Tag Archives: God’s will

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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…

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Outsiders

Originally posted on Susan Irene Fox —  Outsiders

“The Gospel demands a great deal of us. It calls us to a perennially unpopular and unselfish path. Little wonder Jesus said, ‘The world’s going to hate you’ (John 15:18-19). When you can no longer play the game of judging, labeling, and punishing others, you will quickly become the outsider.” Fr. Richard Rohr

Jesus was an outsider. If we choose to follow Him into the next year and for the rest of our lives here on Earth, we also choose to be an outsider. It means we forever give up, as Rohr says, “judging, labeling, and punishing others.”

There is no such thing as blessed intimidation, sacred condemnation, honorable hate, justified segregation or redemptive violence.

When we speak or act in unloving ways, we step away from God, separating ourselves from the love and grace He has given us – and continues to give – from our birth. We must remember He gives, not because we have done or refrained from doing anything to earn His love; God gives because He is Love.

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. We must love each other because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. (1 John 2:7, 4:7)

In four days, a brand new year will be upon us. We all have a choice to make. Will we continue to travel the same, well-plod, self-centered road that is parallel to our walk with Jesus, or will we surrender control of our own egos? Will we let go of unforgiveness, anger and condemnation and allow the Spirit of God to lead our lives into a transformational rebirth?

Click here to Finish reading the post, “Outsiders”, at Susan Irene Fox’s blog…

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From childless by choice, to father of eight

Stunning truth is, my husband didn’t want kids when we first met. I was a single mother when we started dating, and when the subject would come up about wanting children, he always said he didn’t have a huge urge to have children.  He enjoyed spending time with my daughter and as our relationship grew, so did his relationship with her, but he remained convinced that having solely my daughter as our only child would be perfectly fine with him.

I kept trying to explain to him the wonders of being a parent. The wonders of watching a child grow from a tiny newborn into a toddler, into a child, and so on. He was not convinced. He was fine with the status quo.

He had no desire for children.

Yet, I did. After marrying my husband, I desired to fill our home with as many children as the good Lord would bless us with. Thankfully, my husband decided to venture out with me and considered the possibility of one more child. I was ecstatic to learn that I was pregnant with a baby boy.

Once pregnant, I told my oldest daughter that we were thinking about having a baby. To my surprise, she was less than thrilled. She was 11 at the time and perfectly happy being the only child. I tried to convince her with questions such as, “wouldn’t it be exciting to have a sibling around to hang out with?” – NO. “Your mom and stepdad won’t be young forever, don’t you want a sibling closer to your age to visit when you are older?” –NO. I finally had to tell her that it wasn’t her choice and we were just preparing her for the fact that a baby was indeed coming, whether she liked it or not. But I was worried.

Will the baby be accepted?

Will the baby be loved?

Isn’t it amazing how God seems to use the most unlikely people to get the job done? There’s countless examples of this in the Bible. There are lots of lists like the one below floating around the internet:

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These are powerful reminders of the truth.  That God loves EACH of us. He has a plan for each one of us. No matter who you are, you have a part to play in this world. Which is why we should never look down on anyone. This is why God tells us to love our enemies. Because you know who else loves our enemies?  God.

So as I ponder the meaning of Christmas, it makes perfect sense to me that God would send His son wrapped as a vulnerable baby in the lowliest place imaginable to be born. Because even those looked down on in the world as the lowest, are still valuable in His eyes.

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Our God sent His son to save everyone. He loves each of us. He heals the sick and wounded. He resurrects the dead and breathes life into them. He is the God of impossible. He is the God of restoration. He is the God of redemption.

He turns men who desire no children, and little girls who desire no siblings, into the father of eight and the sister to seven.

Merry Christmas

from my family to yours!

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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!

 

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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)

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The Battle

 

2 My child, when you come to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for testing.—  Ecclesiasticus 2:1

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This past year has been full of fiery trials for our family in many ways. Our adoption process, which had been flying by at lightning speeds, had slowed to a snail’s pace as we learned that the kids were on different timelines and the youngest boy’s father’s rights were not terminated with his siblings and would take much longer to process. We had a move to a new city, which entailed buying and selling homes, moving furniture, and sooooo many boxes. Unexpectedly, we suffered four unrelated deaths within our extended family.

In the midst of all this, we got the call we had been waiting for — ALL the children were free for adoption!!!  Except that it came with a “but”…but, the oldest (now 14)  was unsure he wanted to be adopted (after writing on paper during hosting #1 “I no go back”). He said he loved our family and wanted to continue to visit, but the teenager he had grown into wasn’t sure he wanted to leave his friends and new girlfriend behind.

Imagine proposing to someone you really love and think will be really excited to marry you, and then they say “no”. 

I think it felt similar to that.

As we processed through that, my knee locked up on me and I was sent off to undergo an unplanned knee scope. Normally this would be no big deal for most, but for my already bad knee – well – let’s just say I’m still not back to pre-surgery state. Following this, my own mother began suffering with some serious health issues. Then days before we had to finalize our decision and process many adoption fees someone hacked into our online bank accounts, made money transfers, and stole thousands of dollars.

