Monthly Archives: November 2010

Broken In Love

In light of this month’s emphasis on orphans, I was again reminded of where the Lord has brought our family, figuratively speaking, in the past year. A year ago, my husband and I were quite happy with our two little boys, our simple family of four. We weren’t sure we felt the need to have more biological children, while still not feeling like our family was complete (but absolutely did not have adoption on the radar). A year ago, we had no idea there were an estimated 147 million orphans across the globe.

And, then it happened. In one night, a hidden place in our hearts that we didn’t even know existed suddenly came to light. Because of a few people’s faithfulness to advocating for the orphan, we were suddenly made aware. It was shocking, mortifying, devastating.

A year later, we find ourselves mid-way through the process of adopting a baby girl from Ethiopia. The Lord has taken us on an incredible journey of faith and courage, and we continue with eager hearts, entering His story of fathering the fatherless.
A year ago, we didn’t even know “Orphan Sunday” existed. Now, this year, we grieved and celebrated simultaneously. We advocate. We dream of our baby girl. It is my hope and prayer that more and more of God’s followers are coming to an awareness of this great need (crisis, really) and are daily wrestling with finding their place in being a part of the change. Because, we are all called to do something. There are so many ways to be a part of changing the lives of the hundreds of millions of vulnerable children all around the world.

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”
Isaiah 1:17

Ultimately, God is the Father to the orphan, a lover to the widow. And, if God’s heart is to be Father to the orphans, how can we desire any less???

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.”
Psalms 68:5-6

And, we have seen firsthand how God places the lonely in families. He does it through his Spirit, tugging on the hearts of His people to obey His leading. Whether that be through saying, “Yes, Lord, I will be a father/mother to an orphan,” saying “Yes, Lord, I will give to help another family bring home an orphan,” by opening your home to foster children, by advocating for the orphan . . .

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
Proverbs 31:8-9

Words cannot express how wrecked and broken I have become over the intense tragedies children all across the globe experience today. You’re right, it’s much easier (or it used to be for me, anyway . . .it’s become impossible now) to just not think about it. To see something really horrible happening to a helpless and vulnerable child, to feel the feelings begin to well up inside, and then out of fear just shut it off. If I can just not think about it, I can pretend it doesn’t exist. I personally have been afraid of those feelings inside. They feel so out-of-control. What will happen if I give in to them? If I listen? How can I live in that pain?? What do you even do with that???

We see those commercials on TV – the ones about sponsoring a child in need, and we flip the channel. Just another one of those commercials. It seems so distant sometimes. It doesn’t affect us here in our safe and secure lives. At least, it doesn’t if you don’t let it. But, what happens when you begin to let the feelings stay a little longer, to soak a little deeper. What happens when you envision the eyes of your own biological child in the eyes of the one you see in tragic circumstances? When you let the statistics sink in and you realize that there is a face and a name and a spirit behind every single number.

I plead with you: Don’t shut your eyes. Don’t ignore those feelings. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to know how or what to do. If you feel a tug in your spirit, I challenge you to open yourself up to that. Just tell God you acknowledge it and pray for Him to lead you and give you courage to follow.

“And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.”
Matthew 18:5

I can tell you it is so worth it. This is not a path that I really saw coming in our lives. And, it is beyond-words incredible. It’s so painful, and I feel wrecked and heavy so many days. The joy of Heaven has become more real to me than it has ever been… sin entering this world has forever made it a tragic place to be. But, oh, how freeing it is to rest in the hope of our Savior! To rest in His love, in His sovereignty. Seth and I have already been changed. And, I know we will continue to be forever changed as we continue down this road. We continue to pray for God’s grace and mercy and courage. We can’t even imagine what it will be like stepping into those orphanages in Ethiopia when we travel next year and how we will be changed again. I pray the changing will not end in this life. Because, oh, so much of me needs to be changed. And to think of how our little girl will forever change us when she is placed in our arms…

I can’t read the serenity prayer these days without tears streaming down, and I’d like to end this post with it. Powerful, powerful words.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

________________________________________

Joy Primm

Joy and her husband, Seth, have been married for 8 years and reside in Northwest Arkansas with their two biological sons, Oliver and Sullivan. They are in the process of adopting a baby girl from Ethiopia. Joy has a heart of compassion, loves music, singing, her boys, and all-things-Africa. Seth is a worship pastor and, with divine inspiration and guidance, created an album of his original songs to help fund their adoption and advocate orphan care. The album is titled Bringing Home Beautiful, and you can find out more about their project here. You can read more about the Primm family on their blog.

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Carried Alone

I watch her–across the crowd–this tall awkward beauty. She’s the girl a visitor might not remember–no big personality or shining grades or showy talent. She is quiet, and I’ve watched her stand, so often,

alone.

And, tonight, she has risked. This dark-skinned girl, finding refuge at Breanna’s House, wants to learn the dance with the others. And, the team of Americans shows steps, and she tries to keep up. But, her arms seem too long and her feet seem two steps behind.

