Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No Room For Compassion In Legalism

Legalism – n. strict conformity to the letter of the law, the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.

Compassion – n. a deep awareness of and sympathy for another’s suffering; the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it

I learned last week that compassion and legalism are mutually exclusive, they cannot exist in the same heart.

It started with an early morning phone call from someone at Abby’s school, on Friday, when I was "somewhere else in the south". She said, “Mrs. 'X', Abby must have 2 more vaccinations or she can’t come back to school. Do you have an appointment to get this done?”

Good morning to you to… No I explained to her, the pediatrician suggested that we wait about 8 weeks so as not to traumatize her with doing everything at once.

“Traumatize her, what do you mean TRAUMATIZE her?”

Well, she’s newly adopted, she doesn’t speak the language and since she’s had to have vaccinations, and a tough dental appointment, we felt it was best to wait a little.

“It has been 28 days and the laws says she cannot come back to school.”

I explained that I understood that the law required this second round of vaccinations, I wasn’t asking for an exception to the law, only a little more time…

“The law says she can’t come back without the shots.”

Over and over, she told me what the law said, not one word, of “I understand your concern…I wish I could help you…I’m sorry,” just…this is the law. Throughout the conversation she continued to demean my concerns…

You know, I understand that she is simply the messenger, she’s just doing her job and I can empathize with that…but what is beyond my understanding was how she did her job…there was not one ounce of compassion or reasonableness in her…her heart was so hard because her focus was all about the law.

But that got me thinking…I see that demonstrated far too often in the church. We get so focused on our ‘laws,’ or rules and regulations that we can’t see the people behind the actions that we so strongly disapprove of….

A few years ago, I found myself in a situation that I had a really hard time with…my heart was very hard to some people and I couldn’t find any room for compassion or grace in my heart, much less love. It was all about the ‘rules.’

At one point though, I stopped and looked into this one person’s eyes and they were so empty, my heart started to ache… there was no joy… no life...only despair mirrored in her eyes… hopelessness…

A couple of days after that, I was reading Donald Miller’s “Searching For God Knows What,” and in it, he talked about how when man sinned in the Garden of Eden, we all became prisoners of an unseen war. Something clicked in my heart, and all of a sudden, I could see these people as prisoners of war and then my heart broke for them…not pity, in the self-righteous sense…but just sheer heartache over their captivity.

Legalism…self-righteousness…arrogance…pride… gave way to grace…mercy…love…compassion. But the legalism had to die in me…I had to get my focus off of the law and onto the people before I could feel an ounce of compassion for them.

I think the church, in many ways has become too much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time…far too focused on the law and far too blind to the people they are so quick to judge… there is no real compassion for the spiritual p.o.w.’s… there’s no heartache for them, only judgment and condemnation because they are not adhering to the law.

Perhaps if we took a little more time to try and understand the broken heart behind the behaviors that we disdain so much, we might find that compassion will lead them to the cross instead of scaring them away.

I did get Abby’s vaccinations…she screamed through the whole thing…it was awful. And when I took her vaccination record to school, I asked to speak to the principal. She was very upset at the way I had been treated…and then she told me that a memo had come out last week stating that as long as parents had an appointment card to show that the shots were in progress, the children were fine to return to school with another 30 day grace period…

If the person I was talking to had only had enough compassion to try and help me, she would have learned that piece of information. Then I would have had another 30 days to build trust with Abby and my friend, who speaks Chinese, would have had a chance to explain all of this to her.

While there are many rules and laws, even truths, that leave no room for exception or compromise, there is ALWAYS room for compassion and understanding when we stop and take time to remember that there is a person with a life and a unique set of circumstances behind each situation…it doesn’t mean that we break laws or compromise truth…it simply means that we apply those laws with tremendous grace and compassion. What a different place this world might be…

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Adopting "Special Needs" Children

I’ve been thinking a lot about Special Needs (SN) adoption for the last few days… In case you’re not familiar with adoption, at least in Ch*na, Special Needs could be any child that is not a perfectly healthy child or a perfectly healthy child, over the age of 6.

I don’t want to disclose my daughter’s private medical information on an open blog, but I will say her SN was very minor…you would be shocked that it was even considered a SN.

But since we started the adoption process, the SN process has changed drastically.

Currently, there is one large list of children that goes out to about 30 agencies. I have heard rumor of some agencies still receiving their own list, but I can’t confirm that. So with the new large list, prospective parents complete a list of needs they’re willing to consider, and agencies match them with the children on this large list. But now, parents from 30 different agencies are essentially ‘competing’ for the same children.

Agencies lock the file of a particular child and then the parents have 48 hours to have the file examined by a physician, write a care plan and submit a Letter of Intent…that’s INSANE!! There is no way that a family can make a thoughtful, educated, non-emotional, prayerful (if you’re like us and depend on prayer) decision.

Add in the concern that the extent of a child’s needs may not be fully apparent at the time a file is submitted by the orphanage and I think you have a recipe for disaster. I recently heard of an agency that had 7 adoptions disrupted in one month… I don’t know if the families disrupted while still in Chi*a, or after they came home…but how tragic…primarily for the child, but also for the families.

Adoption is hard…we have had the best possible transition. Abby is amazing, I would do it all over again, but it doesn’t change the fact that even the best possible transition still has challenges. And then, if you have biological children, the challenges are multiplied by the number of biological children.

Are they good changes? ABSOLUTELY…we are all learning what it means to lay down our life for another, but emotionally, it can be tough. So I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been if we had been surprised with more needs than we anticipated.

Scott and I had already talked at length about what we would do if we arrived in China and her needs were more extensive than we thought…we both agreed, that at that point, God would have put us there for a reason, so we would have moved forward. But I have to honestly admit, I’m so glad God didn’t allow us to face that test…

You see, for me at least, when you’re thinking about all of these precious children that need a forever family, it is so hard to remain objective about what you can and can’t handle. It becomes very emotional, the heart gets involved, and sometimes you think you and your family can manage more than perhaps you really should… I think it would have been very easy to find ourselves there.

But having walked this path now, I’m so thankful that God knew better than us and He protected us from making a decision about a SN that was bigger than what He was calling us to. Would He have equipped us to handle anything He called us to? ABSOLUTELY…but sometimes it is so hard to separate what He is actually calling us to and what is simply His heart, in us, responding with compassion and love.

What do I mean by that? Well, if I jumped on a plane and responded to every tragedy that tore at my heart, my family would never see me. The more I grow in my relationship with Christ, the more my heart breaks at the stories I read…AIDS and orphans in Swaziland…children living on garbage dumps in Kenya…orphans in China…lepers in India…young prostitutes in Thailand…on and on it goes… But just because my heart aches for all of these situations and just because there does need to be someone who reaches out, it doesn’t always mean it’s me.

I have to pray and seek God’s will, what is He truly calling me to and then step out in obedience…that’s when He will equip me to handle whatever He calls me to, no matter how difficult it is…

And just in case you’re wondering what I mean by “called” to do something… don’t worry, He’s not dialing me on the phone and I’m not hearing big, booming voices from heaven… But for me, He will often confirm the desires that He is placing on my heart with a word from Scripture, perhaps something in my morning devotion, my Bible study or even a word from a friend or in a sermon…usually I just keep running into the same message over and over…and if it involves the entire family, like with adoption, He changed Scott’s heart too…I know for certain that He will NEVER lead Scott and I in two separate directions.

I pray for the families that are in the midst of dealing with this new system…I am so thankful that we found Abby on the last ‘paper’ list for our agency and that we had time to wait and pray…for God to show us clearly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she was our child. She is truly the most amazing blessing…perfectly matched with our family.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Love You Loud!

I am somewhere else in the south (besides home) with the girls...we're having a girl's weekend with my mom, but we came specifically to see my grandmother who is...well, just suffice it to say, 'you wouldn't believe me if I told you her age when you see her picture'...so I'll just tell you, it won't be too much longer until she's seen a century of years! She's in amazing health, but still, I wanted to be absolutely certain that Abby met her great-grandmother. So we braved the gasoline shortage, and drove to see her (for those of you not in the south...it's CRAZY here!).