THE BATTLE IS REAL!

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I feel like I started the year 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 was honestly EXHAUSTING.

It seems when I am physically tired, I am often spiritually tired as well.

I am sure that I was an easy target for the devil.  Those mornings when it is SO hard to pull myself out of bed, he is whispering in my ear, “you can’t even keep up with the laundry you have, you will never be able to do it with more!”

And when you’re tired, or lonely, or grieving, or stressed out, it is SO easy to believe those lies. 

Satan is the father of lies. He wants to replace your FAITH with FEAR.

And fear is a LIAR!

Interestingly, I just read in my devotional the other day,

“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 is EXACTLY what happened!!!  THAT was it!  I saw it coming a year ago. I wrote my last post to that effect. I felt the fear coming. I KNEW what we were supposed to do. I KNEW the right answers. I KNEW we were to trust in the Lord 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.  I went through the motions, but I wasn’t ME.

While we were stalled with our adoption we started to hear rumors about our hosting program and agency worker. We started to doubt all the money we had spent on hosting and adoption thus far, especially as the decision to host FIVE kiddos again this summer (which meant insane hosting fees for the fifth time and no closer to adoption)  was looming over head because we still didn’t have a referral. We wondered if the kids were never adopted, was this the best use of our resources in caring for orphans. 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 have some wonderful, faithful friends who talked me through my thoughts. Friends who got down on their knees and prayed for us.  Friends who sent Bible verses and songs in perfect timing. Friends who gave us wise advice.

My friend, Michelle, gave me the best piece of advice that really changed the way I thought about everything. She said,

“It is OK to have righteous anger towards people or processes that are unethical, but it is NOT OKAY TO FEAR.”

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

We are not to fear.

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.

Our official referral for the kiddos FINALLY came on Friday the 13th of May, nonetheless. We were forced to make a final decision within two weeks.  Of course, satan would use those two weeks to wage an all-out war on our family.  He would separate us by distance, as I had to travel with my mom to medical appointments six hours away. He would attack our finances with identity theft. However, God ALWAYS wins. He is ALWAYS victorious.

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 just two days after we got our referral. Pastor Luis Martinez came from Impacto Ministry and the majority of his sermon was describing their mission in Guatemala.  The last 15 minutes or so he spent in a short sermon he called Stepping out of the Boat.

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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.

WOW. That should have been enough, but it wasn’t. Thankfully, God continued to convict.

Right before leaving for my mom’s medical appointments, my mom and I were blessed to be able to attend a women’s retreat together, which helped revive my faith. Phillip Yancy spoke about the seasons of our faith life. Yes- I had been in one LONG winter season. The good news though?  I was about to spring forth anew!  At the retreat, I prayed with a wonderful woman in the prayer room who quickly did the “Spiritual War” scene with me on scrap paper. As she was going though it, I thought “yes, I know this already, but my question is should we adopt the children or not? ” DUH- I may have understood what she was writing, but I didn’t even realize then that was the battle going on in my own heart!

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That night, because I had spoke in the prayer room about my blog and knowing I wasn’t supposed to fear, I was convicted to go back and read through my blog. It had been set to private about a year ago and I hadn’t touched it since. As I read through those posts I thought to myself, “who is that girl?” It was just as if God knew I would need to read those words again. It was as if He had me write to myself for this specific moment in time. God is so creative!

Once I had read those words, I had to ask myself, do I believe them? Do I believe what I wrote a year ago? I trusted him wholeheartedly when I had written those posts…did I still trust Him?Do-I-trust-God
And in those moments that I first asked that question of myself, the honest answer was, I don’t know. It took time, honest prayer and reflection.

My husband actually caught me off guard by giving me his “yes” the night before I was leaving for my mom’s doctor appointments. I certainly felt like I was leaning more towards “yes” and that he was leaning more towards “no”.  I was in bed early that night as I wasn’t feeling well, and he came in and when I woke a little, he said, “honey, tell our agency yes.” It should have been a wonderfully joyous time, but instead I was struck with fear. Why was I fearing?

God finally convicted me undeniably in the middle of a Cracker Barrel store. It took driving hours in a silent car with my parents who love to read, praying continually the entire time, to finally hear in my heart loud and clear, DO NOT FEAR — I AM WITH YOU!

My parents and I were getting hungry after driving several hours in our silent car together, so we decided to pull over to get something to eat. As I was walking into the Cracker Barrel, still praying “God lead us”, which is essentially what I had been praying continually for the past 2 1/2 hours, the first thing my eyes focused on was a large bag that said

justbebrave

It caught me off guard as I looked around and was encouraged by all the inspirational, Christian items everywhere. My eyes were drawn to a nautical display (my blog uses “God as  our anchor” and we were just encouraged by the stepping out of the boat sermon). There was a sign that lit up that said

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Where was my HOPE?

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At that very moment, my dear friend Jen texted me some verses she had told me earlier in the day she would find for me. Of course God would have her use that moment in time to text me back, crying in the middle of the Cracker Barrel store, to continue to convict me.

