Tag Archives: advice

Replace fear with FAITH

(posted with permission from my oldest son)

It seems like a blink of an eye, and at the same time, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was mothering just a few in my home. I stand in awe of this story that I have NO doubt at all our Father in Heaven has knit together.

(the first photo I saw of my beautiful children!)

I think about where I was almost five years ago and see how our hosting and adoption journey has grown my faith by leaps and bounds. At some moments, I was in danger of losing hope entirely.  It has always been my faith that has pulled me through the roughest patches.

Our adoption story has not been perfect. There have been amazing highs and terrible lows. We set out to adopt a sibling group of five with the hopes of bringing them back together under one roof. At our first hosting of the three boys we discovered that our two girls had been separated into a foster family while their three brothers remained in the orphanage. This was clearly heartbreaking for my children, especially our oldest son who had been in the caretaker role for all the children while they were in the orphanage together for several years. He was not able to speak about his sisters without welling up with huge tears.

(our first hosting of the boys – the girls were too young to host)

However, adoption journeys are often slow and it was the same with ours. It took about two years from our first hosting until we were finally able to travel to bring them all home. As we prepared for our trip we were told the devastating news that the oldest of the five siblings, now 14 years old, a child who called me “mother”, a child whom I loved dearly, was unsure he wanted to be adopted (after writing on paper during our first hosting “I no go back”).  He said he loved our family and wanted to continue to visit, but the teenager he had grown into over the past two years now wasn’t sure he wanted to leave his friends behind. I can’t even express the disappointment, pain, confusion and grief that swept over my heart.

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(our first host visit with our girls)

Imagine proposing to someone you really love and think will be excited to marry you, and then they say “no”. This is the closest comparison I can come up with.

This “no” to adoption from our oldest son really threw us for a loop and had us questioning everything we were doing. This was coupled with several other events (a move to a new city for my husband’s new work position where we didn’t know a soul, several deaths in our family, another knee operation and recovery for me, and a hacker stealing thousands of dollars from our bank account, among other struggles). I felt like I started the hosting and adoption journey off strong. Despite the changes and difficulties, I was able to keep God in focus. Yet, with each new circumstance that occurred, I felt myself weakening, slowing and tiring.

It seems when I am physically tired, I am often spiritually tired as well. And when you’re tired, or lonely, or grieving, or stressed, it is SO easy to believe lies. 

Satan is the father of lies and he wants to replace your FAITH with fear, but fear is a liar!

Interestingly, I read in my devotional,

“Fear is dangerous to your hope and means your trust in God has failed.”

As soon as I read it I called my husband over to read it as well. That was exactly what was happening!!! I felt the fear coming the previous year. I had written a blog post called “Fear is a Liar” to that effect. I KNEW what we were supposed to do. I KNEW the right answers. I KNEW we were to trust in the Lord no matter what and make our FAITH bigger than our fear.

Yet, I let tiredness, sadness, doubt, and mistrust creep inside instead.

And it was ugly.

It contracted. It pulled in. It withdrew. It withered my heart, my love, and robbed me of my  joy.

We began to question everything we had worked so hard for up until that point. We wondered if this was the best use of our resources in caring for children, especially if our goal was to reunite siblings and it looked as though we would be leaving one behind in an orphanage alone. We started to listen to what the world was telling us and not what God had been telling us from the beginning.

Maybe this WAS a dumb idea.

Maybe we SHOULDN’T be spending so much money on this. 

Life would be SO MUCH EASIER if we just kept the status quo.

Thankfully, I had some wonderful, faithful friends who talked me through my thoughts. Friends who got down on their knees and prayed for us. Friends who gave us wise advice. One friend reminded me that it was not OK to fear.

My own words back to me.  Fear is a liar.

And that was exactly what was happening.  The fear was eating me up. I let it consume me. It was dangerous to my hope. The fear consumed my hope, and my loss of hope meant my trust in God had failed. And if I was honest with myself, my trust in God had failed.

Where was my hope?

(at the end of our hosting with the girls, right before our first in-country trip)

Yet, He will ALWAYS find a way to speak to our heart, mind and soul if we let Him.

God began to speak to me through friends, songs,  Bible verses, and perfectly timed sermons. One of the most convicting sermons was given to us right before we had to give our final decision to our official referral. Pastor Luis Martinez was a guest speaker at our church and gave a short sermon he called “Stepping out of the Boat.” His four point sermon was this:

  1. Faith takes us to the point where we need to make decisions that involve BIG RISK.
  2. Faith takes us to the starting point of long journeys.
  3. Faith takes us to the point of waiting for the impossible.
  4. Faith takes us to the point of giving everything you have.