It was a wonderful day... I had to post the first picture of me with Abby, simply because she asked for this picture! I had been taking quite a few photos, had finally put the camera down and Abby pointed to me and said, "Picture mommy." I said, "You mean with me?" (She's NEVER asked for a picture with me) and she said, "Yes, picture mommy!" And she crawled up into my lap for a picture! Remember the last time you saw us in a chair together, she was sitting on me!

Me with the girls! (She's still on my lap!)

Abby, Me, Mama H.(great grandmother), Noba (grandmother) & Mackenzie

The girls with Uncle F. & Aunt J.

Uncle F. gave her her first ever money!

When it was time to go, Abby had a big hug for Mama H. and I whispered over Mama H.'s head, tell her "I love you." Well, Abby is a bit soft-spoken and Mama H. doesn't hear like she used to, so she had to tell her a few times...about 10...finally I said, "Abby, tell her I love you loud." Abby looked up at Mama H. and said, "I love you loud!"

From the mouths of babes... I have been so blessed to be surrounded by people in my life who have 'loved me loud'!! My husband and children, my mom, and the people you see in these photos... Mama H., Uncle F. and Aunt J... There are many more that I will get to tell you about over time... but the one who is noticably absent from these photos is my Pop...he was married to Mama H....talk about someone who could love loud...that was Pop! He went to be with Jesus over 9 years ago, but I always miss him...he should be in these pictures too...he would have LOVED Abby loud! I'm so thankful to still have Uncle F, Aunt J and Mama H...they loved her very loud today and they didn't even need their words...it was written all over their faces!

Mama H., Uncle F and Aunt J...I love you LOUD!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Digging Holes and Attachment...What they have in common!

I’ll just say right up front… I am not a gardener! I don’t like the spiders, the heat, the ants, the dirt under my fingernails, the bees, the backache, the garden snakes or did I mention, I can’t stand anything that creeps and crawls? The creatures totally ruin gardening for me, they send me scrambling from the dirt to get out of their way and my kids laughing because that “big” spider (that’s really the size of my pinky fingernail) sent me into a tizzy…

But in the distant past, I have been known to try it…so digging deep into my memory banks today, a thought occurred to me.

The process of attachment is a lot like digging holes…

I’ve mentioned that Abby and I are finally moving forward, that she has really been warming up to me…letting me rock her…asking me for hugs…just all around improvement… But I’ve kind of steeled myself for when those backward steps would come, which they were almost certainly guaranteed to happen.

Today was the day…Abby came home in a really bad mood. She wouldn’t hug me, she wouldn’t show me anything in her backpack and she flat out refused to let me read her homework book to her…it was not fun.

At one point, she just stood across from me, at the top of our stairs…she wouldn’t look at me…she destroyed this wonderful little book that she had made at school and she wouldn’t respond to anything I said…

So I sat down on the stairs of our playroom close by so I could think about how I wanted to respond… As I sat there, I went through a whole range of emotions…frustration, confusion, sadness, heartache, but finally the light dawned… For some reason (might have been that I was talking to my Abba Father during all of it) I started thinking about digging holes…

Here’s the thing about holes…when you first start digging them, the ground is so hard, it feels like you are never going to get anywhere. The deeper you dig, the more likely you are to experience a cave in... but the nice thing about cave ins, is that the ground is soft, so it’s not so hard to get back to where you were…

And that’s when it dawned on me…Attachment is like digging holes…the ground of their hearts is so hard to begin with, it seems like you may never make any progress so that something beautiful can grow…but as time goes on, and you persist with lots of love and grace and acceptance, you realize you’re making progress and you get so excited…And then all of a sudden, the sides cave in and you have to re-dig…

But, the walls of the heart are a lot like those gardening holes, once the walls have been excavated the first time, they’re a lot easier to dig out the second time!

So, I said and little prayer and decided to try it out…My very wise and experienced friend Ruthi had suggested that I explain to Abby what a mommy does and then just do it, without waiting for an invitation… So I said, “Abby, I’m so sorry that you’re sad and mad, it’s ok that you are. But do you know what mommy’s do when their little girls are sad and mad?” A barely detectable shake of the head ‘no.’ “We take them in our arms and hold them and hug them and tell them how we'll love them forever. And that’s what I’m going to do right now.”

And that’s exactly what I did… she didn’t get all warm and cuddly with me, but she let me hold her and she sat in my lap for a while. Afterwards she said, “Abby hungry.” So we went down stairs and shared a snack together…talked about school and as I type, she is sitting in my lap coloring a picture!

Hmmm…maybe gardening isn’t so bad after all! As long as I NEVER forget, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

God In The Storm

I’ve been thinking about God in the storm a lot this past week as I watched Leslie and her husband make the journey to bring little Susannah home… it’s the blog I’ve listed a couple of times asking for prayer. (You can click on red words to go the mentioned blog.)

Our own adoption journey has been so different, so smooth. Yes, it’s had some difficult challenges, but as adoptions go, we have been incredibly blessed. It’s easy for people to look at our journey and see that it was clearly God’s plan for us to adopt Abby.

But what if it hadn’t turned out so well? What if it had been far more difficult than we were prepared for? What if she had had challenges much greater than we expected? Would that make us question if we had really understood God correctly?

It’s happened in my own life before and I’ve seen it happen with others…we step out in faith and things don’t go like we expected…we get a storm instead of a picnic in the park…and all of a sudden we’re questioning…was that really God’s will for my life? Did I misunderstand Him? Where did I go wrong?

I think if I had been in Leslie’s shoes this week…that’s exactly where I would have found myself, questioning… is this really the little girl God meant for us or did He bring her into our life to lead us to the little girl He really had planned for us?

Leslie said on her blog that it wasn’t exactly the Gotcha Day she had imagined…it’s not one any adoptive parent would imagine or dream of…and it could reasonably make you question, is this really God’s plan for my life? Did I really understand Him correctly?

But that’s what so inspired me about Leslie… Whatever questions she and Charlie may have had, she stayed the course. They fought hard for their precious daughter and hopefully, as I write this, they are safely home in the US.

I have another friend, April, who went through a different storm, but equally heart wrenching as they went through the process to bring their daughter home. And like Leslie, she never wavered in her faith…she stayed the course, trusting that God was in the storm, working out His perfect plan.

In Exodus 14: 21-22, God parted the Red Sea and delivered the Israelites to freedom… ”Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”

God brought about their deliverance with a strong east wind…in other words a storm! In other places God uses storms for judgment, I know that doesn’t apply to either of these situations but what occurred to me is that those storms of judgments, are ultimately storms that refine…so even those kinds of storms are good storms.

But with Leslie and April, God used a storm to deliver their precious children to families who would love them and give them a chance at life…Leslie’s daughter is incredibly sick, April’s daughter is shockingly under nourished…1 year old and only 12 pounds. The faith of both of these ladies has inspired me…I am so thankful that God crossed our paths and allowed me to witness His glory in such amazing ways…my faith has grown in the process.

The bottom line is that storms are going to occur, and God is good to use them for a purpose. We might wonder, why doesn’t a good and loving God just stop the storm? But I have to go back to what I’ve said before, man rebelled against God, we invited sin and it’s consequences into the world, so God is merciful to do anything…even to use the storms in our life for good…He NEVER wastes one ounce of our suffering!

Diamonds are pure carbon atoms…what we know as dirty, nasty coal until intense pressure and incredibly high temperatures are applied…the storms God allows into our lives are for the purpose of turning us into the most beautiful diamonds…He really does bring beauty from the ashes!

This morning, the verse in my devotion took my breath away…I don’t know how I’ve missed it before, but I’m so glad God brought it to my attention today…Isaiah 63:9, “In all their distress, He too was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them. In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”

In the storms of life, God is distressed when we are distressed…His heart breaks when our heart breaks…He weeps when we weep…and He will save us…He will redeem the heart break and He will carry us forever. I’ve watched Him do that a few times in my life…when my friend’s husband died of cancer…when 2 of my friend’s sons were killed in Iraq…when I watched Leslie walk the path with Susannah…

God really is with us in the storm and one day He will redeem it for a glory we can’t even begin to imagine…

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy 2 Months!

