Wednesday, January 23, 2013

8 Years Later of LIFE

Eight years ago ... I walked into that Texas hospital room knowing my life would never be the same. Back then things were done differently in the adoption world.  All we knew about our precious little one was the email we had received a few days prior:  "Little girl. African American. 5 days old.  Needing open heart surgery. No family for her."

No family for her.

How could that be?  Here in America.  How could it be our agency had NO ONE to call for this precious child whose birthmom had chosen LIFE for. We can't just be against abortion.  If we're against abortion than we'd better STEP UP to care for those precious lives. I'm so glad God had moved in our lives in a radical and powerful way the year prior.  Without Him we would never have been where we now were. He gave us a whole different lens to look through.  An eternal one. It called for sacrifice. The best kind we've ever made.

Well, because of our lack of good health insurance, we hadn't signed up for a medical needs child. I had such a heavy burden to contact our agency though and that's why we received the email.  We knew she was our daughter.  The one God had burdened our hearts about nearly a year prior. We had the absolute privilege of praying for her throughout the lengthy open heart surgery.  I remember sitting on our bed, with our three sons gathered near, praying for this precious little one to make it.  Two days later I was seeing her for the first time.

NEVER again would this little one be without a family.

After a quick lesson in her condition and a run down of what all the wires and tubes were for, her sweet nurses stepped out of her room and let me have some time with my precious new daughter. I could see them staring at us from a distance.  I sensed I was under some "test". It wasn't long before they informed me I had passed.  They'd grown so protective of her.  No one had been to visit her in those first days of her life.  She was nameless.  But not to God.

For you created my inmost being;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16

Her Daddy named her Naomi.  When her birthmom received the news that a family was found and that her name was "Naomi" I'm told she said ... "Naomi ... that's a Bible name!"  What I would give for just one picture of that amazing woman.  I feel sometimes I know her. There are days that I look into these eyes and wonder if hers tilt up the same way. Or when she's showing her full-Texan-spunk ... I know that same kind of spunk helped her birthmom have the courage to make the decisions she did. 

There are so many unanswered questions that my precious daughter has.  I won't ever have all the answers.  But what I can do is meet here where she is - especially when she's right in the middle of the unknowns - and direct her to the One who is All-Knowing.  I remind her that she was never completely alone.  That her Heavenly Father was always there.  Just as He is here now.

I remember getting to hold her for the first time.  It took two nurses to get all those wires and tubes positioned just right to make it a success. It was a humbling place to finally be after months and months of paperwork, fund-raising and our own health scare. Yet here I was. Being transformed into the Mom that God knew before the beginning of time that I would be. There were still many unknowns in our lives, but I knew that I was where God sent me - and that brought great peace.

After she finally graduated out of the hospital we had to stay within an hour from there before we could take the long treck home (which was ND at the time). A social worker transported us to a hotel, stopping quick at a grocery store so I could grab a few things to live off of for a few days before David would join us. I remember spending hours in that hotel room just taking in all God had done.

I could hardly wait to take our little one HOME to meet her three amazing big brothers!

Daddy finally made it to us and because of this picture she wants to go to the beach in TX as part of our promised trip there when she turns 10. That used to sound so far away.  Recently she just had her 8th birthday!

At last it was time to make the plane trip HOME.  She was hardly 6 lbs. She felt like a feather compared to our big boys who were home waiting. They had worked so hard to help make a difference in the life of ONE. They had grown much more concerned for children in this world who had NO ONE rather than being a child having so much. All the paper routes walked, all the weeds pulled, all the odd jobs recruited ... it all faded away when they finally got to just HOLD HER.

She's now spent the last eight years knowing she has VALUE.  She has PURPOSE. She is TREASURED.

Her family has been radically transformed into knowing and understanding a whole lot more about the Father's GREAT LOVE.

During her hospital stay {the part when she moved to a new floor in the hospital once someone could stay 24 hrs a day with her} I asked the staff: "What would have happened?  How could she even move to this part of the hospital to continue in recovery?".  I wasn't prepared to hear their answer.  They humbly shared how she would have been transferred into the foster care system. It's one thing to read that reality in a report.  It's another thing when they are talking about YOUR daughter!