I also had a little talk with God after some serious praying for hours on end. I stumbled upon a devotional in a store and I said to God, “Ok Lord, I am going to pick up this devotional and flip to today. If you want us to continue on this path, then this devotional will speak to my heart and make perfect sense. If we should stop, then this devotional entry will not make any sense.” I know we aren’t supposed to test the Lord like this, but I was desperate. I furiously flipped to the page for that day and was struck to see the title of the entry was, “The Courage to Change”. The tears flowed.

Yes. Did I have the courage to change? I was so very fearful of change! Yet – we had always said we had the ability to take in these children and change their lives for the better. Now the question really was:

Did we have the courage to step out of the boat?

I knew after reading that devotional that my answer was YES. I knew that I had let my hope and trust in God falter, and that I needed to continue in my hope that He knew what He was doing and He was weaving together our story for the good of us all, even when it didn’t make sense to me at the time.

We continued on our journey. We traveled and stayed in country with all five of the siblings in hope that maybe the oldest would change his mind by the end of our visit. He didn’t, and although that was hard, we soldiered on knowing we were providing a better home for the four who deeply desired to be with us in a loving home.

(Reunited together in-country trip #1)

We traveled back home and I continued to feel the sting of our story not being tied up in pretty bows at the end. We still didn’t know what “the end” of our adoption journey would look like. There continued to be sadness and worry over “the one we left behind”. With the other children adjusting, and more than doubling the size of our children at home to seven, there were some mornings that I didn’t think I would be able to pull myself out of bed and make another meal for another child. I begged and pleaded with Our Heavenly Father and He faithfully got me through each day to the next.

As hard as it was to come home without my oldest son who called me mom, we did. I was thrilled when he agreed to stay with us during our third and final trip in-country to complete the adoption process of his brothers and sisters.

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Reuniting siblings in-country, trip #3

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As our final trip came to an end, the orphanage threw a party to say good-bye to his siblings, which was difficult for all involved. As we sat down at the table, they turned on some music and I was shocked to hear a Christian song that had been encouraging me throughout our process play:  Lauren Daigle’s “I Will Trust in You.” Ohhh my heart hurt. I wanted him desperately to change his mind, yet he continued to believe he should stay. So I prayed as she sang,

“When You don’t move the mountains, I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters, I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers, As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You”

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A fun game!
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A silly game of putting on funny clothes!

I asked Him to continue to watch over this son we were leaving behind and to continue to give me faith and trust in Him during this difficult process.

As we came back home, this oldest son agreed to host visits with us. The last visit was eight weeks for the summer. It proved to be the very best hosting yet. There was so much love, joy and peace. I felt he really bonded to our family. I was reassured that finally he was going to say “yes” to adoption. We had some heart to heart talks during that summer and again via text once he left back. He finally moved towards a “maybe” for adoption. My heart was leaping with joy. I began the adoption application and paid our first adoption fee in good faith he was going to say yes. I was honestly ecstatic. I felt certain that God was finally bringing this missing piece of our puzzle home.

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(near the end of our 8 week host visit post-adoption of the four siblings)

Then he traveled back and with time and distance creeping in, he again moved towards a “no” and I again was devastated. I just couldn’t understand it. Why? Why would God write our story this way? Why did this child choose to remain in an orphanage over our family? What was wrong with us? What was wrong with me? What should we be doing differently? I again sunk into grief. I again had to tell my friends and family that bad news that he said “no” after telling them “He said maybe; I think he is going to say yes.” It was a rollercoaster of emotions for sure.

(at the airport sending him back after our last hosting)

I had to check my own emotions because I was so hurt it was hard at times to continue to pour love into this oldest child who kept calling me mom. This child who continued to call ME to help solve his problems, despite the fact that I was an ocean away. It was so confusing to me and it hurt. Yet, I knew that God always loved me, even when I pulled away from Him, even when I denied Him in my younger years. He was always there patiently waiting for me to return to Him. So I knew that I was to model this same unconditional love to this son, despite his rejection of adoption. And so this is what we did. We continued to try and parent him across an ocean.

Then his orphanage shut down and he was forced to make some hard decisions. Life for him was about to change and he had no choice. It wasn’t until then that he FINALLY began to hint around to the fact that perhaps he truly did want to join our family. Perhaps he should have said “yes” to adoption. At this point, our first adoption case was completely closed, meaning we had to start from square one again as though it was a completely new adoption. This meant all of the paperwork, the dossier compilation, all of the fees and all of the trips again. Yet, I was joyful to begin this process once more. I complied the dossier in record time. I completed everything that was in my control as fast as I could, as I knew we were coming up against his 16th birthday and deadlines that could prevent his adoption as he was getting too old, as well as law changes that were coming into effect in-country that could halt adoptions. Then we had to wait for the courts to finish their steps. This waiting was extremely hard on everyone. We were hoping to have him home by the beginning of the summer, but then that came and went and we were still waiting.