Today is 2 months since Gotcha Day on July 21...WOW, it has flown! The transition has been almost seamless in so many ways... There is no doubt in mind that she was planned to be a part of our family for all eternity... In some ways, it almost seems like she was waiting for us to come and get her, that in some mysterious way, she knew she was waiting for us. Maybe that sounds crazy, but she is such a different child than the one who was described to us by the tutor, who met her just weeks before we did, and even her foster mother.

They both had concerns about developmental issues...that she had pulled within herself. The foster mother was able to draw her out some, but even as I look at photos from her foster mother, I see something very different than what I see in her every day.

Isaiah 61:1-2 teaches us that God's purpose is to bind up the broken hearted... to comfort those who mourn... to bestow a crown of beauty, instead of ashes...the oil of gladness instead of mourning...a garment of praise instead of despair...

That is what is so evident to me in the photos that follow...not because of anything we did, but because of what He did through us...we were simply blessed to be the instruments of His grace and love!
Referal Photo
From Photos We Received...Probably January or February, 2008

Gotcha Day, July 21, 2008

Our Sweet, Joyful Abby

So, in honor of our 2 months together, I'm going to tell you what we love about Abby (Scott participated in creating this list!)

That she looks out for her mommy… The other day, she found me in the garage trying to bring in a very large bulletin board. She ran back to the door and yelled, “Zack…Nick…help mommy.”

That she loves to swing…

That she asks for 'ice-a-cream' every night after dinner…

That she has a thousand faces and wants to show me all of them every time I take her picture…

That she loves to giggle…

That she can make a game out of almost anything…

That she is incredibly courageous…

That her face lights up and she yells ‘daddy, daddy’ when he comes home from work…

That she’s willing to try any kind of food…and makes the funniest face if she doesn't like it...

That she loves to play outdoors…

That she says ‘thank you’ to the automatic sliding doors at the store…

That she chatters away to us in Sichuan, even though we don't understand her...

That she loves to call her daddy on the phone and talk to him in Chinese...

That she sings the songs at Kindegarten and Sunday School, even though she still can't speak English...

That she sings out loud with her Ipod...

I love that she is so full of life...so ready to seize the moment and so un-selfconcious...it never seems to bother her that the people around her look different and speak differently, she throws herself into every new situation and just seems to trust that it's going to all be ok...

I love that she is so secure...

Most of all, I love that she is ours!

Happy Gotcha Day sweet Abby...we are so blessed!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Learning To Be A Child

I had one of those moments of understanding today…the kind where the light bulb goes off and I finally get it!

We’re about to hit 2 months tomorrow since Gotcha Day…2 months since this bundle of blessing slipped almost seamlessly into our lives.

But I admit, there have been some hard times mixed in with all the good, but then maybe it’s the hard times that make all the others that much sweeter. The biggest challenge for me has been the longing to just be her mother…to cuddle her…to rock her…to read to her. But the biggest challenge for her has been to receive that love. So I’ve waited…

Something changed this week though…it happened at the dentist! Maybe she saw me crying with her…maybe it’s just that I held one hand, while daddy held the other, I don’t know, but it just proves once again, God can use ANYTHING…even tartar and plaque build-up for His glory!

After she threw herself into her daddy’s arms, she reached for me. She wanted to get to the sink that was next to me, but afterwards she let me take her in my lap and really hug her. That night, she invited me into bath time, and this time she asked me to wash her back. Afterwards, she came downstairs and crawled up in my lap, for no other reason, than just to be there! And then, after getting a good giggle out of finding my 5’1’’ 10 year old in my lap in the rocking chair, she wanted to be rocked too! After a few minutes, she looked at me and said, “Enough mommy.”

As I put her to bed that night, I wondered what the next day would hold…would this be an aberration in our relationship or was it a sign that things were changing? Whatever it was, it was new…so if we went backwards again, at least our starting point for backwards was different this time, so maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to get back to this sweet place again.

The next morning, as she sat in her usual place waiting for her cereal, she told me her tummy hurt. I thought maybe she was hungry, so I went ahead and poured her cereal and finished making their lunches. But then I looked up and saw those big gator tears rolling down her face. I immediately put my arm around her, but then decided to try and hold her. At first I asked her permission as I always have, trying to be respectful of her timing, but this time I thought…”Phooey…I am her mother, I’m going to pick her up.”

She let me pick her up, but she was like a stone statue, but as I continued to rub her back and her head, she finally allowed herself to melt into my hug! A little heaven on earth! After a few minutes, she was fine and ready to continue the morning. As she got out of the car to get on the bus, she looked back twice and said, “I love you mommy!” She initiated it…this time it wasn’t a response to my words.

When she came home from school, I decided to try on the words of wisdom that my friend, and very experienced adoptive mother gave me…I explained to her what mommy’s do…ok, what this mommy does! I told her that after school, I needed a hug because I was home all day by myself and my “hug tank” was running low! She smiled and threw herself into my arms!

My friend who I am so thankful speaks the truth in love to me, suggested that I stop waiting for her to invite me in…funny, I think Abby may have been waiting for me to invite her in!

At bed time, I sat in the rocking chair and waited…she told me no. She hugged me, crawled into bed and gave daddy a hug good night…and still I sat in the rocking chair! And then she jumped out of bed and into my lap, she curled up and let me rock her…such sweet moments!

The walls are crashing down!

Ruthi has helped me understand that she has no real reference point for having a mommy. Yes, her foster mother was wonderful…she loved her well. But it is my understanding now, that she was never all that affectionate with her foster mother. So Abby is having to learn what it means to have a forever mommy. Her first mommy left her somewhere… I don’t know her reasons, I like to think it was because she loved her and had no other choice… I’m sure the nanny’s in the orphanage cared for her well, but that’s not a forever mommy…and I know her foster mother loved her well…but again, there’s no permanency there…she’s not a forever mommy either.

Forever mommy’s are just different…you can count on them to never leave you…to put bandaids on your boo-boos, even the ones they can’t see…you can trust them with your tears and even with your tantrums…you can be poutty and mean and you know that they will still love you…they’ll ride their bikes with you, up and down the same street, over and over and color with you for 2 hours…a forever mommy will wait forever for you to love her back, she knows it’s worth the wait…forever mommy’s are a special breed.

But if you’ve never had one, then you have to learn to be the child of a forever mommy…it doesn’t come naturally…at least not when you’re 6. Can you really trust them? Do they really love you unconditionally? How can you be sure that they will never leave you? What exactly are they supposed to do anyway? It is a process to learn to be a child with a forever mommy…

But that’s what hit me today…it’s a process to learn to be a child of the King. I didn’t know how to be a child of God when He first adopted me either. I didn’t know how to receive His unconditional love…or His abundant grace and mercy…I didn’t know how to behave…And besides, what does a Heavenly Father do anyway? It has been a journey to know Him…to trust Him…to love Him….it took time, it didn’t happen over night…I’m still learning!

I’m a thrilled beyond measure that we are continuing to make steps in our relationship, but I understand better now, what this process is like from her eyes because I understand my journey to becoming a daughter, in the truest sense of the word, to my Abba Father. Learning to trust is not easy…surrendering is even harder…she is a brave and wonderful little girl!

Tomorrow for our 2 month Gotcha Day post…I will tell you all the things I love about her! After that, I’m going to tell you the things I love about my other children too…I think I’ll do one a week on Thursdays…some of my blogging buddies do ‘Thankful Thursdays,’ I love that idea and being thankful for my children seems like a good way to begin!

For today, I’ll leave you with 2 more firsts…Mackenzie got her ears pierced…Abby got her first haircut in a salon (well, Great Clips, but that’s a salon to her!) They both did great!

She is in Guangzhou!

God is moving Mt. Everest sized mountains! Leslie and her family are in Guangzhou!! Check out her blog this morning for some of the most beautiful photos you've ever seen!


God is still in the miracle business!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Children Deserve So Much More

I'll just acknowledge from the start, this is not going to be an 'uplifting' post...but then, not everything in life is fun, so sometimes we just need to get into the nitty gritty of reality...the muck of it all...

Maybe by getting real about the dirt, we might decide to try and clean a few things up... My heart broke today and hey, misery loves company, so I'm inviting you into my heart break... But if you stay tuned to the end, it ends on a happy note...now, now...no fair jumping ahead... Sometimes you gotta take the bad with the good.

