Monday, September 4, 2017

Bread From Heaven

"He let you be hungry which helped you to not have pride.  Then He fed you with bread from heaven...." Deut. 8:3a

To say these last four weeks have been tough would be an understatement. There have been few things in my life that have been more stressful that taking on a full time job in the midst of getting six kids back in school and trying to prepare for my trip to Ethiopia.

But...I asked for it.

Several months ago, God began stirring my heart.  He began showing me that I was getting comfortable.  That I was beginning to rely on my own strength. My family finally felt like it wasn't in complete chaos 24/7. I was planning to lead a team to China, which after eight trips felt very familiar.    And because I really am just like a dumb sheep, I began feeling like life was manageable.  Like I had things under control.  I realized pride was creeping back in.  Again.

And this scared me.  

See, at the beginning of 2015, God took me to Philippians 2.  He showed me the unbelievable humility of my Savior, who laid down His life for me.  Who did not hold on to His rights as God, but in humility, took my place on the cross.  The Lord opened my eyes to the ugly pride in my life.  He gently asked if He could do a work in my heart and in my life to remove my pride.  I said "yes." 

And He did.

That year was one of the hardest, darkest years of my life.  He took me to the bottom. He shook me to my core.  He opened my eyes to who I really was, weak, needy and completely inadequate to do my life in my own strength.  I saw my brokenness, and my desperate need for the Lord in every area of my life.  And without the strength of two dear friends who walked through the fire with me, I'm not sure I would have made it.  

God ripped my pride out by the roots, or so I thought.

But pride is really sneaky.  It can disguise itself really well.  It can slip in completely unnoticed. 

So, when God began to reveal the sneaky pride that was trying to slip back in, I desperately prayed for His help.  I had been to the bottom and did not care to go back there again.  Ever.  I came to Him in honesty, confessing my feelings of self-sufficiency. I asked Him to force me from the comfortable place I was heading...to a place where I had to rely totally on Him.  

And He did.  

Within a month, He turned my world upside down.  He changed everything that was comfortable in my life.  He redirected me from the country that holds my heart to country that is completely unknown to me.  A place that is so utterly different from China that I hardly even knew how to find it on the map.  Where is Ethiopia anyway?? And then He threw me into a place I said I would never ever go again...the classroom.  


It's not that I don't love teaching.  Or children (obviously I do because I have a lot of them!).  But, my time in the classroom many years ago was so very hard.  I always felt so inadequate.  I walked away from the profession to start our family feeling burnt out and defeating.  And I vowed I'd never go back. 

But, as it began dawning on me that my life was about to be very different....
... that, for the first time in 14 years, I would not have a baby at home,
... that at all six of my kiddos would be in school...
...I realized that I had no idea what I was going to do with myself.   

 So, I began making some plans.  Small plans.  Ones I thought I could handle.

I would go back to teaching.  As a sub.  Just a few days here or there.  I could say yes or no.  I'd be in control.  This was a good plan.  Except I had asked God not to let me be comfortable.  

 So, He didn't let me hold not my small plans.  He blew the doors right off my comfortable, safe place.  And He threw me right into the place I said I would never go...full time teaching.  I began to question my sanity.  Why in the world had I prayed such a prayer?  I realized I liked comfortable because it is so...comfortable and that  I really handle "comfortable" much better than "impossible."  

But, isn't that what faith is really about?  Allowing God to put us in places where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through (F. Chan)?  

When we allow God to lead us into places that reveal our inadequacies, we learn just how adequate He truly is. We learn that He is completely faithful to be with us and hold us up with His righteous right hand.  He gives us strength enough for each day as He Himself feeds us with "bread from heaven."

"Wait for the Lord;  be strong and courageous;  wait for the Lord!  (Ps 27:14)
"...for they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength." (Isa. 40:31a)
"So, fear not, for I am with you;  
Be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, 
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isa. 41:10)






   

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Brokenness: the heart of advocacy


Precious Peter

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

Being broken for the cause of the orphan is not new to me.  My journey began many years ago with a beautiful girl named Anne.  Since then, I have adopted.  I have served in orphanages.  I have looked into the faces of children in desperate need and have suffered the crushing loss of precious ones gone too soon. 

But my trip last October was different.  Hope Journey was different.  
It was a completely new level of hard.  

We had 33 beautiful children in our Hope Journey Camp.  Our sole purpose in being there was to advocate for these children and find families for them.  Most of them had been waiting their whole life to be chosen.  Because they are older, because their needs are perceived as greater, because they had fallen through the cracks, they had been passed over, forgotten, time and time again.  