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(after the court hearing that allowed us to bring him back to the US)

Finally, we got the news we had been waiting for, we were able to travel to pick up our son! God arranged the timing of this adoption trip to fall during the Awakening Europe event. We couldn’t believe our good fortune to be able to attend this event with our son. It spanned an entire weekend and was held in multiple languages, including our son’s. The testimonies were powerful, the music was spirit-led, and the presence of God in that arena was overwhelming. On the final night of the event, my precious son felt led to open his heart to Jesus and accepted Him as his Lord and Savior. I can’t even tell you how amazing this was! We were all moved by the verse we sang repeatedly that last night from Lindy Conant’s “Take Courage” song:

screen shot 2019-01-21 at 11.26.41 amFinally, those two years of continued “no” to adoption made a little more sense.  I realized that all along God could see into the future where I couldn’t. God knew that my son needed to be in that arena that weekend. God knew my son needed to be moved by the testimonies and music in his own language. God knew that my son’s “no” to us all those years was partly because he needed to be there that specific weekend to be able to say “yes” to His Heavenly Father.

Someone said to me early on in our process, “adoption isn’t for the faint of heart”.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary has the following definitions for “faint of heart”.

  1. :  lacking the courage to face something difficult or dangerous —usually used in the phrase not for the faint of heart.
  2. :  faint
  3. :  lacking courage and spirit :  cowardly
  4. :  weak, dizzy, and likely to faint
  5. :  lacking strength or vigor :  performed, offered, or accomplished weakly or languidly
  6. :  to lose courage or spirit
  7. :  to become weak

It didn’t really hit me how powerful that statement was until I went through it. Now I can confidently say, it is true! Adoption of older children is not for the faint of heart. Adoption is HARD STUFF! You absolutely cannot lack courage, spirit, strength, or vigor. You cannot become weak. You have to be strong. You have to be brave. You have to ask the Holy Spirit to provide you with everything you need. I can promise you right now that if you complete an adoption process, you will most likely go through some hard times. You may even sometimes feel like giving up.

Adoption of older children always begins with loss, the worst kind of loss there is, the loss of parents. Not only is there this trauma of losing one’s parents, but usually there have been other types of abuses and traumas as well. You are going to wade through the brokenness. It is going to stink. It’s messy. BUT – if you aren’t faint of heart, if you are strong and courageous, you will reap a harvest of the most beautiful flowers imaginable by the grace of God. A child is redeemed- a family is restored – just as we are invited and adopted as children of God into His family (despite all the brokenness we have dealt with in our own lives).

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Not some things, but ALL things.

Rest in this promise today, my friend. No matter what you are facing, don’t lose heart. Don’t lose hope. Cling to His promise to work it for good. You may not realize it at the moment. You may not realize it until years later. You may not even realize it this side of Heaven. But you can trust His promises. He is faithful, He is good, and He wants the best for you in the end.

(first family photo of everyone upon returning home after Trip #1 of second adoption)

 

The Power of a Love Note


After 21 years of writing and hiding notes for my oldest daughter, I was blessed to be the recipient of HER notes the other day. I found them when I was having a tough time. And oh my, it is truly uplifting, affirming and just plain lovely!!!!Who wouldn’t want someone to take the time to write a few nice things about you and then hide them for you to find?How would it change your day to find a note like this, encouraging you, appreciating you, inspiring you?Since it is Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to BE the LOVE around you. Perhaps today is the day that you could leave some love notes for the people in your life to find?!?! Simple, cheap, and leaves a HUGE impact!

YOU ARE YOU!!! (by my 10 year old)

You are you and so what if you are not “normal”.  What is normal anyway? If everyone was normal everyone would be the same.So it’s ok if you are not normal. You are you and God made you unique. He gave you good things and bad things. It does not matter if you are short or tall, smart or dumb, strong or weak. God made you special. Don’t try to change that. And everyone, yes EVERYONE, has a purpose. If something bad happens to you, later you might find out that it helped you. So yes, everything good and bad has a purpose in God’s plan for you.

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Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/462463455455179789/

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Your ways are not my ways…

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Of course, Dear Lord, Your ways are not my ways. Your thoughts are not my thoughts. Some things are left a mystery until the end. 

Sometimes I cannot see, or even begin to understand, the why of a certain situation. I could drive myself crazy trying to figure it all out.

Luckily, I don’t have to. Because I have YOU to trust in. You to hold me. You to comfort me. You to guide me.

If I would only always remember to turn to You first. So quickly I forget. Every decision first to You. How fast I am to grumble, complain and cry out!

