Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shopping = numbing myself to God's heart

Okay, I have many things swimming in my head right now, and just had to get them on paper, er, computer screen. Yeah, I pretty much put this blog to bed, but I felt like pounding some things out here anyway.

Brief, brief, brief update: L'll B has her first day of preschool today, thus, the opportunity to be at the computer uninterrupted. Since we brought her home last November, things have been amazing, awful, hopeful, despairing, chaotic, hilarious, full of self-sacrifice, full of self-absorption. And lessons from the Lord.

Today, one lesson hit home. For the past several weeks I have felt God teaching us more about His heart. He is ALL about teaching us how to live so we bring life into this world. To live lives that point people to Jesus. To be SERVANTS. I have been hit with Isaiah 58:6-12 many times in the past few weeks. God wants me to GET this. The fasting that passage talks about is fasting from ME, from my own self-absorption. So I can reach out to others. OTHERS. My healing, my wholeness can only truly come when I pour myself into others. And not just others in my home. I can often use my family as an excuse. Hey, we are a large family, a lot on our plate, blah, blah, blah. We are exempt from serving outside of our family. What????? LIES, lies, lies to feed my self-absorption.

So, anyways, I have been praying that God give me His passion, to really care about the hurting, the poor, the oppressed. And I sense this passion flaring up in me. Right now I can best describe it as a passion for JUSTICE in this world. But I have to know what to do with it. I am impatient and it is hard to wait on God, but what else can I do?

David Platt's book, Radical, is currently one of the catalysts to all the thoughts swimming in my head. CHALLENGING. Challenging us to look closely at what we believe, what we follow. Are we really following Jesus, the Jesus of Scripture, who calls us to live radically, to live to pursue bringing glory to God and justice in this world. To be missional. ALL OF US. All of us - not just the few who are "called" to missions. Or are we following the "American" Jesus, taking all the good stuff we like about Jesus, and holding tightly to that while dismissing some of the more startling, difficult truths Jesus taught and lived? Ouch!

So what about shopping?

Today, as I was processing some of these thoughts and praying about what God is preparing us for, I decided to go shopping. First day without L'l B, a great chance to shop alone. But I found that shopping can work in me to be a sort of instant gratification that temporarily fills my longings, the passion God is brewing in me. I went shopping, and I DON'T NEED ANYTHING. How many of us in America really do? Sure, I like to "update" my wardrobe, but I am not walking around shirtless or anything. Hey, I went to thrift stores and found some cheap stuff, so it wasn't a money issue. But it was just a lesson to me that as God wants us to GET what He cares about, to follow Him down roads He knows are best for us, I can get SO sidetracked. I can become numb to the voice SO EASILY. Something as ridiculous as shopping can work its magic (evil) to dull my senses toward God. I want to fight for God, be one of His warriors, not fight for the best bargain. I want to feel joy from pouring out the overflow of what Jesus has poured in me, NOT the fleeting happiness that comes from the perfect pair of jeans.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

our story

I was asked to write down our story for an adoption fundraiser. One great catch was that this person requested I get it back to her in a day. That gave me the freedom to just write down my thoughts in an hour, and not scrutinize over each paragraph, word choice, stuff like that. It is not a work of art. But it is our story, our adoption story. Well, since it is done, I thought I would share it here, too.

Our Story

We were not a couple who “always thought” we would adopt some day. Honestly, I am not a huge baby person. We had our 3 biological kids, and I was crazy about them, but still never felt we needed to adopt. Then in 2003, God placed it on my heart to foster a boy for a summer, who was from the Saharawi refugee camp in Algeria, Africa. Thankfully, Farmboy agreed to this. He was most likely thinking --- how much could it hurt? It is for ONLY two months...... That was the beginning of our family starting to step out in faith. We began to experience the huge blessing and growth in faith as we kept going the next steps. The boy we brought into our home was named Mohamed, an 11 yr old Muslim boy. This experience was extremely difficult at times, but we were also hugely blessed by knowing this boy and opening our hearts to him. We had the opportunity to have this boy in our home periodically for the next 3 years. He eventually lived with us full-time as he pursued an education in the US. Then, although we planned to have Mohamed live with us for many more years, God planned for him to return to Algeria in August 2006. God taught us many, many things during that experience. Most significantly, he taught us that life is not all about the pursuit of comfort and pleasure. True fulfillment will never come from those pursuits, but from giving of ourselves for Him. Another life-changing thing this experience taught us is that we could love a child that was not biologically ours. Hmmmm, wonder how that will matter in the future.....