So, this morning was a REALLY hard morning…a couple of weeks ago we went for a meet and greet with our dentist…and after trying to scrape off some of the build up, he decided he wanted to try cleaning her teeth with the “power washer.” So this was our morning to go back… I had been so concerned that she had a mouth full of cavities, because the backs of her teeth were black, but it turns out it was plaque and tartar build up.

So Scott cleared his schedule and met us at the dentist office… I was not prepared for either of us (Abby or me) to do this alone. I had shown her pictures on line of what it looked like to have your teeth cleaned, but she was terrified. It was clear to me that she had never had this done before.

Our wonderful hygienist showed her everything before she did it, but I could see her little eyes welling up. And then she started cleaning them, and my heart broke. First the silent tears came, and then the soft sobs that we experienced on Gotcha Day. She was so brave, she didn’t fight, she just cried through the whole thing.

When it was over, she threw herself into her daddy’s arms…I am so thankful for my husband who will take time out of a very busy schedule and go to the dentist with us. And I am so thankful for the miracle that she does not have a single cavity!

But as I sat watching this precious child suffer through something she should have never had to suffer through, I just got mad… This is not a China problem…this is a world problem…really, it is a people problem…

In the US…children are neglected by parents…some are well provided for, in fact they have everything their heart desires, except the love and attention of a mother and father, who are off seeking their own fulfillment in the quest for more …some are neglected as their parents escape into drugs and alcohol…or they pursuit the satisfaction of their lust in sexual pleasures.

You know, you don’t have to be parentless to be an orphan, in the heart anyway. And our children are learning from our example…children are seeking birth control options younger and younger…they are stealing prescription drugs from their parent’s cabinets…they are killing themselves on the roads with alcohol, drugs and speed. The foster care system (and even some homes) are full of children who have been abused, neglected and abandoned.

In Africa (I'm picking on Africa because I've been there and seen it)…AIDS is rampant…children live in sewage lined streets…they scour for food on the local garbage dumps…they live in houses made of garbage on those very same dumps…elementary age children are left to care for toddlers, their experience of playing in the mud is trying to hold up the walls of their mud huts during rainy season… Beautiful little girls are taken by family members, have wood chips pressed into their feet and then made to dance around the fire for the entertainment of the men…babies are left under trees by the roadside and survive on dirt until some kind stranger takes them to a local orphanage…

All over the world, governments make it almost impossible to give these children a home…one of my friends has waited almost 1 ½ years to bring her twin boys home, all because of a tyrant who was on a power trip…another friend is praying hard for difficulties to get worked out so she can bring home her 3, yes, I said 3 babies (a sibling group) to take her family of 4 to a family of 7 (bless you sweet friend…bless you). I could go on and on with stories of willing parents and precious children who could have been in homes months ago, except for the slow wheels of the system and power hungry bureaucrats.

All over the world, children are suffering because they are ‘the least of these’ in the eyes of too many. But the fact is, children are a blessing, a gift from God and we are simply the stewards of these amazing little gifts. Someday, this world will have to answer to how poorly these blessings have been cared for...

I admit, as I sat and watched Abby cry, I got angry at China…at a nation who would neglect something so basic…at a nation where a 12 month old weighs only 11 pounds…or where a critically ill child is not getting the care she needs because of the pride of the local bureaucracy…

But then I thought, how dare I be angry at China when all I have to do is look out into my community and see so many others who are not receiving any better, right here in the US?

So, as I said, this is not a China problem and this is certainly not a GOD created problem… In an earlier post, I discussed how He gave us free will and we made a choice…man alone is responsible for this tragedy, we have no one to blame but ourselves! God is just merciful enough to provide a path of redemption and restoration, we just have to be willing to step onto that path and follow it.

Steven Curtis Chapman says that if 7% of all professing Christians would adopt just one child, we would effectively eradicate the problem of children who deserve a forever family and don’t have one…7%...that’s SEVEN PERCENT…that is such a small number and it proves that not everyone is supposed to adopt a child…there aren’t enough to go around…and then when you take into account my friend Ruthi who has adopted 4, friend Trina, 3, 2 friends named Laurie who have or are adopting 2 and my sweet friend who is adopting 3 at the same time…(I’m still in shock for her)…even less people are needed because these amazing families are doing more than their part.

And maybe you’re part isn’t to be one of the 7%, but one of the 93% who are just supposed to care…Maybe you’re just supposed to pray or give…or donate miles…or cook a meal for a family who has recently adopted, or offer them hand me downs…or gift cards…or maybe even just a listening ear and a word of encouragement... I don’t know, but in some way, we all need to do our part to give these precious children what they deserve…loving, stable homes with loving parents…forever families.

So, how did we spend the rest of our day? What else…we went shopping!! Abby’s class had a field trip today, so she couldn’t go to school and still make the dreaded dentist appointment, so I decided we needed a mother/daughter outing! We went to lunch and then to Libby Lu’s for some “princess time!”

Enjoy the pictures of the fruit of our shopping expedition!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fun Photos

I have a lot friends who do a wordless Wednesday photo... I have a huge amount of admiration for their restraint...wordless? I'm not sure I know the definition of that one!

So, here goes with some fun photos from the last few days...please note that Mackenzie is missing because she was at her friend's house. I've been trying to make sure she gets some big girl play time by herself... Scott, bless his heart, has been making sure that I also get some "big girl" time to myself...He's amazing!

The other day I posted about being jealous (see Saturday's post)... Now you can see why! LOL!! She cuddles in her daddy's lap...she SITS on me!!

I had some really cool face shots, so I thought I'd do a few faces of... (this was when Mackenzie was at her friend's...)

Faces of Zack

Faces of Nick

The MANY Faces of Abby

Her First Front Yard Football Game

Her First Lost Tooth
(I asked her, "Abby did it fall out?" She shook her head "No" and showed me how she pulled it out! She's quite proud of it!)
I admit, I love the "firsts" they are so much fun...the first cotton candy...the first snow cone...the other day we were in line at Walmart and they had PEZ candy...another fun first (hmmm...there is a VERY unhealthy theme developing here)...but then there was her first swim...her first ride on the scooter...her first day at church...her first time in Sunday School...her first 'big brother' soccer game... I am so thankful to have this second chance...I have taken FAR too much for granted in life! And a few I can't wait for...her first swing on the tire swing at Grandpa John's and Grandma Cathy's...or her first ride on their go-karts...or her first game of checkers with PawPaw...still so much to come!

Playing With Big Brother Nick

Playing With Big Brother Zack

Look at her little face in this shot! I love that I captured this because it is such a picture of the determination and passion with which she lives life! She approaches everything like this!
Scott was so discerning the first day we met her, he wrote this on our Travel Website..."As our guide Michael gently queried her in Chinese she was so stoic that it almost hurt to look. Not really a hardness, toughness, or even defiance but more of a determination that she was going to make it through..."

And then finally the closing shot...she loves for me to take her picture...she will often come to me, make the motion for taking a picture and say "picture." That's why there's so many more photos of Abby, she is a much more willing subject than her camera shy older sister and brothers... I have to BEG them for pictures many times!
Anyway, when she has had her fill, I couldn't get another get another picture out of her, even if I promised icecream... I was so tickled at her the other day though... She was sitting on her ball and I turned to make her picture, she got up, picked up her ball and went across to the neighbor's yard and sat back down...the look says, "Enough already!"

She is truly a child with a mind of her own! I LOVE that about her!

Update...And The Saints Cheered (not a football post!)

(Update...this post, or the one from last night, is not about my friend Leslie who had also gone private on her blog. But Leslie is back open too! Please keep praying for her family... http://www.roomforatleastonemore.blogspot.com/)

There is a wonderful woman named Barbara Barker, her husband is Frank Barker, retired Pastor. I heard her speak at a retreat once and she gave me an image that I have never forgotten...

She referenced the verse, Hebrews 12:1, "Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses..." And she said that in life, she carries an image with her of a football stadium. On one side are the saints that have gone before us (believers who have died and gone to heaven) and on the other side are the enemies...all of the devil's little minions... And we are the players on the field.

She said that as she lives her life, her goal is to make the saints cheer and the demons boo and hiss! Well, my blogging buddy is making the saints cheer... this is an update on my post from last night...