Forgive me Lord, when I close my fists instead of opening them in thanksgiving for all you have done for me. All for good. No matter if I see it that way or not right now.

Always You are faithful. Always You work for the good of those who love You, who have been called according to Your purpose. Thank you, Father.

And when I forget, forgive me. When I forget the power of the Holy Spirit, Mighty Counselor, lives in me.

In ME?!

How can I forget? How can I not listen? He is right here, always guiding, probing, directing.

It is ME who does not listen. It is me who denies. Me who questions. Me who ignores. Forgive me.

Help me to always trust.

Always depend on.

Always follow.

Always ask.

Always listen.

Always do.

Thank you, Father, for everything. The good and the bad that are molding me into who You want me to be. Help me to turn to You at the mountaintops and in the valleys. You are always there working it all for my good.

Trust in Him

Today, I am holding tightly to Your promises, Lord. I am clinging to Your truths. Not what the world tells me. Not what my friends tell me. Not what I tell myself. But Your truths, Lord.

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When I have had a rough day. When my kids are throwing tantrums. When I have to drag seven children to the grocery store. When my teen is ignoring me. When my husband is working long hours and I am so, so exhausted, it is easy to forget how much I am loved by my Father. My father who understands, who cares, who wants to comfort me like no-one else can. My good Father, who encourages me to crawl up in His lap for awhile and find my peace in Him.

I remind myself that I am not exempt from pain just because I am a Christian. Quite the opposite, actually. (John 16:33) Jesus himself warned us that in this world we will have troubles. Not maybe. Not if you’re not following the rules. Not if you’re not a good enough person. No- everyone. You WILL have troubles. It’s pretty clear.

The catch is that we are called to respond in ways other than the world would. We are called to put our faith before our fear. We are called to bear all things. We are called to allow God control in our lives.

When we allow this, we can accept His promises. We can accept His grace, love and mercy. We can allow Him to heal, comfort and restore. He takes the broken things and lets His light shine through the cracks, so brightly, that it’s undeniably Him at work.

So as I’m going through my day and I don’t understand what God’s plan is, I trust. When I feel like my heart is being ripped from my chest, I trust. I hold tightly to His promises. I trust in Him to make all things beautiful in the end. Where it matters. Where He can see and I can’t.

Thy will be done.

 

 

If at first you don’t succeed…

As we start the New Year, I reflect back on where I was a year ago.

Worried.

Confused.

Scared.

Exhausted.

We had just finished our fourth hosting through P143 (Project 143 Orphan Hosting Program) and this hosting period was the first time we met our two little girls.  It was also the first time they were reunited with their three, big, biological brothers. The boys remained in the orphanage when a foster family was finally found for the girls, and they hadn’t seen each other in years. Needless to say, tensions ran high and expectations ran even higher.

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This picture about sums up how I felt. I was trying desperately to hang on, to be happy and to find the joy and blessings. However, in reality I felt pushed to the ground. Overwhelmed by children. Overwhelmed from the newness of having little girls in the house, after having only little boys for so long. Those high-pitched screams and the WHINING! Ohhh I was NOT prepared for the onslaught of whining that commenced with their arrival. And those were just the surface things. Then there was the overwhelming fact that they knew zero English and were accustomed to fighting it out with their foster siblings. We had a lot of hitting and scratching and temper tantrums.

But the hardest part, and this is difficult for me to admit because I feel so much guilt over it, was their desperate desire to be loved by me. To be cuddled by me. To be held by me. To be adored by me. For me to give them my undivided attention. It was quickly overwhelming to be giving that much attention and physical contact to two children while maintaining a household and tending to six other children. And I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t expecting to feel “over loved”– is there such a word? I felt over touched. I felt over talked to. I felt over climbed on. My senses were on overload. Everything was louder, took longer, required more effort and organization than previously, and I was just downright EXHAUSTED.

It was hard.

I felt like a failure.

I felt guilty that I was struggling with these things.

Was I a terrible mom because I saw that same child coming for the 100th hug in the last hour, despite the fact that I am arm deep in toilet bowl cleaner. He doesn’t care in the least, but I am deeply annoyed.

As we began to draw near to their departure date I began to look forward to it a little bit. Bedtime would be so much easier. No more high-pitched whines. No more fighting. My husband and I were leaning towards believing that this was not going to work for our family.

We felt defeated.

We were ready to give up.

It is SO much easier to give up then to persevere. It is SO much easier to give up then to endure. It is SO much easier to give up then to bear another’s burdens.

But we aren’t called to live an easy life. We were warned there would be trials. We were asked to pick up our cross and follow Him. We were told that we would only make it by abiding in Him. Apart from Him we can do nothing. With Him, nothing is impossible.

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And what does “perseverance” mean? Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines perseverance as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”.

