Sunday, December 28, 2008

"But Baby Jesus..."

We are somewhere else in the south visiting family, but I wanted to post a quick story from Christmas Eve...

Every year, when I put out our manger scene, I put baby Jesus in a wrapped gift box addressed to everyone who will be at our house on Christmas morning. On Christmas Eve, Scott will read the Christmas story from Luke and then the kids puts baby Jesus in the manger.

This year, Abby was so excited to finally get to put baby Jesus in the manger. The time finally arrived and she and Mackenzie went over to do the honors. But as they laid Jesus in the manger, we heard, "But baby Jesus cold." Sweet Abby was distressed that baby Jesus didn't have on clothes and He was laying in a cold manger.

"Blanket for baby Jesus?" "No Abby, we don't have any tiny blankets." Not to be deterred, Abby pulled the cotton out of the gift box that He had been in and covered baby Jesus!


A little girl, who has probably never heard the name of Jesus until a few months ago, had such a tender heart for Him that she wanted Him warm. There was no room in the inn, but there was room in Abby's heart! I know she still doesn't grasp the full significance of Christmas, but somehow she understands enough to know that baby Jesus shouldn't be cold... I think in her heart, probably no baby should be cold.

A few weeks ago, she 'dictated' a Christmas letter for her daddy (she talks, I write) and she had me write, "Jesus loves me...I know!" Oh to have the incredible blessing of watching faith blossom in the heart of a child...

As much as she is enjoying the presents, she is also beginning to grasp the heart of CHRISTmas!

I'm going to take another break from blogging for a few days and I'll see you in New Year! Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The High Cost Of Adoption...In Perspective

As Christmas draws close, a thought has been percolating in my heart about the high cost of adoption. It’s interesting to me that in the many conversations I’ve had about adoption, the subject of cost is almost always discussed… “Isn’t it expensive?” “How much does it cost?” “We could never afford that.”

Yes, it is true that adoption depletes your finances…it takes your time…and it exhausts you spiritually and emotionally… And, it is always wise to count the cost…

But it occurred to me that, as the celebration of the birth of Jesus draws near, our Abba Father completed THE most expensive adoption in the history of mankind.

• He sent His precious Son, the one TRUE King, to be born in a manger…a stable…not with servants to serve Him and diplomats to honor Him…but with cows to moo at Him and donkeys to bray at Him

• He sent Him from outside of time and space into a place where He was confined by time and limited by space.

• He sent Him to serve us…to wash the feet of those who would betray Him…to feed those who would reject Him…to love those who would kill Him.

• He sent Him knowing that He would be rejected, mocked, ridiculed and killed… Sentenced to die the most horrible death we could ever imagine.

• And the most amazing thing of all, Jesus was pleased to do it… He gave His all so that we could be His brothers and sisters… so that we might share in His inheritance…so that we might experience the relationship that He shares with His Father (John 17).

I am so humbled…so incredibly grateful that it NEVER occurred to my Abba Father to consider the cost of adoption as too high…He willingly sacrificed His most treasured Son so that I might belong to Him forever!

Remember that as Christmas Day draws close…YOU are an adopted child of the King if you have believed that Jesus is Your Savior and don't forget that He paid the ultimate price to make you His forever. Yes, adoption is expensive…but why not pray about adopting a child this Christmas and honor the one who paid the highest price for all eternity for your own adoption?

Merry CHRISTmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adopting Older, Part 2…A Dad’s Perspective

As promised, I asked Mr. Wonderful for his perspective on the harder parts of adopting older… Of course, he’s much more concise than I am, but insightful as always.

In a few days, I’ll post a part 3…I want to comment on a few of your comments, they were very thought provoking and I’ve had a few more thoughts myself.

From Scott…

“Can’t stress dying to self enough…accommodate them to the extreme because laying down boundaries that are needed will be lasting once they have learned to trust you. Most of what you try to lay down before earning trust is momentary at best and you find yourself further frustrated at having to readdress simple issues.

Husbands must be vigilant of your wife’s needs…give yourself grace to acknowledge you don’t know what to do sometimes either (more often that not for me!). Most of those things you learned about raising biological kids will be used…just not in the first six months. I didn’t like that because I worked really hard to learn all those things. What’s worse is the same is true of your wife. All those things you thought you were beginning to understand about what they needed…toss ‘em out and start with a clean slate. For you wives you can read that as…give your men some grace because now you have to start retraining them, too.

Don’t be afraid to lean on your older kids. They are more resilient, understanding, and loving than you can imagine. Take the time to explain the difference in what you must do for your new child. Compare and contrast and use the process of our adoption in Christ. The richness of that analogy is a never ending well of opportunity for teaching.

Revel in the opportunity to see your kids demonstrate what they’ve learned from you. This is a unique experience to see them in action in a way I don’t think parents generally get until the kids are much older. And usually it’s second hand because they are acting outside the home…in this case it’s every day and right in front of you. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to parent them and it’s not all great and you’ll find the need to exhort right behaviors at times. But don’t miss the moments when their heart shines through and you get to see a bit of who God made them to be…use it to encourage them and be encouraged and blessed by it yourself.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

Adopting Older...The Harder Parts of the Journey

This post has been simmering in my heart for a few days, so I thought I’d take a little time to write about the hard parts of the journey related to adopting an older child. I think it's hard for someone, who's never walked in these shoes, to really get how hard it can be... We go to church, to school, to work, to a friends and we look pretty well put together, so I think sometimes it looks easier than it really is. But it’s a hard thing to balance…

Easy is NEVER a word I would use to describe this journey, but full of blessings, absolutely. So even though the journey is hard, it is an incredibly joyful journey also. I think sometimes it’s just hard to balance the idea of joy in the face of difficulties, so it comes off looking ‘easy.’

Now, my desire is NOT in any way to discourage anyone considering adoption, or those of you about to travel, but it is my desire to create a realistic expectation, and maybe even to give an honest inside perspective to anyone who has never adopted… So, please don’t be discouraged… The joy is unimaginable, the rewards greater than I could have ever imagined, but the journey is hard…it’s just so worth it!

And by the way, if any of you have adopted and want to add something to what I say, just leave it in the comments and I’ll do a follow-up post and consolidate them all into one post.

First, it is so hard not to take things personally. You dream about your child for so long and like any mom, you just want to take them in your arms and start to love them. Realistically, you know in your head that your child hasn’t been longing for you, so while you’re mentally prepared for it to take time, your heart isn’t always so quick to catch on. Rejection hurts…parent shopping hurts…you have to fight hard with yourself to keep your own emotions, and even your pride, out of it.

That brings me to the second thing… Adoption is even more about dying to self than biological children. There’s no room for selfishness with these precious children, these children have been victims of an incredibly selfish and heartless world, so they need someone who will lay down their lives for them. This has been one of the hardest parts for me, but when I see the light in her eyes and the smile on her face when I set aside something I’m doing to color with her, you really get it…they desperately need you to choose them over anything else.

In the beginning, moms, you will need to do everything for them, putting yourself at their beck and call. I had to tell our older children, who could have been a great help to me, “Don’t do anything for her, send her to me for EVERYTHING, even a drink of water.” You will feel like you’re being manipulated, controlled, you’ll get frustrated, BUT remember you’re not being any of those things I mentioned, you’re just being asked to love a child and meet their every need, like has never been done before. And hang in there (remember my point before this one, death to self)…this does wonders for the attachment process.

And let me just say this, having biological children does not prepare you to adopt an older child. Throw out everything you think you know and just be a clean slate. Things that you did with your biological children can be harmful to your adopted child (hmmm, maybe we shouldn’t have done those things with them either, a little more grace never hurt anyone). But your biological children came out of the womb knowing they were loved and wanted, your adopted older child has been abandoned by the very person she trusted, maybe she’s been neglected, gone hungry, been cold and felt unwanted and unloved (and that’s just the beginning)…you have to be so careful not to reinforce those feelings or experiences in anyway. It is such a fragile process and sometimes the fragility of it can be stressful and emotionally draining.

That brings me to the next thing…this process is emotionally draining. Expect it…prepare for it…and then don’t be surprised when it’s even more than what you thought. There have been many days when I was at the end of myself, convinced that I had not one ounce of anything left to give. But I’ve learned something in all of this, that’s where Jesus wants us all the time…at the end of ourselves, completely dependent on Him.