And, then, another girl whispers. Perhaps a criticism, maybe a bully-instruction to do better. Girls are girls, everywhere, after all.

And, this awkward beauty is sunk low.

Tears form. Emotion made raw. And, we catch eyes, and I’ve seen it. And, she knows I have.

But, the music has started now, and she doesn’t have the luxury of wallowing. And so, she struggles through mistimed steps and timid turns. She grits teeth and blinks back weakness and pulls armor around.

And then, the lesson finishes.

And, she files out with the rest–the chatter of the crowd filling the humid night air.

And,  the comment, the insecurity, the struggle,

is borne alone,

by awkwardly beautiful shoulders.

And, my car drives away, but my heart doesn’t. My thoughts can’t either, because I know I’ve peeked into a daily, stretching-into-years reality for this young teenager. And, I wonder how her life, her confidence, her view of God would be different if she got to taste the evening like my own daughter, who also danced that night, and who rode in the backseat,

home,

chatting all the way,

to a mother who listened,

and loved.

I wonder.

And, I think that perhaps, if she had, she wouldn’t have been so scared to dance in the first place.

From hands that help run the orphanage to hands that take the orphan home, let me say thank you. Your rescue of a child from the crowd, is such an important way to love. There is no substitute for a family.

________________________________________

Laura Parker and Family

Laura, her husband, and their three small children currently live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where they direct a Children’s Home for orphaned, homeless, or impoverished girls. Laura is able to write honestly about what it means to love orphans from the other side of the adoption coin. She has written articles for Relevant Magazine, {In}Courage, and several other online sites, and chronicles their journey in the jungle at Laura Parker {Life Overseas}. The Children’s Home they direct is Breanna’s House of Joy. Her Twitter is @Lauraparkersays.

With Thankfulness: Full Hands

It’s no secret we have a large family. Through birth and adoption, God has blessed us rather abundantly. And, it’s no secret that with a large family comes noise and chaos and a lot of demands and a general overall crazyness, lots of laughter, supporters at every turn, a hug at every corner, and never having to go through any of it alone. I continually run into folks who say (sometimes flippantly), “You must have your hands full!” Maybe in the face of it all, they just don’t know what to say. And, it kinda bugged me.

But then, there was a day when literally my hands were full of babies. A moment when both babes needed my attention at the very same time. We were at the grocery store. Tess was on my right hip, protesting to get down. And, Jude was on the left, his head snuggled in the crook of my neck. Each of my arms, encircled their body, and my hands joined in the front to provide a little support for my back. A couple of my bigger kiddos were in charge of pushing the carriage or putting in the items I directed. Boo was tugging at my sleeve asking if we could get the sugar-coated-crap cereal. Patch was trying to “surf” the cart down the isle. I was trying, probably futilely, to impart a little bit of wisdom to my brood. How to read nutritional labels. Adding numbers. Estimating the cost. How to use an inside voice. My back hurt. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the whole list before needing to leave. I had snot all over my shirt and seeing as how I was just going to get a quick errand to the market run, I was wearing stained holey yoga pants with really bad hair. You know those days, right?

And a woman, all by herself, probably in her mid 60s and probably past the age of having to take little ones to the store anymore, passed by, taking us all in. The hollering, the chaos, the noise and all the people in one family. And maybe, she was one of those people who just felt compelled to say something. And then she said it, “My, you sure do have your hands full!” And, she passed us by. Was she smiling? I couldn’t tell.

I used to not know how to respond. I mean, did I really have to respond? It wasn’t a question.

And this next part I really can’t explain very well. But, in the middle of all the comotion, there was a sudden peace within me, a peace that I can only imagine God wanted me to hear right then and there in the middle of the grocery store, holey yoga pants and all. My children. Surrounding me. My arms so very full . . . literally. You know, after interacting with a orphan who has never known the love of a family first hand, one never looks at a family in quite the same way again. My family. Encompassing me. It was such a wonderful feeling that God entrusted me with so many of His children. There was a rush in my heart that I never wanted to forget this very moment. A feeling of gratitude and thankfulness. A feeling of privilege and honor. So, I put it in my soul to always remember that feeling of blessed fullness . . . full hands.

Now, when someone says, “You must have your hands full!” I instantly think of that feeling and smile. Yes I do, and it’s divine!

I’m noticing that as the babe’s get older, now almost 3 1/2, they get bigger and heavier. Patch is now wearing chocolate-scented deodorant and not wanting to hold my hand so much. Boo is out growing his pants at an alarming rate. Livy is dreaming of missions trips in far off places. And, Sunny is looking at colleges.

There will soon come a day when I won’t have my hands full anymore, literally or figuratively. Someday, the car ride to the store will be quiet, and I’ll pick the station I want to listen to. No one will be there to tug on my sleeve. I won’t buy sugar-coated-crap or animal cookies or juice boxes. Someday, my back won’t hurt, and I’ll be able to make that errand to the grocery store as quick as a bug. And, I’ll probably look really cute too. And, my hands will only push the carriage and carry my list.

