Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We thought about adopting, but...

We began the adoption process over 10 months ago, and, during that time, I have been surprised by the number of people who have told me, "Yeah, we thought about adopting, but..." or "My husband and I wanted to adopt, but..." or even, "I wanted to adopt, but my husband/wife didn't want to." And the more God teaches me about adoption, the sadder I become by those confessions, not only for the child who may have missed out on a forever family, but also, for the family who missed out on the adoption experience.

When God put the desire to adopt in our hearts eleven years, I saw it as a chance to save a child.  And, of course, adoption absolutely changes a life forever.  But God is teaching me that it is SO much more than that.  He is teaching me that adoption is a chance to experience Him, to walk in His ways, to become more like Him.

In Galatians 4:4-6, He tells us,
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Over and over in His Word, He expresses His love for orphans.  He calls Himself the "Father to the Fatherless."  He tells us that He "delights in setting the lonely in families."  In John, He promises not to leave us as orphans.  This is God's heart.  He cares for the fatherless, the widow, the poor, the needy, the down-trodden.  In Isaiah 61:1-3 and again in Luke 4, Jesus tells us His mission: to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and recovery of sight for the blind, and to set free those who are oppressed.  He has come to give beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning, peace for despair.

If this is Christ's mission, and we are Christ-followers, can we do anything less??  In 1 John 2:6, it says "Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did."

Kerry Hasenbalg of Show Hope said this in one of her devotions:
"Somewhere along the line, I unconsciously began living the lie that says learning about God, singing about God, and speaking about God is more important than walking like Him.  Like so many well-intentioned Christians before me, I had thought I could live out my Christianity in church buildings, in Bible studies, and among friends.  I had anticipated a comfortable future of growing and learning and discussing and growing some more.  But as I took small steps of obedience, God kept leading me into the fields of the fatherless and the widow, the needy and the marginalized."

I think so many of us, including and especially me, bought the same lie.  That is why our churches are so inward-focused.  We show up every time the doors are open, and we sign up for every Bible study offered.  We learned more and more about Him, but we fail to DO what He did. 

In July of 2010, I began reading the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan as a part of a church Bible study.  This book was so challenging to me.  I knew that I was not living with reckless abandonment in obedience to Christ, but my heart cried out to Him because I truly wanted to live that way. I wanted to because I learned that if we do, "then we, too, will see His glory. We will see Him do the impossible."  He revealed to me that I did not love Him with this "crazy love" nor did I love others in this way.  My heart was broken.  I confessed this to the Lord.  I asked Him to break my heart wide open, and fill it with Him. 

On July 21, I recorded this in my journal:  "Please show me how to love others like You do.  I am too selfish. My heart is too hard.  I beg You not to let me go another minute like this. I don't have the strength or ability to change.  I don't like it.  I am afraid of it (change).  But, please, Lord, I want to be like You.  Change me. Make me like You.  Help me get my eyes off of myself, my needs.  Lord, I know that I am praying according to Your will.  You want to help me.  Therefore, I know that You hear my plea. I thank You that you are going to help me.  Lead me each minute.  Guide me in Your paths.  Beginning right now."

The next day, I recorded this from A.W. Tozer: 
"Begin in mercy a new work of love within me."

Two journal entries later, I have a concert ticket inserted into my journal.  It was the ticket from the Steven Curtis Chapman concert where God called us to adoption.

God heard my desperate cry.  He answered with the call to care for the orphan.  He said, "You want to love like I do?  Then follow in My steps.  That is where You will find me, among the least of the least."
Steven Curtis Chapman sums it up best: 

"I had said I wanted to find God and He answered by showing me that He is there, right where He said he would be, among the poor, the needy, the orphan - the least of the least. We pray for revival," he says, "we pray for God to move in powerful, earth-shattering ways, and I believe God is saying, 'I want to show up infinitely more that you want Me to show up.'  I believe the millions of waiting children represent innumerable opportunities for God to show up and reveal His glory through us, His church.  And that's the invitation from God, 'Come and know Me, and I will make Myself known to you, members of My body, the church, as you care for orphans in their distress.' "

God is showing me through His Word, that He does indeed have a plan to care for orphans.  WE ARE THE PLAN.  I am excited to be on this journey to my daughter because in finding her, I find Him. 

It has not been an easy road many days, but God's path usually isn't.  His call came at a time when we had the least time, the least energy, and, for sure, the least money.  Francis Chan said this:  "God doesn't call us to be comfortable.  He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through."  I can't say that we were "unafraid" to put ourselves in this situation, but we had no doubt that we would be in trouble if God didn't come through!  But praise God, we said yes to His call, and He has been faithful every step of the way!  

He has begun "a new work of love within me" just as I have asked., and I am "confident of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6)

"In coming to know orphans, I have come to know God
in a whole new way.  By obeying His word and
stepping out to bless the fatherless, God's Word has come alive,
and I have been the one most blessed," (Hasenbalg).

