Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Lifters and the Lifted

Life has been so crazy as we prepare to move. We sit in the car in-between errands and wonder out loud where the balance is to be found.

We had no room for it apparently, so it fled from us in neglected disdain.

We spent a month traveling, searching for a new home, crossing the ocean and adopting (WOO HOO!) our youngest daughter (still not home yet..) and coming back here to prepare to do it all over again.

I've been a bit flustered with God asking Him why things have been so hard. For so long.  As in I am really exhausted and worn out this time, Lord.  Please God, aren't you done wringing me out because there is just nothing left but a growing bad attitude and bags under my eyes...

Recently we learned that our biological daughter has a condition concurring with Down Syndrome that can cause stunted brain growth and reduced life span. In the middle of a move and an international adoption? What the What??  
Someone challenged me that I shouldn't waste time crying about it since nothing could be done.
Seriously?  
Yes, that's exactly what I plan to do, so please pass the pity because I think I need to just lay here and finish bleeding for a few more minutes before I suit up and charge forward.

Then a dear friend told me that I was being held so closely in the hands of God and reminded me of what I had forgotten.
But she didn't stop there. She said, " Don't use your difficult circumstances as a measure of God's presence."
So I started to think a lot about belief.  And Encouragers. The "Lifters and the Lifted", if you will.
My friend was a Lifter, lifting my weary head back up to see more clearly the compassion of God.

Another Lifter came along and sent me scripture. Oh Man. I had forgotten what a balm God's word can be. Don't judge! Most days I barely get to use the bathroom by myself, let alone read my Bible for any length of time. In the midst of an adoption, the needs of your current family just don't automatically cease. (Mine just has indiscriminate timing.)

Yet another Lifter reminds me that God is using all of this for a greater purpose down the road but it might still be years before I can see that.

But the reminder is enough for me now.

He IS there when things just consistently seem bad/difficult/painful/wrong. He DOES have a purpose and a plan. He KNOWS what all this is for even if we don't. If you've been a Christian for any length of time, you can know these things. But we can forget to believe.


A wonderful friend gave this to me. Total Lifter.


I am the Lifted.

I have not lost my faith. It's just been a rough ride for quite awhile now.  I see spiritual women around me having loads of devotional time or exercising awesome spiritual gifts like hospitality and ministry.

I'm afraid the most you will witness in me right now is my death grip on God's ankles defiantly declaring, " I WILL NOT LET GO!!" as my life is tossed around in circles.

Some times you are in the trenches too long and there just aren't that many Lifters around. I've realized that it doesn't have to be this permanent line in the sand between the Lifters and the (need to be) Lifted. Nor should it be. Some times we need to be Lifted and the only way to do that is to temporarily become a Lifter to someone else. Maybe scrape up enough energy to just have coffee with a friend and simply listen to her. Listen to HER problems and the break from your own issues is startlingly refreshing.  You might end up realizing that she is going through a storm that you have already passed through and you see that you are not so very alone after all. Better still, God tells you on the way home that this is one of the reasons WHY you are going through so many storms...

All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us.   He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.    
2 Corinthians 1:3-4


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Minus One Plus Two and The So Not Okay

Once upon a time I fancied myself a hobbyist writer until the days started slamming into one another and the words got all choked up, entangled with too much grief and they stuck there.

Refusing to budge.

It became a heaviness I carried with me and was unable to escape like the walking pneumonia I came home with.
My lullaby to (Lark) was the only thing I could offer. The fragmented pieces of having to hurriedly say goodbye mixed in with memories of that night, tainted with memories from the past.

What really happened that day was that we had her in our arms while running errands with the facilitator and caregiver. Her suitcase of clothes I brought was back at our room waiting. A few days earlier, I brought in a few items for her to try on and she immediately turned around and excitedly hugged me.  We were planning her exodus from the orphanage, the dreaded court session was now over with and all we needed was the final decree. We made circles in the stroller with her around the outdoor picnic tables while waiting for the call from our lawyer.  The call came and the facilitator's face fell.  The adoption was granted, but there would be no urgent execution for us to bring her home that trip as was afforded to all the other adoptive families before us.