With Mohamed no longer with us, one evening in December 2006, my husband and I were out to dinner and he just plopped this question on the table – “So are we going to adopt or what?” That question just sat there, and we actually turned it over and over. This was definitely some sort of thought God had planted. February 2007, we then looked into our state’s foster to adopt program. We left that first meeting a bit confused, as we both thought we would adopt domestically, but after the meeting, both felt inclined to pursue international adoption instead. My first desire was to adopt from somewhere in Africa, as a way to somehow be a part of Mohamed’s people, his land, but I didn’t reveal this desire to my husband. As we researched our options, however, then he and I both came to the decision together to pursue adopting from Ethiopia. We also were not sure what gender to adopt. We had 3 children, an 11 yr old boy, a 9 yr old girl and a 7 yr old boy. My daughter desperately wanted a sister, but I couldn’t shake my desire for another boy. My husband threw out the idea to adopt one of each, and it sounded like a good one. And as I said, we are not baby people, so we decided on a boy/girl sibling set ages 3-7 years. Then, on February 27, 2008, we got referred our 4.5 year old twins. Their birth mother was sick and could no longer care for them. They also had a one year old sister at home, but the birth mother was not relinquishing her. TWINS!!! I had prayed the desire of my heart many times to the Lord, and prayed for twins, but also prayed for God’s best choice for our family. What a blessing, what a kind God.

We got the twins on April 14, 2008. Then, bringing them back home, we started the massive adjusting. They were very ready for a mom and dad, and also connected so well with our bio kids. But this was still a very exhausting, stressful, difficult time. I knew this was God’s best for us, and was trusting for his strength daily, but I must admit it was hard. I had to die to myself daily, to my selfish desires to just go out and do the coffee thing, or the shopping thing that most of my other friends were doing, as their kids were all school age, like my bio kids, and were finally getting some free time.

Four months after bringing the kids home, on August 14, 2008, we got a call from our agency that the twin’s mother had died, and their little sister was now an orphan. Would we consider adopting her? This was the HARDEST decision we have ever had to make. I was still hugely in the throes of adjusting to the twins, not feeling settled at all yet. Their little sister was less than 2 years old (remember, we ARE NOT baby people), the financial burden of adopting again, and parenting yet another child was also daunting. Farmboy and I prayed and sought the Lord through the Word continually. Honestly, we prayed that God would give us a firm NO. We did not want to do this, but did not feel at peace saying no unless this was from God. Finally after 4 weeks of seeking the Lord, we felt our hearts slowly change and we were miraculously ready to go forward with the adoption. We were planning on calling our agency the next day. Our agency, however, called us first to inform us of the difficult news that tests were just back and it was determined that their little sister was HIV +. Our first thought was, is this a closed door? Is this the “NO” we were praying for? So we prayed some more, both feeling really confused about what God was calling us to do. Then one day, after the kids all left for school, I just started to sob. I begged God for his guidance and advice. He seemed so silent. I then emailed our agency, informing our case worker that we were not going to pursue the adoption. I thought this would give me some peace, that since I had finally made a decision, we could move on. No peace came. That afternoon, as I paced around the house, I felt the only thing left to do was read the Bible. Maybe that would help me, calm me. I opened up to where I last left off. I read 2 Corinthians 8:10-12.

"And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have."

These words pierced my heart, and I sensed a flicker of peace begin to grow, as I finally felt like I knew what God was asking us to do. I asked Farmboy to read that passage that evening, not at all wanting to persuade him. After he read it, he basically said, “Well, let’s go.” From then on, we were able to embrace this adoption as something God wanted us to do. I have learned that if God is orchestrating it, He will provide what is needed for every step, and that there is blessing throughout the journey.

I certainly hoped that the paperchase and other adoption hurdles to jump for this next adoption would be relatively easy. But this was not to be. Once we started working on completing this adoption, there were obstacles and delays around nearly every corner. We initially thought we would bring our daughter home in 2008, maybe by Christmas that year. Instead, I finally got her Nov. 1, 2009. But, again, God is so wise. This was the best time to get her. As an example of his perfect timing, she turned 3 on Oct. 13, 2009, and with us not being baby people, this felt like God showing us his sense of humor. He asked us to adopt her when she was only 1 year and 10 months, but he KNEW she was not coming into our family until she was 3 years old. He knew we aren’t baby people. He is so good.

Since home, the adjusting has gone so much better than initially with the twins. Maybe it is because this isn’t our first adoption. Maybe it is because she is younger. Maybe it is because she is HIV+, and there is a part of me that feels more protective, nurturing because I know she is more vulnerable. Maybe it is because we only adopted one child this time. No, I believe this is just God’s blessing on me. I believe He is just being the awesome, personal, kind God He is. Praise Him!!!

I ran across this quote recently and it totally resonates with me:

There is your plan for your life and God’s plan for your life, and yours doesn’t really count.

That tiny little quote oozes truth. But it is not something to fear. Not at all. We just need to understand that God’s plans truly are best, and that He does love us deeply. Enough to die for us. How can we not trust Him?

