't agree with him totally theologically ... I think it's thought-provoking to consider what he has to say.

Sometimes a mom who is raising a child that looks different than she does will wonder where her child will feel he/she "fits in" someday when he/she leaves the nest. That mom is a LOVING mom ... to stop and consider that reality. This is when it's all the more critical for HOME to be a save haven ... where such things are talked about openly and dialogue is encouraged. My daughter is working on some school work next to me while I write this article. I asked her what her husband will look like someday. She said, "How am I supposed to know???". Cracked me up, because usually she has an answer for everything! She went on to say she doesn't care ... if he's light, or brown, or black or even RED (with excitement)! I asked her ... then what 'is' important .... her answer ... "if he knows God". Amen, sister!! I pray the same for my sons ... that they will chose young women who love the Lord with all their heart and won't lean on merely man's wisdom or prejudice to make the most important decisions in life.

I was asked more than once (after our first adoption) if I think it's the "black" in my daughter that causes her to be naughty. Brace yourself ... this was from another adoptive mom!!! ... whom I dearly love. Friends, these crazy ways of thinking are real and out there.

Others have received comments along the lines of ... "How will you understand your baby when they start talking someday?" (this would be a Caucasian family adopting a child from China ... assuming language is born into them and they'd automatically start speaking Chinese at age 2, even though they were with their adoptive family since infancy!). Again, this is real folks. We really need to become more educated.

I'm thankful for my diverse family and the things I've gotten to learn along the way ... even if some are painful. I think of heaven and what it's going to be like for every tribe, tongue and nation to be TOGETHER worshiping the Lord. It's hard to even comprehend such a wonderful place. There is no place in heaven for prejudice. There should be no place on earth for it either, yet we live in a fallen world.

I'd love to hear your experiences. Feel free to leave them in the comments section! Fellow mommas raising diverse families ... may you be encouraged to press on! As you love your children well, they will be prepared to go out and soar and do great things. Yes, there will be some pain, but in this life we are promised that. Keep your eyes set on eternity ... and hold your loved ones close and remind them just how precious they are ... they are EXACTLY as God designed them to be.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thoughts on Color

Color ... I have been thinking a lot about color ... particularly how color affects/impacts/changes lives in relation to adoption. Let me state first off that what I share here is only "my" experience on this issue. This in NO way is intended to speak for all adoptive families. EVERY single adoptive family is different. Every single HUMAN is different. I am only one mom .... who happens to have a huge burden to serve my children well. I am no expert. Just a white mom with both white and brown children. Now that we have that disclaimer over .... here are some of my thoughts on color.

As a child, I grew up in a predominately white community. Usually my experiences with people of color were at McDonalds or people walking along the streets of a nearby city going to catch the bus. I remember having this sense inside that I didn't feel the same boundaries that others in my family did towards them. I didn't think a ton about it, yet it was there. One year I asked for an African-American baby doll for Christmas. I will never forget the extreme surprise I experienced and JOY when I actually received it. I knew that was a stretch for my parents. I treasured that doll. Little did I know that one day I would be a momma, in real life, to brown children.

I remember an experience in my teen years of being in a nearby city and noticing an African American family pushing their baby in a stroller. I will never forget hearing someone commenting about it ... "Black babies are SO cute ... until they grow up ... and then are quite ugly". That comment stung to the core of my being. I remember my insides just twisting up in knots ... everything in me rebelled at the comment, but I said nothing. That memory would come back to haunt me again and again in later years as I responded to the needs of the Fatherless.

So now here I am, momma to two little brown girls. One born in this country and one in another. Two adoptions. Two very different adoptions, which I'll share more about in another post. One of my daughters cares very much about her ethnicity (since she was a wee-one) and one could not care less (yet, the day might eventually come or might not). This alone has taught me much in remembering that the journey is different and unique for EACH person.

As adoptive parents we can't go through this journey with rose-colored glasses. We need to have ears to HEAR our children ... both what they are saying to us and what they are NOT saying to us. We need to have eyes to SEE what they might be facing and to remember that we will not always be there to see everything! We need to have arms to HOLD them when they need embraced. We need to have a heart to FEEL with them .... even the things that make us uncomfortable ... even the pain, the loss and the racism. Ouch. I said the word. The word is still real. In America. Today. As adoptive parents we can't just be focused on "adopting that sweet, adorable brown baby". We must stop and consider what that child will be going through at 3, at 8, at 12, at 16, at 18, into adulthood! They deserve that!