This is my hope and prayer.  I want to experience Him, to walk in His ways, to become more like Him.  He has called me to care for the fatherless, and I am so very thankful He did.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 13: A Day of Miracles

"The heavens declare the glory of God; 
the skies proclaim the works of His hands." 
Psalms 19:1

September 13 is a day of miracles for us.  Some of you may know a lot of our story from when I spoke almost two years ago at a Women's Event at First Baptist Lyman.  My story was called a Rainbow and a Promise.  It is almost impossible to summarize this story briefly, but you have to know the first part of the story to know why today, September 13, 2011 is such a MIRACLE. 

If you have time, I would love to share the whole story with you.  The link below will allow you to hear the audio of that speech. The sound recording is certainly less than perfect (I recorded it then thinking the only one I would be sharing it with was Tollie!) and the speech delivery, less-than-stellar, but the miracle of this God Story brings me to tears every time I listen.

On that day I shared about a very difficult time in our lives, in February of 2004, when we lost our baby during pregnancy and how God completely restored this loss five years later, to the day, when I brought our beautiful baby Hudson home from the hospital on February 13, 2009.  (You have to listen to the audio to hear this February 13th miracle!)

September 13, 2004 was the day that the baby I lost was supposed to be born.  On that day, God set an amazing rainbow in the sky, directly over our house, complete from one end to the other.  Words cannot describe its beauty.  God gave us this rainbow so we would know that He had not forgotten our tears or our pain.  He wanted us to know that He has our baby, and that one day, we will with be with our baby again. 

Thus, we had a rainbow and a promise on that 13th day of Septmeber, 2004.  I thought that the promise was that He loved us and remembered our tears and that He was caring for our baby in Heaven.  And I do believe that was part of it, but  after today, September 13, 2011, I know that wasn't all of it!

As you know, 10 months ago, we began the pursuit of our daughter.  This journey so far has been much more difficult than I ever imagined.  Midway into our journey, just as our Home Study was being completed, we felt God leading us to switch adoption agencies.  And, if any of you are familiar with the adoption process, you know that your Home Study is one of the biggest parts of your adoption paperwork, taking months to complete.  At the time, I really struggled with why God would have allowed us to go that far, seemingly wasting time and money, only to have us start our paperwork all over again with another agency. 
And I guess I still don't know all the reasons, but when I see what He did today, it makes a whole lot more sense.  And I didn't even see it coming until last night. 

It was about 9:30 last night, and Tollie and I were taking a break from my cooking and his cleaning out the garage.  We were sitting on the couch, eating ice cream and talking about our day.  I told him that I tracked our dossier (adoption documents) which had been sent to China last Friday by our adoption agency, and that it was due to be delivered today (which it was!!).  I was wondering out loud about when they would actully review our paperwork and officially log us into the system.  I said, "I wonder if our Log-In-Date will actually be tomorrow, September 13?"  In that moment, God let me see it.  It was as if He said,

"September 13:

The day your baby was due.

Also, the day I sent you the incredible rainbow.

Yes, it did come with a promise, but I am just now revealing it to you.

This is the promise. 

I had your dossier arrive in China on this day, so that you would know that SHE is My promise to you. 

I have not forgotten your loss, your tears, your pain.  You are My child, and your sorrow was My sorrow.  But I am redeeming that loss through your daughter Meilí (May -LEE).  I never take away without giving so much more in return." 

I have struggle today to get my mind around this.  Who could do this but God?  It is so huge I can hardly comprehend why this Great and Awesome God of the universe would allow me to be part of such a amazing story. 

The more I follow Him and learn His ways, the more I fall in love with Him.  He promises that He has wonderful plans to prosper us and not to harm us, and His promises are true.  Even when we suffer loss.  God does restore us, He gives us beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning, peace for despair. 

My hope is that God will use this amazing story to draw others to Him.  He is trustworthy, and He loves us with an everlasting love.  If you don't know this Great God who is my Heavenly Father, I want you to know Him.  He is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I love Him with all my heart.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hope Blankets

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means
caring for orphans and widows in their distress
and refusing to let the world corrupt you. 
 James 1:27

This journey started out being about a little girl that we longed to bring into our family.  We have dreamed of doing this for so long, long before our first baby ever arrived.  But as we have prayed and sought God's face these last months for direction, provision, and peace in the waiting, we have really begun to understand that caring for orphans is truly God's heart.  Caring for orphans is a picture of what He has done for us and will do for us when He returns for us.  He came to us when we had nothing to offer Him, when we were sick and dirty with sin, and He rescued us, giving His very life for us.  And the more we realized how much God loves orphans, the greater our desire to care for them has become. 

Yes, we are adopting a little girl, one who brings tears to my eyes when I think of her, one for whom I have prayed eleven years for, but we want to touch the lives of other orphans as well.  Our heart's desire is for others to experience this amazing journey with us, one that has drawn us to God like nothing else has. 