I received this e-mail from her this morning... "My bible study today was on our anointing and not letting the enemy win and to not go into hiding." She will open up her blog again today. I will add her back to the blogs I regularly follow! I admire her courage!

I love the story of Nehemiah... Nehemiah has a passion to re-build the wall around Jerusalem. The wall was very important to the Israelites, without it they were very vulnerable to the enemy. So, he goes to rebuild the wall, and there are a group of men who don't like it because they understand that it will strengthen the Israelites, give them more security. So they set out to destroy Nehemiah's work.

They come at him and the Israelites from every direction without success. Finally they go after Nehemiah himself...they try to lure him away so they can kill him. But he is too wise for that... He knows his calling and he is going to complete the work that God has given him, in Nehemiah 6:3 he sends word to the enemy, "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down." 4 times he responds to them that way... And Nehemiah did the impossible, he built that wall in 52 days!!

So, way to go blog buddy...way to go! You are carrying on a great project, you didn't let the enemy pull you away... You even followed Nehemiah's example when you stopped and prayed for a while... I hope you can hear the saints cheering!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Heavy Heart

The day began with my friend who is in dire straights with her daughter in China and it is ending with another friend, a blog friend, who is no longer allowing her blog to be public because she is being harrassed!

I realize that the two are worlds apart...that a private blog is a far cry from a critically sick child...except that my friend's blog was ministering to so many people. I have sent people to her blog who had similar family dynamics and were interested in adoption, because I knew she would inspire them...she is a beautiful ambassador for adoption!

I stumbled across her blog before she went to China and have been so blessed to follow her journey...she was an encouragement and inspiration while I waited and I have been blessed to strike up an e-mail friendship with her...her family is beautiful and her faith even more so!

The harassment started a few days ago and it has continued...the anonymous person (aka COWARD) has continued to post verbally abusive comments on her blog. My heart is so sad for my friend and all of her readers, but my heart is even sadder for the woman who has taken up this hate campaign.

To think of someone who is so angry and so bitter, that they have nothing better to do with their life than to harass a mother who is generous enough to share her life, is the picture of an empty shell of a life...there is no love there...only a bitter root that is choking out her life...it makes me very sad.

Do I know anything about this woman’s life? No, but from the overflow of the heart come the words of the mouth. Her actions and her words speak volumes…

If I sound judgmental or critical, that is not my heart at all…I’m just sad and frustrated for my ‘friend’ and for all of those who will never be blessed to witness her journey. And it reminds me that I always need to be careful how I use my words… Here are some powerful words about the tongue:

Proverbs 12:18, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 15:4, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

Proverbs 18:21a, “The tongue has the power of life and death…”

I need to ask myself everyday…”Are my words building up or tearing down? Are they hurting or healing? Are they bringing life…or death?”

Ironic, I posted an entry yesterday about the violation of our First Amendment Rights… I removed it today because I felt like it sounded angry… it was and justifiably so…but somehow it seemed out of place on my blog…

And then today, a person uses their First Amendment Rights to abuse another…

How sad…how heartbreakingly sad!

Tomorrow, I will post some fun and beautiful pictures of the kids! 3 of them anyway! Stay tuned!! And please keep praying for my friend Leslie…

Please Pray For My Friend In China

Last year, God blessed me with a new 'e-mail' friend, her name is Leslie and she is good friends with my cousins, Shannon and Stefanie. They hooked us up because we were both on the adoption journey and we have encouraged one another throughout this process.

Yesterday they went to meet their little girl at the Civil Affairs office and waited and waited...all of the other families received their children and little Susannah never came...they had to go to a hospital to meet her. She is very sick and they don't know if she is going to survive...

This is a link to her blog... http://www.roomforatleastonemore.blogspot.com/

Please, please pray for this precious family and for this special little girl.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

God And Adoption

I've toyed with the idea of posting this, but one of my 'blog buddies' got slammed with a really ugly comment on her blog and it just settled it for me that I needed to post this...

A while back, someone wrote this quote in response to another adoptive parent saying that God had placed a calling on her life to adopt...

“No god told me to adopt my daughter and I would never teach her it was god's will she be adopted and have to deal with all the loss this entails. In my opinion no loving god would want this for any child.”

Amazingly, God opened a door for me to privately respond to this person and He clearly gave me the words...but in light of what was written to my friend, I think I want to address this...

As Christians, we need to be prepared to answer things like this...we need to think it through and understand it for ourselves...

This is what I wrote to the lady who made the comment above...

You’re right, a loving God would not choose this for His precious creation. The irony in that is that we scream and rail against the idea of a God that doesn’t allow us free will or freedom of choice, then we turn around and scream and rail at the idea of a God who doesn’t fix all of the messes we make as a result of our choices.

The need for adoption is a man made problem, not a God made problem.
God allowed man the freedom to choose and not surprisingly, man made a mess of it.

I’m just curious, would you be ok without the freedom to choose, without free will…if a “loving god” predetermined and dictated our every action, feeling, thought, word? Do you realize that that’s the only way that there would be no evil in this world, if this “loving god” stepped in and took away every man’s choice so that only good would happen?

Adoption is the solution of a very loving God who is taking a horrible, tragic situation and redeeming it.

The bottom line is this...man rebelled against God in the Garden, at the beginning of time...God doesn't owe us anything...we aren't entitled to anything...we don't deserve any second chances.

But out of His amazing grace and mercy, God had a different plan...to redeem and restore what evil had tried to destroy. I believe with all of my heart that adoption is one of those plans that He put into place to carry out the restoration process. And I believe that God does indeed call us to this amazing journey... This is not a journey that I would have chosen on my own, my heart wasn't big enough... But since God is in the heart changing business, He had other thoughts on that. I am so thankful that He did!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

For The Record...

I just wanted to acknowledge...I'm jealous!! Look at these photos, what mother wouldn't be (I'm so hoping I'm normal)...

Do I have any photos like that? Nooooo! Does she run into my arms every time I walk through the door? Does her voice ring with delight when she sees me in the morning? Does she cuddle in my arms for no reason? Does her face light up like Times Square on New Years Eve when she sees me every day after school? Nooooooo!

Funny, I seem to remember all of this with our biological children too! I carried them in my womb for 9 months and labored to bring them into this world... I carried Abby in my heart for 14 months...laboring over paperwork and the details of bringing her home...I fed and looked after our bio kid's every need 24/7...I answer to Abby's 'mommy' a gazillion times from 2-8:30 and all day on Saturday and Sunday...(if you've ever walked the path of motherhood, you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about) and then Prince Charming walks through the door and I'm like the hired help... (I really am poking fun at life, if you've been able to tell anything at all about my heart so far, you'll know that secretly I LOVE that she loves her daddy...I do too! And I'm so thankful that she is attaching so quickly...she'll get to me in her time!)...

But there is so much to learn in all of this... lessons about sacrifice and laying down my life...lessons about the process of building trust... lessons about healing... lessons about loving unconditionally, without expectation! In other words, lessons about how my Heavenly Father loves me!

He has carried us in His heart for all eternity...He layed down His precious Son's life to bring me into His family...He patiently loves me and cares for me, even when I'm not willing to give myself completely to Him, so that I will learn to trust Him more... He heals my broken heart... He loves me unconditionally... Accepting me just the way I am but loving me too much to leave me as I am (borrowing a thought from Max Lucado).

There is no telling what kind of baggage Abby brings to our relationship... She has been through so much in her short little life... I have a lot to prove to earn her trust, even though I wasn't the one(s) who betrayed her and broke her heart... And maybe it's not just the baggage of broken relationships...maybe some of it is cultural differences...and maybe some of it is loyalty to her foster mother who loved her well... I really don't know...the fact is, I will continue to love her unconditionally, even when I'm 'jealous' and my heart hurts because I long for her to shower me with her love like she does her daddy, because that's exactly what my Heavenly Father does for me, every single day in every single moment!

This process is all about the baby steps...you don't notice them much at first, but over time, you can look back and see how far you've come. I'm so thankful for my Heavenly Father who models for me how to love her and how to help her build her trust in me...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who does she remind me of?

I wrestled with whether or not to post this...I don't want to over spiritualize things or make everything so heavy, but perhaps this is my season of life for now. God just keeps showing me so much about myself through Abby...

