Tag Archives: inspiration

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.

ChristmasFam2015FullSize

(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.

img_9715
Reuniting siblings in-country, trip #3

img_9712

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”

fullsizeoutput_45f1
A fun game!
img_9903
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.

20626460_10210327342525335_4777711228684925186_o

(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.

latviamomdadrihardbauska#2

(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).

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-7-28-38-pm

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 craziest thing happened to me today…

I felt this deserved a spur of the moment post because stuff like this just doesn’t happen?

Today there was a message left on my answering machine stating it was the IRS and they had an open case filed on us, something about past taxes. It seemed suspicious to me, but because we had recently been the victims of identity theft, including a letter that had been sent to us legitimately from the IRS stating someone had accessed our tax information, I figured I would call back. (Yes – I now know that the IRS will NEVER call you, they will ALWAYS send a letter, FYI.)

When I called the number back the person who answered the phone gave me his name and told me he was “an officer of the IRS Tax and Crime Investigation Unit” along with his badge number (no, I have no idea if this is an actual unit of the IRS or not). He then proceeded to tell me that I was a primary suspect in a legal case from our Federal taxes in 2013. He began to ask me who filed my taxes, which I did not tell him, and then proceeded to warn me that within the next 45 minutes there would be a local law enforcement officer at my door because there was a warrant for my arrest.

At this point, I pretty much had decided that this was a scam. I said, “Sir, I am sorry, but I don’t believe that this is true and I think that you are trying to scam me.” Now – here is the CRAZY part…

He said, “I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry. You sound like such a nice woman, I don’t mean to harm you.” I could barely believe what I just heard. It took a second for my brain to process it.

I said, “Wait. What?  Did you just agree with me that you are indeed trying to scam me?” I have had people try to scam me on the phone in the past, but always the person on the other end just hangs up when I politely tell them I believe it is a scam. I have never actually had someone admit to me on the phone that it was a scam and APOLOGIZE?! I wasn’t sure what to respond to him. He just kept apologizing.

Since I had his ear, and he hadn’t hung up on me yet, I figured I would encourage him to stop what he was doing and find a better job. I shared with him that we were good people and that although I recognized this scam, there are a lot of other good people out there who would easily be taken advantage of with this sort of thing. And that was a shame. I ended with telling him I truly hoped he would go home tonight and think about the consequences of his actions and find a better job that would actually benefit society instead of harm it. He agreed that he needed to do that and would. WOW!

Honestly, he sounded very sincere with his apologies. I truly hope that he did go home and rethink what he was doing with his life and turn it around for good instead of evil. But here is my point…IF I had been rude to him on the phone, IF I had just hung up on him on the phone, we never would have had that conversation. He never would have apologized and rethought in that moment about the damage he is possibly inflicting on families and individuals.

Our words have power. They can tear down or build up. They can instruct or cause harm. It is up to us. I pray today that we can all (including me!) try to do a better job about using our words to positively build up those around us, whether they be the people we are closest to, the cashier at the store, or the scammer on the phone. You never know how you may influence someone positively or negatively simply with the words you choose.

So choose kindness. Always.

put on a heart of kindness

I am

 

 

The soft whispering of the winds

The gentle sway of the branches

The faint chirping of the birds

 

He is beckoning

 

Come, my child

Stop

Rest

 

Be still

 

Know that I am God

I am enough

I am all you need

 

Abide in Me

 

I will give you rest for your soul

I will give you peace that surpasses all understanding

I will give you joy despite your circumstances

 

Call on my name

 

The King of Kings

The Prince of Peace

The Holy one

 

I am

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 3.56.19 PM

Photo credit: “Courtesy of JACOB ISRAEL”

Providential Relationships and Mr. Owl’s Journey in the Around the Worldpress Amazing Race

A few weeks back my pastor did a sermon on Providential Relationships. I’ve been thinking about this ever since, and how often it seems that God places just the right people or circumstances into my life at just the right time. Mr. Owl’s first destination on his journey in the Around the Worldpress Amazing Race began because of this very kind of relationship.

As I said in my first post ever, “How do you do it?”, often at the start of a journey we can’t see where it will end. As we look back though, we can see the path emerge. We can begin to understand the why and the how of being led in certain circumstances.

Some people may call this fate. Some may call it coincidence. I prefer to think of it in terms of God’s providence. One of my favorite life verses is:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.— Romans 8:28 NASB

Personally, it is such a hope-filled verse.

God is working behind the scenes, directing all things towards His purpose. He takes our free will into account, yet He is the one in the driver’s seat. He is working it ALL, the good, the bad, the ugly, towards His divine purposes even when I don’t believe it, or I don’t see it, or I don’t understand it at the time or this side of Heaven.

And so it is with my own story. And so it is with my adoption story. Before I even came back to God, He was working in my life preparing me for my calling to adopt my children. I didn’t know what was to come, but He knew. Now as I look back, I can connect the dots. I can say, “Ohhhhhhhh, now I understand. Now I see. Thank you, Lord”. To connect all of the dots leading up to our adoption would take several posts, so I am going to focus on the dot that led to Mr. Owl’s first destination on his Around the Worldpress Amazing Race.

My family had moved from California to Michigan and I opened a home-based preschool for a few years when my first son was very young. As a new baby Christian, only coming back to the Church after many years as an atheist (THANK YOU church janitor, with your sweet and simple consistent invitation to your church. Your short, providential relationship, one where I don’t even know your name, changed the course of events for my entire family!), I felt a strong call to make it a Christian-based preschool. This was the first big stepping out in my faith for me. The first child that God placed into my care was without a doubt in my mind, a powerful providential relationship for both of us. Caring for her absolutely prepared me for adopting my children who did not know English, and it also proved to be a much-needed, powerful care placement for my first student as well.