And these children knew why we had come.  To them, we represented hope of what they so desperately wanted.  

A family.  A mom and dad.  A place to belong.

My heart was not prepared...

To have children stand before me and plead with me, 

Sweet Laurel

 "Please find me a family..."  

For children to feel like they had to smile and string beads 


and do the song and dance to be worthy...

To have a child with CP get up out of his wheelchair and run 

Flint
Flint
 to show that he was capable...

To have a precious boy give me his name tag, look into my eyes,

Wesson

Wesson

and plead with me not to forget him...

To have a beautiful baby boy sit on my lap, to wipe away his tears,


Benz

and feed him my cake because I was desperate to do something...


It was heartbreaking.  
It was absolutely gut-wrenching.  
It was one of the most emotionally painful experiences I have ever had.

No child should have to beg for a family.


Scottie
Scottie

I have cried a million tears for these children.  My heart is literally crushed for them.  I cannot think about them or talk about them without weeping.  My heart cries out, "Where is the church?  Where are God's people? Is there no one, NO ONE, to say 'yes' to these precious babies??"  

Some days, I just want to be numb.  To forget their pleas.  To escape this heavy place of brokenness.  

But I cannot.  I will not.  
I know it is my brokenness that fuels my fight.  And fighting for this holy cause is one of the greatest privileges of my life.  

So, I will continue.  I will keep posting their pictures and telling their stories.  I will keep praying and crying out for them, asking God to wake up His people to the needs of orphans like Peter and Laurel, 
Flint and Benz, Wesson and Scottie.  

Because they matter.  Because they are valuable and precious.  Because they deserve a family.  Because Christ laid down His life for me, and He has called me to do the same for others.
1 John 3:16-18 says this:

"By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."

Church, we have the world's goods.  There are so many precious ones in need.  Will we close our eyes?  Will we close our hearts?  

or

Will we love with reckless abandonment?  Will we hear their desperate cry and say "yes" to these treasures, knowing that when we say "yes" to them, we say "yes" to Him.  When we get them, we get Him.

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.'"
Matt 25:40 

A final thought...

Timothy Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, says this:  "Many who are evidently genuine Christians do not demonstrate much concern for the poor.  How do we account for that?  I would like to believe that a heart for the poor 'sleeps' down in the Christian's soul until it is awakened."  

Oh, friends, may these precious faces awaken our souls, break our hearts, compel us to step out of our comfort zone and send us running to the least of these...


We are rejoicing that nine of our Hope Journey children have been chosen!!  And, we continue praying hard for families for the rest of our precious ones. 

Here are links to learn more about these children:

Peter:  http://adoptedbydesign.typepad.com/blog/2017/02/peter-needs-a-forever-family.html

Laurel:  http://adoptedbydesign.typepad.com/blog/2016/12/stories-of-hope-advocate-for-laurel-.html

Flint:  http://adoptedbydesign.typepad.com/blog/2017/03/meet-flint-he-is-waiting-for-his-forever-family.html

Wesson:  http://adoptedbydesign.typepad.com/blog/2017/01/meet-wonderful-wesson.html

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

...and if not, He is still good.



"For it was You who created my inward parts;  You knit me together 
in my mother's womb.
I praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made....
All my days were written in Your book 
And planned before a single one of them began."
Ps. 139:13-16


Sometimes life doesn't happen the way we think or hope.  Sometimes God's plans are vastly different than we were expecting.  
But it doesn't change who He is.
He is still good, and His promise are still true.  
Even in the midst of sorrow.

It's been almost three months since my sweet Seth went to be with Jesus.  My heart still aches for him.  I miss him deeply.  I want to hold him again, to tell him that he is a treasure and that I love him.  I grieve that fact that he will not come home to his family and that I will not see him again here.

This was not what I wanted.
This was not how I thought it would be.

But God knew.  
He had all of Seth's days planned before a single one of them began.
This did not catch Him by surprise.  
This was His good and perfect plan for Seth. 


And so, I choose to be thankful, even in the midst of sadness.
.  
Thankful that God is good and strong and perfect.
Thankful that He is El Elyon, Most High God, sovereign over all things.
That He allowed me to know and love Seth.
And that I will see him again.


So, as much as I miss Seth, I cannot wish him back.
 He is whole and healed now.  He can see and run and play.  
He is loved perfectly and completely.
He is with Jesus.

I had the great and hard privilege of speaking at Seth's memorial service, and I love this beautiful Memorial video that we shared of him.  I love his precious family and count them as some of my dearest friends.  They are grieving deeply as well.

