Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It Is Finished!

Well, I never intended to leave that last post lingering out there so long. I haven't disappeared. I'm just spread a little thinner than usual these days, if that's possible. Before I get back to work, though, I wanted to share here what the Lord is doing at the amazing fellowship where our family worships with truly some of the most amazing people I've ever met, or not met, as is sometimes the case in a plus-size church. (I never liked the term "megachurch".)

It is my pleasure to tell you once again that we were once lost, sinners separated from our loving Creator, who out of love for us and desiring to demonstrate His own Glory sent His one perfect son to be an ultimate sacrifice to die in our place and pay the penalty we would never be able to pay fully, that we might be reconciled to Him. Believe it, and partake of the eternal banquet. The work is done; it is finished!

Watch this recap of what the Lord has done here in our city, as accompanied by the ridiculously talented Matt Papa, who leads worship for our newest worship venue. Love this video; it pumps me up. Oh, and I got to be a baptism counselor. I was so excited, I literally jumped and dropped the diaper bag when I was asked. I managed to not cry all over the darling girl who was professing to me her love and devotion to Jesus. Precious!

Summit Church Easter Experience from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Today, I'm Thankful

baby feet Pictures, Images and Photos

A year ago today, I was pregnant. And then, a year ago today, I wasn't. A year ago, my nightmare became my reality. My child was with me one moment, and then irretrievably and painfully just gone. And there was nothing I could do to stop it. The thing I had many times imagined, to prepare my heart just in case, had come to pass. And now I'm changed.

I think back over the last year, over the changes that have come to me and my family. And I can now say, with confidence and not the way I did at first as though I was trying to convince myself of its truth, that I am thankful. I am thankful for so very many things. I am thankful for the blessing of the child we conceived and lost a year ago. I am thankful for the trials and building year for our marriage. I am thankful for the second child we conceived last year, and all too soon lost. I am thankful for the burden the Lord has placed on Curt's and my heart for adoption and the children we are chasing down even now. I'm grateful for the balm that adoption has been to us. I'm thankful for the hope of holding my children who were here for just a short time in eternity. I'm grateful for being broken and for the healing that only Christ can offer. I cannot imagine suffering the loss of our tiniest little blessings without the secure hope of an eternity where our family is gathered together in worship of our King.

I'm just a little too empty today to come up with a compelling explanation for the last year. The year was big, painful, amazing, blessed, blessing, long, and slow. And there's so much wrapped up in all that has happened, I hardly know where to start. So here are some words I shared with a friend who recently lost her tiniest one. I hope she won't mind me sharing them with you as well.

The pain from the loss of a tiniest little one is indescribable. I wish I had been better prepared for it. But no one told me. I never imagined. There's no funeral for loved ones to mourn with you. There's no celebration of life, there's no official acknowledgement of the time we had with our tiny ones, and closure is hard to come by. There are so many questions and feelings and emotions and thoughts. It can be overwhelming.

Here are some ways that our precious Father comforted me. Curt and I rejoice that we will never agonize over our fourth and fifth children's salvation. They are already in the King's Court, and we know that better is one day there than a thousand elsewhere. Their lives are real, they lived here on earth, they are precious and wonderful gifts, and they live even now to praise and worship the same God who we praise and who gave them to us for eternity. They will always be ours, and we will for a short time be separated. I will see them; I will hold them; I will know them and call them by name. In my heart, they already have names. I imagine sometimes what our table will look like in Heaven with our whole family gathered.

There is a blanket of silence and solitude surrounding a mother who has lost her child as you have. Dear friends still just don't know what to say. And whether they do or not, it seems that they forget. Or they think the mother forgets. But there is not a day that I don't consider my precious lost ones. And there's not a day that I don't look forward with hope to the moment that I see my Savior and that He introduces me to the children I never held.

Even now, I am weeks away from the due date for our second child we lost in the last year. And I can tell you this: the Lord does give comfort; He is merciful. As Elisabeth Elliot said, "God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God's refusals are always merciful -- "severe mercies" at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better." We so love and desire to hold our babies, but what we receive in their place, we trust, is more precious. I am far closer to Curt and to my Jesus for having received and lost our children. By His Mercy, I know Him more.