My hands will be empty, someday soon.

And, I’ll cross those now empty hands and offer a prayer of thanksgiving, that He allowed me so many divine opportunities to impart my mama wisdom . . . if even just at the grocery store . . . in holey yoga pants.

And, I will pray that He watches over them for me now.

________________________________________

Nancy

Tim and Nancy were high school sweethearts, now married for 19 years, and have been entrusted to raise 6 of the Lord’s children, ages 17-3. Their first 4 kiddos are homegrown, and the youngest 2 were born in their hearts, birthed half way across the world, then delivered by the Lord’s hand to their arms through special needs’ adoption. Their youngest 2 children, Tess and Jude, were born 28 days apart and were orphanage cribmates. They were adopted at the same time from SaiGon, VietNam in 2008. They wonder if the Lord has plans for another special need’s adoption in their future. You can read more about their family on their blog, Ordinary Miracles & The Crazy 8.

With Thankfulness: The Treasure of Thrown Away Food

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:57 (NIV)

If there was ever a secret for unleashing God’s powerful peace in a situation, it’s developing a heart of true thanksgiving. My son, Jackson, knows this. I came to understand how powerfully he knows this when editing a paper he wrote recently. Jackson hasn’t always lived in the safety and security of our home. For the first 13 years of his life, he lived in a forgotten orphanage in the third world country of Liberia, Africa.

Jackson’s paper was about the corruption and greed that caused the civil war in his native land. He did a great job recounting the facts of the story. But the difference between Jackson and most other kids explaining a historical event, is before we adopted him – he lived in the midst of the horrific conditions of this war.

During one part of the paper, he described what it felt like to be naked digging through the trash looking for the treasure of thrown away food.

The treasure of thrown away food.

I can hardly type those words without crying. This is my son.

And yet, despite the horrific conditions of his childhood there was an unexplainable thread of peace woven through his recollection of the story. A powerful peace centered in the awareness of God’s presence.

The truly thankful person is a truly peaceful person. They have made a habit no matter what to notice, pause and choose.

Noticing something for which to be thankful no matter what circumstance they’re in.

Pausing to acknowledge this something as a reminder of God’s presence.

Choosing to focus on God’s presence until His powerful peace is unleashed.

I doubt any of us will find our treasure in thrown away food today. But will we be a noticer, a pauser, a chooser – a person of thanksgiving no matter what circumstance we’re facing?

I find this truth about the power of thanksgiving over and over in Scripture. What was the prayer Daniel prayed right before being thrown in the lion’s den and witnessing God miraculously shutting the lion’s mouths? Thanksgiving.

After three days in the belly of a fish, what was the cry of Jonah’s heart right before he was finally delivered onto dry land? Thanksgiving.

How are we instructed to pray in Philippians 4:6 when we feel anxious? With thanksgiving.

And what is the outcome of each of these situations where thanksgiving is proclaimed? Peace. Powerful, unexplainable, uncontainable peace.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:7, NIV).

One of Webster’s official definitions of thanksgiving is: “a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness.”

I wonder how we might celebrate God’s divine goodness today?

I wonder what might happen if we decide in the midst of our circumstances today to notice, pause, and choose something for which we can truly be thankful….

Dear Lord, will You help me to notice things for which I can be thankful in each circumstance I face today? Will You help me remember to pause and acknowledge this as evidence of Your presence? And will You help me to remember to choose to focus on Your presence until Your powerful peace rushes into my heart and helps me see everything more clearly? Thank You for the reality that being thankful truly changes everything. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

________________________________________

TerKeurst, L. (2010, June 24). The Treasure of Thrown Away Food [Encouragement for Today from Proverbs 31 Ministries Electronic mailing list message]. Available in full from www.proverbs31.org

________________________________________

Lysa Terkeurst

Lysa TerKeurst is an author and speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith through following Jesus Christ. As president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Lysa has led thousands to make their walk with God an invigorating journey. Lysa’s personal adventure of following God captured national media attention when she and her husband adopted two teenage boys from a war-torn orphanage in Liberia, Africa. They never imagined their decision would start a chain reaction within their community, which inspired other families to adopt over 45 children from the same orphanage! Lysa and her ministry team at Proverbs 31 encourage more than 360,000 women through their daily online devotional (where this post was sent out on June 24, 2010). You can read her inspiring blog here.

With Thankfulness: How Can I Ever Thank You?

It was a bitter cold Sunday in December where my heart wore the weather. At the time, we were attending a church busting at the seams with prolific twenty-somethings. Most all the women my age (or younger) were either pregnant, nursing, or carrying their almost-walking 1-year-old in an ergo. They came on Sundays to be reminded of a faithful God, but I entered those doors each week with the stinging reminder that my request of that faithful God hadn’t yet received a response.