Did you catch that?

DESPITE difficulties, failure or opposition. As in to persevere you must first be faced with difficulties, failure or opposition.

So if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Don’t give up.

Abide in Him.

Run the race.

Persevere.

Because you know what? It DOES get easier. He does help me when I turn to Him. He does strengthen me when I pray to Him. Time allows for so many things to work themselves out. The girls are absolutely fluent in English. It took them less than five months time to go from zero English to fluent. Amazing! And those tantrums? Yes, we still have some every now and then, but they are radically different from what they were a year ago. They are now identifiable. They are understandable. They are manageable. They are almost gone completely. Amazing!

And I sit here typing this embarrassed at myself that we almost did give up. That’s the truth right there. We almost let all the fears and worries of the world get the better of us, then trusting what God was telling us all along.

Trust me.

Obey me.

Abide in me.

I will provide all you need.

I don’t know what your mountain is today, my friend. I don’t know what you are staring down this year and wondering how you will ever make it to the next. But know that I understand that feeling. I felt hopeless this time last year, and I really couldn’t see past it without a huge amount of God’s help. So I am here to encourage you to reach out to Him. Stay close to Him. Abide in Him. And He will take you through this year to the next. I am living proof of it.

 

 

 

 

How do you do it…?

(Sharing my top-read post in two years, my very first post!)

 

“How do you do it?”

This is probably the question that is asked the most.

“How do you decide to adopt five siblings all at once?”

My only true answer is, “by the grace of God.” God is orchestrating this story, not us. We are only trying to obey in this crazy journey of love. Selfless love. Love as a verb. Agape.

How? How did I end up writing this story? When did buying bananas three bunches at a time become normal? I almost forget that just a short time ago this would have seemed absurd had someone told me that I would be doing these things today.

But as I reflect, if someone had told me 10 years ago that an unknown janitor would lead me, a die-hard atheist, back to church, and that I would come to believe with all my heart that the Lord Almighty is the creator of Heaven and Earth, and that I myself, by the grace of God, would be given the gift of the Holy Spirit driving my heart for His Kingdom, I would have thought they were crazy! When did it become possible that I would be thought worthy enough to be called a Child of God, much less a mother to nine children? How did this happen? But isn’t that how journeys are? Hindsight is always 20/20. At the start of a new journey you can’t see where the road will end. You don’t even realize the lessons you are learning until you look back.

As I look back, I see the lessons that I am learning that surround this Greek word, “agape”. Agape is defined as “selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the four types of love in the Bible.” As John tells us in 1 John 4:8b: God is love. It’s as simple and as hard as that. God is love. We are called to love. We are called to agape. And agape has nothing to do with emotion. It’s not the warm, fuzzy feeling you have for your loved one (although that can accompany it). It is a deliberate action. It is a choice. It is a principle we try to live our lives around. Selfless love in action.

Whatever gift you have been given, use it. Whatever talents you have, employ them. Whatever you have been blessed with, use it to bless others. Do your part. Live with purpose. Love deliberately. Take a leap of faith! Stretch yourself! TRUST GOD! Know that God is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. -2 Timothy 1:7

BE BOLD!

Stretch yourself and give thanks in all things, ALL things, the good and the bad. It is often through suffering that we are shaped and molded into who God is calling us to be. This process is not always easy. It asks us to move beyond our comfort zone.

Is this achieved by living in our own little bubble, predictable and perfectly planned, safe, isolated and surrounded by others who think and act exactly as we do? Or are we more like Christ when we are asked to stretch ourselves and we are called to reach out to someone who is different? Someone who may have dirty hands, or torn clothes, or smells of booze? Are we more like Christ when we are asked to tuck in our own child at bed tonight, or when we are pushed beyond our comfort level to tuck in a child at night that is not ours and may not even appreciate our hug goodnight?

And when? When do we make this leap of faith? When do we accept the calling that God has for us? When we have it all together? Right after we finish having children? After the house is sold? When we graduate? As soon as we pay off our debt? Let me say – there will never be the perfect time! God’s time is the perfect time. Listen to what He is telling you. Ask Him to clue you in. He promises that if we sincerely ask, we will receive, if we seek, we shall find, if we knock, the door will be opened (Luke 11:9).

And then we have to trust and obey. We have to remember that if He brings you to it, He will bring you through it. God does not fail. I am reminded of the story of the apostles being persecuted for performing miracles and preaching about Jesus. They are brought before the Sanhedrin to explain why they continue to preach about Jesus when they have been forbidden to do so. As the Pharisees are discussing the situation amongst themselves, one Pharisee very astutely reminds them all that if the apostles actions are of men, they will eventually fail, but if they are truly from God, then they will never fail.