Reality is that's where many children are living. They have no idea what their future holds.  Where they'll be living in the next week or where they'll spend their next birthday. Can I just say - that is NOT OK!!!

It's NOT OK for us to not care.

It's NOT OK for us to be SO stinking busy raising our families to not STOP and CARE about those in this world who no longer have a family they can be with.

It's NOT OK to just turn our backs while we play taxi being sure our kids are in enough activities to make them well-rounded.

It's NOT OK that many children do not know the peace and security of snuggling up with a Momma or Daddy for bedtime stories.

These two amazing little lives remind me DAILY that there are so many more children just WAITING for SOMEONE to STEP UP. Someone to care. Someone to respond.

Our 2013 calendar is filling up with appointments I'd never dream were part of our future.  Things like PRIDE training {that's foster care talk for lots and lots of classes}, CPR training, IL MENTOR training and on it goes. This was an already busy season. We could so easily fill up our calendar with a dozen other things. My sweet mom ... the night I told her what was going on said these wise words to me: "When God leads you to do something, it's usually a good idea to follow." And so we follow.  One step at a time. Some days we follow SCARED.  Some days we follow SOLEMN. Some days we follow SOUL-SEARCHING. But from here on out - Lord willing - we follow SURRENDERED.

Perhaps we'll meet another little one in a hospital bed.  Maybe in a social-worker's office.  It might take place in a court-house hallway.  For as long they need us, we'll be there. We can be CONFIDENT of this ... the Lord Himself goes before us and will never leave our side.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

YOUR Invitation to STEP UP!

UPDATED TO SHARE that because so many of you received YOUR INVITATION to STEP UP - the Block family is now FULLY FUNDED.  Many lives are going to be impacted by this!!!  THANK YOU to all of you who GAVE!  Our Father is FAITHFUL! All praise to Him!

Last October one of the amazing families that was featured for "31 Families of HOPE" was the Block Family.  And when I shared about God calling us to Say YES {in a new way!} .... it was through hearing them speak that night in Bloomginton that God chose to just shake me to the core of my heart.  Needless to say, we're pretty passionate about how God is using this family in Guatemala.

Some of you are familiar with our "Step Up T's".  They were designed to help support this incredible work that is being done through Village of Hope Guatemala.

Here's a bit of the Block Family story ~ shared from a friend and supporter.

Imagine with me if you will: You, your spouse and your 9 children are living a
comfortable and blessed life. You have access to quality education, top-notch health care and resources abound. Your family and friends are at most
a short plane ride away.

And then you hear HIM. God is calling you and your family to something MORE.

A life that will stretch you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually more

than you can possibly imagine. Yet all that matters is this:
the one small voice that proclaims “GO”.

So you quit your jobs, sell most of your possessions,
say goodbye to family and friends-including your two oldest sons’-and you,
your spouse and 7 of your 9 children move to a developing country 1100 miles away. 
You don’t speak the language and you know very few people there. 

17 months ago that is exactly what Amy N'Todd Block and their family did.
Not knowing exactly what God had planned for them once they arrived,
they KNEW they were obeying God’s call on their lives and they had FAITH.
Today the Block’s serve at Village of Hope-Guatemala; a ministry they founded 7 months ago 
in San Lucas, Guatemala. Village of Hope exists to provide faith,
family and future to special needs orphans living with HIV/AIDS,
along with ministering to the local community through teaching them
about the love of Jesus Christ. You can learn more about Village of Hope here:

Since the Block’s relocated to Guatemala, their only source of income has been provided 
by generous donors who have agreed to partner with the Block’s on a monthly basis. 

This income ensures that the Block’s needs are met and they can devote 100%

of their skills and energy to the ministry. Unfortunately the Block’s have never 
been 100% funded which has made it difficult to meet their family’s basic monthly needs. 
It is time to change that.

We are stepping out in faith and BELIEVE we can have the Block’s
fully funded 
in 1 week.

We are looking for 200 individuals who would like to partner with the Block’s. 
For only $5 per month, and a 12 month minimum commitment
(that’s only $60 for one year of support!), you have the opportunity to be a part 
of what God is doing at Village of Hope.

You may think your $5 donation won’t make a difference.
Nothing could be further from the truth. 