This particular Sunday, Nate was out of town. I was doing announcements for church so I had no excuse to pull the covers up over my head and forfeit my weekly encounter with envy. Little did I know that this was the day that would produce a forever perspective change.

As we sang the worship songs, my eyes filled with tears. Our adoption had just recently hit yet another roadblock, and the end was no where near in sight. The road to family seemed blocked at every junction. The words of these worship songs felt void against the backdrop of pain in my life. Like most pain yet-untouched by God, my paper pregnancy, apparently also barren, had fostered a growing ferment on my heart. My hurt was expanding beyond just the issues of child-bearing. The vision for my life was impacted. I started to see many things through the lens of being overlooked by God.

I closed my eyes to keep from looking around me at the others whom I assumed (in my naiveté) could more easily proclaim the truths of God in song because they had what I wanted. And, I saw this vision in my mind’s eye: the word family written on a piece of paper, nailed to the cross. And the Lord whispered to my spirit: If you never have a family, will you still love me?

I walked out of church that day numb. I had no answer to the question asked of me. Me, the one who had boasted of a willingness to be martyred for the sake of Jesus couldn’t readily say “yes” to a God asking me for allegiance in the face of my biggest fear.

The crazy thing about it all is that I never wanted to be a mom. I wasn’t the little girl who played house and dreamed about being a mommy. In my late teens/early twenties, I didn’t even want to get married. Marriage and children, to me at that point, were far from desirable to my driven heart. I saw them as obstacles to a devoted life, not the instruments they truly are. God broke in and gave me the desire to have children. He spoke to me about both biological children and adoption, well before I even deemed myself ready. Desire for a big family came from Him.

So His question, to me, had less to do with the content – my having a family – and more to do with His nature. Why would He put this desire deep in my core only to ask me to relinquish it? Why invite me to travel a road with a dead end?

It took me 3 days to respond.

I knew the right answer, but I couldn’t go there. I spent hours picturing a life like the one God was asking me to consider – void of family but full of Him. Could I love a God who took away the very thing He gave me? Could I trust the leadership of a Man when the mystery He offered wasn’t magical but perplexing? And, more than trust, could I further engage with the very one on whose watch I was wounded?

Somehow, out of this darkness of consideration that seemed so bleak, came a response that I didn’t expect. It was so unlike me that I knew the Holy Spirit had a set a new resolve in me that my flesh could not have produced. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Yes, I could love Him. Yes, I could trust His leadership. Yes, I could even find delight and joy and contentment living out the underside of mystery – perplexity. Yes, I could dance in the valley and take up residence in the desert. It was like His Spirit broke in and revealed to me the vast oceans of beauty and fulfillment and true depth available in just God. In Him alone. So much so that His promises birthed on earth paled in comparison to just Him. A drink of the Father’s love makes even the largest of a person’s vision or impact or dreams seem so small. The actual touch of His hand on our lives brings layers of healing that no “answer to prayer” can facilitate.

Looking back, I have no idea how that response could have come out of my bitter heart, but the breaking in of God’s love was the initial step on my road to healing. The first signs of healing in my infertile heart paved a way for the kind of ground God wanted to take in my life.

Almost 7 months later to the day, we became a family.

When I held Eden’s little body against mine for the first time and brushed my fingers across Caleb’s face, it felt as if all of my faculties were activated. Gratefulness was an understatement. The God who gives and takes away was faithful to me at the prospect of my forever barrenness so much so that His answer to my prayer was only an extraneous reminder of His goodness.

I didn’t need children to be convinced of His goodness.

And then, He gave me children to remind me of His goodness.

This will be our second thanksgiving with two extra seats at the table. And, God willing, we’ll add two more for next Thanksgiving. In 2 short years, the Hagertys will have gone from a family of two to a family of six. My dream — God’s dream infused in me — was resurrected. But, even more than being grateful for all that has come through our adoptions . . . the chance to be a family, the opportunity to impact four little hearts, the growing heart for orphans, the connection to Ethiopia and then Uganda, and the next 18 years of joy under our roof . . . I am grateful for the Father’s visitation.

A heart that has had a real encounter with the Father’s love (even if just one) cannot help but be thankful. A day, or week, where the focus is thankfulness is not enough to the one whose depravity has received the healing touch of the Father’s hand. I want to know this Man — this giver of love in its purest form — so much so that gratitude is not something I need to work at but something I cannot contain.

________________________________________

Sara Hagerty

Sara and her husband, Nate, have been married for nine years and brought home their two children from Ethiopia last year. They recently started the adoption process for two more from Uganda. They have a heart for prayer and to see people touched by the love of Jesus. What started as a blog chronicling the ups and downs of adoption has become a passion for Sara. You can read more of her musings on orphans, walking with God through pain and perplexity . . . and spinach juice at Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet.



With Thankfulness: A Thanksgiving Perspective

On this Thanksgiving,

I am surrounded by a feast beyond compare;
143 million children are wondering if there will be enough to eat.

I am surrounded by friends and family;
143 million children are taken care of by government-paid workers or, worse yet, no one.