But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God. — Acts 5:39

I never want to fight against God. I have opened myself up to God’s perfect plans, instead of my own. I have asked God to use me in whatever way He has planned. I want to be His hands and feet in this world. I want to love as He loves. He has faithfully shown me the path to these five children. I would never have put myself here, but as I look back over all the years I see the pattern emerging. I can begin to connect the dots.

Does this mean that it’s easy? NO! Does it mean that I am always at peace with His plans for my family? Absolutely not! Does it mean we have it all figured out, nice and neat, with a ten-year plan? I wish! But I am comforted with the fact that Jesus himself pleaded with His Father at Gethsemane before His terrible suffering on the cross, “Father – if there is any other way!” (Matthew 26:39) God is big enough to handle my doubts, my questions, my fears. He tells me to cast my anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7). And that is what I am learning to do.

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I often find myself repeating, sometimes several times a day, “God, I am trusting You when I remember Your promise that You work all things for the good of those who love you.” So as I break up yet another fight over who gets control of the mega nerf gun I again pray this prayer, “God, make this work for the good of all these boys here. Turn this fighting into something that will benefit them all in the end. May these grumblings work to bring about an eternal knowledge of selflessness, sharing, unconditional love of others – agape.”

I remind myself that, IF WE LET HIM, He can take all things and work them for good. He doesn’t need us to be perfect. He doesn’t want us when we have it all together. He wants us now. He wants us to ask, to be willing, to participate. He wants us to start moving so that he can push us along a little more, a little further. He wants us to love as an action. As James tells us in the Bible, faith without deeds is dead. Love as a verb. Agape.

I went into this adoption with the mindset that I was rescuing these little ones for God’s kingdom, but the truth is, they are rescuing me. Rescuing me from my own selfishness, my own desires, my own pursuit of happiness and turning my heart towards His Kingdom, His desires, His righteousness.

And so to answer, “How do you do it?”

The answer would be,

“I don’t. God does.”

It is truly only through His love that has been poured into my heart, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that I am able to pour that love back into the lives of His children. (Romans 5:5).

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight. — Proverbs 3:5

Not me, but Him…

Traditions can be tricky…

Growing up in a Catholic home, I was steeped in religious tradition. Going to mass every week meant you followed many, many traditions. Stand up. Sit down. Make the sign of the cross. Bless yourself with Holy water as you leave, etc. etc. For the longest time, I equated these traditions with God.

But God is SO MUCH MORE than these traditions!

I am not knocking the Catholic church, please don’t think that.  However, for me personally these traditions became a stumbling block to me in a way.  It was so repetitious. Repeating the same words every week and the same prayers every week made my mind numb. My mouth could speak the words of the prayer, but my mind was a million miles away.

There is nothing wrong with traditions, necessarily, so long as they don’t become a stumbling block. So long as they don’t replace the relationship piece. So long as we don’t hold them over people’s heads and believe that our tradition is the only right tradition.

Moving around a lot over the years has meant that my family has had to change churches several times. It is always a journey to find the right church in a new city. For me, it has really brought to light the immense differences that can be seen throughout churches in our country, despite all believing in the core basics of doctrine. Each church does things a little differently. Each denomination does things a little differently.

It’s funny, we went from attending a denominational church that believed in the gift of tongues to a different denominational church that forbid the use of this gift in its church. HA!  I can’t stop thinking about this irony.  I honestly have never been given this gift myself, and it was almost a stumbling block for us in that first church that believed in this. However, we did a lot of reading about it in the Bible (it’s certainly there!) and we continued to feel the presence of God moving in a powerful way in this church, and so we made it our church home.   Yet, we knew that speaking in tongues, or not speaking in tongues, really was not what the point was. JESUS was the point, and so when we found our new church that forbid this, we laughed a little at the irony and then continued to ask ourselves, “do we feel the presence of God in this church?”

Because in the end, it’s not about traditions. It is not about the man-made rules. It is all about Jesus and what He has done for us. It is all about our personal, growing relationship with the Creator of the world. It is all about LOVE.

Jesus was actually confronted and asked what was the greatest commandment to follow.  His answer was not, “say this prayer three times every day and make sure you speak in tongues (or don’t speak in tongues).”

No, his answer was SIMPLE.

Love God.

Love others.

It’s as easy and as hard as that.

And when we complicate the message, when we lay down rules for people to follow, when we look down on others for doing things differently then us, then we are doing a huge disservice to the world. I can hear Paul exhorting us, “People – this is NOT how it should be. One says I am a Catholic. One says I am a Lutheran. One says I am a Methodist. NO, NO, NO!  We are all ONE in Christ. We are all to follow Jesus. That’s it.”