In order to support the Block’s follow this link:; select “monthly support”; select “Todd & Amy Block,
Guatemala (97808) from the list of missionaries; complete the online form;
click “submit payment”.

Please prayerfully consider supporting this precious family and share this need on your Facebook Walls and Blogs. We have 1 week to make our goal and we need everyone’s help to make that happen. Thank you!

To truly see a glimpse into the beautiful heart of the Block family, please visit their blog here and read their latest post.

Remember, HERE is where you go to STEP UP and support their ministry! {follow the instructions up above}

Friday, January 18, 2013

Scared, Yet Surrendered

It's a strange place that I've found myself in - this year of turning 40.  That's quite a few years already lived.  Have I fully invested myself in them?  I thought about it as I prepared to walk with my son down the aisle of the church a few weeks ago.  I've been thinking about it as I gather up ideas for our middle son's high school graduation.  It was certainly on my mind as I ordered Kindergarten curriculum last fall for our youngest starting school.  Each day that the Lord gives me - I'm accountable for it.  There was time wasted away on things that didn't matter.  Many days I spent doing things no one else noticed.

I'm not a stranger to being scared.  These last 9 years have been pure redemption.  I can still remember sitting in that hospital bed waiting for my surgery, not knowing if I'd get to be a Momma much longer.  I was scared deep.  By God's grace He showed me how to surrender. He then let me learn to be a momma all over again - twice!  I can still feel her scared when I see this picture.

surrender: To relinquish possession or control of to another because of demand or compulsion.

Say it with me - OUCH!  As a mom, I need to be in control to a certain degree or we'd never get anything done around here.  But too often I take that role of being in control over into areas it doesn't belong. 

Surrender is HARD.  Surrender is NECESSARY!  Fully investing my life calls for some serious surrender.

We shared our big news yesterday.  Some may think we're just all giddy over this decision.  Let me be brutally honest and tell you we are not.  This isn't a time to be giddy.  

If any of you have done foster care or adoption paperwork you know that throughout it are a bunch of reality checks. For a brief moment today I stopped and thought ... "just WHAT are we signing up for??"  {smile} Each time I get scared though, it's just because something reminded me how selfish I am.  My love for SLEEPING at night.  My calendar that I'm pretty much in CONTROL of - I kind of like it that way. 

This journey we are on will call for deep surrender in so many areas of our lives.  

When I get scared about whether friends and family members will understand it can cause me to spiral so fast.  I spend time caring about pleasing man instead of focusing on my Creator.  When I get scared about how drastic our family's life might change in the coming year it can cause me to doubt. 

I'm done trying to fight off scared.  See, that's the abundantly amazing thing about the Father - He doesn't expect me to follow only after I've shed off all my hindrances.  He wants to use me right now.  He wants to work through me.  It wants to do great things in spite of me.  He accepts this scared momma just as she is.  What He wants most is a heart fully surrendered.  

So while I might still be scared, I choose this day - and every day forward - to walk surrendered.  Surrendered to the unknowns.  Surrendered to the sad.  Surrendered to the hard.  

Something amazing happens when I surrender.  He fills my life with purpose.  He fills my mind with truth.  He fills my heart with hope.  It feels good!  It is in this place that I know my life will be fully invested.

Is the Father calling you to a place of surrender?  Have you been trying to please man?  Trying to find your significance in things of this world?  Has He called you to care about those who are forgotten? Does He want your heart to learn to really love your family?  It's ok if you're scared.  Turn to Him.  He accepts the scared.

As you surrender may you embrace purpose, truth and hope.

We completed our application paperwork today.  I found myself smiling more today.  Anticipation welled up inside my heart this evening.  The Father is preparing us.  

You can find our hope bands here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

We're Saying YES {in a new way}!

So, as I was saying here, our family has grown!  A new chapter has begun.  One that we are absolutely cherishing.  I know we'll all have growing pains as we move along, but oooooooo the BLESSINGS we have already received!  For you Mommas deep in the trenches of matchbox cars, diapers and sippy-cups ... what you're doing right now MATTERS DEEPLY.  Invest each day into that little heart which God has entrusted you with.  Someday it will be time to let go and you're gonna want to arrive at that place with no regrets.  Oh, you'll have messed up many a time ... but if you invest WELL into these years ... you will be able to lovingly let go and send out with blessing!