I am surrounded by advertisements, beckoning me to purchase the latest hot merchandise;
143 million children are digging through trash to find a thrown-out pair of shoes to wear.

I am surrounded by grown men fighting over a brown ball and trying to move it 100yrds;
143 million chidren are fighting to survive another day on the streets.

I am surrounded by gridlock on the highways and in the airports;
143 million children are walking to the nearest water pond to get water for the day.

I have for my enjoyment bottled water, soda, ice tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages;
143 million children drink dirty water filled with parasites, diseases, and germs.

I am blessed by God;
143 million children are loved by God.

I am surrounded by 224 million “Christians” in the US;
143 million children are “the least of these.”

I am a sheep.
What are you?

All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. … The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Matt 25: 32,40

________________________________________

Donna O'Malley

Donna and Chris have been married for 18 years.  She works full-time outside the home while her husband corrals and homeschools their four kiddos – soon to be five. They jumped on this roller coaster called adoption 5 years ago when they started the adoption process for their youngest, and they haven’t been the same since. After listening to the Radical series by David Platt back in January, we stepped out in faith to bring home our 9 1/2-year-old son. God has burdened Donna’s heart for the orphans of this world, and she prays she will never go back to living like she was 6 years ago.

With Thankfulness: Thankful for the Bumps

Miss E likes to play “Bumpy Road” with me. She sits on my knees while I bounce her and chant, “Bumpy road, bumpy road. Smooth road, smooth road. Bumpy road, bumpy road. Ditch!” And, on the word ditch, I drop her through my knees.  Simple fun.

When I think back over this past year — a year that has been largely focused on our recent adoption — it reminds me of that simple game I play with Miss E:  Bumpy Road.

Preparations, planning, waiting, traveling, meeting our daughter, adjusting, etc. For someone who doesn’t like transitions, I’d say we’ve done pretty well. We have settled into our new normal as a family of four. But, as I look back on all that the past year held for our family, I am not only grateful for everything that went well (smooth road).  I am also thankful for everything that didn’t (bumpy road/ditch).

No, I’m not an overly-positive person who goes with the flow with every hiccup that comes our way. Quite the opposite, in fact. What I mean is that had it not been for all of the bumps along the road to adopting our daughter, we would never have met our daughter.

About a year ago, we found a girl on an agency list and requested her information. Since it was very outdated, we requested updates before committing. Those updates took about a month to receive. Bump.

Once we sent in our letter of intent to adopt her, we needed to transfer to the new agency. What should have taken a few weeks took MUCH longer. We watched as families “passed us up” in the process. Bump. Bump.

Once the transfer finally happened, our agency assured us that our letter of acceptance from China would be fast in coming. You see, we were I-600, under the old rules, which meant we would be meeting our girl soon. Wrong. Weeks and weeks passed. The agency while in China on official adoption business actually resorted to asking the office that handles adoptions in person for an update on our case. They found our paperwork buried under mounds of other paperwork which meant more waiting. Bump.

Once our letter of acceptance came, we just had to wait for our travel approval to be on our way. Hooray! Well, after another longer-than-usual-wait, it came. We were able to secure a consulate appointment and book flights to leave the very next week. That is, until we learned it was the Dragon Boat Festival. Because of that festival, the civil affairs offices would be closed, so our travel plans had to be cancelled. Bump. Bump.

After much begging and pleading by our agency on behalf of our family, we were given a consulate appointment for the following week, and we were on our way. Finally. It was time to meet our daughter.

The moment we met her, however, our dreams came crashing down. It became clear to us that she had very severe needs. Needs that we were not prepared to handle. We were not the best parents for her. And after 3 emotional, stressful days and 2 sleepless nights, we had to say goodbye to the girl we thought would become our daughter. We were prepared to end our dreams of adding to our family through adoption. We were prepared to come home without a child. We were broken and bewildered and hurting and questioning everything. Bump. Bump. Thud.

Our agency asked if we would consider adopting another child. We said we didn’t think so. They asked us to think about it. Pray about it. And, they asked if they could lock a child for us on the Shared List. The New Shared List. The Shared List that was coming out that very night. That very night.

When our agency emailed a girl’s file to us, we didn’t even open it for a while. How could we? What is this whole trip about? Why did this happen? Why all the roadblocks and delays and headaches and bumps? Did God call us this far to quit? To go home without a child? Or did God call us to China for this little girl whose file sits unopened in our computer inbox?

And so, we nervously opened the file and saw the face of the girl who made it all make sense. It was all for her.

Had everything happened without a bump, had our paperwork transferred flawlessly, our letter of acceptance been issued in a timely manner, our travel plans fallen into place without delay we would have missed our daughter. She would have been locked by another family and would still be waiting in her orphanage for a family to come and pick her up…a thought I cannot bear to think because she is OUR daughter. She was meant FOR US. The bumpy road was the only road that could have brought us to her at just the right time.