Back when our daughters were 3 and 1 I wrote about "Things People Say". You just never know when those moments might come up when you can draw in close to them and grow together. Sometimes it will be the "feel good" times .... other times it might come during pain. Either way .. the key is your willingness to be there. To walk WITH them. To have cultivated that "safe place" where they know their thoughts and feelings will have a voice.

Recently I was dialoging with some fellow adoptive moms. One mom recounted a painful experience their teen adopted kids (from Ethiopia) have faced in their local school. It happens during lunch hour with segregation by tables. They don't feel welcomed at either table ..... the "black" or the "white". That is going on TODAY, in America, my friends. Yeah, go back and read that three times, please! That is not dramatized. That is REAL. So often the comment is made about adopted kids ... it goes something like this ... "Oh, aren't they so fortunate/lucky ... fill in the blank." Adoption is not a complete JOY RIDE!!! There is also pain. We must give voice to that. Our homes need to be a safe place for those experiences to be shared. The amazing mom of these precious kids mentioned is doing just that. She's providing a safe place for dialogue. Mom isn't waiting around for dialogue to happen, but she's also encouraging dialogue. And I have no doubt that momma is pointing her kids to the One that brings true identity and hope and safety.

Some of you may be wondering after all of this if I'm "for" adoption. MOST DEFINITELY I am for adoption ... but not just for parents to have kids. I am for these children no longer being Fatherless. I am for them having a family to call their OWN. I am for their loss and pain to have a voice and be heard. I am for them having a place to begin healing.

I hear so many times that people fear the challenges that children will face growing up in a family that is of different ethnicity than their own. To be honest, what would concern me even MORE is a potential parent NOT seeing that as an issue! But we can't let that fear be an excuse to not do anything. I think of my precious 6 year old ... born here in America. I remember how she laid in a hospital bed alone recovering from open heart surgery at 4 days old. I think back to my conversations with her doctors and how it felt for them to be caring for a child that had no family to call her own. I recall discussing her situation with the social workers and how they had no one but social services to call for her if we had not come. THAT. SHOULD. NOT. BE. GOING. ON. IN. AMERICA. Oh, but it is! It is going on for children of color, for children with developmental issues, for children with extensive medical needs, for children with complicated emotional and physiological needs. It is going ON.

Not every family is in a situation to adopt. Yet, dare I say that MANY are and sitting in FEAR and prejudices and "American-Dream-Chasing-Mode". I've been there. We had every reason NOT to step forward. It causes me to just shudder at the thought of what we almost missed out on. Our lives have been radically changed. FOR THE GOOD. Oh how THANKFUL I am for God opening our EYES and ARMS and HEARTS. He so patiently and relentlessly drew us in and taught us about His heart for the Fatherless.

What about for the families who HAVE opened their eyes, arms and hearts. Would you be willing to help care for them? The journey is not OVER when the children come home ... oh no friends, for many it is JUST beginning. Do you know an adoptive family? It could be near you or far away. Maybe you could reach out and love them. Some of you could probably provide an evening off for mom and dad. Maybe you aren't in a season of your lives to take on 18 years of care, but you can handle and evening here and there. :) What about a meal ... for that momma who is in over her head meeting those moment-by-moment needs ... do you have ANY idea what a meal would mean to her? That is something you can provide even for families who live far from you. And if you don't know a family personally? ... I have a huge list of families that could SO benefit from such an act of love. Contact me!! .. I would LOVE to put you in touch with them.

Back to color ... we are no longer a Caucasian family. We are no longer even just an American family. I am so thankful. My daughters and I will never share the same color tone of skin .... but I pray that we will share the same love. More to come.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Progress with a Capital P!

TAKE TWO. First writing of this post vanished. Literally. Break computer or attempt re-writing? I chose the latter.