We had been warned that this judge was cold and arrogant. Heartless and unyielding.  He couldn't understand why we had come all this way for a child with Down Syndrome.  He left her to sit there for another month.

Just because he could.  

I turned my face away from the group and held her in my arms fighting the tears. She reached up her little chubby hands and put them on my face to wipe them away.

Like some reoccurring nightmare,  here I was holding another little girl I had grown to love and was now being forced to leave. The last time I did that my heart was torn from my chest and trampled in the streets of Moscow. 

We hurriedly brought her back to the orphanage and were driven back to our room to pack and change our return flights. We would not be staying the next week as planned and traveling home with our little girl. Every moment there after that would be wasted money and leave days since we would now have to make an expensive, unexpected return trip.

After speed cry-packing, we were taken back to the orphanage that evening for a quick goodbye. All week long I had been singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to her and she recognized the tune. I had one more chance before our time together was taken from us.  I dressed her in the orphanage pajamas that were 8 sizes too small with holes in the crotch and holes in the shoulder and laid her in her cramped crib.

If this is my daughter, then why I am returning her to this miserable life? It was all I could think about as I kissed her forehead and told her we would return. We held hands and I bent down to say some prayers with her.  I knew she expected us to show up the next morning like we had done all week and my heart sunk to my feet.

The judge said he didn't see any reason why the decree needed to be enforced now.

He didn't see what we saw. 

The overworked and understaffed caregivers giving their everything for 12 hour shifts amidst the chaos and noise. Nor did he hear the screams of six newborns in their cribs with no one to comfort them.  The banging, banging, banging of a child's head against the floor that reverberated down the hall.  The smell, the weariness, the pleading stares of little children hoping that you are there for them.   The boring monotony of life inside those four walls day after day after day after day.

Before our court date we were just grieved and overwhelmed with the despair of the situation and we tried to console ourselves with the thought that at least we were removing ONE child from the equation. It still wouldn't be enough to help out these sweet ladies who were doing everything they could to meet the basic needs of 16-18 kids on this particular floor. But at least maybe it would be some small comfort to them.

Until.  

Until the day they brought TWO more children in.  Little brothers removed from an alcoholic home. Adoption won't be an option for them at least anytime soon. This will be their new reality.

Minus one plus two.  Like a bad math equation that resembles infinity destined to repeat itself.

I know everyone likes a happy adoption story and Lord willing,  I will write one.

 But right now I have seen what he refuses to see and to me,

it's just not okay. 






Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lullaby

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
The tune is the same wherever you are

Up Above the world so high
God is watching you tonight

Twinkle, Twinkle My Little Star
I will come back, I am not far

Soon your life will grow and bloom
For you my heart has plenty of room

I tucked you in and said Goodnight
I prayed for God to hold you tight

Sleep now, my little Twinkle Star
I will come back, you are not far

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In the thick of it

We're still here!
I know it's been inexcusably and shamefully too long since my last post.

We've traveled across the sea and time zones (I'm still missing that entire night's worth of sleep we lost..) We've met two of the craziest and most dedicated facilitators working with our agency here. There's never been a dull moment to spare. We've had a very tight and busy schedule every day which has left little time for rest or for blogging.  We've been to the orphanage and have seen the hard and  the harder still. We've struggled with the circumstances of what we've seen and have been tempted to look away.

We met our little sweetie girl and are working on getting to know each other.  We worked harder still to process exactly what her biological parents did to her as the missing pieces of the puzzle were loudly snapped into place.

We've had our moments of fatigue and frustration and our hour of just wanting to give up and go home. I'm so thankful to my friends who traveled this road before me and at the right time have said the right things to give us the strength to go on. The minute we were struggling with a specific issue they were there to say, "Oh yeah, we felt like that too. Oh yes, we went through the same thing."