Go into this expecting for it to take a minimum of 6 months, and for many much longer, for your child, and yourself, to really begin to settle in. As we drove to church, for the first time in a long time, I felt like the sun was coming out… There are still so many behaviors that I’m watching, being so careful not to put her in situations that she’s not ready for, but many things are really turning around too. Last night, when she got out of the tub, I was waiting with her towel to dry her off and for the first time ever she snuggled in to me and let me cuddle her in the towel for a few minutes. It’s been almost 5 months and that’s the first time she’s really let me cuddle her. That’s a really long, hard time for a mom’s cuddle instinct to be denied!

And remember this, grief is not convenient…it doesn’t have a schedule. Your child will grieve at the most inopportune times, at least according to our schedules… Put down what you’re doing and comfort them. Don’t assume misbehavior…look behind the misbehavior to the heart! I can’t tell you how many times a thrown book, a stubborn ‘no’, a defiant attitude has led to tears and those tears have paved the way for stronger attachment!

Here’s one that might be shocking, not everyone is willing to admit this one… God gives you a special love for your children while you wait, His heart for the fatherless; but, then there’s the process of growing love also. Let’s get real about this for a minute, when you adopt older, you are bringing a child into your home, a little person, that already has a personality, a set of behaviors, years of a culture behind them that has shaped their attitudes, a lot of emotional burdens that affect their behaviors, and the language barrier compounds it all. To expect yourself to be head over heels in love with them from the start is just not realistic. You have to give yourself time to get to know them…you have to allow time for the healing process to begin so that their real personality, unburdened by so many emotional pains, really begins to emerge…you have to give yourself time to fall in love and like with them. For a while, you will feel like you are living with a stranger…it’s because you are!

You WILL find yourself in situations where you don’t have the first clue what to do next. Pray…try to understand where their coming from and then love them with grace and patience and kindness.

Give yourself lots of grace… You will mess up, there will be things that you don’t think of and you’re caught completely unprepared for, there will be times when you just don’t have the words to comfort them and more than once, or twice or 10 times, or even a hundred times, your heart will break for all that they’ve been through. Cry with them…step into their pain, their anger, their rejection and tell them over and over how you love them forever.

Well, this post is getting too long… I think those are the big things for now… Like I said, if you want to add anything from your experiences, please feel free to do so in the comments and I’ll do a follow up post with your thoughts. I’ll ask Scott for his thoughts also and include them in the follow-up.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Getting Personal...

Ok, I’m about to get really personal, but there’s something that’s been on my heart ever since my last post, so I’m going to go for it and hope that God has a plan for this post…talk about getting vulnerable…

But I can’t stop thinking about Abby’s need to belong…

I’ve only been a Christian for about 10 years. I grew up in the church, I believed in God but somehow I missed the significance of Jesus. In my mind, ‘religion’ was all about following the rules. I had no idea that God wanted to have a relationship with me and that Jesus was the only way that could ever be possible.

God finally got through to my heart when I was about 33, my grandfather Pop died. Someone said, “He was the man that was the most like Jesus they had ever known,” and that’s when it started to click…God wasn’t this BIG, BAD guy in the sky, walking around, ready to strike me with a lightening bolt every time I broke a ‘rule.’ If Pop was like Jesus, then He had to be humble, gentle, full of grace and amazing love.

I gave my life to Christ and never looked back… But those early years were so hard. I felt so incredibly unworthy. I had made so many bad choices. I was full of shame and guilt and I couldn’t imagine how God could accept me or love me so completely.

One spring God led me to a little book by Ruth Myers called “The Satisfied Heart, 31 Days of Experiencing God’s Love.” Each day I would sit on our screened porch and be overwhelmed at how much God loves me…I can remember many times, in tears, saying “But You know all the things I’ve done, You can’t possibly love me that much.” And each day, He would use His Word to reassure me… He pounded on the walls of my heart for days, assuring me over and over that yes, He did love me beyond measure.

He used verses like, Jeremiah 31:3, “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” An everlasting love…for all eternity, even when He saw me in my sin, He loved me…

Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions ever fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Compassion, even in the depths of my sinfulness? WOW!!

Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." That one blew me away…He takes delight in me…He rejoices over me!

He led me to different passages where I would re-write them with my name in them, seeing more and more just how personal His love for me was…

And then, Isaiah 49:16, “See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands.” All of His love came flooding through in the realization that I was engraved on the palm of His hands…that the cross was the ultimate demonstration of His unfathomable love for me…

So what does that have to do with my experience with Abby that I wrote about in the last post? Everything!!

I am an adopted child of the King and I couldn’t fathom myself worthy to receive the kind of love and acceptance that He was offering to me…

And it got me to thinking…More than likely, Abby’s struggle is much like mine. She definitely hasn’t done anything to feel ashamed of, or unworthy of, but to a child…a child who was abandoned at an older age… I have to imagine that her fears and insecurities maybe aren’t that much different than the ones I had.

Even though she did absolutely nothing to bring about her circumstances, does she really understand that? Maybe someday, but probably not yet…

So I need to follow the example of my Abba Father, I need to reassure her of that love over and over…even when she doesn’t get it…doesn’t seem to want it…in fact, flat out rejects it. My love will never compare to the love of my Heavenly Father, but I trust that He will let His love flow through me and He will heal the wounds of her heart just like He did me.

Healing was a process with me…healing will be a process with Abby…it will take time, it won’t happen because we resolve one situation…sooner or later, there will be another struggle…but that’s ok…

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

What a gift to be given the opportunity to comfort as I’ve been comforted…You know, God didn’t have to work it out that way…He was more than capable on His own…He just simply chose to!

He truly is the master of attachment… He takes broken, wounded children every day and makes them forever His!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Why You Howg Me?"

The whole thing with the photos, that I wrote about the other day (Adoption Moments That Break Your Heart), has continued to plague Abby. She just couldn’t seem to get past the fact that I had Mackenzie with me when she was a baby.

I found her watching us quite often…especially when we hugged. I wandered what was going through her little mind. I think I feared that she looked at mine and Mackenzie’s relationship as something that was unattainable for her, that somehow she felt excluded.

I think we’re all familiar with the feeling…you join a new group and you see these amazing friendships that you long to be a part of, but somehow don’t think it’s possible because of the history they share. I don’t think Abby thought through all of that, but I do think that insecurity is something innate in us, or at least many of us…that desire to belong, yet feeling like we might never. I can only imagine how much greater it is in a child that has been through so much.

Well, Tuesday morning, I hugged Abby before she went to school. She backed up from me, sat down on the stool and said, “Mommy, why you howg (that’s how she says hug) me?”

How do I even begin to describe the emotions of that moment…desperately searching for the words to explain? “Abby, I hug you because you are my baby and I love you.” “But Abby not your baby, Abby a little girl…Mackenzie your baby.”

At that moment…I was speechless and God wasn’t providing me with any words…I had to trust that He meant for me to stay silent.

That night, she was tired and asked to go to bed early, so I had a little time with just her. And again her fears and insecurities were evident… “Mommy, Mackenzie your baby.” But this time, I had something to say, “Abby you’re right…Mackenzie came to me when she was a baby and you came to me when you were a little girl, but I love you both forever. You are my little girl.”

That brought a BIG smile… “Zack my big brother…Nick my big brother?” (She’s never referred to them as ‘my’ brother before) “Yes Abby, we are a forever family. I love you forever.” And with that, I got a BIG hug! And finally, she seemed at peace!

I guess Abby just needed the assurance that even though she didn’t join our family in the usual way, she was still just as much a part of our family…that she really did belong. And, I guess she just had to process through some pretty hard things to understand, in her own way and in her own time... healing is a hard process and there are no doubt some wounds that need to be healed in her heart.

I’ve read a lot to prepare for our adoption, but let me say, while books are great, it’s as much, if not more about preparing your heart as is it about preparing your head. Yes, I gained valuable insight into attachment, it made me very aware of things to watch for and it made me think very differently about parenting, but before all of those things could change my behavior, my heart needed to change.

The single greatest piece of advice about this process came from a child psychologist who knows a lot about attachment… He said, “Sharla, the Bible is a story of attachment. God is the master of attachment, look to Him and you’ll be fine.” And you know, he was right…I have learned, more than ever in my life, to depend on my Heavenly Father to give me what to say and how to say it, even when to say it.