I've joked multiple times this year that my kids all ganged up on me.  I really do think it's true.  A wedding, a senior, a new high schooler with driver's permit, a spunky one with learning challenges and my baby starting Kindergarten {while Momma turned 40!}.

Seriously, look at that threesome to the right - you can see they are just up to something! My high-school boys LOVE teasing me that I am getting older. {I don't mind a bit! Their hugs make up for it all!}

What I did not know though, was that God would choose this year to transform my heart and lead our family in a direction I never thought would be our reality.

For those of you who receive our Christmas letter, you might have wondered what was up.  We had a few ask if we were headed to the mission field.  And while I said "no", rethinking it - I suppose we should say YES.  But not in a foreign field.  No, God is calling us to serve radically right in our own backyard. So before you mistaken me for someone I'm not ... the process over the last several months went something like this:

God: Continually prompting me about the needs of those without a voice.
Me: I'm to pray more! - and help those who are fostering.
God: Putting people into my life through speakers and writers to challenge me to the CORE.
Me: There are SO many others out there - why don't they listen and hear and respond?
God: Piercing my heart with the reality of my flesh. Relentless, yet tenderly.
Me: Come up with 101 excuses of why NOT!
God: Using the Word to convict.
Me: Realize there is MUCH at stake in this obedience.
God: Caring for me like only He can while reminding me He paid it ALL for me.
Me: Taking many steps toward surrender.
God: Confirming through the leading of my husband, which was strong and powerful
and left me feeling very shallow in my excuses.  :)
Me: Spending much time confessing that this season would look far DIFFERENT from
what I had envisioned the next 5 years to be.
God: Bringing about others in the adoption/fostering community to model what this kind of surrender and service looks like.  Each family unique.
Me: Building new friendships and asking my inner-circle of friends to pray hard.
God: Stripping away my desire to please man {including our own extended family} and helping me remember WHO I AM TO AIM TO PLEASE.
Me: Learning that sometimes worship is spent in surrender and letting go of some things
I was hanging onto with a really tight grip.
God: Comforting me when I felt so alone and wondering if some would
realize we'd nearly lost our minds for good.
Me: Learning He loves me so deeply and WILL TEACH ME HOW TO LOVE in a NEW WAY!
God: Piercing my heart with more conviction through our Sunday School study and prayer.
Me: Confessing what I've known to be true all along - I have one life to live
and I want more than anything to live it WELL.

You see, it wasn't pretty.  This is so very different from our two adoption journeys.  Yes, this process has had me deal with my selfishness and control and fear.  Last November we went to hear the Block Family share their testimony of working in Guatemala.  The Lord used that night to shake me up good.  The room was full of amazing families - many looking very similar in diversity to ours.  What a JOY it was to see so many families who had chosen to step out of their comfort zone and say YES to the Fatherless.  I had no idea that God would use the worship and message of that night to speak so deeply to my heart.

Lord, why foster care?  I'm an adoptive mom, not a foster mom.  Do you love Me?

Lord, but our oldest is getting married ... we're in a busy season in our lives.  We've already said YES twice.  Two in high school, two just starting grade school ... surely this isn't for real?  Do you care about what I care about?

Lord, you've led me to serve and encourage adoptive/fostering families - isn't that my role in this season?  Partly - do you care about the rest?

Lord, we've worked so hard to raise our family, does it really need to be our responsibility to help those who have crumbled often by their own doing?  They are MY children too, I VALUE them - I can work through you.

Lord, many in our extended family likely will not understand and you know how deeply that always hurts me.  Child, you are first and foremost in My family and my love is ENOUGH.  Just TRUST Me.

The oldest has moved out.  One bedroom is empty.  With completely surrendered hearts and with a new sense of JOY we will now transform that space into a "Haven Room".

Haven: a place of safety or refuge.

The Lord has so faithfully been directing our steps.  Tonight we're off to a CPR class with some dear friends who just completed this whole process.  Next week we'll meet with an agency who seems to be a good fit for our family.  They'll help us map out our plan for getting our foster license.  We anticipate it being next fall or so before we have a placement. We aren't sure of all the details or exactly who God has planned to come into our home and find a place of refuge.  A place where they'll be valued.  Be nurtured.  Be accepted.  Be cared for.  Be loved.  What we DO know is that as a family we have much to learn.  With arms and hearts wide open - we're ready for whatever He has for us.  Why?  Because He is GOOD and His plans are so far better than anything we could ever come up with on our own!