We've seen God's mercies become new every morning. We've seen a little girl LIGHT UP when we put new (and better fitting) shoes on her feet and instantly her awkward gait was improved.

We have learned so much "behind the scenes this is how it really was" history and have seen some amazing sites.

We've eaten pink soup (try it try it, you will see! )

We've learned that alkaline batteries just.don't.cut.it in the supposedly new/display/discontinued/discounted camera I bought before this trip.  @$!?#

We have better understood God's call to help orphans as each day we come face to face with the pleading lonely ones we are not taking home.

We've witnessed an AMAZING prayer support group from all over the country and have marveled at how we were allowed to experience so much grace. THANK YOU AWESOME PRAYER WARRIORS!

Our court session was today and as Satan would love to have it, I woke up with a sore throat, headache, and the beginnings of a virus coming on.  I was to take the speaking lead for our interview with the judge. The court wasn't until the afternoon so I was trying to just power  through the busy morning schedule leading up to the hearing. I said what I needed to say, but it was Mike who came in at the end and delivered a powerful punch.

We are expecting the decree by tomorrow (!!!!!!) but we are still unsure yet as to whether or not he will grant the fast enforcement. Please don't stop praying! We have miles to go yet and I'd like to do it in better health.

Since my blogger is in a different language, I'm going to hope I find the right link to publish!

More to follow .....



Saturday, March 29, 2014

Think About It

You all know I TRY not to get too preachy on this blog (quit snorting!) but there is something that God shook me up with recently.

Since I think sometimes I talk too much, I wanted to share something my dear friend Megan wrote in an email to me. She has a way of saying it better than I ever could.  She recently moved far away, and as military life would have it, her family ended up living 4-5 months without a home.
Here's what she wrote:

"..one thing stood out to me in the midst of my impatient waiting. God pointed it out clearly for me. It struck me when He drew my attention to it.  I was unsettled and unsettled and not at home yet--and I was longing and longing for a home so we could finally feel at home and get unpacked. I had the sense of not being fully at peace because I wasn't at home yet.  Every place was just not home---God pointed out that my longing for a home and peace that my heart desired was just on a small scale and a temporary thing when compared to the longing that those who are orphans have for a family and a place to call a forever home. wow. Punched me in the gut. Gave me a glimpse of what the longing that those children have for a family and a home must be like. I can not begin to fathom what that is like.  But, I sure got a taste of it on a very small scale.  I knew we'd have an end in sight eventually and we'd have a house. But those who wait for a family---how their hearts must ache with a longing that goes on and on and on. With no end in sight. I saw what it did to me on a tiny, tiny scale.  How unsettled my spirit was. How not at peace I was.  God made His point. "

PUNCHED ME IN THE GUT TOO!   It still does every time I read it.  Then one night as I was skimming through the waiting children on Reece's Rainbow it happened again. I want you to meet
Paige.
Oh my heart. I am undone.  I have a child with Down Syndrome that I love to the moon and back. I am fervently working to bring home another sweet girl with Down Syndrome.  Why was I looking at waiting children that night? Really no clue except that I love these kids. When I came to Paige's profile, she jumped off that page and into my heart.  God said to me, " You are not done."

I have been a prayer warrior for two different Reece's Rainbow children over the last several years. Both are home now (NEWS FLASH..GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS..!!! I know we all get so busy, we forget.)  I have been so busy working to bring Lark home I thought I would just take a little break, you know, focus on my own stuff for awhile.  Gulp.  God reminded me that night that we all have a part to play no matter how big or small or busy we think we are.  This little girl needs a home. I am her Prayer Warrior now. Please, is there a Mama out there for her??   I know Down Syndrome facial expressions well enough by now and there is something there in Paige that is bringing me to my knees. She is lost and lonely and confused. Click on the link above to read her profile. 