I so wanted to fix it for Abby, to make it all better…but God knew that she needed to process this in her own heart…and then He gave me the words at just the right time. I hope this is a lesson I can take and apply in the rest of my life.

Sometimes I just want to barrel into a situation and say what I think needs to be said to fix a situation…to right a wrong…but I need to learn to pray and wait…to trust God to open doors and provide the opportunities (just like He did at bedtime) and then the words to go with the opportunity (just like He did at bedtime!)!

I am constantly amazed at what happens when I remember to live in humble dependence on Him!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Something Is Really Bothering Me...

I hesitate to write this entry, but something is really bothering me, I really think I need to go here, so here goes… something is missing at the heart of the church. Oh…there are definitely exceptions, but by and large, there is just something missing.

It used to be missing in me…and in far too many areas, it still is, I still have a long way to go, but God has clearly been doing a work. Let me give you an example… When my cousin S. and her husband adopted their precious little girl from China, I just didn’t get it. I was happy for them, but there was something missing in my heart. I wasn’t nearly as interested as I should have been, until God called us to adopt.

After we decided to adopt, S. and I discussed people's lack of interest, and we’ve experienced much of the same thing through our adoption process. I could say the same thing of my trip to Africa, last year with Nick. People, in general, just really weren’t that interested. S. experienced that after she took a mission trip also.

Tonight, Nick and I went to a David Phelps concert (if you don’t know who he is, click on his name and check out his website…he has the most amazing tenor voice you could ever hope to hear) and he has a heart for Africa.

He is a representative for World Vision and tonight, he just poured out his heart. You could clearly see the heart of Jesus shining through his compassion for the African people. But I was stunned as I watched people get up and wander to the lobby…go to the bathroom…etc. I sat in my chair, fighting becoming a puddle in the floor…I wanted to weep at his stories. But that doesn’t mean anything special about me, before I went to Africa and saw it for myself, I probably would have been the same way.

I realize that God gives each of us different burdens and passions, but do we have to experience adoption…go to Africa…into the slums…or the prisons…wherever, to have a heart for the things that God has a heart for?

James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”

And through Jesus’ example, we clearly see His compassion for the poor and needy… He didn’t intervene in every situation that was brought before Him, just like we aren’t called to take up every cause that comes before us, but I do think that our hearts should reflect God’s heart….His compassion…His mercy.

I am so sorry for the opportunities that God has put in front of me that I have missed because my heart was too hard, because I didn’t have His heart for the things He cares about. I’ve failed to pray, to be interested, to support others walking a path of obedience that clearly reflected the heart of our Abba Father. My heart’s desire is that He would change that in me…

But what are we failing to teach in the church? Why is it that my condition of the heart is more the norm than the exception? I don’t think we have to go to Africa…experience adoption…etc. to have a heart like His…I think that ultimately, it’s about growing in our relationship with Him. The more we know Him, the more we become like Him.

Paul said in Philippians 3:8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…”

I think until we develop a passion for knowing Jesus that mirrors Paul's, our hearts will continue to be hard to the things that are near and dear to the heart of God.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Blessing of 'Cyber-Friends'

I have to say, I never in a million years dreamed of being friends with women I’ve never met. I even admit that there are times when I step back a moment and think it’s a little odd that I have such a special place in my heart for women that I’ve never laid eyes on in person…I can only imagine what our husbands must think!!

But this morning I was reading in my new devotion and God so touched my heart with the blessing of my ‘cyber-friends.’

The other day, I came across Beth Moore’s 90 day devotion on Jesus… I wanted something different and what better devotional than to think about Jesus for 90 days, especially leading up to Christmas. This morning, she was writing about the moment after the angel told Mary that she would give birth to the Savior…

“The most revolutionary news since Eden’s fall: “the Savior is on His way.” Announcing the soon coming Messiah, he offered the stunned adolescent an almost out-of-place slice of information. By the way, ‘Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child…’ How like God! In the middle of news with universal consequences, He recognized the personal consequences to one girl…How tender the God who shared with her through an angel that someone nearby could relate.”

And then Beth Moore writes, “Women…we long to find someone who has been where we’ve been, who share our fragile places, who see our sunsets with the same shades of blue.”

And I immediately thought of my cyber-friends! Adoption is a truly unique journey and I think one that’s very hard to understand and appreciate if you haven’t been there. It can lead you to some pretty deep places in your heart and it is such a blessing to be able to share it with either those who are interested or those who can understand…

This journey has touched my heart in ways I’ve never dreamed… If you had told me a year ago that I would be pouring out my heart on a blog on the internet, I would have thought you were crazy… If you had told me a year ago that I would share friendships with women I had never met…I would have thought you were even crazier…

But here I am… I wrote last week about my family and what a picture they are of the church as God intends. But I think the adoption community is also… I watch on my own blog, but especially on the blogs of others who are walking through hard places, how the community circles around and prays, raises money, and encourages… I’ve been inspired by the faith of so many of you and I’ve been encouraged by your words of encouragement to me.

Thank you friends (and family) who take the time to read and to comment. I love knowing you’re out there, even the 'silent ones'…I love knowing that there is someone sharing my fragile places…my moments of wonder…my sunsets as well as my storms. Thank you for the inspiration that you are to me as you share your own journeys…for the glimpses you give me of God’s power and faithfulness…His love and grace! I can’t wait to meet you in heaven someday (if not before)!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Adoption Moments That Break Your Heart...

I’ve struggled all day with whether or not to post this… I so want to be careful to protect Abby’s privacy, and yet, I feel like life was meant to be shared, that we have so much to learn from each other. The Bible says that “iron sharpens iron.” So, I believe in transparency, in sharing my own struggles (within reason of course), in hopes that maybe someone else might be challenged to rethink some of their own attitudes.

Older child adoption is a challenging journey, but also the most amazing blessing. God has given me a love for writing and my desire is that as I share this journey, someone might be encouraged to take a leap of faith and adopt an older child…or that God, might see fit to encourage another who is walking a similar path.

In any case…for the time being, I will continue to share the ups and downs of this journey, prayerfully considering each story that I share so that I don’t cross a line that Abby, or any of my family, would feel was too far… I do ask all of my older children for their permission before I post and I always ask myself, will I be comfortable with Abby reading this someday and knowing that I posted it publicly…

So, having said that, I will tell you about one of the moments that broke my heart…

I knew they would come, I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. I thought for sure with the language barrier that we would be several more months away from confronting some of the harder issues of adoption… But that was not to be… It caught me by surprise last night and it broke my heart.

You see, Abby found my stash of photos of the kids from when they were younger. She pulled out old photos from our Disney trip, of early Christmases, even of me with my grandfather Pop. For some reason I was surprised in her interest in times that she wasn’t a part of, but then perhaps this is part of the attachment process…of beginning to love us enough that she wants to know more about us!

Hmmm…now there’s a thought…I guess that’s a lot like it is in our attachment process with our Heavenly Father…the more we know Him, the more we want to know Him.

Well anyway, I left the office and went to cook dinner…but apparently Abby continued to go through the pictures.

At bedtime, I was sitting talking to Abby and all of a sudden Abby made the motion of holding a baby and said, “Mackenzie your baby.” I was confused, and then she said, “Pictures mommy.” And I realized, she had found pictures of me with Mackenzie when she was a baby.

My heart lurched…I will never be able to show her photos like that…I will never be able to show her what she looked like as a baby…to assure her, with more than just words, that she was loved and treasured.

But then she said, “Mommy kiss Nick when he a baby.” “Abby, if I had had you when you were a baby, I would have kissed you too. But God has made you my baby, so now you are my baby too.” “But Abby not a baby.”

There are just some holes in our heart that no human being can fix…I trust that my Abba Father will be who He promises to be…the One who binds up the brokenhearted.

Later, Scott was telling me that as Abby looked at the photos, she found several years of Mackenzie’s photos from her birthdays. As she looked at each year she would say, “Mackenzie have another birthday.” Finally Scott said, “Abby, Mackenzie is 10, she has had 10 birthdays. You’re 6, you have had 6 birthdays.” To which Abby responded… “Abby only have 2 birthdays.” Only twice in her sweet life has anyone celebrated her birth…her precious entry into this world. How can that not break your heart?