As I rock her to sleep for her naps, I have this welling up in my heart of love for her, and this deep knowledge that she was meant to be a part of our family from the very beginning. God had all three of these children planned for our family, and in His way, in His timing, He brought them to us and we all are blessed.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Living life with no regrets

My sister is currently being treated for breast cancer. She was diagnosed this past August. My mother was just told this week that the results of her mammogram indicate there was something suspicious in one of her lymph nodes. She will need to have a biopsy. Hopefully, prayerfully, this is NOT cancer. But it certainly gets you thinking....

Life is short, shockingly short sometimes.

With the life God is giving me, am I LIVING for Him, or just living? Am I playing it safe? Or am I taking hold of the opportunities He puts before me. I know there are many times that I miss the opportunities, that I just maybe ignore them because they seem difficult, inconvenient, possibly even a little ridiculous. I also know there have been times that we have grasped those opportunities, even the questionably "crazy" ones, and once we got a hold of them, we ARE richly blessed. So why don't we take a hold of those opportunities EVERY time??? It is that struggle again, my plans, my timing, my life. And God's plans, His timing. It is always inconvenient, always costly, always something I just don't initially want to do. But every time, it is also BLESSED. I hope I can remember that.

I so want to live a life that pleases God and a life that is full of good fruit, not regrets. So I was walking the dog yesterday. Seriously, if you don't have a dog, get one --- and walk it, it gives you a chunk of time to commune with God, to sometimes argue, to question, but to ultimately throw your concerns at Him, and let...them...go. Anyways, during the walk, I was thinking about my mom and sister and praying for their healing, for their lives. Then I thought about my own life. Again, I prayed for His strength to live my life, however long or short, prepared to grab the opportunities He puts before me, trusting Him. Then I believe there are truly no regrets.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

Soooooo thankful to all be together......FINALLY.

Our Li'l B was terrified of our dog at first, look what 3 weeks home can do.

And Li'l B slept in our room the first couple of weeks, but the past week the nights have looked something like this. Awwww.

This year, Thanksgiving was shared with Farmboy's side of the family. Thanks to all the contributors, but especially Heidi and Chris, the food was fabulous and we all probably added a little thickness around the know, just in time for the holidays.

The boys watching our Lions get crushed. Go Lions ?!?

Part of the family getting ready for the big dinner.....and snacking on the pre-dinner appetizers that make you full even before dinner starts. Why do we do that?

Heidi had some 3 year old crafts that the 14 yr old and 12 yr old enjoyed playing with. Wow, Claire, nice coloring. Maybe your mom will put that one on the fridge???

Another tradition -- cut down the tree. Li'l B was probably wondering why in the world we were doing this, and why in the world is it SO cold. Oh, dear, it just gets COLDER.

The family.....the trick to a decent shot "spur of the moment" style-- do a black and white shot, that way you can't tell how awfully we clash.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Trip

People have been asking how our trip went, and I realized the blog world may like to hear, too, so here goes. And even if you aren't interested, well, it's my blog, so I guess I get to do what I want anyway.

Friday and Saturday

First of all, we were able to stop in Cairo, Egypt for 2 days before the "adoption trip". Highly recommend!!!!! Also, you may want to know that if you fly Ethiopian Airlines, the trip to Cairo is basically FREE. You only pay some minimal taxes, surcharges, maybe adding less than 100 bucks to the cost of the fare from Dulles to Addis Ababa. So, financially, very feasible. Also, I was very fortunate to have a friend who currently resides in Cairo, and she played tour guide the whole time we were there. Her apartment overlooks the Nile, with a view of the pyramids in the distance, so it is quite breathtaking. We crammed in as much as humanly possible in the 48 hours we saw this land. Yes, the trip was short, but since we may never return, I believe we took complete advantage of our time and enjoyed some wonderful experiences. And the food.....absolutely delicious. Honestly, Ethiopian food has some spices that are unfamiliar to my palate, so I eat rather sparingly in Ethiopia. But in Egypt, I enjoyed EVERYTHING!

A bit surprising to me, and another wonderful blessing, I was totally able to enjoy this jaunt out of the way before we embarked on the adoption trip. I was excited to meet Li'l B in a few days, but wasn't consumed with the thought, and was able to be fully present for our Egypt adventure. My dear friend Laura accompanied me on this part of the trip and when you get two old friends together, there is bound to be a wonderful time, with laughs, giddiness, silliness and just great fun. Oh, and little sleep, that may be a reason why there was so much giddiness.

This shot was taken from our balcony, the Nile before us, and the pyramids in the mist in the distance. Stunning.

Ouch, this poor guy needs a nose job.


Next stop, Addis Ababa.