Not everyone will adopt and that's ok. Not everyone has a lot to give. That's ok too, but don't let it stop you from doing something. Read My Love In Action post to find out just what "a lot of little" can do!"  A few weeks ago, that youth group from our church presented us with a check to Reece's Rainbow that blew us away. We had no idea there was such a mighty force working behind those kids willing to sell cupcakes, collect coins and wipe tables at Dairy Queen!  You know what else is a mighty force not to be reckoned with? 

A follower of God on his or her knees crying out to Him for one of these kids to find a home.  

It really is that simple.  Click this link to read more about it. It costs nothing but your time, but it means everything to a child longing for a family.  http://reecesrainbow.org/sponsorship/prayerwarriors

You will be matched with one child as their official Prayer Warrior as you commit to pray for them every day until they are home.  You (or your children!) can also request a specific child to be matched with if they don't already have a Prayer Warrior.

I'm issuing this challenge to my readers to do something.    I want to hear back from those who have signed up in the comments section!  

 Think About It.






Monday, March 3, 2014

Love in Action

Several months ago I went out to lunch with my daughter's Life Group teacher from church.  Michele listened to me detail my rowdy life juggling military moves, homeschooling four kids, and special needs blessings.  I told her about our wild- ride- God- calling-international-adoption.

Pretty certain she called me CRAZY.     Yep, she did. I remember. 

I was also pretty certain that I had just lost a friend before I had even made one. 

Instead, SHE got CRAZY.

Crazy on fire for God to help in any way she could.  Then she lit that fire under a bunch of teenagers at church and oh, my, look what they have been doing.

Making posters and having bakes sales every week to raise money to bring Lark home!


 
 
These 11th grade girls have baked DOZENS of cupcakes and treats every week. 
Don't you love how the poster behind them JUST HAPPENS to say 'God is Love?' He has poured out his love for us and for an orphan girl through the hands and feet of a God-loving, other's serving youth group. 
Not to be outdone, the youth boys have been showing tremendous support in purchasing and eating all those delicious goodies!! (Thank you, Mr. Loftin!)
 
Then Jackye and her 12th grade girls caught the fire of serving others and oh, did they serve! They worked several hours at a local DQ and donated a percentage of their earnings to our Reece's Rainbow fund.
 
The next thing we knew, the Youth Pastor and staff were on board.
 They chose Lark to be one of their Christmas -giving ministry focuses and circulated flyers to all the leaders. Tireless Michele went into action again and mobilized her teenage troops to make hundreds of cups to send home to everyone for donation collections. Except they didn't stop after Christmas. They kept going. 
 

Their love and service and action have been more than we could've ever imagined happening in this adoption.  (Let's just say that if you've been following this blog for awhile, you know we've had cause for adoption related cynicism to creep in!) But this... No Way.  God told me He was "going to do something new" last summer right before we lost Cupcake in Russia.   I didn't realize how far He would go to prove to us that He cares. He cares about our broken hearts. He cares about each little orphan longing for a family. He cares about young people and His church being His Love in Action.

For all who have given of their time, their money, their prayers, their heart to this calling to bring little Lark home, we simply cannot thank you enough. Words will not suffice, but I know your crowns in heaven will sparkle. Just like all of you do because of God's love. 

Thank you FBCO family.
 
 
 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Catching Up

I know many of you have been asking about how we are doing and where our adoption process is, so I wanted to give a little update.

We began our adoption process of sweet little Lark in September shortly after we received the news that our beloved Cupcake in Russia had been placed into a foster home. In a whirlwind 2 short months we were able to get a complete homestudy update done (which can be tedious in the state we live in), our USCIS application sent in, and our dossier completed and sent to Lark's country.

However, we were held up for EIGHT LONG WEEKS  (that's 2 months of being stuck with no progress) waiting for that one document from USCIS.  The day we received that approval we got up the next morning and drove two hours to the state capitol to have it apostilled. We stopped at Fed Ex on the way home and sent it off to our agency. After the agonizing 8 weeks of having everything held up for this one piece of paper, I wasn't wasting anymore time. 