We have prayed for God to show us ways to care for orphans that would allow others to join us, and we are so excited about the opportunity He has given.  Our adoption agency, America World, partners with two orphanages in China.  These orphanages have given us permission to send blankets to the children that are in their care.  We have 96 Hope Blankets, and we are praying that God will raise up 96 families who will join with us.  Our hope is that each family will sponsor a blanket for $25 (or whatever amount each family wants to give), take the blanket home, and pray as a family for the child who will receive that blanket.   Then, we would like to collect them again on Sunday, Oct. 30 (or anytime the week before), pray over them together, and then send them to the orphanages. 

Sometimes when we hear numbers like 18.3 million orphans worldwide, it almost seems impossible to make a difference.  But this is an opportunity to pray for one specific precious child who will receive a Hope Blanket from someone who has prayed (and hopefully will continue to pray) for them.

The money will cover the cost of the blanket and shipping ($15), and the rest will go toward helping with costs of our adoption.  In return, we would like to give each family a Seeds of Change 30-day devotional on showing hope to orphans, produced by Show Hope.  This is a powerful book with devotions written by Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman, Emily (Chapman) Richards, and Scott and Kerry Hasenbalg who serve as executive directors of Show Hope.  Here is an excerpt from Day One, written by Steven Curtis Chapman: 

 "Do you really want to know God?  Do you really want all He has for you, the abundant life He has promised you?  It may take getting a little uncomfortable, and it may take risking a little of what the world tells us to hold on to.  But He is good, and what He has for us is worth far more than all the world has to offer.  Are you willing to step out boldly and follow Him wherever He may lead?"

We hope that God will use these blankets to bring hope to orphans and to stir the hearts of His children to care for them in a greater way.  And who knows, maybe our precious Meilí will be the recipient of one of these blankets!  This journey has already been so much more than we had imagined, but I truly believe God is saying, "You ain't seen nothing yet!!"

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

ShowHope Grant!!

So excited!  Two months ago we applied for an adoption grant through an organization started by Steven Curtis Chapman called ShowHope.  They give out grants to families who are adopting to help cover some of the enormous costs of adoption.  Well, we received a letter yesterday from ShowHope letting us know that WE GOT A GRANT FOR $3500!!!  We are so very excited.  We estimate that our adoption is going to end up costing between $25,000-$30,000.  Whew, that number is even hard to type, but God is so faithful, and the money has been there so far!  We are just trusting (and saving like crazy) that He who began this great work will see it through to completion!  Praise His Name and thank you, ShowHope!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Where to begin??

When thinking back over the last 9.5 months, (well, eleven years, I guess), it is hard to know how to begin telling our story.  God has done so many amazing things to bring us to this point in our adoption journey.  It all really began in the summer of 2000 with a little girl named Anne.  I met Anne in an orphanage on the outskirts of Beijing, China.  She was this beautiful little girl, maybe 10 or 11 years old.   I immediately fell in love with her, and it was at that moment God put adoption in my heart.  I remember thinking, "Why is she here?  Why is she on orphan? Why hasn't someone adopted her?".

Fast forward ten years.  Here we were ten years later, with four beautiful boys, going crazy taking care of them, trying to run a food business, and doing life in general.  I had been wrestling with the thoughts about adoption at that time, wondering why we never felt God telling us to go.  I went through the whole gamut of laying everything down-"Okay, God, if You want us to adopt, it doesn't have to be China."  "Okay God, if You want us to adopt, it doesn't have to be a baby."  Okay God, if You want us to adopt, it doesn't even have to be a girl."  Finally, I laid it all down, coming to a place of complete peace that maybe I had misunderstood the call.  Maybe He didn't have another child for us to add to our family through adoption, and that was okay.  I was completely satisfied with my precious family.  Maybe that was what He was waiting for.  Maybe He was just waiting for me to lay it all down, I don't know, but that is when we finally got the call.  We were at Steven Curtis Chapman concert on Friday, November 12, 2010, when He finally spoke to our hearts that He did indeed have a child for us.  Talk about the tears flowing.  So two days later, unbeknownst to anyone but the Lord, we began the paperwork for adoption, still not sure exactly where He was calling us to adopt.  Two weeks later, as I sat praying for God to give us clear direction on the child He wanted us to pursue, He used my sweet Gabriel to make it clear.  Although we had talked about adopting so many times over the years, it had been a while since we had brought it up, but that day, at the moment I was desperate for direction, Gabriel asked, "Mommy, when are we going to get our baby sister from China?"  God couldn't have made it any clearer.  So it was on that day, Wednesday, November 24, 2010, (which happened to be the day before Thanksgiving) that we knew God did indeed have a baby girl from China for us.  On August 26th, 2011, 9.5 months after God conceive her in our hearts, we finally delivered our dossier (adoption paperwork) to the FedEx mail box.  They don't call it a paper pregnancy for nothin'!  Now we wait for that magic Log-In-Date, which is the date that China receives our dossier.  Once we get that date, we are officially in the program and on our way to being matched with our daughter!