I guess because I am an adopted child of the King it's just easier for me to see it in Abby than it was in our biological children... I like things illustrated...I do better with a good story to learn a point, so maybe Abby is just my real life illustration of some things I needed to understand. Don't get me wrong, I do not, for one second, think this adoption is about me! I know for certain that it's not, I just happen to be the recipient of some pretty amazing "fallout" blessings along the way!

So, this morning I was sitting in "my chair," my favorite place in the whole house to sit and be quiet...especially with my Bible and my journal...and I was thinking about a pattern of behavior I've been noticing in Abby.

We've been doing much better lately...sometimes she has wonderful hugs for me...sometimes she crawls up in my lap for a few minutes and sits with me (but always for some reason, to look at something, to talk on the phone, etc.)... But, it seems like every time I don't do exactly what she wants me to do...or cater to her every whim... or if I frustrate her.... or deny her some indulgence, she shuts me out...she hardens her heart to me. Now she doesn't do that with Scott, but with me, she will snub me, refuse to hug me, not even respond when I say her name.

For example, my mini van is old (we like to drive them into the ground...we're talking 150,000 miles on this baby, yes, I'm proud!)...but the electric system is slowly failing...first the electric, "open sesame" doors went...now the lock on the passenger side is failing (funny how all of the problems are on the passenger side of the van...can you say KIDS!)...so this morning, as we are waiting for the bus, Abby is playing with the lock and door handle and I tell her to stop.

So she tests, and I tell her again...then she sits for a few seconds with her finger on the button, just itching to get in trouble...and then she pops the door handle again, and I tell her firmly, she must stop or it will tear it up. Then the bus comes into view and I can't get her to get out of the car. "Abby," no response, "Abby," still no response...I bet I said her name 5 times...I finally gave her gentle nudge and said, "Abby, the bus is here, you have to get out of the car." She got out, but did not even acknowledge my presence, usually I at least get a wave.

Now if that had been Scott, she would have thrown herself into his arms...locked her legs around him, hugged him tightly and said, "I love you daddy." And then waved good bye so sweetly as she walked to the bus... For the record, YES, I'm jealous! We can both tell her no at the same time...he gets a sweet smile...I get a dirty look! Go figure...

So as I'm thinking about all of this, I had the nagging sense that she reminded me of someone...oh (yuck) ME!

I do EXACTLY the same thing with my Heavenly Father! I'm rolling along, the days are good, and I'm thinking my Heavenly Father is just wonderful...God is so good! But then a bump hits...things don't go as I planned...I don't like His answer to a prayer...life just gets hard and all of a sudden, I find that my heart is hard! Spiritually, I'm doing the exactly same thing as Abby!

Abby's problem is that she doesn't fully trust me...to her, love and care looks like 'YES, princess, whatever your heart desires." But the fact is, I love her to much to do that to her...true love is being able to say 'no', to set boundaries...to do what is really best instead of what feels good.

Sometimes it takes WAY more love to say no, than it does to say yes... Too often 'yes' is a lazy, or even worse, selfish response...it's more about making ourselves feel good than what is best for our children.

But God is none of those things...He's never lazy...He's never selfish and He never takes the easy way out...He ALWAYS, 1000% of the time, does what is best for me. The real question is, do I trust Him? His goodness? His love? His wisdom? Do I trust that He can see a bigger picture that I know nothing about?

Hmmm...the next time Abby doesn't like my response to something, maybe I'll try and respond a little more like my Heavenly Father, with tremendous grace and unwavering patience!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tight Rope Walking

I thought I’d do an honest post today about a really hard aspect of adoption and biological children…

This is not in any way meant to discourage anyone from adopting, simply to inform and prepare anyone who might be considering it…

In all of my reading and following along on Yahoo Groups, I was absolutely NOT prepared for this part of it… I knew that it would be an adjustment for our biological children but I took WAY too much for granted. I spent time trying to prepare them, but I didn’t prepare myself very well for this aspect of it…

The kids were so excited about the adoption, I knew that naturally some parts would be hard, but I never considered the emotional drain that it would take on me. Please know, I am not whining…I’m a big girl, with an even BIGGER God, so I will survive.

But since Gotcha Day, I have felt like a tight rope walker, trying to balance the fine line of emotions with our new daughter and all of our children. Admittedly, the boys have been a little easier, not much has changed for them, except there’s one other person vying for my attention…so I just have to be careful that they don’t get short changed. I got really frustrated one day, trying to figure out what to do about Zack’s soccer game.

Zack loves soccer and his mama is ALWAYS at his soccer games! It was his second high school game and the second in two nights… Abby was tired and I was struggling hard with whether or not to go. And I got frustrated… I love her with all of my heart and I want to do what’s best for her…but I love Zack with all of my heart too! He has been a trooper through this whole process and I wanted to give him the support that says “I love you,” in his language. Thankfully, my friend Laura came to the rescue…she was home that day, so Nick, Mackenzie and Abby stayed home and played with her kids.

Nick has just started fencing lessons and Scott has been taking him every Monday night… I haven’t been to one yet! It broke my heart the other night when he looked at me and said “But mom, I wanted you to meet my coach.” Translated, “Mom, I wanted you to come watch me fence.” You can bet I’ll be there Monday night!

But with Mackenzie, it has been even more delicate. Don’t get me wrong, she has been AMAZING! She is a wonderful big sister, but she has feelings too…she needs to grieve what she lost also. She was the baby, the only girl (princess) for 10 ½ years in our family…so there is something to grieve. There is someone else who wants her daddy’s attention…someone younger who can jump into his arms, ride on his back, or sit in his lap. And Abby, during these early days of bonding, needs some extra attention.

Yes, we’ve bent over backwards to be sure that we’re not neglecting Mackenzie…trying to do things with her one on one, but therein lies the tight rope feeling…I am constantly aware of everyone’s emotions and trying to make sure that no one is being neglected or feeling left out. If I hugged one…did I hug the other equally hard? When I go somewhere with Mackenzie, or do something around the house with her, does Abby see a relationship that she feels like she can’t be apart of? When I hang with Abby for a while, does Mackenzie feel left out?

These are just some of the thoughts that run through my head… Maybe I’m trying too hard, but my heart’s desire is to stand in their shoes and see it from their perspective. It really doesn’t matter what my intentions are if they’re perceived in a different way.

I admit I got really angry one day when someone (who has no knowledge of what is happening in our home) said that I just need to understand how hard this has been on Mackenzie. As if I didn’t know… And very selfishly in that moment, I thought, I wish someone would consider MY perspective for a change (yes, I had a mental temper tantrum…a full blown pity party!)

I need to bond more with Abby, one on one, but not at the expense of my relationship with Mackenzie… ah…the fragile pursuit of balance!

I think our best times are when all three of us are engaged…baking is great fun with the girls, but I think I need to find somewhere to deliver the baked goodies, my already too large pants are getting tight! I love it when we swing together or play outside and last night, I got my first invitation into bath time…Abby invited me! It was fun, I haven’t washed Mackenzie’s hair for her in years…

I’m learning something in this process (thank goodness it’s useful for something!)…something that I’ve never really considered before now…building relationships is a very intentional process. I think sadly, until now, I have always taken relationships too much for granted.

I don’t mean that I haven’t worked at them, I have…but I didn’t work at them with intentionality…with forethought… Now I’m spending more time in my kid’s shoes, wondering what they’re thinking, how are they perceiving my words and actions…sometimes I don’t like the answer…but our relationships are growing.

Maybe it’s like the tight rope walker in the circus…the longer I practice the balancing act, the more naturally it will come…a girl can hope can’t she?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

When Life Gets Tough...Just Praise!

I was reminded of a sweet lesson this morning... some people, in my life, that I love very much are going through some pretty rough times...there's more than one and all of the circumstances are different.

This morning, as I sat down to enjoy my 'daddy time' (I'm borrowing that from my friend J., who's daughter calls her snuggle time with her earthly daddy, her 'daddy time'), my heart was very heavy for each one of them.

In my devotion, Echoes of Eternity, the author wrote, "Rejoice and give thanks until you are so grounded in Me that nothing will be able to shake you..."