While I'm waiting on paint to dry (AGAIN) I thought I'd give an update of our current kitchen renovation. Photo to the right is the newly painted corner unit that will house the pantry and office nook. Most of the supplies were refurbished from the old pantry. For those of you who have been to our home before, this is where the old back stairway was. The one that I've missed a total of ZERO times! :) I am now handing this project back over to the man of the house who will do the framing for doors! DOORS!! .... how I LOVE them! AFTER the doors are built and painted ... did you catch that? ... AFTER! ... then we'll install a piece of countertop that will join this unit to the fridge. This will create a home office nook.

It's definitely progress from just two weeks ago when it looked like this! This was the week OF Christmas. :) Hubby informed me no one else would be wanting their house torn apart the week of Christmas so he finally got back to working on ours. I get so many comments on how great it is that my husband can do all these home renovations for free. I have learned to laugh. :) It's true that we are VERY blessed to have family members that have the abilities to do such projects. Without them we probably wouldn't even have a place to live in at this point. Well, other than a tent or something like that. :) God was so gracious in providing a place for us near our family for this season of our lives. Little by little it's starting to become HOME.

Speaking of doors!, these lovely doors were made by my middle-man-son with the help of his Gpa. Dad has been out on mail route lately and couldn't continue with the kitchen projects. Nathaniel loves any excuse to call up Gpa and work in the woodshop. The pitcher/jar on the doors? That is my lovely little find at Goodwill yesterday. $3.49. Score! We've been needing another pitcher and what is it with all the strange colors they have on pitchers? I loved this glass one when I saw it and knew it would be the perfect addition to our kitchen ... thinking OJ. I think I was even more excited about getting to go to Goodwill ALONE. Ah ... bliss!

The lovely doors will be mounted to this new upper cabinet. Yep, another project from the middle-guy! He and his Gpa built this one awhile back when dad was out on a paid job. This reminds me that I probably need to make dinner for Gpa for his graciousness in supervising projects, yet again. :)

See the tiny bottle with red packaging? That's some nasty stop-sucking-your-thumb stuff. It doesn't work, if your child is an addict. I really need to throw it away and just hope that she'll be done sucking her thumb by the time she walks down the aisle someday. :) The big gap at the top of the cabinet? Yeah .... always a work in progress around here. But!, the hubby cut a board too short for the pantry the other day and so we can now salvage it and use for this cabinet. Yeah! It will be perfect for not-used-every-day items. See the toaster underneath? That will be the new home for this used-every-day gem! I had BEGGED (which is different from NAGGING - truly it is!) for this outlet to be hooked up recently. About 15 min later and we had power. He had previously had me convinced that it would take a long time. Yep, he got some flack on that one!!, along with some lovin'. Gotta keep the guy motivated, ya know? :)

Next up is the corner cabinet which is located at the busiest part of our kitchen. I could tell you that I staged this (MESSY) photo for dramatic purposes for when you see the finished ones. But, that would be a LIE. This is REALITY living in the midst of home repair/renovation long-term. Often there is not even a place for things to go, let alone everything in it's place. We're almost to the point where we'll take out all contents of every cabinet and find a new organized home in our new space. Note-to-self .... plan family meeting so all are informed of said plan. Extra note-to-self ... bake something REALLY yummy for meeting in attempt to get FULL attention. On this door will be a new place for our spices which I'm incredibly excited about!! We buy our spices in bulk, but don't need the large containers stuffed in our one of three upper cabinets. Ok, some would say we have 5 actually, but I don't count the two above micro and fridge that I can't reach, let alone see the contents of.

This area still needs (MUCH) work to pull together. The upper cabinet followed the fridge to this new wall since it was already built. The fridge sits where the old pantry was ... the pantry that made for a NARROW hallway to dining room. The stove used to open right in front of the opening to the hallway .. yes, blocking it ... lovely when you have littles and a busy/bustling home. :) Check out the fridge! Isn't that BEAUTY? We are SO blessed to have so many dear families in our lives across the miles. Between fridge and new corner unit will be the countertop/home office nook (remember AFTER doors are built to hide any office clutter). I can't decide yet what do about this section completely. I could put some open shelves (which would be MUCH too tempting for hubby to load up with work/clutter!!). Feel free to link me to all your fave home office ideas in the comments!! I'm definitely still working on an idea here to tie all this together.