When May 8th rolls around, Abby will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that her life is celebrated…that we are so thankful that she was born into this world…that God entrusted her to us! I can’t wait for her to have another birthday!

I know that there will be many other moments that will break my heart as she is able to reveal more and more of her life, as understanding awakens in her heart for all that she has missed. But, I also trust that God will bestow on her a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of despair (Isaiah 61:3)… And I trust that He will equip us to walk through each one of these moments with grace and compassion. I am so overwhelmed that He has allowed us to walk this amazing journey with her…what a privilege.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Getting Off The Train Track...

There are times in the adoption journey, when everything feels so fragile…last night was one of those times. It was a crazy evening, I didn’t feel good so I wasn’t on top of things, I had a really hard lecture to give today, Zack had soccer practice and Scott had a deacon’s meeting… Dinner was kind of a free-for-all. I had actually planned ahead on Sunday night and made enough for left-overs, so I knew the older ones would be fine…

When it came time to eat though, Abby wasn’t hungry, so I thought, “ok..later”. Later came and went and I couldn’t get her to eat. Finally, about 7:45, I told her 30 minutes to bed time, so she needed to eat, “Abby not hungry!” (She won’t use personal pronouns for some reason.) Thinking that she was like my others who went through stages like this when they were younger, I took her at her word and figured, she really wasn’t hungry.

But then bedtime came and she looked at me and said, “But Abby not eat!” Yeah…haven’t we been having this conversation all evening?! Now remember, I really didn’t feel good and I was frazzled, so patience wasn’t my long suit for the evening.

And I was automatically thrown to do what I would have done with our biological children, send them to bed without dinner, they won’t starve after all. BUT, thankfully that still small voice that whispers thoughts in my heart that are so vastly different than what I’m thinking at the time, nudged me and said, “You can NOT send a child to bed hungry that has gone to bed hungry before!” DUH Sharla!!

Sometimes I feel like I’m on a train track…I respond to situations without thinking, almost as if by rote. But adoption changes that completely! These precious children have lived such different lives than our biological children. I so get that with my head, but putting it into practice in every situation can be so challenging…. It requires a very conscious, intentional parenting… It requires that I get off the train tracks.

But it makes me wonder…what would all of my life be like if I got off the train tracks? What if I started making conscious, intentional decisions in every single area of my life, even in the day to day details, like how I discipline our children…in what I ate…or in how I spend money…or my time? What if I stop letting life just carry me along? I bet some things would be different!

Thankfully I was aware enough to hear the gentle whisper and I got off the train track that was on its way to becoming a train wreck! I fed her toast and a banana and she was happy! But afterwards, I have to say, it felt like it a narrow miss…this process does feel so fragile right now. I know God is big enough to cover my mistakes, but He doesn’t always take away the consequences…I think a mistake like that would have set us back in our relationship and we have made so much progress.

It definitely showed me how differently things can turn out when I get off my everyday train track to nowhere! This morning, she got right up and when it was time for breakfast we had a fun giggle that she was eating toast and a banana again! It was one of those, “just you and me” moments…no one else would have appreciated what we were giggling about…and that turned in to a sweet, unexpected moment of bonding!

Monday, December 1, 2008

An Amazing Adoption Story Unfolding...

I have a blog buddy who is leaving this morning for Africa... She is on her way to pick up two of the most precious children and it is truly a God story! If you'd like to follow along, her blog is A Place Called Simplicity...

You can catch up on the story by looking in the right hand column under Important Posts...there's 7 parts to Our Wild Adventure and it's worth the time to read it...

Happy Monday!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tagged...This Is A Fun, Easy One!

My cyber friend, Katy, over at The One Place I Call Home has tagged me with a fun little exercise...

The Rules:
1. Grab the nearest book
2. Open it to page 56
3. Find the 5th sentence
4.Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with instructions
5. Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book or the most intellectual - Pick the CLOSEST

So I followed the rules exactly, sitting at my feet, what else, The Life Application Bible Commentary on 1 & 2 Peter and Jude (I'm teaching 1 & 2 Peter in CBS right now)...

Let's see, page 56, 5th sentence... "Words from Scripture stand forever and can be trusted completely."

What a perfect and true sentence!!

I'm not sure how many I'm supposed to tag so I'm tagging April, Trina , Robin and Leslie! (I'm curious to know what you're all reading these days!)

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Picture Of What God Intends...

The last few days have been so amazing…

Usually, Thanksgiving is our holiday where we don’t travel... 5 days of ‘homebody’ bliss… we guard it like a precious gem. But this year, there were still so many that hadn’t met Abby, that we decided that meeting family was far more important than our tradition, so we packed up the car and headed somewhere else in the south.

My aunt and uncle were staying nearby, so on Wednesday evening, we were able to introduce Abby to my Uncle S. and Aunt S., as well as her brother and family. We had so much fun and Abby was in rare form…

Abby with Aunt S.

Abby with Aunt S. & Uncle S. (Mom's brother & many ways, my second parents and an amazing influence in my life...they are a treasure to me!)

My aunt's brother and sister-in-law...they were so generous to open their home to us so we could all hang out together for the evening!

The crew!

On Thursday, we headed out to another cousin’s house for Thanksgiving… B. & R. are always so amazingly generous to open their home on that day, there’s always a crowd…

The entire Thanksgiving clan...they were so amazing with Abby!

Us with my mom! Doesn't she look amazing!!

Abby with cousin R, in front of one of his really cool cars!! I love this photo!!

I had a hard time getting her out of the car!

This year was especially special to our family…Abby was experiencing her first Thanksgiving, and even more importantly, the overwhelming love and acceptance of my amazing family! I’ve read so many stories of extended families who opposed an adoption, especially an international adoption, but not my family, or Scott’s either.

I knew our families would be welcoming, but their love for her has touched me and moved me in a way that I can’t possibly put into words.

Abby has been celebrated…she has been accepted unconditionally…she has been loved…she has been treasured…I will be forever grateful to mine and Scott’s family for so completely showing her the love of Jesus…

But here’s what struck me as I considered this…

What has happened with Abby is a picture of what should happen in the church, it’s what God intended… We are all adopted children in the family of God, when a ‘new child’ enters the family of God, we should celebrate them, unconditionally accept them, love them and treasure them…just as God does each one of us.

But sadly, that is often not the case… Too often it seems that we want people to reach some standard of behavior before we accept them completely. We speak harshly and judgmentally of sins we feel passionate about, and we strip people of a safe place to heal from the past actions that have eaten at their soul. Ultimately, we don’t love others as Christ loved us…

At Thanksgiving this year, I am so thankful for mine and Scott’s family... A family who has taught me, through their unconditional acceptance of Abby, a little bit more of what God intended for the church, the body of Christ, to look like.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Birthday True Love...What I Love About My Husband!

What a perfect day to tell you what I love about my husband…

I love his eyes…sometimes green…sometimes blue!

I love that he never raises his voice when he’s angry…

I love the way he loves me…unconditionally with amazing grace and patience…more than once he has taught me what my heavenly Father’s love is like!

I love the way he loves our children...

*How he takes the boys to breakfast every once in a while to discuss ‘manly’ things with them…

*Or how he takes Mackenzie on a date night to her favorite restaurant…

*Or how he’s not afraid to paint Abby’s toenails for her!

I love that he loves my family (his in-laws)…that he likes to hang out with them!

I love that he serves with no thought of himself…he gives and gives and never asks or expects anything in return…

I love how he offers me so much perspective when I’m upset about something…

I love how he listens to me and doesn’t try and fix me or the situation…

I love that instead of criticizing me, he waits and prays and lets God do His work in me…

I love that he will ask me great questions, leading me to a course of action, instead of just telling me what to do…he lets me own it and make it mine…

I love how he supports me in the ways I serve in ministry, even when I know there are other things he would like for me to focus on more…

I love how he listens to my lectures every week, so I can practice, and he never seems to get tired of them!

I love that he is willing to surrender his will and walk in faith and obedience to wherever He believes God is leading him, even when it flies in the face of long thought out plans. Like when we adopted, that just wasn’t in his plan, but he prayed with a surrendered heart and stepped out in faith.

I love that we love the same movies…that he’s great at Trivial Pursuit, Boggle and Scrabble and that he would rather be hanging out with his family than any where else in the world.