We arrived in Addis on a Sunday morning, after traveling through the night from Cairo. Travis from Gladney was there, as was Solomon, our same driver as last time. So nice to see familiar faces! Travis dropped us off at the Ayat house, the same guest house as last time, too. Again, nice to see familiar, friendly faces, as we are welcomed back by Waguyu and Zimmett. I wasn't sure what my plan would be, but once in-country I wanted to meet Li'l B ASAP. Travis was completely willing to work with all my requests. We were not planning on following the typical Gladney schedule, as I had a year to think about what I wanted to see. Travis/Gladney were incredibly accommodating and flexible. So, we head off to meet my daughter, and the first meeting was quite comfortable. Not mind-blowing, not amazingly stressful, actually relatively calm. I came armed with bubbles and she was fascinated. This gave me time to hold her and introduce myself. Then we walked around and through the home, and THAT WAS IT. Laura and I then went back to the guest house where we crashed for about 5 hours. That got my head the rest it desperately needed.

Later, Sunday night, my friend Maggie flies in to Ethiopia, as she is joining us on the rest of the trip.


Today we were scheduled to drive out to my children's village in Bantu, about 60 miles, yet 2.5 hours, away. This was INCREDIBLE. We stopped along the way to pick up their great-aunt, who has been instrumental in advocating for all three of our children. SO grateful for this woman. Then, on the long car ride, I was able to ask great-aunt tons of questions, to help understand my children's stories before they were ours. So many little nuggets! We then met extended family in Bantu, and saw the house my children lived in prior to coming to Gladney. Family treated us to lunch and again, we were given more information about our children's life prior to us. I brought many pictures, but could have brought hundreds more. They were like gold. So, for those of you with opportunities to bring pictures, bring MANY. It still won't be enough.

The extended family outside the house our kids lived in for a time.

The river that the twins brought their animals to for water.

Monday night I walk to the foster home, this time armed with a balloon. Li'l B warms up a tad more and we punch the balloon around.


Today we drove down to Asala, about a 3 hour drive south of Addis. We were able to meet the birth family of Maggie's adopted daughters and see where they grew up. Priceless!!! This is a beautiful, lush part of Ethiopia, with green, rolling hills, and a backdrop of stunning mountains. Lots of herds, too, cows, cows, more cows, goats, sheep, even one herd of camels. We also saw a family of monkeys hanging around a group of trees.

Tuesday night visit Li'l B again, with a ball in hand. She is becoming more playful as we rolled and threw the ball and she high-fived me a few times.


Wednesday we slept in, recovering from our first 2 travel days. Later, Belay gave us a personal tour of the 4 foster homes. Man, he LOVES these kids!!! Again, I got to spend some time with Li'l B, this time bringing a book to read. We wrapped up the afternoon by shopping for much of it. I am NOT a shopper, but thoroughly enjoy it when traveling. Hey, we were just spurring on their economy. In the evening, went to dinner with Gladney staff, which was a blast.


Pack up in the morning, then walk to the foster home after lunch to GET Li'l B. We say our goodbyes, take tons more pictures, then I just walk her out of there to the guest house. And that is that. Seemed anticlimactic, yet peaceful.

Once at the guest house, she warmed up in about 10 minutes. She was playful the rest of the day, and basically a dream on the flight home.

Enjoying coffee with Waguyu and Zimmett.

Remember the 4 B's -- bubbles, books, balls and balloons. Super easy to pack and definitely crowd pleasers.

I totally want to stress the WONDERFUL time I had on this trip. My friend and I each got custody of our children almost immediately for our first adoptions, but we both believed doing it this way, visiting her at the foster home, yet not taking custody until the end of the trip, was massively less stressful for us all. I had the privilege to experience things I would not have been able to, had I had our little one in tow, and she was able to stay in the comfort of what was familiar while she learned to warm up to me.



Our first family the airport.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One Week

Things are going surprisingly well. I am feeling emotionally strong, although I am exhausted by about 9pm every night. For this night owl, that is definitely not the norm. Li'l B is happy, talkative (we have no clue what she is saying, though) and sleeping very well. Oh, and potty-trained, too.

Looking around the dining room table at all my kids.......God is so good.

This has been a blessed first week.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

All together

Yesterday we returned HOME.

Our little one slept from 10pm to 8:30am.

Major blessing!!!!!

Now we just have to keep the other 5 kids from smothering her.

So thankful to finally be together.

In country, we were able to go to our children's village and meet with extended family members. Amazing! We got to see the church where our kids were baptized and the river that the twins brought their animals to for water. We got to hear the story of how their great-aunt was so instrumental in saving our little one's life. What a wonderful woman!

Oh, and we didn't take Li'l B to the guest house with us until the last day in-country. This was the perfect decision for us. I visited her every day, bringing a toy or two to play with and bond. We finally brought her to the guest house the day we were leaving, and she warmed up in about 10 minutes. Incredible, really. This gave us a chance to see much more of Ethiopia and really enjoy the experience.

She was a super traveler. My friend Laura is in this shot, too.

Home with her siblings.....