 


Sweet baby boy, you captured my heart from the moment I saw you.  My love for you was instant and overwhelming.  


I fought hard for you and prayed desperately for you, and God honored those prayers.  

He gave you a family.  

He moved you to a place filled with hope and love.

And he healed you, completely.



You will always be in my heart and never far from my thoughts.  I am so thankful for time I had with you and for the privilege of loving you.  
You were a treasure, hidden in the darkness, and I am so thankful that God let me find you.  I'll see you again soon.
All my love.




"For as the heaven are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than you ways 
And My thoughts than yours."
Isa. 55:9 


...and He is still good.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Bringing Seth Home!!

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more 
 than all we ask or imagine,
 according to his power that is at work within us, 
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus 
throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." 
Eph. 3:20-21

We serve a mighty God who hears our cries. I am rejoicing today to be able to share the wonderful news that this precious boy that we have prayed so hard for has a family. God has raised up a family that is immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagine for Seth. To God be the glory! Great things He has done. Here are Seth's mama's words about this incredible journey. Be blessed!

“In a crib, in an orphanage, halfway around the world, sits a boy. He’s easy to miss, as he sits there quietly with his head bowed. You might even pass him by, unless you took the time to look into his face, pick him up, hold him in your arms. At that moment, he becomes unforgettable.”

It was mid-December when I first read these words. They were written by a woman, Ashley, who had visited an orphanage in China. She wrote a blog post about a little boy she called Seth and it appeared in my facebook timeline when a friend shared it. I see a lot of these posts about children waiting for families, many every day. I often do not read them because it’s just so hard on my heart.
But for some reason that day, I opened the link. I read the blog.

Her words broke me. I read about Seth, a 6-year-old boy who could not see, or talk, or walk, who spent his days sitting in a crib. I looked at his pictures and watched a video of him. His smile was so beautiful and my heart was shattered to think of him all alone, without a family to care for him or love him.

I couldn’t get him out of my head. I laid awake at night for hours and hours with tears streaming down my face in the dark. I know there are children all over the world living like this, but to see this child and his smile and sweet spirit…it broke me.

“Lord, who will touch him? Who will hold him? Who will sing to him and tell him that he is loved?”

Ashley’s words echoes in my own heart until I could not bear it any longer.
With my heart beating so fast I thought it might burst, I took his picture and story to Brad. It’s happened a few times over the last few years. Sometimes he says yes (Nathan and Olivia!) and other times he says no, this is not where the Lord is taking us. I am so thankful to know that I can share my heart with him and trust that he will seek God and lead our family so well. I fully expected him to say no but to pray with me for a family for Seth.

Seth’s picture went on our fridge, and we did pray. We prayed earnestly with tears for this little boy. We talked and talked and prayed and prayed. And then one day we were standing in the kitchen and Brad looked at me and said, “We can’t leave him there.”

And that was that. We won’t leave him there. We have our answer to who will touch him, who will hold him and sing to him and tell him that he’s loved. We will. We will do it.

So with GREAT JOY I am ready to share that we have received Pre-Approval from China to move forward in adopting Seth! There are many challenges ahead and lots for us to learn, but we know this: we will not be going alone. The Lord is Mighty and He will provide all we need. We trust in Him completely and are so thankful for the gift He is giving us in Seth. He is a treasure and we have nothing but excitement to add him to our family. We do this not because we feel we should, but because we can and because we want to! God is weaving an extraordinary story for our family, one that we never could have imagined, but He has changed us along the way in ways we never expected and we can’t wait to see what else He is going to do!


We certainly would appreciate your prayers in the days ahead. Pray for Seth, that he will receive the care and attention he needs. Pray for our family as we look to move house very soon to make room for our ever-expanding family! Pray that we keep the Lord always before us and remember that with God, all things are possible!

You can continue to be part of Seth's journey.  Click HERE to contribute to Seth's adoption fund.  If everyone who has read his story would give $10, his adoption would be fully funded!  Thank you for helping Seth come HOME!!



“Because of the devastation of the afflicted,
because of the groaning of the needy,
Now I will arise,” says the Lord;
“I will set him in the safety for which he longs.”
Ps. 12:5

Friday, November 20, 2015

Appointed One


"I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness - secret riches.  
I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, 
the one who calls you by name."
Isa. 45:3

In a crib, in an orphanage, halfway around the world, sits a boy.  He's easy to miss, as he sits there quietly with his head bowed.  You might even pass him by, unless you took the time to look into his face, pick him up, hold him in your arms.  
At that moment, he becomes unforgettable.