I love how he respects me and loves me…I know with all of my heart that he is a beautiful example of Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” He lays down his life for his family everyday…setting aside his wants and giving us each what we need.

Today is Scott’s day to receive gifts, but he is a gift to us everyday! I am so thankful that before eternity began, God planned for our lives to intersect and that He chose me to be his wife!

P.S. There's an adoption post from this morning below...

A Hard Morning...

So first off, I deleted the post on photographing sports photos... It's just too hard for me to teach something like that in writing, I need to be able to sit down and show you and then when I try to be funny, it just sounds 'smart-alecky' to me, or even worse, arrogant, and that is just not my it's gone to the "cyber cemetery" or wherever deleted posts go... about this morning. It was really hard and I learned a difficult lesson about relationships and schedules, maybe you'll learn something from my mistakes...

Usually Abby is pretty good to get up, but every once in a while she is the typical 6 year old who just wants to stay cuddled up in her warm blankets. This morning was beyond typical though... I couldn't get her moving for anything. I just assumed she was being stubborn...first BIG mistake, don't assume anything with anyone, especially your adopted child... I don't know if you're like me or not, but too often, my assumptions are for the worst and that doesn't lend itself to much compassion...combine that with a schedule and you have a recipe for disaster.

Well I finally got her to sit up and from that point, she always dresses herself, so I headed downstairs to make lunches. But about 10 minutes later, Mackenzie came down and said she was still just sitting there...

So in total frustration, I stomped up the stairs (I know, I know...I forgot who the adult was for a few minutes) and firmly told her to get dressed...when she refused, dad poked his head in the door and added his firm command, which did nothing either. Finally, after several more refusals, she put on her clothes...with her little head hanging...I told you assumptions + schedules = disaster!

Next I sent her into the bathroom to brush her teeth so we wouldn't have to come upstairs again and that's when my crusty heart started to melt... As I prayed about what to do, I kept hearing these little sniffles and then she looked at me with those silent, BIG gator tears streaming down her face...

"Lord...I have no idea how to handle this..." Important note to self, always pray FIRST...not after disaster is in progress.

Well, after she finished brushing her teeth, I decided that even though I knew she would resist me, I was going to pull her into my lap and if she missed school, or I had to mess up our blasted schedule and she was late...SO WHAT?! This precious child with a sad little heart was far more important than schedules... See what prayer can do?!

She didn't snuggle in to be comforted, but she did let me hold her while she cried... I first asked her if she was sick...we covered from head to she felt fine. But then I asked her if her heart was sick...was she sad? A little nod yes... Do you miss China? A slight nod... Mama Gong? Another barely nod... Penny (foster sister)? And another slight nod... "Abby, it's ok to be sad, it's ok to cry when you miss China... I love you forever, even when I mess up and fuss because you're not dressed."

A few more minutes and she was ready to face the day! She went off with smiles, laughter and BIG hug...the thunderstorm had passed and the sun was back out...

God is the creator of time and He can increase the minutes when we're moving according to His agenda, not our own... I think this morning, He wanted to remind me that my schedule is His schedule...I just need to love His precious little ones and He'll take care of the rest...

We still squeezed in breakfast in the car and she made the bus...she wanted to go with her big sister!

Later, I'm going to do a post to celebrate my wonderful's his birthday today!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

She Said It First!!!

4 months ago today (well, yesterday...I didn't get it posted before midnight), we met Abby for the very first time. There have been many times in the last 4 months when the barriers of her heart seemed as if I would never be able to penetrate them. More than once my heart has broken as she has rejected my love and affection.

But it has been a lesson in grace and unconditional love for me…I am learning to love as my Abba Father loves me. Something that is good for Abby, but for everyone else around me too…

With Abby, I have learned to persevere, even when I felt like giving up…I have learned to be the adult (novel idea for a 43 year old!), even when it didn’t feel good… Over and over I have had to set aside my hopes and dreams and meet her right where she is, instead of where I want her to be. And many times I have thought, “I wonder if this is how it is for my Heavenly Father?”

I know for certain He perseveres, when He has every right to give up… I know He loves me, even when the way I treat Him grieves Him… I know for a fact that more than once He’s met me right where I was instead of where I’m sure He wished I would be…

But yesterday brought one of those moments that makes it all worthwhile… I was talking to Mackenzie on the phone and Abby wanted to talk to me. We talked for a few minutes (actually, she talked, I just tried to figure out what she was saying and somehow respond with the right answer), but then I asked her to give the phone back to Mackenzie… And in that moment it happened…she said it first! I heard, “I love you mommy!” WOW…who knew it could be so wonderful?

Up until now, it was always a response to my “I love you” or because one of her siblings said it…but this time was different…no duty, no obligation… just a simple ‘I love you’ from the heart, because she wanted to… If my Heavenly Father’s heart sings the way mine did yesterday to hear those 3 precious words, I definitely need to tell Him more often…what utter joy!

Something is clearly changing with Abby… her relationship with all of us is getting easier and easier. She doesn’t guard her ‘space’ like she used to… she doesn’t mind when our arms touch…tonight, Scott and I were on the way to an adoption dinner, and she put her hand on my knee while she watched me change purses.

When it was time to go, she was preoccupied with her coloring and when I asked her for a hug, she told me “In a minute.” We were in a hurry, so after a couple of tries, Scott and I started moving toward the door and all of a sudden, Abby jumped up and came running… “Howg…Howg” (that’s how she says hug!).

I have learned, first hand, one of the most important lessons I may ever learn…no wall is too strong…too big…too impenetrable to withstand the constant flow of God’s amazing love when we allow it to pour out through our words and actions.

What a wonderful 4 months…and we’ve only just begun!

P.S. Several of you have asked about the soccer a day or so, I'll do a post on my camera and how I shoot them.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Teachable Moments In The News

As I sit and wait for my oldest son to finish soccer practice, I listen to a lot of AM radio. Of course, it’s the conservative AM radio station, but in the evenings, the host is more funny and sarcastic than he is serious, like the day time hosts.

I was listening to him tonight discuss the story of Governor Spitz*er and the call girl, Ashley Du*pree. It appears that she has discovered the error of her ways and is attempting to turn her life around. For her sake, I hope she does, it’s really heartbreaking to see anyone living such an empty life…the same for the governor.

Well, the host of the radio program I was listening to was less than gracious… He sounded like a high school/college boy talking about a girl with a bad reputation… But as I listened to him, it dawned on me that as mothers, this is a great teachable moment, if you have teenage daughters. I will probably even discuss this with my 10 year old, in a much more subtle way…

I think our daughters need to hear how men talk about women, or boys about girls, who behave as Ms. Du*pree chose too… I am not holding her responsible for the governor’s choices, only hers. But sadly, in situations like this, it is primarily the woman/girl who takes the brunt of the nasty, condescending remarks. The radio host said, "This is just not the kind of girl you take home to meet mom." I think that sums up men's attitudes about women who behave like this young woman did. As I sat listening to him, I thought, "Why would any girl or woman want to be known this way?"

The other opportunity that we have right now is to teach them what an empty life this is…

If you read some of the recent interviews with her, she appears to be a girl with hopes and dreams who simply stepped off onto the wrong path… She ran away from home at 17, she starting drinking and partying and one night stands soon led to a life of prostitution. Often all it takes is one step onto the slippery slope… And even she recognizes her part in the destruction of the lives of the governor's family.

As I said, Mackenzie is only 10, so I’m not sure how I’ll use this yet. I may just file it away for future use… Or, in a few years, I’m sure they’ll be another story… It wasn’t that long ago that we had Monica Lewinsky…

But I do believe that we need to make the most of these teachable moments with our children… Drug related incidents in the news, accidents realted to alcohol, even Oprah (who I'm not a fan of) has the occassional story that is worth having our kids watch, like the young man who was addicted to methamphetamine, it made a huge impact on my children...

We need to be on the lookout for anything that will open the doors of conversation with our children and allow them to see that living for the moment will often lead to heartache and destruction.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Only In God's Economy... When 66 Equals 68!

Just to let you know...I made sure I had Nick's permission to tell this story...