Rejoice and give thanks...that's what I needed to do. My Heavenly Father knows the burdens of my heart, I needed to remember who He is... I've started journaling again, but this time instead of journaling a prayer for my friends, I just wrote every name and attribute of God that came to mind... and my heart started to lift...

And then I remembered a wonderful story in 2 Chronicles 20, where Jehoshaphat and the Israelites have received word that a vast army is coming against them. Jehoshaphat cries out to God and this is what God tells him, (verse 15 & 17) "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.... You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.' "

Israel worshipped and then Jehoshapat, instead of preparing a great army, appointed singers to sing praises to God. When they went to see what was happening with the enemy, they were all dead...they had turned on each other and killed themselves!

Israel prayed, trusted His Word, and praised and God took care of it! There's a theme here, but my devotion yesterday said, "When your will is in harmony with Mine, no power can resist or defeat you." When we are walking the path that God has for us, it doesn't mean it will be easy, but it does mean that God will accomplish His purposes, no matter what...there is NOTHING that can stop Him.

That is the lesson that I learned over and over through the adoption process... God had a plan...we simply obeyed and took each step, one at a time, that He showed us to take and He worked it out...you could say He fought the battle for us.

There were times of frustration and discouragement...but those were the times that my eyes were off of Him and the times when His time schedule wasn't turning out to be what I wanted it to be...

But praise is what draws our eyes and hearts back to Him and gives us the courage and determination to persevere, because it magnifies who He is and that will ALWAYS, 100% of the time be INFINITELY bigger and more powerful than whatever obstacle or challenge I may be facing!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fun Photos

Just thought it would be fun to post a few photos (well...alot) and a few short (I promise) stories from the past few days...

We didn't get to celebrate Zack's birthday on Friday (soccer practice, imagine that) but the girls and I had fun making him a pound cake for his birthday. Saturday night we celebrated with his requested Tony's Pizza and poundcake and ice cream.

The sweetest moment though was when I went to take a picture of Zack with his new stereo gaming chair, I asked Abby to move so I could just get Zack in the picture...he said, "Mom, it's ok...she was the best birthday present anyway!"


These are the pictures of his birthday and then the girls cleaning up after baking the cake!

These girls love popcorn...the photos tell the story!

Next are some funny pictures of when Abby insisted that daddy try on her new green t-shirt that she got at Kindergarten...when he couldn't do it himself, she decided that she would be more successful! Scott stood up with hunched shoulders bulging out of this green t-shirt and all I could think of was the Incredible Hulk!

I never cease to be amazed how God has selected the perfect child for our family! She is so adaptable! We were careful in the first few weeks home to keep life really simple, but when school started, simplicity was GONE!!
In the days when we waited to bring her home, I would often wonder how she would do at Zack's soccer games...she does great...she plays with Nick and Mackenzie, or our friend's kids, Tyler and Trey or she reads her book...she is appropriately social and friendly...she is transitioning so beautifully. Today was a rainy day and I just couldn't resist these shots of the girls...following are a few photos of Zack's first soccer games and stay tuned for the very last photo...it's got a great story!

This last story touched my heart in a really special way...Abby loves to listen to Mackenzie's shuffle ipod! She loved listening with the boys in China and she was thrilled when we got home and we offered her Mackenzie's old one (Mackenzie had saved her money to buy a new one!)...Anyway, all of the music on the Ipod is basically children's praise and worship and Jump 5... And she loves to walk around singing to the music...we can't understand what she's saying...but she sings anyway!
When we first brought Abby home and the communication barrier seemed insurmountable...I thought many times, how will we ever teach her the name of Jesus? She can't see Him...she has no context for who He is...
Well, the other night as we were driving home, Abby was listening to her Ipod and all of a sudden, I realized that she was actually saying something...so I kept listening...over and over, she was saying 'Jesus!' I know she doesn't understand who He is yet...but His name is known. God can use anything or anyone to make the name of His Son known...even an IPOD...
I caught this picture the other night of her singing!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Going Backwards to Move Forward... (2-fer, # 1)

Today is a '2-fer' day... (2 posts on the same day!)

The last week has been very interesting with Abby... I've read in older child adoption how important it is to 're-create' some of the things you missed with them as small children...cuddling, rocking, possibly feeding them, etc...any nurturing thing you would have done for an infant, you want to try and do as much as possible for an older child.

I don't fully understand how the mind and heart work, but I trust the experience of others, and in a way, it seems logical to me... Abby never got to experience the love and care that we offered to our own children, those early days when they learn to trust you, that you will care for their EVERY need, not just their physical ones. So I've been a little frustrated, trying to figure out how to do that for a child who is so independent, who has learned so well to be self-sufficient and do those things for herself.

I should have known to just trust God to take care of it, instead of worrying about it. One night last week, Abby came downstairs and showed me the old animal blanket that Mackenzie had given to her. They were Mackenzie's when she was a baby so they were pretty worn and itchy! Thanks to a Yahoo Group that I read, AOK2, I grasped the opportunity to ask her, "Would you like for me to show you how I used to hold Mackenzie and what she did with her blanket?"

Amazingly enough, she said yes... So I took her in my arms like a baby and showed her how I would hold Mackenzie and how she would rub the satin against her cheek. Curious to see what would happen at bedtime, I was surprised when Abby carefully placed both of the old blankets in her bed and covered them up with her! Up until now, she has had no real interest in sleeping with anything...

The next day, after school, I asked her if she would like to go and pick out a new one, that was soft (and clean!)...and she was so excited! She picked out the prettiest white kitty (I know, I was really hoping for the gold lion or tan monkey that would hide dirt) but she wanted the kitty, so that's what we got! She sleeps with it and she even took it to church with her today.

Later that day, we were baking a pound cake and from time to time Abby would lick her fingers...the next thing I knew she was sucking her thumb. I thought it was a game, but the thumb sucking has continued ever since... We are definitely moving backwards!

But in all of this, she has also become more clingy, wanting to be held and carried, wanting more help with things (things that I know she can do on her own, because she's been doing them from the start)...things that should have been done for her as a baby, and most likely they weren't...how heartbreaking. So, we will go backwards with her and follow her lead in moving forward.

And God is really using this as a magnifying glass to my heart... Yesterday, the girls (Abby, Mackenzie and I) went to the Super Target to grocery shop and the next thing I knew, Abby's thumb was in her mouth. I cringed inwardly...what will people think to see a 6 year old sucking her thumb...but then God gently reminded me..."this is about her, her highest good...who cares what people think". And so we went...

But here's the other thing...what is happening with Abby is, in many ways, occurring in my own spiritual life... God seems to be taking me backwards. Over and over He has brought the phrase to mind, "go back to the basics." You see, it's been a rough and far too busy few years, somehow I lost my focus on Him, I lost the sweetness of my relationship with Him...too many times it was about the "in order to"...to get through the next lecture for CBS, to get my kids through a rough time...to ______ (whatever was plaguing my life). But the joy of that relationship had gone missing...

In China though, God rekindled that flame and my passion to be in a close relationship with Him, just because I love Him! But how do you go back? By going back to the basics...for me, it's time alone with Him...a verse each day to meditate on...journaling a prayer to Him about the verse...learning to rely on Him again for EVERYTHING!

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Like Abby, we must learn to go backwards so that we can move forward... Little children come in faith and trust, in total dependence...in humility they recognize their need for the love, care, protection, nurturing, provision of their parents. But as children of God, we need to humble ourselves in the same way...we need to lay down our chains of independence, self-sufficiency, arrogance and pride and humble ourselves before God, who loves us so much.

Why do I call them chains of independence, self-sufficiency, etc...because they bind to us a life that is full of striving, worry, and emptiness and they keep us from a life of freedom and joy, the abundant life!

Abby is changing...she is moving from a self-sufficient 6 year old to a child that is able to freely give herself to the love and care of her family...she is beginning to taste the life of a child that is loved by her forever family. Likewise, if we ever hope to know true joy, peace, satisfication...the abundant life that Jesus came to give us...we too must go backwards to move forward!

The Lord Is My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want (2-fer, #2)

I said in the post, Going Backwards to Move Forward (just before this one) that today is a 2-fer day, so here’s number 2…

Today was the first day we tried Abby in Sunday School...she's been doing so great in Kindergarten, bonding wonderfully with us and for some reason, I just really WANTED to go to Sunday School (confession, that's not always the case, but today I did) no doubt, it's because God had something He wanted to say to me...