And for her…for her, I would go through it all again. I would endure the heartache and disappointment. I would endure the doubt and shame cast on us by others. I would endure the uncertainty of God’s mysterious will. For her. Our daughter.

Only God could orchestrate all the events perfectly to make our family whole. Only He could give us peace in the decisions we needed to make. Only He could bring comfort and healing to broken hearts. Only He could offer His presence throughout each bump in the road.

For the struggle, for my daughter, for my God…I am thankful.

(Note: In answer to our prayers, the girl we did not bring home has found her family, for which we are forever grateful.)

________________________________________

Stephanie

Stephanie has been married to Matthew for over 5 years. She “retired” from teaching after 18 years in the classroom when she had their first child. But, she continues to do a lot of work with school-aged children by teaching science to home-schooled children each week and being involved in children’s ministry in their church. It is through their two children that God has revealed Himself most clearly. He not only worked a miracle in enabling them to have a biological daughter who is 2 ½, He continued to show Himself in a mighty way throughout an adoption journey that was anything but normal. Her days are filled with all things “toddler,” and she loves the blessing of being a stay-at-home-mom. You can read more about their family here.

With Thankfulness: Happy to Be A Crazy

I like to think that I’m a pretty “Happy-Go-Lucky” kind of guy.
I mean, I like to think of myself as a “cup-1/2-full” kind of guy (unless you are drinking from it, then it is 1/2 empty).
See the good in everyone.
Look on the bright side of things.
Find the silver lining in the cloud.
You know, all that kind of good stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I have my bad days like everyone. . . . Okay, well, maybe not EVERYONE. I have one friend Rhonda who I don’t think EVER has a bad day. Drives me NUTS! I just wanna scream. . . . It’s like, “C’mon! Can’t you just have 1 bad day?” *siiigh* Oh, and my good friend Bobby – always happy! Always. Crazy. And, everything works out for him too! He is one of those guys that if his car broke down on him on the way to church, a new Lexus would fall from the heavens with the keys in the ignition and Megan Fox in the passenger seat! Goodness, that guy bugs me too! You know what? They ALL drive me nuts! Happy people! BAH!!!

Where was I? Oh right . . . I’m happy and thankful.

Sometimes, it can be really hard to be thankfu.l . . . Honestly, I think sometimes we have to be CRAZY to be thankful.

Me: *looking at the bank account* Oh snap.
*poof!*
Bad Me: You know, this whole “adoption” thing is kinda expensive. Like . . . really freakishly expensive.
Me: Yeah, I know.
Bad Me: Dosn’t that tick you OFF?
Me: Yeah, kinda.
Bad Me: Kinda?! There are 147 MILLION orphans in the world – all you want to do is help 1, and someone wants to charge you thousands of dollars!
Me: Hey, you know what? That is crazy!
Bad Me: That’s right! It’s CRAZY!
Me: They shouldn’t do that! Thats CRAZY! Stupid regulations!
*poof!*
Good Me: Maybe you should be thankful instead of getting all upset.
Me: What? Be thankful for what?! That this is going to cost us a LOT of money, so I have to work TONNES(1) of overtime to pay for it all?!
Good Me: You could be thankful that you HAVE a job where you can work the over time to help pay for the adoption. Or, you could just be thankful that you have a job at all.
Me: Okay, fine. I’m thankful that I have a job. But, I’m still upset that this is SO HARD to adopt when these children need homes.
Good Me: Why don’t you be thankful that you are adopting a beautiful child into your family and not focus on the paper work.
Me: Okay . . . fine. So, I’m thankful that I’ve got a job. I’m thankful that I am able to adopt a child. But, but . . . do you remember what the last adoption was like! I mean, you weren’t the one getting yelled at in Mandarin everyday!
Good Me: Why don’t you just be thankful that your beautiful daughter will even talk to you.
Me: Grrrrr . . . fine. I’ll be thankful for the job, for being able to pay for the adoption, for adding to the family, even for my daughter yelling at me.
Good Me: See! Don’t you feel better now.
Me: You know what . . . no. This is still hard! And, I haven’t even gotten into the all the other krump(2) we’ve gotta work though for our “Special Needs” now.
Good Me: I know. Hey, you should ask God how hard adoption was for Him. But, there are some other things you can be thankful for.
Me: Oh yeah, like what?
Good Me: Well, women with poor taste in men. Without that, you would still be a bachelor!
Me: You know, for a “good conscience,” sometimes you can be really mean.
Good Me: And, you should be . . .
Me: Thankful for that too?
Good Me: My work here is done.
*poof!*

There are always two choices when life throws something unpleasant at you.
You can get mad, rage against the injustice* in life and hold onto bitterness, anger, resentment, etc.
Or, you can be one of the crazies. And, goodness knows, there is enough krump in the adoption process to make anyone jaded (even the crazies like Bobby and Rhonda).

As for me, I’m happy to be a crazy. I want to focus on what God has given me and simply walk steadfastly though the trials of life, holding onto love, joy, peace, goodness, faith . . . and, yes, . . . even holding onto crazy, er, thankfullness.

