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 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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Loving the Least in China

"And the King will answer them,
 ‘Truly, I say to you, 
as you did it to one of the least of these 
my brothers, you did it to me.’"
Matthew 25:40

Tomorrow we go.  After months and months of planning, preparing, praying, we are finally going to China.  It hardly seems possible.  We will finally see these little face that we have prayed for.  We will finally hold and love and pray over these little ones who are the least of the least.  The ones that the world has forgotten, but that the Lord calls "hidden treasures."

We go with humble hearts, hoping to make a difference, but knowing that it will be us most changed.  

And that is our prayer.

"Lord, break our hearts.  May we never be the same.  May we experience You in such a way that we long for You more and more.  May we come back and be a voice for those who have no voice.  May we be willing to give up our comforts to provide for the least."

We are so very grateful for this high and holy privilege of loving the least, of being His hands and feet, of ministering to Jesus Himself in caring for these hidden treasures.

Please pray for our team.  The enemy is fighting so hard against us and our families, but he will not defeat us.  We go in the name of Jesus, who already has the victory!  

Here are some specific things you can pray for:
*Traveling mercies
*Safe arrival of our luggage!
*Good health
*Our husbands/family back home
*Team unity
*Servant's hearts
*Opportunities to share Christ
*Strength physically. spiritually, emotionally
*Christ's love to radiate from us
*Lasting heart changes for our team
*Many children to be cared for and adopted because of this trip!

You can follow our team blog for this trip here: 

I also hope to update this personal blog as well during the trip!

It truly has taken a multitude of people to get us to China, and we are so very grateful to each one of you who has given, prayed and supported us.  May the Lord return the blessing to you a hundred fold!

Trip Details

Dates:  Oct 16-26
Team in Beijing until the 19th
Team in host city from the 19th-25th
Team returns to Beijing on 25th
Team flies home on the 26th

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Entering In

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; 
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. 
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; 
the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43:2 

We have made it one year post-placement in our adoption. (AKA we have had our babies home one year.)

I am still breathing.

My children are still alive.

This is success.

We were not naive going in to this, knowing a family with six children would be impossibly hard.  (At least, I thought we weren't!)  But knowing it and living it are two completely different things, and "impossibly hard" doesn't seem to be an adequate description of life on this side of the journey.  

For the last year, my house has not been clean, the clothes (if they got washed) were always piled on the couches, dinner consisted of something out of a box, little fingernails were always too long and had dirt under them, my standard of personal hygiene went down considerably, and I almost forgot the wonderful man I am married to.  

And that was the good part.

Trials have also come from the outside as well.  Sickness (months and months of pukes, dukes, and the absolutely horrible flu), a broken bone, broken relationships, stress infinitum, and even the loss of animals to wild dogs (seriously).  

We have been hard pressed on every side.  We have walked through deep waters and through fire.  

But, God...

Don't you love that.  It is always, "But, God..." He is our Rescuer.  He is our Sustainer.  He is our Provider.  

It is by His mercy that we are not crushed, and by His grace we are not destroyed.

He has allowed us to be brought low, to walk through fire, to be broken.  HE HAS ALLOWED IT in His great wisdom and mercy, so that we can be refined and made into an acceptable vessel that He can use. 

But refining is such. a. messy. process.  

All kinds of gunk comes to the surface.  Selfishness, impatience, lack of thankfulness, pity-parties, negative attitudes, etc., etc. -- it has all come to light.  Pure Yuck.  

But when God allows us to see our sin the way He sees it, pride goes out the window.  Humbleness is left in its place.

And I am thankful.

I am thankful because God tells us that He gives grace to the humble, that He considers the lowly and gives ear to their cry.  Psalms 25:9 says, "He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way."

So, do I regret it?  Do I regret entering in to the pain of another?  

No, it is just the opposite.  It is my greatest joy because it has been my rescuing.  He is rescuing me from my sin and my self.  

And isn't that what He did for us on the cross?  He entered in to our world, our lives, our mess, to rescue us from an eternity without Him.  He was broken and brought low on our behalf.  He suffered and died so that we might live.

So we must enter in.  If we are truly following Him, we must.

There is an orphan crisis.  147 million around the world, waiting for someone to enter in their world.  

But there are also neighbors, friends, family right beside us, who are in hard places.  Who need us to enter in.  

Even if it's messy. Even if it uncomfortable.  Even if it costs us dearly.