For the next several weeks, my friend Kathy is going to be leading us through the 23rd Psalm...she is using Phillip Keller's book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 as her guidebook, it is a wonderful book if you're looking for something to read...

Anyway, Kathy did a wonderful job leading us to consider each piece of the first verse... The Lord (Who is the Lord? Creator, Savior, King of Kings, Mighty One, etc)...Is My Shepherd (And what does that mean? He is nurturing, He loves us, He provides and cares for us, He pursues us)...I Shall Not Want (Not talking about material blessings, which He does give us, but spiritual blessings...we shall not want spiritually)...

There was so much to think about...but the thing that completely changed my perspective was her statement that this first verse is a declaration...it's not something we have to hope for...we can say definitively...The Lord is My Shepherd...I Shall Not Want and believe it!

I mentioned in the "About Me" part of this blog that I'm a Teaching Director (TD) for Community Bible Study...that means each week I'm responsible for preparing a lecture, shepherding leaders, who are shepherding the women and children of our class and being a friend...

Last spring, when we accepted the referral for Abby, I was certain that God had to be calling me away from being the TD, but I could not find any peace in that decision. So I finally surrendered what seemed logical to me and said, "Ok, I don't believe your calling me away, but I have no idea how this will ever work." (He must have thought, oh ye of little faith.)

Well, my peace returned but I still set about putting plans in place in case the adoption and transition did not go smoothly...do you know, I have not had to implement one of those "Sharla-made" plans?

But I have to say, I have felt a little overwhelmed as we prepare to start class on Tuesday... I've asked a million times, "How will I ever get this all done? I'm going to be a shell when this is over? I just don't have what it takes?"

But today, as Sunday School was ending, Kathy told a wonderful personal story about God's assurance for provision in her own life circumstances and then she had us stand up and DECLARE, "The Lord is MY shepherd, I shall not want..." Again, "The Lord is MY shepherd, I shall not want!" And that's when it finally went from my head to my heart...

The Lord really is My shepherd...He has called us to adopt and He has called me to teach...I shall not want...if I just remember who my provider is, the source of my strength and rely on Him each day...

I don't know what you're facing right now if you're reading this...marriage problems, financial problems, an uncertain adoption, a difficult time with your children, illness...or maybe you're just a busy mom or dad and you just don't know how you're going to get through it all... maybe you should stand up right now and declare, "The Lord is My Shepherd, I Shall NOT Want!"

Saturday, September 6, 2008

In The Arms of My Father

There is an image from yesterday that I just can't get out of my head, or my heart for that matter...

Scott and I had gone up to the office so he could help me with a computer problem and Abby came looking for him. She raised her arms to him and when he picked her up, she snuggled into a good hug/hold.

I turned around and reached over to pat her leg and she kicked my hand away...a few minutes later, I rubbed her back and she whined a whine that said, "get away" and then she squirmed away from my touch...

In that moment, Abby wanted her daddy without distractions and that's ok...she wanted to nestle in and enjoy the strength, the comfort, the love, the security of those few quiet moments in her father's presence.

As I sat and watched this unfold, I was deeply moved by the thought that I need to be more like Abby...

I love the comfort, the peace, the love that I always find in the shelter of my Heavenly Father's arms but too often, I don't fight away the distractions. I allow the nudges of wayward thoughts to drag me away to the demands of the day and then the moment is lost... I leave refreshed, but not always fully satisfied.

And then there are the days, when I'm too busy to linger in His Presence at all, days when I don't climb, even for a few minutes, into His arms...

The moments with Abby and Scott didn't last long, but they were long enough for her to be assured of her daddy's love, to be refreshed and to move on with joy and laughter.

I need to take that image with me into every day and let it inspire me to seek My Father's arms, to linger there for a while and to fight off the things that pull me away.

Psalm 61:4 says, "I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings."

Friday, September 5, 2008

Happy Birthday Zack!!

It's hard to believe (he'll kill me for saying this) but my baby is 15 years old...I'm seriously thinking about taking out an ad in our community newspaper to warn everyone when he starts Driver's Ed!

Zack is an amazing young man! High on his list of 'loves' to do is soccer...that's why I decided to post only soccer photos! But the thing that is so special about Zack, is he likes his family! He likes to hang out with us...go hiking...play Blokus...he will even challenge his brother to a game of Chinese Chess from time to time.

Not long ago, he said ''Mom, I don't understand why some of my teachers and some of my friends tell me I will eventually 'hate' my parents.... I like hanging out with my family." (I want to know what kind of teacher would say something like that?)

The other day, he plugged in his IPOD to the car stereo and wanted me to listen to a couple of songs... He wanted to know if I thought they were Christian songs or not? I guessed they probably were, but they were heavy metal Christian songs...I actually liked them though! And when I could understand the words, I liked their message too!

But what impressed me was when he started telling me that his soccer buddies were surprised that it is was Christian music. I said, "Zack...you had a conversation with your teammates about Christian music?" He said, "Mom, I don't keep that kind of thing a secret!"

I know some people have a problem with Christian 'rock' music, because honestly, it does sound just like regular rock music...but here's the thing...if kids are listening to Switchfoot, Reliant K and some of the real heavy rockers that Zack does, then at least they're hearing the gospel message! God's word never comes back void...even if it's sung to heavy metal guitars! And look at what a great door it opened for him with his friends!

I am so proud of the person that Zack has and is growing into...

Happy Birthday Zack! I am so blessed to be your mother!

I love you!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Few Thoughts To Introduce Life As A Clay Jar

I am a teacher at heart, not a school teacher, but a Bible Study teacher. I love God’s word and I love discovering God in the ‘everydayness’ of life. I first discovered my love for blogging during our journey to adopt our daughter Abby…

Life is full of teachable moments, but so often I didn’t take the time to capture them, until our adoption. During our time in China, God completely overwhelmed me with the things He taught me about Himself… His love for me, my own ways that keep me from Him, how much His grace cost Him… I could go on and on…and because I was blogging, I was taking the time to grab hold of these profound truths and really ponder them, wrestle with them and then write about them…it was an incredible, life shaping experience.

So as our journey to meet Abby came to an end, I realized that I didn’t want blogging to come to an end…. I loved sharing what God was doing in my life and I could only hope that He might use His work in my life to create a hunger and thirst in another’s life to know Him more…

2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Here’s the thing about clay jars…they all start out as a lump of clay! Their shape and beauty come from the hands of the potter who lovingly shapes and molds them.

The potter has many tools…sponges and chamois cloths that gently smooth the clay…ribs that mold and smooth the jar…needles that pop bubbles and trim uneven lips…bent wires used to cut the clay…and then a sharp wooden tool that cuts and reshapes the bottom of the jar…and the most wonderful thing, during the entire process, the hand of the potter NEVER leaves the clay…

Isaiah 64:8 says, “Yet, O LORD, You are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” My Heavenly Father is the one who is molding and shaping my life. He has many tools, some are gentle and refine and smooth out the rough edges…but there are other things that need to be cut away, so He also has tools that are sharper and much harder to bear…but I can be assured, the hand of my Father, never leaves me…I am never alone, no matter what the circumstances look like!

In my life, God has used many ‘clay jars’ to lead me to a deeper relationship with Him…ordinary men and women, whose lives have shown brightly with the glory of God. I can only hope and pray that God might use the words that I share from my heart to create a hunger and thirst in another person to know Him more…

Ultimately, that’s what it is all about…Knowing Jesus and being formed more and more into His image…formed, like clay…

In the beginning, when God created man, He formed him from the dust and breathed His very own life into him…in other words…we’re all just a pile of dirt that God made into something amazing when He created us in His image.

The problem is, man blew it…he wanted to do it his own way, he wanted to be his own god... emphasis on little 'g' god! Fortunately though, God wasn't surprised by man's choice and He had a plan... God gave us His only Son, Jesus, because He loved us so much, and He wanted to redeem the clay and breathe new life into it once again, this time with His Holy Spirit.

More than anything, I want my life to reflect His amazing gift… His life…His power…His faithfulness…His mercy…His grace and most of all, His love… And that’s why I’ve decided to share the story of my life as a clay jar.