We’ve known for some time that we needed to make an educational change for Nick, we just didn’t know what we needed to do. There are a lot of factors playing into this decision, but it came to a head a few weeks ago and I knew it was serious when Nick asked to make the change this year, instead of waiting until the new school year…

Scott and I had already been praying about what to do next year when he starts high school, Nick, much like his mother, just does better in a smaller environment. But with the request to change this year, we really needed wisdom… James 1:5 says, “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,” so we asked for wisdom to know what was best for Nick.

We had 3 options…leave him in his current school until the end of the year, or starting in January, either home school him or send him to private school. As the weeks went by, it was clear to us that it would not be best to leave him in the public school…but how to decide between home schooling and private school? We trusted that God would lead us step by step to the right decision...

I called the private school and that door was immediately closed…there were no openings, with no guarantees for next year either. So that seemed to leave only home schooling…

But I happened to mention to a friend that the private school was full and it turns out that her family is friends with the principal’s family and they have adopted from China also. She made a phone call and was able to explain our situation and he was willing to at least talk to us, but with no promise that he could help us…they were full afterall!

As we sat and talked with him, he commented that he only allows 66 students…3 sections of 22…but after running some computer models, he discovered that he could take two more students for a total of 68! And sure enough, a few days later, he called to offer Nick one of the spots!

Now I don’t know about you, but every time I multiply 22 x 3, I get 66…I never get 68!

The day he called I was with Nick and just like the day with Zack, when he won his new IPOD, I couldn’t stop the tears… I had prayed so hard for guidance and confirmation…how much clearer could it be because who but God could somehow make 66 really be 68?

I loved Nick’s response though, he said, “Mom…Jesus fed 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish…I think he can handle 66 to 68!”

How right he is… God is in the business of handling impossible situations. I am so thankful for the opportunity that He has given to Nick at this school, but I am even more thankful that Nick was able to so clearly see God at work on His behalf!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Weekend of Soccer

I love going to Zack's soccer tournaments and Scott is so gracious to give me this pleasure... I admit, I should probably insist that he go, at least once in a while, but I LOVE having the time with Zack, I don't get that very often so my wonderful husband sends me off and stays behind to man the house (literally)!

Just a side note, he even cleans while I'm gone! And I'm not one of you amazing wives who has it all together and leaves the freezer fully stocked with meals, so he has to cook too! AND...drumroll...he painted Abby's fingernails (he might have a word with me for telling you that...LOL, but I thought it was so sweet!)!!

So, this weekend was Zack's first tournament with his new team. Last spring he was invited to play on his club's Premier team and I admit, I was pretty nervous about this first tournament... This is soccer at a whole new level...the kids are way bigger...and they hit HARD!

But I was so proud of Zack and several of the other young men who also moved up...they really rose to the occassion! It was a new challenge for this soccer mom's photography skills too... The action is so much faster...but by the 3rd game, I was starting to get the hang of it... So, tonight I'm just going to post some of my favorite photos from the weekend! I'll start with my favorites of Zack, but I've got to throw in some of his teammates too... They are amazing soccer players! So much fun to watch! Oh, they went 1-1-1 for the tournament, but they played great!

Tomorrow I'll tell you a story that is only possible in God's economy...when 66 really equals 68!













As an added bonus this weekend, one of the other families, who were with us in China, were at the same tournament! Their son's team won their championship! Congratulations Joel-B! Zack and I got to have dinner with them on Saturday night, it was so great to get to see them again!

See you tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Small Moments That Take Your Breath Away...

I’ve discovered that the adoption journey is full of small moments that take your breath away… Usually they’re not major milestones, just moments in time that take you completely by surprise with the intensity of the emotions they produce, like…

Abby’s first smile on Gotcha Day when I was convinced that her heart was breaking in two…

The first time she called me “mommy”…

The first time she reached for me to comfort her instead of one of her siblings…

The look on her face when she realized I was adding her picture to the family photo table…

When she invited me to push her on the swing for the first time…or to shampoo her hair for her…

When the experience of new discovery lights up her eyes…

Or when she turns and catches you watching her in her ‘first ever’ movie and rewards you with a BIG grin and you know you’ve hit the jackpot of new experiences…

As a biological mom, too many firsts are taken for granted. Life is measured more by major milestones – the first smile, the first tooth, the first word, the first step… But I think we miss too many ‘small’ moments in the busyness of life.

Tonight blessed me with series of the small moments that took my breath away…

The first came after a friend of mine sent Abby a ‘Welcome Bag’ of goodies…fun coloring activities, snuggly warm pj’s and a princess puzzle! Abby was so excited!

She couldn’t wait to work the new puzzle, but she quickly became frustrated because it was harder than any she had done so far. So I offered to help her… But her sweet big sister jumped in and offered to help instead. For the first time ever, Abby was not satisfied…she wanted mommy’s help!

We had fun and it was such a sweet time with the three of us doing the puzzle together. Afterwards, Mackenzie and I crawled back into the big chair to watch the beginning of a Disney movie. Even though there’s room in the chair for all 3 of us, Abby usually sits on the floor. To get all three of us in the chair, you have to snuggle together.

Abby will sit with me in this chair sometime, but it’s more like two strangers in a movie theater…she’s very careful not to bump my arm or sit too close.

But tonight was different, she wanted in the chair with me and Mackenzie and she was willing to snuggle in next to me. For the longest time, I didn’t want to breathe…I was so afraid she was going to realize that she was snuggled up next to me and pull away…but she didn’t. Instead, she just sat and chattered with me the entire time… For the first time ever, she told me about something in ChongQing…a puppy who had a ponytail!

I so hated for the moment to end, but I had to go get Zack from soccer practice. I turned and gave Mackenzie a hug and when I turned towards Abby, she was already waiting with her arms up for a hug! Even now, the memory still takes my breath away!

Adoption is not an easy journey. It requires a selflessness and a love that I just don’t have on my own… In fact, I didn’t have it when Abby came into our lives, but God is working it out in my heart more and more each day. But it’s the moments that take your breath away that make it all worthwhile… Some how God stretches out their impact and uses them to carry you to the next breathless moment! Taking you from one day to the next, from one baby step to another…and before you know it, you and your child are falling in love with each other…not just the idea of each other…but with the real person!

What a sweet, sweet blessing this is! A couple of my blogging buddies have reminded me that it is National Adoption Month so I want to encourage you, if the idea of adoption has ever passed on the outer circles of your heart’s radar…pay attention…God just might be calling you to adopt one of His precious, precious treasures! If He is…take the leap of faith and go for it…you won’t be sorry…you’ll just be blessed!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Catching Up...

Wow...I have a little catching up to do! After posting about our trip to Africa for a week, I've missed alot of what's been happening with the family... I think I'll let pictures tell most of the stories!

Here's a funny from Zack...the other day we were riding in the car and he was griping about his dad's choice of music, Vivaldi! He commented that he guessed it was good that they at least had music back then and all of a sudden a thought occurred to me... I said, "Zack, you do realize that Beethoven, Vivaldi, Bach...they all lived long before your dad and I were born? Right?!" His response, "Well, I thought so!" AHHHH!! We're ancient to him!

Ok, so going back to Halloween...we went to our Fall Festival at church! Of course Abby went as a princess! Nick intended to go as James Bond, but when we got to church, everyone said to him, "Oh, you must be your dad!" So much for James Bond!!


A funny picture...Abby loves popsicles, but she gets cold, so she eats them with her gloves on!


I don't think the colors have ever been more beautiful than this year...I'm so sorry that they are almost gone now, but I took this photo from our front yard... Nick laughs at me because I drive down the road marveling at the trees... I'll probably say, at least 10 times in the average car ride... "I hate to keep saying this...but the colors are just so beautiful."

Finally, the other day, he said "Mom, I don't think anyone else is driving down the road talking about the trees like you are!" It was pretty funny when my mom came to visit this weekend and one of the first things she mentioned was how beautiful the trees were driving up here!


We discovered last week that Abby LOVES to play in the leaves. We don't have any trees in our front yard, so we decided to rake the few leaves from the trees along the street, into our yard. The problem was, the rakes were locked under the house, and I didn't know the combination... These were our tools for raking! 2 brooms and a car windshield scraper...hey, at least we're creative...



The girls decided to fill Zack's shirt with leaves...


This was the result! He's really a good sport!!


Next Abby decided to write her name in leaves...she's quite creative!


Trying to learn to whistle on a blade of grass...


Our beautiful girls!!