Yesterday I was feeling a wee-bit low and anxious of what others would think.  {Just keeping it real!}  I heard my phone and looked down and received the sweetest text from our new family member.  {That son chose a good woman!} Her words brought comfort, love and encouragement. Have I mentioned lately how utterly blessed we are?    

YES, Lord.  YES to YOUR plan.  YES to learning to LOVE in a new way.  YES to the unknown.  YES to the hard.  YES to Your children.  YES to You.  We want to see you face-to-face on that glorious day with NO REGRETS.

Does any of this resonate with you?  Do some of the above conversations sound a little familiar?  Does God have you in a place of surrender in your life?  He is trust-worthy.  He is patient and kind. And I am so glad.

Check out our 31 Nuggets of Hope site where we offer resources to adoptive and fostering families.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Our Family Grew!

We have finally come out of the holiday/wedding fog.  Despite each of us fighting off some kind of crud throughout that two week span - we all made it to the chapel!  

At some point as we prepared for rehearsal dinner I was able to steal a quick moment with this one.  My first born.  I can still remember sitting his little toddler body up on the bathroom counter and wiping his little white tennis shoes clean before heading out on an outing.  I can remember rocking him as a baby on my bed, hoping he'd drift off to sleep - it was just he and I and this Momma grew tired sometimes.  I remember a little boy playing with long lines {perfectly in a row} of matchbox cars in my hallway.  I remember the joy a simple Lego set would bring him.  I remember a little boy, Bible in hand, grasping God's word in his heart. I remember a grade-school boy getting up in the early morning hours to deliver a paper route with his younger brother and Daddy in the cold, dark winters of North Dakota.  I remember a child who learned to be content in plenty and in want.  I remember his love of missionary biographies - many brought comfort to my boy and gave him a passion that His God could accomplish anything.  I remember him laboring through much fund-raising and living an simple life so that two more little ones would know the joy of having a family.  I remember the day He sat down on my lap at my desk chair and told me he knew she was the one.  I remember the day he came home with his first old truck.  I remember leaving him at college in a huge city.  I remember when he called to tell us he asked her! I remember the middle-of-the-night phone call no parent ever wants to receive.  One chapter has ended, yet a new one begins.  It is good. We were blessed with a wonderful day to celebrate two lived being joined together as one.  The ceremony was simple with a powerful message of what the purpose of marriage and a home is really about.  

It felt good to finally be to the big day.  I sat next to my guy and just tried to take it all in.  As parents you work so hard to raise up your kids - with the intent to send them off one day on their own.  We'd already done that to some extent when we dropped him off at college.  Yet this day marked a bigger change.  One that we have deeply embraced.  The growing pains that come on both sides as you work through the transition aren't easy.  But this chapter - it's starting out quite special.  What an exciting time. We are so very blessed!

Big changes ahead for the whole family!  We'd been telling these two sweeties that Big Brother was going to be moving "far away" ... trying so hard to prepare them. Then many plans changed and he is not all that far from home with his new bride.  What an amazing unexpected reality and BLESSING!
Photo by Kayleigh Berry
You can see more of the wedding here.

Our house has a little less hustle and bustle in it these days.  One room is empty.  A new chapter beginning - not just in their new life together, but in ours as well.

Just when we thought things might settle down awhile with "only" the 6 of us.  You see though, God's never done using you - if you're willing.  I've been experiencing a crash course in that over the last six months, but that's a story for tomorrow.

I love this photo.  How he looks at her.  All those years of nurturing this one, who is now grown.  All those days of pouring out into his life hoping it would make a difference.  All the moments of teaching him to work hard, to serve, to be a man of integrity.  To get to see a glimpse of the chapter ahead ... it warms this Momma's heart.  They'll go through joys and trials like the rest of us.  There will be times they don't get it right and pause and start again.  Knowing their foundation is firmly rooted in the One who is unshakable - that brings such peace.  He found her.  She said "yes".  {and we LOVE HER!!} A new story begins.