________________________________________

(1) Totally not a made-up word, simply the proper spelling of TON – welcome to Canada, eh!

(2) Totally a made-up word, based loosely off CRUMP (which means “to explode heavily”), except rooted in a metaphorical term for issues which seem to “explode heavily” into your life, if you want them or not.

* There is definitely a time to rage against the injustices of this world. But, it probably is going to be a time that you won’t like and for something which you don’t want to do.

________________________________________

Adrian Berzenji

Adrian and Roberta have been married for over 13 years. They were married for 1 year when they decided to “wait 3 to 5 years” before having children. They bought a 1-bedroom condo and a 2-door car and were pregnant 2 weeks later. Nine months later, Kole was born (who is currently 12 going on 30). Shortly thereafter, their second son Dawson was born (10, going on, well . . . 10). Gemma came 4 years later (she is 6, going on 16). They were pregnant with Ping for about 2 years, but she came to them in November 2009 from Guangdong, China and is currently 4 1/2 years old. Adrian blogs about their family story and daily life here. Visit and be impacted…and amused by his wit.

With Thankfulness: Give Thanks

Many families burdened by the command of Jesus to care for orphans often will ask the Lord, “What is your will for us?” Should we sponsor an orphan? Should we go to Haiti and volunteer in an orphanage over spring break? Should we foster here in the states? Should we adopt from overseas?

For those who feel it’s God’s will for them to adopt, preparations soon begin.

Maybe you start by asking the Lord what country you should adopt from or what type of child would suit your family–infant/teenager, boy/girl, healthy/special needs. Then, you begin to ask questions to those who have walked this path before you. You find blogs that share about other families’ experiences, read books written by “adoption experts,”  and search the internet for scholarly articles on adoption and adopted children.

None of these things are wrong in and of themselves (I have one of these blogs myself!). But, I would like to share that I believe the Word of God is 100% sufficient–Jesus is the Expert of all experts and the Scholar of all scholars. When reading adoption blogs takes over your time with the Lord, and seeking counsel from worldly experts steals away the truth from your heart, then you will begin to lose sight of God’s will, and when the “going gets tough,” you will sink.

Gods will must be an anchor to your soul.

Understanding first and foremost that His will is always rooted in love. {Ephesians 3:16-20}

And, if we know that we know this love, we are able to

Give thanks in all circumstances knowing that this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. {1 Thessalonians 5:18}

Elizabeth Sanyu, now 5 years old

When your bank account is in the red, when you can’t think about singing another document, when you stay up all hours of the night waiting for that email in your inbox…

It’s God’s will that you give thanks.

When your child finally arrives home and he/she screams at the mere sight of you, when she pushes your love away, when outbursts of anger result in a hole in the wall.

It’s God’s will that you give thanks.

When the thought of waking up and “doing it all over again” pulls you into a depression, when the joy of the Lord seems like a thing of the past, when you begin to questions like “Was this really God’s will?”

It’s God’s will that you give thanks.

When you learn that maybe the will of God for you to adopt was more about the transforming of your heart, when you delight in battling for their little souls, when the word of God becomes common language in your home.

You have learned what it means to truly,

Give thanks in all circumstances knowing that this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. {1 Thessalonians 5:18}

When we brought our first adopted child home, she was 12 months old. At that time, we also had a 3-year-old and a 13-month-old. We knew it was God’s will for us to adopt, and we trusted in His word and His Spirit to fill us with all wisdom and knowledge to be able to parent this little girl. Little did we know just how dependent we would become on these two things.

Today, 10 adopted children later, we continue to hold strong to the fact that we knew it was God’s will for us to become these children’s parents. Despite the hardships we endured, and continue to endure, it truly is God’s love that we must root ourselves in. Then and only then can we give thanks in all circumstances.

________________________________________

The McCourtneys

Zane and Summer McCourtney met and married in 2001. They have been ministering in Uganda since 2004, first at a Bible college and church planting and now working with the unreached people in Northern Uganda, a region of the country devastated by 25 years of rebel war. They have been allowing the Lord to place the lonely into their own family since 2006 after the birth of their second child. To date, the Lord has placed 10 children into their home (you can read their stories on their ministry blog under No Longer Orphans). Each of our children has a story–a story of hope and redemption. We believe that Jesus Christ and His word alone are able to bring healing and restoration to the hearts and minds of our children. We have been blessed to see this firsthand–get a glimpse of it on Summer’s personal blog.