One of my favorite books, “Accidental Pharisees” by my old Pastor Larry Osborne has some wonderful truths throughout. One particular great passage says:

“Those of us who have a bent toward a rigid and rule-based expression of our faith tend to judge and condemn those who don’t follow our rules or match up to our standards. At times we can wonder if they are genuinely saved. Meanwhile those of us who consider these rules and standards unnecessary tend to look with disgust and contempt upon those who insist on keeping them. We chalk them up as uptight and narrow-minded. According to Paul’s exhortation, both responses are dead wrong.” (Romans 14-15)

I will be the first to admit that I have stood on both sides of that fence, as the accuser on each side, as well as the condemned on each side. And none of it feels good. None of it is what Jesus desired. No, my friends. What Jesus desired is for us NOT to place stumbling blocks in our brother’s way. Jesus desired for us to keep it focused.

Love God.

Love others.

Keep it simple.

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Gifts

He is your good father. He wants to give you good gifts. He wants the best for you. He loves you always and forever and that will never change.

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I was thinking of these verses as I was wrapping presents for my children last night. A local store was going out of business and I was excited to buy some toys at a nice discount, especially those Legos that never seem to go on sale! However, as I was sorting the presents to wrap I realized that there were too many. In my excitement I had gone overboard.

I have scaled back on gift giving to our children over the last 21 years of parenting. Honestly, as I began my parenting journey I wasn’t even a believer and so Christmas, in a weird way, was all about the gifts. Slowly over time as my heart has been softened, I’ve felt a desire to reign in the true reason for the season with my family. So this brings me back to the point of too many gifts. Santa does come to our home and he brings each child three gifts, just as Jesus was given three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh when he was visited by the Wise Men.

I know that when it comes to receiving gifts my children would think, “the more the better”. I am sure their prayer to me would be, “please give me all the toys my heart desires.” And I want to! I want to shower them lavishly with everything they could ever want. It was hard for me to look at that pile of toys on the table and know that I would need to save some of those for a later date. Yet, I will. Because even though they may ask me for every toy in the store, as their loving parent I know that’s not what they need. I know that would not be beneficial or helpful for them. So I will not give them this desire, even if I could. Even though they asked for many presents,  they are just children and they don’t always understand what they need.

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And so it is with our Father in Heaven. He knows better than I what I need. His ways are higher than my ways. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. I can’t even explain to you how the wind blows or how a child is formed in a mother’s womb, but He does all of these things and more. So I trust that He is a good father. I trust that if I ask sincerely, I will receive. At the same time though, I keep in the back of my mind that what I ask for isn’t necessarily what I might need at that time.

Because honestly, sometimes my prayers aren’t answered the way I want them to be. Sometimes I am left to wonder, “Why?”

But I still trust Him and His promises.

He promises that He loves us eternally. He promises that He has prepared a place for us in Heaven for those who hope in Him. He promises that we are adopted into His family with all the rights and honor that come with being called a Child of God. He promises to work all things for the good of those who love Him. He promises the gifts of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience,  kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He is the ultimate gift!

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I am going to cling tight to His promises this Christmas season. I am going to look forward to the promises of his gifts. He is a good father. He loves me more than anyone and He desires to give me the best gifts ever, even if I don’t understand that at the time of the gifting. He is the ultimate gift and His gifts are always for my good.

Make sure it’s not last night’s pizza talking

About ten years ago, shortly after finding my way back to church after many years as a stubborn atheist, I remember hearing a sermon from my Pastor Larry Osborne of North Coast Church . He was talking about finding God’s will for your life. He said something that struck me as both funny and confusing at the same time.  He warned about evaluating when you are feeling the calling of God. He said something like, “make sure that what you are feeling isn’t actually just rumblings in your belly from the pizza you had last night.”

Everyone laughed, including me, but I remember thinking about that for a long time and here I am today still thinking about that 10 years later.

Back then I remember feeling like I didn’t quite understand what he was saying. Now that I look back I realize that’s because I didn’t relate to having this urging of God telling me to do something and needing to evaluate that. I honestly had never felt those urgings in my life up to that point. And to be honest, part of the reason why I never felt those urgings from God was because I believe I never sincerely asked for that.

I never sincerely asked God wholeheartedly to point me to where He wanted me to be.

It wasn’t until 10 years later when my faith had grown a whole ton that I truly began to pray those types of prayers earnestly. God use me to reach the brokenhearted. God mold me to be more like You. God I want to be your hands and feet in this world, show me where I am needed.

It can be really scary to pray those types of prayers sincerely. Where will He need me? What would He have me do? Will I be up to the task? What if I don’t want to do it?

Once I was led to the path of adopting my children I began to understand what my pastor had been teaching that day 10 years ago. He was explaining the deep discernment that takes place when you are about to make life changing decisions.