All kidding aside though, I am SO thankful to be walking the journey of life with this guy. It hasn't always been a fairytale. As I shared here ... it takes many colors to make the tapestry of our lives. I just can't imagine my life without him. He loves me so deeply. Not just on the easy days, but also on the ones where I'm freaking out because I cannot handle any more home renovations. I love working to make our home a haven for him and the many who come through here.

Back to painting. The paint has dried more than enough (note having to re-do this entire post). :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Painting a Tapestry

There's lots of painting going on here today. The boring kind really. Cream. Cream in my Coffee is the actual name ... cool name, huh? Still ... boring. As I was painting I was reminded of how our lives are like a big tapestry, painted by God. Have you ever looked at an artist's color palette? Usually there are SO very many colors that work together and in the end create a beautiful tapestry. I'm not an artist. Not at all! I paint boring things like cabinets. :) But, I know this girl ... her name is Anne. Our recent family pics are from the work of Anne. Photography, painting, athletics ... God packed a whole bunch of amazing creativity and talent into this young woman. (note pic to the right!) :)

Just as a painting is full of many colors, so are our lives. There are times we experience the blackness that is part of the tapestry God is creating. Blackness can come in many forms ... betrayal, death of a loved one, an affair, financial ruin ... we all have strokes of blackness in our lives in one form or another. It's at those times that we often have a really hard time in seeing the bigger picture. We only feel the pain that darkness brings. There have been times in my life that nearly all I saw was blackness. I look back over my life and can hardly believe the tapestry that God has created.

This picture ....it's a picture of God's incredible grace. I think sometimes though when we see a family portrait with everyone smiling that we get misled. There were a lot of long years that led up to the point where we are today. Many colors were painted throughout. There were seasons were God was laying the foundation .... and some of those years required a lot of dark colors. There was pain that words would only fail to express. However there have been other seasons as well. Seasons of lighter colors ... even beautiful blues, greens and anyone that knows our family can't forget the pink. As Anne took photos for us late last summer, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed in realizing we're all here ... together. You can see more of her beautiful work here !!

God isn't done with the tapestry of our lives. Even now we are walking through days of grief, mixed with the excitement of a child soon graduating. One thing I've learned over the years is to trust that God truly does bring JOY in the morning. The pain you currently face isn't the last chapter. There IS JOY ... to be found in Him. Last fall I had the privilege of sharing some of my testimony at a local banquet. Perhaps it would encourage you today to hear the song that was sung. Josh Wilson - Before the Morning. Maybe you are waiting for morning to come. It will come, my friend. We must hang on to Him and trust Him.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Little Encouragement for Moms ...

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

It's so easy during any given day (or hour!) to become weary as moms. Did you ever feel sunk before your feet even hit the floor in the morning? Have you known the reality of failure? Been there. Two kids into this parenting gig and I thought we were doin' ok. Yes, there were the sleepless nights. One out of the two guys was a little intense, if you know what I mean. The other never wanted to sleep unless there was flesh next to him, namely MY flesh. But really, all in all we were doing ok. Then God blessed us with number three. Little did we know at the time, He was just really preparing us for number four child! :) That third guy though, I should have known what was coming during labor when he pretty much REFUSED to be born! Stubborn with a mile-high S was that sweet boy. My character was tested daily as we were all crammed into a small two bedroom apartment in the middle of the inner-city of Chicago while my husband was in Bible college.

As a mom, have you ever just wanted to throw a big screamin' temper-tantrum?? Or maybe like me, you haven't just wanted to, but have DONE so ... numerous times. Only to feel defeated afterward, not to mention the wasted energy that could have been used to actually cook dinner or wipe yet another dirty bottom. Last time I looked there wasn't a long line of people waiting in line to cheer me on with this mothering gig. No, instead there is a long line of dishes strung across the counters, piles of laundry pretty much every direction you look, spills, unpaid bills, marked up furniture, wet diapers (and don't forget the stinky ones) and NOISE! ... definitely can't forget the NOISE! How's a mom even to concentrate and THINK, for crying out loud?