I share this not so that you'll pity me or any mother who has lost. I share, so that you can know that the reality of that loss is probably so much worse thank you think, if you haven't experienced it. I want to encourage mothers who have lost their babies that there is healing, comfort and hope. I want to encourage their friends to remember and comfort the ones who have lost. And I want to remember my own lost children, children I count as my own, even though they're not with me right now.

So that's it. It's been a year. A hard, good year. I'm so grateful for the lessons I've learned about where our hope truly is. Our hope is in a Savior from our sins, sins which separated us from our Creator, a Creator who loves and values us so highly that He gave His only son to die for us and reconcile us to Him. And I'm so thankful.

Thanks for visiting.


Friday, March 18, 2011

International Adoption Is Not A Roller Coaster

When we started down the road toward our Ethiopian adoption, we read that it's like a roller coaster. I've probably even called it that myself, but now I beg to differ. Roller coasters are exciting, fun, thrilling, short, and sometimes scary, but only in a you-know-everything-is-OK kind of way. Not international adoption. At least not ours. I have found the process so far to be frustrating, exhausting, challenging, costly, disappointing, daunting, surprising, eye-opening, mind-blowing, confusing, encouraging and heartbreaking. There is no map to preview, no firm script for how it will go, no promise of the timing down to the minute. There is a lot of waiting though, so if you've ever been to Carowinds in July, that might be one similarity. While this process has been punctuated by the occasional thrill, I still find the roller coaster analogy unwarranted.

So much has happened with our own adoption process and with international adoptions (IA) in Ethiopia over the last two weeks, I hardly know where to start. We knew a month ago that we were a long way out from getting a referral (which means being matched with a child or children who need a family). But we did not expect a maelstrom of blockades to the process which frankly threatened our future, at least in the short-term, of continuing with our Ethiopian adoption.

On the very day that we received in the mail the last document I was waiting for before we write that BIG check and send in lots of paperwork, we learned of significant changes announced by the Ethiopian government agency responsible for Ethiopian international adoptions. The announcement appeared to mean that IF we could continue with our adoption process, it could be several years before we could bring home our child or children. The particular government agency involved is one with a very small staff that bears the weighty task of processing, investigating and approving thousands of international adoptions per year. Given the number of pending adoptions (small compared to the number of orphans waiting) relative to the tiny staff (even smaller still), something had to give. So a bit of shifting around has occurred at the agency, and what that means in the short term for adopting families and waiting children at any point of the process is the matter of a great deal of speculation, discussion and angst among international adoption circles.

Since I cannot begin to piece together and articulate the political, historical, cultural, ethical, financial, and myriad other forces involved in this turn of events, suffice it to say that it is complex.

So, on the great adoption river, if I may apply a new analogy, we've been in a bit of an eddy for the past couple of weeks. This was not our first eddy, incidentally. In any case, we were swirling and not going anywhere, considering our best next move, and praying praying praying for the orphans who wait in the balance.

As we wait, we are not wringing our hands, but remembering that our God is bigger than any human institution, that He has gone before us and is laying out our path before us, that He has created in us a burden for not just orphans, but the orphans and people of Ethiopia, that He will hear and consider our prayers and petitions, and that His promises are unwavering and independent of human circumstances, hallelujah.

Curt and I have decided that we should continue on with our Ethiopian adoption, and we'll do so unless and until other roadblocks appear in the coming days or weeks and we must change course. Throughout this process, I'm grateful for a husband who has not been affected by the fluctuations in the international adoption climate as I have. I'm grateful for friends who have pointed me to Truth. I'm grateful for other families who are walking this road with courage. And I'm grateful for the amazing advocates who work with and for Ethiopian orphans in country and abroad.