The Central Authority in her country would not accept our dossier (which had been sitting over there since Thanksgiving) without that USCIS approval.  It was all submitted to them the end of last month. We were told that we would need to wait two weeks for them to approve us and officially match us with her but legally they had 30 days to do it.

WE WERE BLOWN AWAY WHEN WE RECEIVED THE EMAIL THAT WE HAD BEEN APPROVED AND MATCHED IN JUST 24 HOURS !!

The next step is for our in country coordinator to get her 'permission slip' to go to the orphanage and visit with Lark. We were all hopeful that it would happen this week since this means we would be receiving new pictures and a lot more information about her. Honestly, I have been so excited thinking that I would get the report today for Valentine's Day. I can't think of a better gift :) but it looks like we won't be getting that news until next week.  The last we'd heard,  our facilitator hasn't received her permission slip;

The potential problem with this is that there is another family who is getting ready to board a plane and go to that orphanage and meet their child. The facilitator will be extremely busy with their process (rightfully so.) Our agency and the facilitator are all hoping that she can get in and do her report on Lark before this family gets there so that she doesn't have to juggle both tasks during the same time. I'm going to admit to some immaturity here and say that I have been struggling so hard the last 48 hours with this disappointment. I am so tired of waiting. It seems like it's all I've been doing for the last 2 years. I know this is a minor little thing in the grand plan and I've been praying so hard to get that report, so I'm struggling with the WHY of it being held up. Totally impatient and ridiculous of me, I know. ( End whine.)

All that's left after we get the report is for our coordinators to file a few immigration documents and work on some documentation to bring to court. At that point, we should be assigned a judge and a court date (which means TRAVEL !!) Miracles could happen and it could be March or April but it could also be delayed to May. I know this part all too well unfortunately. :)  If God brings us to mind and puts us on your hearts to pray, this is the process you can pray for. 

For us it has been a busy winter season. I'm not going to talk about all the snow cold freezing rain snow sub zero temps snow ice freezing we are so freaking cooped up when is winter going to end issues that we've been dealing with.  I've been trying to keep my head down and get as much done around here that I can.  If you've read my earlier posts, you know that we have to move in about six months. We tried everything we could to possibly stay here and maybe retire from the military.  Upon further digging, we discovered that we have a few extra years of a military obligation that we incurred unknowingly awhile back. That's all I will say, but for some reason, God isn't finished with us in the military just yet. It's really ok because we didn't need any additional stress going on in our lives right now.

However, I am really shaking my head wondering how on earth we are going to get little Lark home and be ready to move when that time comes. The process to move starts WAY before the packers show up at the door.
We have a daughter graduating in May and working towards a driver's license. Our oldest turned 20yrs old last month! I'm trying to help my son prepare for that difficult transition that is ahead between 3rd and 4th grades. The homeschooling laws in our new state are HORRENDOUS. I am really dreading it. I have to have a lot of documentation ready to submit before we even get there.

I suspect this will be our most emotionally difficult move yet since we have put down a few roots during our 3 years here. We have an awesome church and have made some really good friends. Right now the thought of uprooting it all puts knots in my stomach.  My mother used to always quote that famous line from Gone With the Wind when things seemed overwhelming.  She would say, " Scarlet will deal with that tomorrow! ..." That's what I have to do, try to take one thing at a time.

I'm practicing the habit of getting on my knees before God every morning and night and just really trying to seek Him for direction. Some days I wake up and there are so many things that feel like urgent priority, that it's hard to prioritize and focus. I am totally soliciting anyone's prayers right now during this season!  Pray that He will nudge our adoption process along so that we can get Lark home and somewhat adjusted before we all have to uproot. Pray for God's grace and peace and wisdom for us as we trudge through some choppy waters. (I'm also praying that He will send us a bigger van ! )

God has been really good to us and we are clinging to that when things seem rough. We have to stop and remember that daily He loads us up with His blessings. We are getting so excited to bring that HUGE blessing home!  Thanks for following along!