Is this truly God’s will, or is this just last night’s pizza talking to me?

Honestly for our adoption journey, it took a lot of sincere prayer, thought, and time to discern God’s will. It was not something we immediately felt we knew the answer to for sure.

As I described in my post the battle, it was honestly a heart wrenching decision for me in the end. This was so confusing to me because I felt so strongly convicted in the beginning. But journeys weave us through many mountains and valleys. I went from a high mountain into a deep valley and it was only through serious prayer that I was finally 100% sure that God wanted me to continue on this adoption path. He did not want me to fear. He wanted me to be brave.

So what is that 10 step plan to ensure that it is God’s will and not the pizza talking? I wish it were that easy! The only thing I can say is that He wants us to ask Him. He desires our communication with Him. He loves when we pour our heart out to Him like a child to a Father.  He tells us if we sincerely ask, He will answer. If we knock, the door will open. (Matthew 7:7-8, Luke 11:9-10).

He is just a prayer away, my friend!

 

Whatever you do, just don’t lose heart!

“One million reasons why, you shouldn’t even try.
After all you’re just one heart, a single candle in the dark.
And there are shadows here, feeding on your fears,
That you don’t have what it takes – who are you to make a change?”

“Whatever you do, just don’t look back.
Oh somebody needs the light you have.
Whatever you do, just don’t lose heart.
Keep on pushing back the dark,
Keep on pushing back the dark.”

Our adoption journey began June 2014 with our first hosting trip.  Two years, four hosting trips to the US, and two international trips to Eastern Europe later, and we can FINALLY say THEY HAVE A FOREVER FAMILY! None of it was easy, none of it came without heart wrenching decisions and tears, but every single second was WORTH IT! I can’t imagine life without these kiddos in it.

I have said that I came into this adoption journey with the mindset that I was saving them. The truth is though, that they have saved ME. They have saved me from my selfishness.  They have saved me from my greed.  They have saved me from myself.  They have turned my heart outwards instead of inwards.  They have focused my heart on those things that are eternal, instead of the things of this world that will pass away.  THANK YOU GOD!

I want to encourage you to pursue your dreams.  Live without regrets!  Take that leap of faith!  JUST DO IT!  Whatever you have been given, use it.  Whatever your talents are, employ them.  Whatever you are dreaming about, GO FOR IT!  It is never too late.  Never give up.  Have no regrets! Don’t let fear stop you, fear is a liar!

BE BOLD!

And just when you are ready to give up the battle, just when you feel you are at your breaking point and you can’t do it anymore, just keep on keeping on, my friend! Remember these four points I learned from a sermon about where faith takes us…

—to the point where we need to make decisions that involve BIG RISK
—to the starting point of long journeys
— to the point of waiting for the impossible
— to the point of giving everything you have

Never give up.  Have no regrets.

(song and lyrics are from “Pushing Back the Dark” by Josh Wilson)

To my 19 year old daughter

My Dear Daughter,

There is much I want to say to you. I have so many hopes and dreams and fears for you; I can’t even begin to explain it all. But more than anything I want you to know

I BELIEVE IN YOU

I LOVE YOU

I WILL ALWAYS BE HERE FOR YOU, NO MATTER WHAT

I want to tell you that I DO remember being your age. I remember the feelings you probably have right now – wanting to grow up, assert your independence, have fun, and at the same time realizing what grown-up life is all about and sometimes feeling like maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

I want desperately to warn you about all the dangers and pitfalls in growing up – all the bad things I’ve seen, all the holes I’ve watched my friends fall into, and even the deep pits I found myself climbing out of time and again. I want to encourage you not to travel down some of the roads I went down at your age. I want to steer you where I would have chosen, if I could walk some paths over again. I want to spare you from making the same mistakes I made. I want you to know

YOU ARE VALUABLE

YOU ARE PRICELESS

YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD

Ultimately, I know that sometimes you need to figure things out on your own. Sometimes you have to live and learn to truly understand. You have to try life on to see how it fits. Just promise me that while you are living and learning that you will

NEVER STAY STUCK

That you will always

Keep Moving FORWARD

Because, my love, I will warn you that life happens FAST. Every year of your life accelerates exponentially with time. If you have big dreams, GRAB THEM NOW! It will never get easier, there will never be a more perfect moment, than right now.

TRUST ME!

I have such dreams for you, baby girl! I know that you are called to so many wonderful things, and I am humbled that I get to stand by your side as your mom and watch you grow into young adulthood.

NOTHING CAN STOP YOU!

BE DETERMINED!

Set the life you want to live in motion NOW!

And don’t forget our “Family Rules” …

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And of course,

That I LOVE YOU,

And that I am

ALWAYS

                  HERE

                               For

                                        YOU!!!!!!!

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