20 Ways to Become An Adoption Friendly Church

  • Pray – Pray that potential couples will be sensitive to the Lord’s leading in their lives. Pray that the church as a whole steps up its involvement in assisting adoptive families.
  • Preach key passages on caring for orphans and spiritual adoption – Passages like James 1:26-27 remind us that pure and faultless religion emphasizes care for those who are least able to care for themselves. Ephesians 1:3-5 portrays the act of physical adoption as a great object lesson for spiritual adoption in Christ.
  • Invite guest speakers to raise awareness of adoption needs and opportunities – Those who lead adoption ministries can share their passion with your church. Give church members the opportunity to hear about these needs while giving them ways to help.
  • Make adoption resources available to the church family – A wealth of adoption resources—both secular and Christian—can be helpful to couples considering adoption. Most of the time, misconceptions about the adoption process keep families from considering adoption. The church can provide helpful facts for couples to make informed decisions.
  • Freqently list proadoption ministries and organizations – List them in your church bulletin and have a “resources” link on your church website connecting to these fine ministries. You help these ministries by making them known to your people, but you also assist your people by providing accessibility to helpful resources.
  • Encourage couples facing infertility to connect with adoptive parents – Some couples hop onto the emotional roller coaster of infertility drugs and in the process incur huge medical expenses. Graciously counsel those couples to consider the privilege of parenting an adopted child (before their emotions and finances are exhausted).
  • Regularly have adoptive parents and birth mothers share their testimony of God’s goodness and grace – Testimonies can be powerful reminders to the congregation of what “good” can come out of a “bad” situation as ordained by God.
  • Education your church family regarding the costs involved in adoption – Members may be unaware of the expenses involved in adoption such as to pay for home studies, background checks, attorney fees, airfare and travel costs (especially for international adoptions). Adoption costs vary from a few thousand dollars to $20,000 or more. The cost should not scare off potential adoptive families but should motivate the church as a whole to “count the cost” and offer assistance.
  • Encourage the church family to give financially to adoptive couples – Giving financially to adoptive parents is one of the most—if not the most—significant things you can do. As potential couples take the giant step of faith in the adoption process, one of the biggest concerns will be “how are we going to pay for this”? A monetary gift along with a note of encouragement can greatly encourage the couple by affirming their decision to pursue adoption.
  • Create a standing church fund for adoption costs – Members can contribute to this special fund that adoptive families can utilize (either an interest-free loan or one-time gifts to these couples). Churches can also take up a special Deacons’ Fund offering.
  • Challenge Sunday School classes and small groups to raise money for adoptive couples – Love offerings help lessen the financial burden of adoption while exhibiting how members of the body of Christ can encourage and support each other. Imagine the surprise on the couples’ faces when they discover that their own Sunday school class sacrificially gave to help in the adoption of their child.
  • Establish an adoptive parents’ small group – Get a key person in the church to take this on as a ministry. Meet on a monthly or quarterly basis as needed. This support group provides encouragement for those couples who have adopted, are in the midst of the adoption process, or are contemplating adoption.
  • Create email list-serves of adoptive parents for support and encouragement – Since the adoption process brings emotional highs and lows, staying connected by email can prove helpful—especially when a couple needs a timely word of encouragement.
  • Connect with local social service agencies – Most counties and states have child welfare and foster care programs in which Christians should be involved. Many times there is financial assistance for those families who are foster parents or are in foster-adopt programs.
  • Use attorneys or case workers within the church family – Some lawyers specializing in family law are willing to donate their time and expertise to assist a church family with the legal documents for adoption. Such volunteers provide both financial savings and peace of mind.
  • Sponsor a child – Find ministries of like faith and encourage members to pray for and financially support orphan and adoption ministries.
  • Participate in mission trips to orphanages abroad – What better way to raise awareness for adoption than to experience the desperate living conditions of others?
  • Maximize special holidays to emphasize adoption – When adoption needs are presented with sensitivity and discernment, Mother’s and Father’s Day can be an ideal time to raise awareness of adoption. A special offering could be collected for an adoptive couple. An adopted child or adoptive parent could give testimony to God’s gift of a family to them. At an annual Sanctity of Life day, typically the third Sunday each January, discussion of adoption can be a poignant reminder to the church of the devastation of abortion and, at the same time, a powerful prompting for the church to become adoption-friendly. Recognize Orphan Sunday in November, using the myriad of resources available online to focus on the needs of orphans worldwide and the blessing of adoption.
  • Celebrate adoption as a church family – Affirm those who pray and encourage others to adopt. Encourage those who give financially to adoptive parents. Celebrate the living object lesson of Ephesians 1:3-6.
  • Support adopted kids as they struggle with attachment and questions of identity, abandonment, or rejection – Adoption is the ultimate expression and outworking of loving the modern-day orphan. While not every Christian will be led by God to adopt, the church can and should do what it can to encourage and facilitate adoption.

Will you help your church become adoption friendly?

________________________________________

Paul Golden

Paul has been married to Marbeth Showers for over 11 years. They are the parents of Jeremy through adoption (8 years old) and Joy (7 years old). Paul graduated from Baptist Bible Seminary in 1995 with his Master of Divinity degree and serves as Director of Admissions at BBS. During his off hours, he enjoys playing keyboard on the worship team, doing pulpit supply, and short-term mission trips. He is also a sports fan of the NY Yankees and NY Giants.

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