Yet LITERALLY!!!, before you know it ... my three sons are now all towering over me and God has brought along two sweet-with-a-mix-of-spunk daughters into the mix. The oldest is firmly rooted and full of dreams, waiting to receive an acceptance to Bible college. The middle one is a jack-of-all-trades guy who can do anything from fixing a toilet to hushing a fussy babe, not to mention COOK! The third (who now and then puts this momma over the edge) has found his voice and the rhythm of drums and loves teaching his little sisters about Jesus. As I reflect on the last 17 years of mothering I can't help but think of Galatians 6:9. Fellow moms ..... let us NOT become WEARY in doing good ... for at the proper time we WILL ... we WILL .... reap a harvest if we do not give up!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Transformed Hearts - Part 2

As I was saying ... God was radically transforming our hearts. So many things went through my mind during those days in the hospital. I recalled some comments extended family had made. I don't know what is hardest at times .... the things people say, or the things they don't say. Silence can be just as difficult. I remember stepping outside of the hospital for a quick break and walking the streets of Houston to go grab some lunch. Feeling especially alone that day, I looked up beyond the city buildings into the gorgeous blue sky. I'll never forget how the Lord encouraged my heart .... that beyond pleasing anyone on this earth, I need to care more about HIM and what HE wants for my life. I'm so glad that the Lord is faithful to help us look UP to HIM. In the end, He is the one we'll stand before.

I remember thinking that in that very city was the brave woman who chose to give my daughter LIFE!!! It was now time for me to be brave and not fear rejection from others, but to focus on Christ and what He had done for me so long ago.

Adoption isn't just about going to pick up some baby and bring them home and live happily-ever-after. Adoption is so much bigger and deeper. For a child to have the need to be adopted it means they have faced great loss. Yes, even if a child was born into the worse circumstances .... leaving that situation is still loss. As adoptive parents we MUST not lose sight of that. Covering up the past, being in denial of the past ... being unwilling to give a voice to the past ... that will not help our children. Walking ALONGSIDE is what is needed. You cannot "fix" the loss. You CAN however, walk WITH them. And as you walk with them ... help direct them UP to HIM ... the only one who can heal that kind of pain and loss. The one who brings true comfort.

Our feisty 'lil Texan is now six years old. I asked her the morning of her birthday ... "Hey sweetie ... do you feel bigger?" (she is hardly bigger than her little sister two years younger). She said to me ... "Yeah!! ... well ... I feel BIGGER than MALEAH!". Oh my. I had to wonder how many incidents would occur this week as she tries to prove it. :)

Not everyone is called to adopt, yet we are all called to care for orphans. And as you do ... prepare to have your heart transformed.

We are blessed to work with so many families, as we serve with the ABBA Fund, that have had transformed hearts. It's a privilege to walk with them and help them to look UP to HIM ... the One who makes all things possible. I think of my sweet friend, Erica, who is preparing to travel to see their precious little girl. I think of the dear Walser Fam who will soon be flying HOME with their sweet wee-one. My heart is filled with JOY each time I think of the amazing Schnabel fam ... we met two of their kids while traveling to Ethiopia and while there saw another sib group of three that we prayed and prayed for ... you guessed it ... now all in the same precious family. These families know what it means to lay aside the earthly and focus on the eternal.

Are you afraid of the sacrifices? It's ok to say yes. It's ok to be honest and say that following God comes with a cost. The three young boys in this pic have lived it out. There were times I wanted to quit ... the journey got so difficult. They would remind me the need was greater than what we were currently facing. These boys now tower over me. Each with a deep passion for the needs of others.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Transformed Hearts - Part 1

Six years ago today our lives were dramatically changed ... we received an email from our adoption agency. My heart had grown weary from the long wait and I was about to just give up hope. I was tired of the unknowns (torture for a planner!!), scared about our bank account (the one we LACKED) and even a bit fearful of how our extended family would handle things once the news finally came.

But then all those fears were swept away for a few moments, when the email came.

Little girl, African American, born New Year's Day, needing open heart surgery ... no family available. While I knew full well the statics, it was still hard to read. How could it possible be there was no family available. Yes, this child needed major surgery and yes it would be quite a few hectic months while she recovered .... but she was looking at potential long-term good health. But it wasn't just the medical. The harsh reality landed more with her ethnicity. Six years ago in the US there weren't long lines of families waiting for children of color. Someday that will have to be a different post.