This is what happened to me on Monday, October 19, 2015.  I walked into his room, going from crib to crib to speak to each child, to touch each child, to tell them that I saw them, that they mattered.  His was the last crib on the back row.  He sat so still, not making a sound.  All I could see was the back of his head, as he had it bowed down.  I reached out to stoke his head, never dreaming that I was about to lose my heart.  When I touched him, he raised his head up, and I saw his face for the first time, a face that radiated with joy and light.  I felt the presence of the Lord.  


I was the only one on our team in this room.  The nannies spoke no English.  I spoke no Chinese.  There was no way for me to find out anything about him, not even whether he was a boy or a girl.  All I knew was that I had never been affected by anyone like I was at that moment by him.  

As the week went on, I spent every second I could with him.  He could not walk or talk or see, but to be with him was enough.  To hear the precious laughter (video) flow from his beautiful lips when I tickled him.  To see his pure joy the first time I put his hand to my face, his delicate little fingers gently touching my eyes, my nose, my mouth, my hair, the fuzzy softness of my shirt.  It was like I was watching him "see" for the first time.  To let him run his hand down the wall as I carried him around the orphanage with me.  To experience his wonder as I carried him outside and he felt the crisp air on his cheeks.  

These were holy moments.

I was continually crying out to the Lord for this precious baby boy.  My heart was torn to shreds, knowing that I would leave in a few short days.  

"Lord, who will touch him?  Who will hold him?  
Who will sing to him and tell him that he is loved?"

"God, You have to give me some hope.  Show me, Lord, that You have a plan for him beyond his life in that small, dark crib."

And He did.  


Up to this point, I had held little hope that the orphanage would allow him to be registered for adoption, because of his age and special needs.  But God had a plan for this precious one long before I arrived.  Through a set of circumstances, I discovered, much to my surprise, that he was actually already registered and available for adoption and had been for some time.  The orphanage told me that they were going to pull his adoption paperwork because he had been available for so long and no one had chosen him.  


The orphanage staff agreed that if I could find him a family, they would reinstate his paperwork.  I requested that they allow him to be in the physical therapy program so that he could get stronger in the meantime, and they agreed to this as well.


As I held him on my lap one morning, I prayed that that the Lord would give me an English name for him to use when I shared his story.  In that very moment, the Lord whisper, "Seth," but I wasn't sure it was from Him.  Not until I looked up the meaning of this name.  Seth means "appointed one."  
  
This whole time I had been asking God, "Why him?  Why this little boy out of so many beautiful precious children in this place?" 

Now I knew.  He was the appointed one for me.  
I was supposed to tell Seth's story.


So, I am telling it.  

This video of Seth on one of our last days together is such a treasure for me.  Words cannot adequately describe this amazing boy, but this video catches a glimpse of what I experienced with him. 






This beautiful six-year-old boy needs a family.  This boy who has waited 5 years for someone to choose him needs to be chosen.  Seth, so full of life and light, whose laugh lights up the room, is the "treasure hidden in the darkness," and he is waiting to be a son. 




1 John 5:14-15 says:

"And this is the confidence we have towards Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him."


Would you join me in crying out for Seth to the Lord, who is the "Father to the fatherless?"  To the One who delights to set the lonely into families, that He may place Seth into a family soon?  

I believe He will hear and answer.



"O Lord, You hear the desire of the afflicted; 
You will strengthen their heart; 
You will incline Your ear 
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, 
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more."
Ps. 10:17-18

Monday, February 2, 2015

In the Arms of Jesus Now


"For it was You who created my inward parts
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.
My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me when I was formless;  all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began."
Psalms 139: 13-16

My heart is grieving.  Our team is grieving.  Our Baby Hope has passed away.  

Our Baby Hope who we love so dearly, who captured our hearts with her hard-earned smile.  This one whose giggle was like the sweetest music ever.  This one who we have prayed for, longed for, fought for...

...is in the arms of Jesus now.

She no longer lies in her crib the corner, halfway around the world, 
seemingly forgotten.
Her legs are no longer lifeless and limp.
She no longer cries when touched or held.

So, through our tears, we rejoice.

Knowing that she is healed and home.
Knowing that her body is now whole.
Knowing we will see her again one day soon.

I have such a deep, profound gratitude that the Lord allowed me to be part of her life, even for such a brief time.

She is loved, she is valued, she is remembered.
I am thankful that she is known and that she will be mourned.

If ever I would doubt whether it is worth "going"
all I have to do is remember my Baby Hope.

She was worth it all.

I will never forget you, my sweet Baby Girl.  
So so glad you are with your Daddy now.  
I'll see you soon.