The next day, our yard was full of the neighborhood kids and I think Abby was a little overwhelmed, she kept coming inside to see where I was, so I finally asked her if she would like to go out front and do the leaves again...BIG smile! Of course, once we got them all raked and the olther kids realized what we were doing, they wanted in on the action... But I got a few minutes of fun with Abby...Enjoy the pictures!



Big Sister...


Big Brother...(Nick wouldn't let me take his picture, I think he's like my friend's kids, to borrow her hilarious term...he has blogophobia...check out Miles and Miles to Mylei)


And finally, friends...




It's been a fun couple of weeks...Abby continues to be such a blessing to our family!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Children Outside The Gate...Seeing God BIG, part 7

Children outside the gate who captured my heart...



A young man outside the gate who captured Nick's...


It started with the grandmother who needed money for her children to go to school… And then, a ride past a garbage dump where families, with small children, actually lived… I watched them pick up a bottle of some sort, off of the dump and actually drink from it…some of them live in houses made of garbage…

It grew with stories of small children who are orphaned and caring for their siblings…they live in mud huts and during rainy season, you can find them in their hut trying to hold up the walls…

It became overwhelming as I learned of a little girl at the orphanage who was found under a tree sitting alone, unable to talk, unable to walk, unable to crawl, her hips, pelvic bones and back distorted from sitting, her body the size of a 5 month baby, and no one to care for her.

From the community reports and the condition of her teeth they determined that she was two years old…2, but the size of a 5 month old. Her family had all died one by one, the people in the community who had taken her had died, and the people who had then taken her in could no longer cope so they left her to herself…x-rays showed that she had been eating dirt to satisfy her hunger…

These are the children outside the gate...children, who unlike the children inside the gate of the orphanage, had no guarantee of safety...of a food...of love...of the most basic necessities of life...things that no child should ever wonder if they'll have enough of... These children burdened my heart...

One afternoon, two days before we were to leave, I was taking a break when I noticed a young girl approaching the gate to the orphanage. School had just let out and as she approached, I quickly took a couple of photos…she was the picture of all that my heart was hurting for…


I went inside to ask if it would be ok to go and talk to her and learned that she had come to pick up her brother who was attending preschool at the orphanage…I was so excited to have even a moment with a child who lived outside the gate.

But that’s when it happened…utter confusion…I helped the little boy out to his sister, but then a construction truck pulled up, wanting to leave the grounds of the orphanage. There was no one around, so I decided to try and open the big gate for them…

What I didn’t know was that the gate had been hit weeks before and knocked off it’s track and it was too expensive to have it fixed. So I planted my feet and pushed…it wouldn’t budge…so I pushed harder…unfortunately, it had rained the night before and suddenly, my foot went one way and my knee in the opposite direction…I’ve never felt such excruciating pain…

At that point, one of the workers at the orphanage saw me and he ran to finish opening the gate, but for some reason, he didn’t help me…he opened the gate, and the truck driver, who couldn’t see me, proceeded forward…frantically, I managed to pull myself out of the way, but I couldn’t get up and the worker left…

So I prayed…I pleaded that nothing was seriously wrong, that somehow God would get me home without too much pain, that I would be able to finish this trip (I was NOT going to the hospital in Africa!).

I pulled myself up and started to walk…every few steps, my knee gave way, so I knew there was something seriously wrong, but at least there was no pain…

I learned later, from my orthopedist, that with the amount of swelling that I had, there should have been pain…I didn’t have serious pain until I got home, even though my leg was the size of a tree trunk…

But it was this injury, that I know, for certain God used to lead us to Abby…

When I returned home, the last of our paperwork had come back and all I needed to do was the final authentication in Washington D.C. We could have been logged in by the end of November, but we would have been logged in with an agency that didn’t receive Abby’s file. I was so frustrated by my knee…trying to decide what to do, to leave it or fix it… I was overwhelmed by our trip to Africa and I had no peace about the agency we had originally signed on with…

So, each day, I would use my knee as an excuse not to complete the final steps for our dossier. In December I had surgery to repair my knee and several days, after my surgery, I was sitting in my favorite chair, with my leg elevated. With nothing to do but wrestle over what to do about my lack of peace about our agency, I decided to search the internet for Waiting Children.

There was one agency that I had password for, so I decided to see if they had a new list… And they did! I will never forget seeing Abby’s face for the first time…she was listed as Dani… her eyes captured my heart…they were beautiful, but they looked so sad.

In that moment, I said, “Lord, is she ours?” And then I laughed at how ridiculous that thought was… But, I just couldn’t let it go…so I challenged Him… “Ok, fine…we can’t even ask about her right now, we aren’t with this agency…if she’s ours, then You’re going to have to move some hearts.” I figured someone would scoop her up and she would never make it to the time when they opened applications up to non-clients.

As usual though, God knew different!

The woman on the hill…the girl at the gate…a torn ACL…surgery…Abby!

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God works ALL things…messed up schedules…children in need…broken gates…torn ACL’s…ALL things together for good…

God weaves every single detail of our lives into His amazing plan and He accomplishes His our case, bringing home Abby…not one ounce of our suffering is ever wasted!

I prayed to see God BIG in Africa and I did see God big at the time, but looking back now, when I have the benefit of seeing more of the picture…I am overwhelmed at how BIG God is…at how active He is in the details of our lives…He is there, every single day, in every single moment…we just have to watch for Him…

It has been such a blessing to tell you these once again be filled with gratitude with the depth of God's love and care for us.

I'll take a break for a day or two and then I'll catch you on some really fun photos from the last week...

Our God is an AWESOME God!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

In The Community...Seeing God BIG, Part 6

One of the things that amazed me was how Dr. E., the Director of the Orphanage, teaches the children to care for those less fortunate than themselves…orphans, who may have watched their parents die from AIDS…many who have been enslaved and abused…many who have truly known hunger…caring for those less fortunate than themselves.

She is walking them through Matthew 25:35-36, giving them opportunities to care for each group of people listed in these verses… “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…'

One thing she did was take them out into the community to interview different families, and then they chose 14 families to ‘adopt’ to help care for…

As we packed to go on our trip, we all tried to pack things that we thought would be useful for the children at the orphanage and the community… clothing, craft items, etc. While I was deciding what to take to the community, I found a lady on ebay who was selling a huge lot of clothing from her consignment shop, it would have been perfect to take to the community…one box came, but the second one never arrived. I was so frustrated, so I ended up having my boys go through their closets and give me anything that was in good condition that they weren’t using…

My cousin, S. reminded me… “Sharla, you need boy’s clothes more than you need those other clothes…remember, God knows what you need to take.”

So the day arrived when we were to bring our things to the orphanage…I took them into the office and explained to one of the staff what had happened and that I hoped she could use the boy’s clothes, they were all young men’s clothing…no smaller sizes.

As she began pulling things out, her eyes welled up. She looked at me and said, “We were short bigger boy’s clothing…we didn’t know what we were going to do about Christmas.” God in the details again…He tells us not to worry about what we’ll wear! S. was right…I didn’t need adult clothing…they needed young men’s clothing and God orchestrated the details to provide for those precious young men.

Well, the other things we brought were sorted and packaged, into large garbage bags, to take the families in the community on our last day there. This was a very hard day for me…I had so been looking forward to going into the community again, but on the day before, I had torn my ACL in my right knee… I wasn’t in a lot of pain, but my leg looked like a tree stump, it was so swollen (I’ll tell you more of this story tomorrow because it is the story that brought us to Abby…)

Many of the homes in the community were not accessible by car, so we had over a one mile hike, through really rough terrain to get to the house we were supposed to go to… My mom, who is a nurse, was not pleased with the stubborn streak in her daughter… She thought I should stay behind, and really she was right…I could have fallen and hurt myself much worse…plus, at the time, we didn’t know exactly what was wrong with my knee…I wouldn’t let them take me to a hospital in Africa. So, I probably could have done even more damage to me my knee…

But, my heart was aching to be a part of this and desires like that don’t come from ourselves…it would have been much easier to sit down and wait it out back at the orphanage… But I went instead…

As I said, the terrain was very rough and I was very slow…but everyone was really patient with me and we eventually made it to our first house…

What a blessing to meet this mom and to watch Nick present her with this bag of clothing, shoes, and other things we had brought to her…



One of our team members asked her what her favorite verse was, and through our translator, she told us, Psalm 23 and she said, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” I shall not want…but look around you…you have nothing…what faith…what sweet understanding of God’s provision…contentment is just not about the stuff!