When we read the words on our screen, we knew this was our daughter. We KNEW without a shadow of a doubt, this is the child we'd been waiting for. We had not expected health needs at all, because we had horrible insurance. However she would have the bulk of her needs met under a different insurance.

I remember calling our pediatrician to go over her health issues to determine what those might mean for her. We were told of the risks she faced. Already at that point, we weren't just inquiring about some child ... she already felt like our daughter. The daughter we had labored so long and hard for to be able to bring home. To be able to be family to.

We called our agency back and said YES we were wanting to be her family. And so ... we had to wait til the end of that day, as this precious spunky Texan with a defective heart needed to undergo open heart surgery all that day. We had the amazing privilege of getting to pray for her all throughout that day as she had surgery. Our boys (ages 7, 9 and 11) could not even attempt to contain their excitement. Their hearts just oozed out incredible love for her. This is the sweet one they had worked odd jobs for to try and raise the needed funds to cover her expenses so she could have a family. It was almost as if I could literally see their faith grow. We were taking part in something so bigger than ourselves and it was true beauty.

Late in the day we received a call that our sweet baby girl had made it through!! Her heart was repaired and she was starting the long recovery process. We said YES to her and we were quickly scouring to find a flight for me to make it to TX to be at her side. It took THREE flights on such short notice to get from ND to TX. This momma is not a big fan of flying, especially flying through rough weather. The last flight of the three was the scariest I've ever experienced. But at last I landed in the great state of TX and could hardly wait to see our precious babe.

I had to wait one more night (not as planned - insert UNHAPPY momma here!!) to see her. But morning (FINALLY) came and then came a little more waiting (UGH) and then .... I was ushered into her room. I could hardly believe my eyes. THIS was the child God had radically transformed our hearts for. She was such a bitty thing ... wires and tubes coming out everywhere. I will never forget her big brown eyes meeting mine and it was if she just stared right through me. Even back then this spunky one didn't sleep much. Literally. They could hardly medicate her enough to get her into a deep enough sleep for good rest. Our meeting was so different than I had envisioned. There was no swooping her into my arms ... but the precious nurses kept one tiny hand free of tubes so I could hold her hand.

I remember looking around the room ... and feeling the harsh reality of her aloneness. There had been no big fanfare for this precious girl ... no big New Year's Baby celebrations ... no flower bouquets or balloons. No family. That was about to dramatically changed. While the statistics overwhelmed us and almost made us go numb and not do ANYthing ... we finally were being used by God to do something ... if even for just ONE. But what REALLY was happened at even greater depth was what God was doing IN US!!! He was radically changing our hearts and lives to be more molded to his likeness. To care more about the eternal ... the things unseen ... we were experiencing fellowship with Christ like we'd never known before.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Scene

As I was taking down our Christmas decor and trying to get some cleaning done (to prepare to get back into school routine this week) I snapped this pic quick. This scene isn't just for Christmas. This scene represents why I get out of bed each day. No matter my circumstances .... this scene is enough. No matter the depth of heartache or pain of grief ... if not for this scene, there would be no reason to put my feet on the floor each morning (well other than some really hungry littles demanding some breakfast!!). :)

Anybody else out there feeling a bit overwhelmed? (gosh I hope I'm not the only one)

When I get those waves of overwhelming thoughts ... it's time to refocus and remember this scene that I just spent the last two months teaching my youngest two children about. This baby came to give LIFE. I need to remember WHO He is so that I can accomplish what He's given me to do. With out Him I'm so stinkin' sunk it's not even funny.

He is all I need each and every day. That does not mean all of my days will go smooth or without pain. Quite the contrary. If I'm doing what He's given me to do, my days might bounce about rough at times and no doubt will there be disappointment and failures. But I don't walk the journey alone. I don't face the trials alone. I don't weep alone. HE IS WITH ME. And He's there with you ... if you'll have Him. He came for each of us ... but not just to be celebrated at Christmas. He came to walk this journey WITH us.

What about you ... needin' someone to walk the journey with you? Remember the scene. He came with a purpose.