"So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy."


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Won't You Be My Love



Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;  
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Psalm 82:3

My heart is filled to the brim and broken and bleeding, all at the same time.  I have looked into the face of Jesus, and I will never be the same.  I am so grateful for the high and holy privilege of serving precious orphans in China, the least of the least.  They also happened to be in the same place where my daughter spent the first 17 months of her life.  

It was an experience that brought tears, and joy, laughter and deep grief.  

So much of the time in the adoption world, children are known by their label, their special need.  But in the six days that we were at the orphanage, I saw past their special need.  I saw these children in all of their preciousness, and I fell in love with each one.  My time there seemed too short, and my heart longs to be back among them.  

They are in my thoughts constantly.  I wonder how they are.  Did anyone get them out of their crib today?  Did someone touch them, speak to them, love them today?  Are they hungry now?  Did someone change their diaper enough today?

These precious babies will forever be buried deep in my heart.  I feel so honored to have cared for them, even if it was just for a few short days.  They have done for me more than I could ever do for them.  They have changed me.

Now when I read Jesus' words in Matt. 25:35-36,

"'For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me',"

I will forever think of 


...Little Nancy who was so tiny and my battle to get her more milk,


...of little man who was snatching up all the stray noodles that had fallen from the spoon of another child. 

 ...of Baby Hope whose body and crib hold her prisoner, whose clothes were so wet and who was desperate for touch even though she cried when being held and how she surprised us all, even the nannies, when she finally settled down and let out the most beautiful giggle over a crinkle blanket. 
...of the one who was crying in seeming agony in his crib because his body could not function the way it should, but quieted when I sang "Jesus Loves You," and stroked his precious head. 

...of sweet baby girl whose head was so large from hydrocephalus, who cried quietly so much the time, but was soothed when held so gently by our team members.


I will think of little Cindy whose mind was so bright but whose body was so weak and how we were able to shed light on her condition in hopes of setting her free from her crib.

and Roo, whose eyes would light up at the sight of her special American friend who adopted her for the week and who was so proud of herself when she counted in Chinese.

I will think of Smiley, who always had a smile on his face even though his arms and legs didn't move the way they needed to and left him a bystander much of the time.
...of adorable David who loved to be cuddled and Kasen who picked up toys for the babies whose toys had fallen out of their crib.  




And so, now, when I think of orphans, I don't think of the huge group of 147 million.  I think of these precious ones, the ones we held, the ones we kissed and snuggled, and changed and prayed over desperately.  I cry tears for these precious ones who deserve so much but whom the world has seemingly forgotten.   


But even though my heart breaks for them, they are not without HOPE.  Although we had to leave, He is still there.  He is with them, He is singing over them, He SEES them because 

He is El Roi, the God who sees, 
He is the Father to the fatherless,
He is the Defender of orphans and widows
He is the the God of Justice and 
the One who executes justice for them.

And, so, I have hope.  
Hope that He is fighting for them and Hope because He allows me to fight for them too.

Orphancare is not just another cause.  It's not just someone's agenda. 
IT'S GOD'S HEART.
It is His everlasting mission.  It's the reason He came.  It's the reason He died.  It's the reason He rose again.

If we claim to be His followers, we MUST be about defending the fatherless, the poor, the oppressed because HE IS.

"A Father to the Fatherless, a Defender of widows, 
is God in His holy dwelling."
Ps 68:5

James 1:27 says that pure and genuine religion is to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to refuse to the let the world corrupt us.  

And that's the key.

When we care for orphans and widows in their distress, we are the ones changed.  It opens our eyes to the unimportant things in life that try to consume us each day.  It helps us to focus on what truly matters in this life rather than continuously focusing on ourselves.  And that's why we must all be involved in caring for them.

There are many ways to do that.  Here are a few ideas:

1.  Adoption.  It's an amazing experience.  Here is a link where you can go for more information about the process.

2.  Help another family adopt.  Here is a link to page where you can donate to my good friend Beth York and her family who are bringing another little one home from China.

3. GO.  Here is a link to a list of trips planned for next year.  I would love for you to join my team next October going to China.

4.  Support the Love Without Boundaries Believe in Me School that will be up and running in this orphanage hopefully by the end of December of THIS year (2014)! Here is a link to sponsor a child who is enrolled in this school.

Please listen to the following song as you look through the pictures:


























And to my precious team:  
"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers."  Eph 1:16

You guys are 17 of the very best people on the face of the earth.  I love each of you dearly.  
May the Lord bless you and keep you, 
make His face shine upon you,
and give you peace.