And then she said, “I know that God is holding me in the palm of His hand because you came here today.” I will never forget those words…that our simple little offering could be such a source of encouragement and assurance to her…her words spoke volumes to me about God’s faithfulness…about how God can use the littlest thing…that all we have to do is be a willing vessel…

Later that evening, the preschoolers had made cards for each one of us… Each card was unique… As I walked up to receive my card, I had no idea of the blessing I was about to receive…

On the front of my card was a little hand print and the words, “I am in the palm of God’s hand.” The very words that had gripped my heart earlier that afternoon, were written on a card, personally addressed to me! Who but God?

I think if I hadn’t been in a room full of people, I might have just sat down in the floor and cried… I was tired, my leg was hurting and I was dreading the 40 hour trip that lay ahead of us… But God wanted me to know, I was in the palm of His hand…

You know, God speaks to us all the time…we just have to be watching and listening. And if we are, He speaks to us and shows Himself in ways that we really can’t miss… The things that happened during our 10 days in Africa could not be attributed to coincidence…the odds are practically impossible…

Just like the odds that Jesus fulfills every single prophecy in Scripture…but He does…God is not a God who is hemmed in by odds…by the limitations of time and space…God can reach across eternity and speak to our hearts in a way that is personal and intimate…in a way that we really can’t miss, if we’re just waiting and watching.

Well…one more day…tomorrow I’ll tell you about how God touched my heart for the children outside the gate and how that burden, in many ways, led to my knee injury and eventually to Abby…

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Special Team Member...Seeing God Big, Part 5

Quick are probably noticing that I use first initials when telling stories about many people...unless I have their specific permission to print their name on the blog, I try to be respectful of their privacy, so please pardon all of the first initials in this story...

Well, I hadn’t planned to share this part of the story, until a special friend left me a comment on the first day, the story of the glasses… The story that she left, I didn't share it because I didn’t know… I was blown made the story even more powerful... I’m going to copy her story here and then I’m going to tell you another story, that I have her permission to tell…

First, if you didn’t read One Year Ago, Seeing God Big, part 1, you might want to read it to get the whole story…now, this is what our special team member wrote to me in the comments…


Ahhhh, but you forgot to tell the very best part of the story. In my own etes.

It was me, the Jewish one, the only non-Christian, traveling with all of you who said....

I said..."Dear G-d, If it is true what they say about you showing up BIG in Africa then show me a Miracle right this very second. On second thought, nevermind. I already believe in you completely and wholeheartedly.

Then I said... Jesus, if YOU are who YOU say you are then YOU PERFORM A MIRACLE right now this very second by helping us find the pair of glasses that this woman needs so badly yet I know do not exist in this box.I asked for this "Miracle" just to see if what you all say is true - is true. No offense.

I said this prayer in complete silence next to E, and as she opened the box, I held my breath. I said "E., you know what would be a miracle? If these glasses were in this box. That would be an absolute miracle is if the glasses you are holding (the very first pair picked up from the thousands in the box) are 9.75R and 10.25L."And they were!

That's my side of the miracle story.

I LOVE YOU!!! P...

P. was a very special part of our trip…she is an amazing woman with a heart of gold!

On the day we headed home, we had a 5 hour bus trip before our long plane ride…about 1 ½ hours out from Johannesburg, we stopped for a bathroom break and quick snack. When we got ready to leave, the driver discovered a problem with the bus. I don’t know all of the details, but it had something to do with leaking oil…


So, we prayed…the men tinkered…and we prayed some more…the leaders of our group called for backup…but now we were in danger of missing our flight.

At one point, another team member, L. got off the bus with P. and invited her to walk around the bus with her and lay hands on the bus as they prayed for it…I’m so glad that someone else’s faith is so much bigger than mine sometimes!

There is absolutely no explanation as to why that bus started…nothing changed…there was no oil to replace what was missing…the only explanation is just God.

As we started off again, I could tell by the looks on the faces of a couple of the men, who had done this trip before, that they were concerned about something…so I asked.

Apparently, the area we were headed into was known for bandits and they were notorious for hijacking buses…not exactly the place you’d want to break down. So at that point, I started praying hard…I wasn’t worried…just being proactive! I had an unbelievable sense of peace!

We made it to the airport without incident and home safely! But once again, God showed Himself BIG to P. and the rest of us...

In Luke 15, Jesus tells 3 different parables of someone who lost something…the shepherd who left his 99 sheep to find the 1 who was lost, the woman who lost her coin and searched to find it, the father who’s son rejected him and wished him dead, taking and wasting his inheritance…each time, the one who lost something, rejoices when their treasure is found…

In each parable, before our faith in Jesus, we are the one who is lost…we are God’s treasure and He delights to pursue us and find us…Heaven rejoices when just one prodigal child returns to the Father…

God is so pleased to reveal Himself to us…as P’s testimony of the glasses shows and the story of the bus clearly demonstrates, all we have to do is ask!

Tomorrow, I will tell you about a blessing that rocked my heart to the core…this one was just for me and of course the ones I tell the story too!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Seeing God Big, Part 4

Before I introduce you to A, I just had to tell you that I took Abby and Mackenzie to see High School Musical 3 today. It was Abby's first movie and I was a little concerned about how she would do...she's only been home 3 months, her language is progressing miraculously, but I didn't know how it would go over to sit for 2 hours in a theater...she LOVED it, she wanted to go back in when we were done! She was so cute sitting on the edge of her chair...every once in a while, she would look over at Mackenzie and I and just grin! Now that was a really FUN first! for the story of A

To this day, to think of A, still takes my breath away…such beauty, such joy in the face of such heartache…

Isaiah 61:1-3 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”

These verses are a prophecy of the ministry of Jesus…the first time Jesus spoke in the synagogue, in Luke 4, He began His ministry by reading this passage…

A is a beautiful picture of the truth of these verses…that Jesus really does bring healing and restoration...

Before A came to live at the orphange, both of her parents died and she was living with her grandmother. The grandmother knew that she would soon pass away, so she brought Anastasia to the opening of the orphanage. A begged her to complete the paperwork so that when she passed, she could live safely at the orphanage.

Sadly though, family members did not respect her grandmother's wishes and when she died, they took A to live where she was horribly abused…the men would press wood chips into her feet and make her dance for them at night…among other things.

Eventually, she was able to escape and returned to her grandmother’s home where her older sister was now trying to take care of her other siblings…A begged her to take her to the orphanage.

On our last day there, there was a dedication ceremony for a new dorm that was being built for older girls and many of the children performed for us. A was one of them… In the morning, she danced with a group…


But that evening, she had prepared a special ballet that she wanted to share with us... She danced with a basket that represented her basket of joy that she had found since coming to the orphanage and meeting Jesus! As she danced around the room, she scattered her joy on all of us because she wanted us to share in her joy with her…



Even now my heart and my eyes well up as I think of this beautiful child who had suffered so much…Who but God could heal a heart that had been so horribly damaged? Heal and restore it to the point that the very thing that had been used to torture her, dance, was now her instrument of sharing her hope and her joy?

At this time I didn’t know about Abby…but the image of this child, her joy and restoration, would be the source of great hope and courage as we prayed about adopting an older child.

A reminded me that God is far more powerful than circumstances…that He can heal the most broken heart…that He truly does bring beauty from the ashes…gladness instead of mourning…praise instead of despair… A is growing into an oak of righteousness who beautifully displays the splendor and glory of Jesus!

I feel compelled to add this...I don't know what you're facing in your life right now...what seems beyond hope or repair...but NOTHING is impossible with God! I didn't come to Christ until I was much older...I was empty, I had tried to find a million places and while they provided something for a time, it never lasted, and then I was on to the next thing.

It wasn't until I came into a relationship with Jesus that something changed. I discovered a joy that wasn't based on circumstances, peace that didn't disappear with every storm...I found forgiveness and I found purpose...and to this day...10 1/2 years hasn't disappeared...I haven't moved on to something different.

That's what A discovered...I don't know that I've ever seen anyone that reflected it so vividly...In A…I saw God BIG!!

Tomorrow, I hope to tell you about a very special member of our team, but I want to wait until I'm sure I have permission...