Jesus says to love Him with all of our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves.  He tells the story of the Good Samaritan and asks at the end, 

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” 

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

God doesn't call us to a life of comfort.  He calls us to enter in to the lives of others, to be His hands and feet, to be the salt and light of the world.

It's messy business.  It's hard and causes great discomfort sometimes.  It forces us to be vulnerable and makes our lives feel out of control.  It might mean our house is a disaster and our clothes aren't as clean as we would like.

But, in the end, we get Him.



Enter in.

Friday, January 17, 2014

He Redeems Our Losses

"I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy;  what god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known Your strength among the peoples."
Ps. 77:12-14

It was one year ago today, January 17, 2013, that the Lord revealed His breathtakingly beautiful plan for us.  A plan of redemption that He had been working for so long.  A plan that began with mourning and ashes.

It all began in February 2004, when we were 7 weeks into our second pregnancy.  I had had some spotting and went in for check up.  Our fears were confirmed.  Our doctor could find no heartbeat.  We had lost our baby.  So, on Friday, Feb. 13, we went to the hospital to have a procedure to remove our baby.  We were heartbroken.

It was a day of ashes.

But God's grace is sufficient, and six months later, we were expecting our third baby.  God has healed our hearts, and we were so excited about this precious one growing inside.  So much so, that, when the due date for our second baby rolled around, I didn't even realize it.  It never crossed our minds.  But God knew because He doesn't forget our tears.  And He wanted me to know that.  So, on that day, He set the most beautiful rainbow you can imagine, right over our house.  Literally.  It was so amazing in fact, that I went out and took pictures, still not realizing the significance of THIS rainbow on THIS day.

It was not until a year later, when the picture of this rainbow popped up on our screen saver, with the date it was taken on the bottom of the screen, did I get it.  In that moment, God opened my eyes, and I saw.  I saw this amazing God.  On the day that my second baby should have arrived, God put His sign in the sky to remind me that He had not forgotten.

Fast-forward 5 years.  God had given us Gabriel, Carter and Cason, and now Hudson was on his way.  My due date was mid-February, and all I could pray was, "Lord, don't let him come on the 13th.  Don't let him come on the 13th."  I did not want his birth to come on the anniversary of the day that had been filled with such sorrow.  So when my doctor planned an induction on Thursday, February 12th, I was greatly relieved.  I still didn't see what God was doing.

It didn't hit me until the next day as I sat waiting for the nurse to release us to go home, holding Hudson in my arms.  In that moment, God again opened my heart to see His hand.  Five years before, on Friday, February 13th, I left the hospital without my baby.  But on this day, this Friday, February 13th, I would indeed leave with my beautiful baby boy in my arms.  He had redeemed our loss.  He had given beauty for ashes.

And as beautiful as this was, it was not the end.   Because God always does more that we can ask or imagine.

In November of 2010, God open the doors for us to adopt, and we began paperwork immediately with an local adoption agency.

Four months later, our adoption took a u-turn.  God was leading us to another adoption agency.  Because of a much shorter waiting time and policies that would not restrict us from a second adoption in the future, we felt this was where we needed to be.  And, although it was a very very hard decision to walk away from all the time and money we had spent, on April 15, 2011, we submitted our China Special Needs application to America World Adoption Agency.

For the next 5 months, we completed paperwork for our homestudy and dossier.  We sent off documents to be verified, stamped and approved. Finally, our paperwork was complete, and we dropped our dossier off to be sent to China via our adoption agency.  They reviewed and approved everything, and our dossier was finally on its way to China.  As God would have it, China verified that they had received it...on September 13th, 2011 -- seven years to the day that our second baby was supposed to be born.  Seven years to the day that God set His beautiful rainbow over our house to demonstrate His great love and compassion for us.  He was continuing to work His plan.

A few days later, we began our Hope Blanket fundraiser.  Many, many people from all over the country sponsored, loved on and prayed over these Hope Blankets and for the babies that would receive them.  We then gathered them back together and got them ready to send to China via our adoption agency.  On Friday, November 4, on my way home from dropping the blankets off at Fed Ex, God did it again.  He put an incredible rainbow in the sky, right over our house.  He was continuing to work His plan.

The blankets headed off to China two months later with another adoptive family who had agreed to deliver them for us.  About that same time, on January 20, 2012,  we received an e-mail from our family adoption coordinator about a new adoption program in China that allowed families to adopt two babies at one time.  God grabbed our hearts with such a desperate desire to do this, even though we could not imagine how in the world it could happen.  There were a million obstacles and reasons why we should not pursue two babies at once, and we knew that God would have to do a million miracles, but after weeks of prayer, we began taking small steps of obedience.  And God kept opening the doors.  Our prayer the whole time was, "Lord, just make it clear.  Make Your path clear."