This lovely girl, we shall call her Jewel (for she is a gem!), came from China to America at the tender age of four and spoke no English. Her Chinese parents spoke Chinese to her at home, but they desperately wanted her to learn English and to connect with the English-speaking children of her new city.  Wanting the very best for their daughter, they enrolled her in one of the most expensive, top reviewed childcare centers in the city. Jewel spent three months there and learned ZERO English words. She seemed to withdraw from the children and the teachers there, and her parents were concerned. They began their search for a new care setting for their daughter.

Through a series of what I prefer to call God’s providence, Jewel’s mom “happened” to catch a post that my Christian realtor had lovingly offered to post on her blog about my moving into the area and beginning a Christian preschool from home. What are the chances? This is the ONLY contact I got from that post, but of course, I am convinced that was THE contact I was supposed to make. Jewel’s parents enrolled her as my very first student. We were all a little concerned. She was older by a year than my son. At the beginning, it was just the two of them (until other students enrolled) and obviously they were opposite sex, would they make a friendship? There was also the concern that she did not speak English, and although my background was in teaching, I had little training in ESL methods.  But what I DID have, was FAITH, HOPE, LOVE,  and DETERMINATION.

This proved to be enough. And of course, God’s will never fails.

Early on, Jewel’s mother shared with me that Jewel told her my son was the nicest child she had ever met in China or in America. That is what she needed the most. She needed unconditional love in her childcare environment. She needed trust. She needed those caring for her to be reaching out to her in intentional, loving ways, despite language barriers.

Caring for Jewel taught my family the lesson that it doesn’t matter if we speak the same language as the person we are with. Everyone understands the language of love. Everyone understands a smile. Everyone understands a hug. Everyone understands a hand held out to help up a fallen person. We don’t need to speak the same language to feel these things, to understand these things, to trust these things.

Jewel quickly learned English, and our family was amazed at how fast children’s brains can learn new languages. She has grown into a lovely young lady, already taller then her mom. She excels in school, plays the violin and piano beautifully, and swims competitively.

Jewel’s family were the very first people to offer to help in our Around the Worldpress Amazing Race. We sent Mr. Owl to Jewel’s grandfather in China, who enlisted the help of a local second grade girl. She is the daughter of Jewel’s mother’s childhood friend who was touched to hear about our adoption story and wanted to help with the project. Following are the two letters the little girl wrote back to us. The English translations are below.

OwlPic1

To Mr. Owl: Wish you a very pleasant journey and happiness forever.

OwlPic2

To my family and future hosts: Dear friends, I am very happy to have a chance to introduce you to my hometown: Xitang, China. I hope you’ll like it.

Below are the wonderful photos of the little girl in Xitang, China holding our signed letter and Mr. Owl. If you are wondering how to pronounce “Xitang”, you can click hear and listen to three different audio recordings of people pronouncing “Xitang”.

ChinaGirl1

My children were in awe to see her holding THEIR letter with Mr. Owl, in this new, distant land. They peered over the photos to see what they could spy in each.

ChinaGirl2

They quickly realized that it must be somewhat cold there right now, due to the warm jackets, yet their trees have green leaves. They also noticed that there seemed to be a lot of water there, with boats and homes and/or businesses that were right on the waterways. Once we looked up Xitang, China we learned that it is an ancient, scenic water way town with nine rivers that criss-cross throughout it. Due to the beauty of the town, it has been a popular tourist destination as well as famous for landscape paintings.

ChinaGirl3

Looking at the photo below, my children all jumped and yelled “those look like pelmeni she is eating, but in soup!” Pelmeni are somewhat like a ravioli almost, filled with meat, and are commonly eaten in Latvia and Russia with sour cream, ketchup or vinegar.

ChinaGirl4

It is amazing to me that even though our world is so large, at the same time it is so small,  especially in this day and age where technology and the internet can connect people across the globe in seconds. We should never underestimate the power we have to connect with others. We each have a story within us, and our stories can inspire, help, encourage, teach and lift others up. We should be willing to allow God to use us in other people’s lives, as well as to allow God to use other people in our own lives.

Screen Shot 2017-03-24 at 6.06.10 PM

The Around the Worldpress Amazing Race was born from a genius idea over at Cyranny’s Cove. My connections with her in the blogosphere also led to my new favorite pair of travel socks, because you know, God’s providence can even lead you to discovering some really awesome travel socks, if you let it.

THANK YOU LORD, for bringing people into my life at just the right moments. May I always be brave enough to listen to Your urgings and promptings. I would also like to say THANK YOU to Jewel and her lovely family. Thank you for sharing your gem of a daughter with me for the short time I was able to care for her. She taught me life-long lessons that impacted an entire family and helped bring four orphans home forever. THANK YOU to Jewel’s loving grandparents, I know how involved they are in their grandchildren’s lives, and I am thankful that they have offered to help in our little project. THANK YOU to the little second grade girl in Xitang, China for sharing her stunningly beautiful hometown with us. Thank you and your mother for taking the time to bring Mr. Owl around Xitang and share your photos and letters with us. We loved your photos and your letters and we wish you peace, love, happiness and many blessings forever!

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 1.40.13 PM

image reprinted with permission from hearlight.org, see here

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.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-1-22-41-pm

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

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-1-25-18-pm

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-3-09-44-pm