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I admitted to her that I WAS SO AFRAID!  That is what it was!  That fear of the unknown! I looked down and saw a nautical themed devotional. I had a little conversation with God. I said, “God, if you REALLY and TRULY want me to ‘just be brave’ and to ‘hope’ again, then I am going to open this devotional to today’s date, and it will absolutely, without question make complete sense. If you do not want us to move forward, if you want us to stop, then this entry will be completely off topic” I furiously flipped to May 26th and as I read the title, the tears free flowed.

Courage to Change

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Yes. Did I have the courage to change? I was so very fearful of change! Yet – we had always said, we have 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. As I was walking to pay before leaving, just to make sure that I indeed got it, God set my eyes on the following cup:

cupProverbs 31:25

When we first step out of the boat we have to overcome our initial fear. Peter did it – he stepped out of the boat onto water. But that doesn’t mean that we will never fall into the water!

From Matthew 14:29-30

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

I got out of the boat. Then the wind came and I was frozen with fear. I began to sink, but I forgot to earnestly cry out to the Lord to save me. Yet, He is relentless. He kept on pursuing me. And as soon as I cried out to Him with all of my heart, mind and soul, “Lord, help me!” He reached out His hand and caught me and reminded me to have

Faith

Hope

and Love.

 

I feel like myself again.

Thank you, Jesus. When I step out onto the waters, when I trust in You, when I let my heart beat for You, then I am able to laugh without fear of the future.   May we always trust in You Lord, in good times and bad.

 

 

 

 

 

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Questions…

Wouldn’t it be better to adopt children from the United States?”

“Isn’t it mean to take a child from their culture?”

“How can you adopt children who speak another language?”

“Isn’t it cheaper to adopt through foster care?”

“Don’t you already have four children?”

We have asked these same questions of ourselves…

Why, yes, it might be easier to adopt five children from the United States.

It is unfortunate that these children are leaving their country.

It would be more convenient if the children had English as their native tongue.

It would be cheaper to adopt five children through foster care in the U.S.

I do have four biological children.

But really, what is important here?  What really matters in the end? That we “take care of our own here in the US” or that we take care of God’s children?

Adoptees Worth it!

The fact of the matter is, these children have almost zero chance of being adopted in their own country, either singly (which would be devastating to these siblings who are intimately bonded to each other) or most certainly as a group of five.  As the Orphan Court Director said when told that a family wanted to adopt all five siblings, “no one here will do that.” In fact, it is rare for sibling groups this large to stay intact, here or abroad.

Adoptable vs unadoptable

The three oldest are boys, and there are some developmental delays, further decreasing their chances of being adopted.  Worldwide adoption statistics show over and over that girls are preferred over boys, younger children are preferred over older children, and children without developmental delays are preferred over children with special needs. The facts are that these children have the odds stacked HUGELY against them! They have been held in an orphanage for three years already.  They have now been split apart and the statistics support the conclusion that the boys would probably stay there until they age out of the system. The entire sibling group would never be reunited in a family together.

AdoptionStats2013

And to answer the question, “why would anyone adopt from an orphanage versus the foster system, especially when adopting from the foster system here in the US would cost so much less money?” Well, I can only speak for myself, but I feel strongly that children were never, ever, meant to be raised in an institution. We are fortunate to live in a country that no longer has orphanages. As broken as our own foster care system may be, I feel that it is still better than living in an institution. However, there are more than 8 million children currently living in orphanages.  Georgette Mulheir, the Executive Officer of Lumos, gives these startling statistics about children who are raised in institutions:

“…children raised in orphanages are 10 times more likely to be involved in prostitution, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record and — shockingly — 500 times more likely to commit suicide.”

There are vast differences between institutions, some much, much better than others. However, in the end, they all lack what a child needs most – a family.

So for those who ask if it is it cruel to remove a child from his or her country, I would ask is it cruel to leave them in an institution or separated from their siblings when we have the ability and desire to reunite them as a family?

To those who ask if it is hard that they don’t speak English as their native language,  I would say that it is not nearly as hard as worrying about your siblings who haven been taken away from you after already losing your parents.

In response to the question, “Is it expensive to adopt five children internationally?”  I would say reuniting siblings into a forever home of love is priceless.

In a perfect world there would be no need for orphanages, foster care, or adoption.  In a perfect world all children would have all of their needs met all of the time. Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world. I am inspired by the awareness of these problems and of organizations such as Lumos who are working towards changing the circumstances that lead to children being orphans in the first place, such as poverty and disabilities.  In her TED talk, Mulheir calls for “radical resource redistribution” that would channel the monies that are currently being used to fund orphanages into programs that would support birth parents and foster families, both financially and otherwise.  The only problem for my kiddos, is that change takes time.

So, why them? I don’t know why. Ask God.  He led us down this path. He whispered in our ears that these were the children we were to call our own.  He has convicted us countless times, in many ways, that this is indeed the path we are supposed to be walking.    We trust that He has a plan. He knows.  Maybe someday we will look back and understand why and maybe we will never know this side of Heaven. I honestly don’t know. But I do know that we have been called to these specific children.  I trust Him.

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How do you do it?

“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, mind, and soul 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.

Romans8-28

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…