5 months later, on May 9th, we received a wonderful surprise e-mail from our adoption agency.  One of the three orphanages that received Hope Blankets had taken pictures of some of the babies with the blankets!  Oh what a treasure!  We received 9 pictures and six of them had the same adorable smiling baby that we affectionately began calling the "Hope Blanket Baby."  We were able to share these pictures with our church family the next Sunday, May 13, which happened to be Mother's Day.  God was continue to work His plan and answer our prayers.

We continued to wait and pray, some days thinking "the call" from our agency would never come.  But on Decemeber 17, 2012, it came.  They had found our baby girl.  She was the most beautiful, teensy-tiny little precious baby girl I could have imagined.  9 days later, we submitted our Letter of Acceptance to adopt her as our own.

Now we only had a 3-week window to be matched with baby #2.  I began frantically searching, begging God and begging others to pray.  1 week passed.  Nothing.  Two weeks passed.  Nothing.  Two weeks and five days passed.  Still no word.  On Wednesday, January 16th, I had all but given up hope for a second baby in this adoption.  I spent the day fasting and praying, asking God for a miracle.  A miracle that I didn't think was going to happen.  Not until He spoke to me through His word that night.

He took me to Psalms 12:5-
"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.'"

I begged Him to do this.  Then He spoke again through His word.

"O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear
To vindicate the orphan and the oppressed,
So that man who is of earth will no longer cause terror." Ps 10:17-18

I believed with all of my heart that He had heard our cry and that He would indeed answer.

And He did.  The very next day.  Two weeks and six days into our 3-week window of opportunity.

I woke up on Thursday, January 17, 2013, with the face of a darling baby boy on my heart and mind.  I had seen his picture on our agency website  a week or so before but was not familiar with his special need, so had not requested to look at his file.  But after talking with my husband Tollie, I called our agency to request his file.

5 hours later, I received it via e-mail and began looking over the medical information.  But then, I started opening the attached pictures.  There really are not words to describe what happened to me when I opened picture number five.  

Maybe my heart stopped.  I definitely stopped breathing.  

Because the little face smiling out at me was one I recognized.  There, right before my eyes, was our Hope Blanket baby.  HE WAS THE HOPE BLANKET BABY.  The baby that I had already posted pictures of in our Hope Blanket blog, eight months before.  It was the same baby.

Picture from Aaron Li's Medical File
Hope Blanket Picture

The next eight hours went by in a blur.  God lined up the exact doctors we needed (love you, Jenny LaBahn) that were willing to look at his file that very night, and by 1AM, we knew he was ours.  God has answered our prayer to make His will clear.  He wrapped our baby in a Hope Blanket.

And as we read his file, we began to connect the dots of what God had been doing when He led us to a different adoption agency.  Aaron Li's file was agency specific, meaning he could only be adopted by a family working with America World, the agency we were now with.  We also realized how perfect God's timing was. The day Aaron Li became an orphan in China, April 15, 2011, was the VERY day we submitted our application to America World.  So technically, our baby boy has never been an orphan, because God put us in the place to adopt him the very moment he needed us.

But even more than that, He showed us that this baby boy was part of the redemption story He continued to write.  This baby boy, our Aaron Li, was also born on February 12.  Our Hudson was born on February 12, 2009, and he was born on February 12, 2010.  And God wanted to be sure we saw His hand in this as well.  In China, when abandoned babies are found, rarely is there ever any kind of note or identifying information.  But there was a note pinned to Aaron Li's clothes.  Guess what it said..."He was born on February 12, 2010."  God had not redeemed our loss with one baby, but two.

That is the beauty of our Lord.  He is the Redeemer.  God used adoption to redeem a family who had lost a baby and a baby who had lost a family.  

That's what He does.

"He gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear,
gladness for morning, peace for despair."

He redeems our losses in ways that we could never ask or imagine.  He never promised that storms wouldn't come, but He did say that He will never leave us. He promised that He plans for us are not to harm us but to give us a hope and future.  He promised that He will work all things out for our good. 

And He keeps His promises every time.

So on the one year anniversary of this glorious revealing, I continue to be humbled and amazed by this great God who lavishes His love on us.  Who redeems us and allows us to be part of His redemption story.  He is more precious to me now than ever before. Praise His wonderful name.

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted 
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, 
but the Lord delivers him out of them all."
Ps. 34:18-19