We are asking for your prayers for Ethiopia, which is experiencing a substantial amount of tumult in the past weeks. We also would appreciate your prayers that our family would officially be approved by our adoption agency to move forward with our Ethiopian adoption. We ask you to pray for peace in Ethiopia, for Truth to be spread there in every last village, for children to be rescued from economic and spiritual poverty. Please pray for our family as we cling only to our Father's promises and what He has already done for us, since as it would happen, we have little else to hold.

And finally, for your viewing pleasure, a gotcha video reminding us that Our Father makes all things new:

Home At Last from dan owens on Vimeo.

Thanks for coming back, and thanks for praying for us!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Adopting With a Meek And Quiet Spirit

Though we are in the home stretch of the paper chase phase of our adoption process, I am recently encouraged by some unexpected progress.  This sort of progress does not involve checking off documents from our list or growing our Orphund, though we're still working on both.  What I've realized over the last couple of months is that as I look at my children, my view of them is changed, and the way I mother them has changed.  Now, I am not the patient, gentle and quiet mother I wish I were.  I confess that I struggle terribly with this, and the Lord is faithfully healing me of the spiritual flaws at my core, despite my weak flesh. And He is using the pain of losing and gaining children to do it.

As evidence, lately, particularly when my little ones are especially needy and just wanting me to sit and hum their favorite hymn, hold their hand, just be with them (which seems to be so much more lately, or maybe it's just that I'm more aware of it), I'm struck.  In those situations where only Momma will do, my mind goes to those little ones who wait.  To my little waiting ones who have no one, not one person, to block out the world and pour out her heart in patience and time and hugs and love.  They have no one whose heart's perpetual burden is their eternal salvation.  This is what separates the boys in my home from those who wait.  It's the unbreakable bond of a parent who joyfully bears the weight of loving so hard it hurts.

So in that moment when before I might have been frustrated that I have to sit still and just be there for my needy one for the umpteenth time today, I am reminded of the blessing it is to me to be with my children. Children the Lord has allowed me to keep on earth. Children who don't wait and hope for a mother. There is such a very fine line between my little ones and those who have no one.  And though I would like to think that orphans are just better at dealing with being alone, the truth is that in the very same way my little ones do, they too need a Momma to sit quietly and knowingly and reliably and patiently and prayerfully with them.

My boys lately have a habit of calling out to me:  
Boy:  "Momma?"
Me:  "Yes?"
Boy:  "Just making sure you're there."
Me:  "I'm here."

What a heartbreaking thought for me to imagine my little ones sitting without the comfort I know they need and that their Daddy and I are blessed to give.  So because I know they're waiting, and because I know there are so many who wait, I am more patient with the children I've already received, and more impatient to have the ones I can't yet hold.

My children are reaping the benefits of a more patient, quiet, gentle mother, because their siblings wait for theirs. The thought of my child waiting motherless physically hurts me.  Who but a sovereign, powerful, good God could work that kind of suffering out for good?  But we know that for those who love God, all things work together for their good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

This is the beauty of obedience to a patient, quiet, reliable, loving Heavenly Father.  Though He requires it, God does not need me to obey Him, and He does not need me to mother an orphan.  But I need to obey Him, for my own good and to His glory. He has transformed a mother with a mourning, bitter, hurt heart, into a mother who grows daily in patience and joy, because of my loss and because of my future children's loss, and because of His trustworthy promises.

This isn't the only change that has come to our family since we decided to adopt, but it's a precious consequence of God's faithfulness in keeping this promise. If you're a mom struggling with anger and bitterness, and I know it's a dirty little secret for so many Christian moms, then please let me recommend this post by one of my favorite mom bloggers, over at Raising Arrows.

Thanks for coming back!


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Just Love Coffee

Some people just love coffee.  And some coffee just loves people.  Just Love Coffee is a benevolent organization that helps families raise money for an adoption.  It's one of the very few organizations assisting families raising money before they reach the home study stage as well as throughout the adoption process.  This can be a blessing to so many families.

Here's how it works.  Coffee lovers and lovers of coffee lovers follow a family's Just Love Coffee link and purchase coffee.  Just Love Coffee quickly ships out your fresh, fair trade, and often organic coffee.  This blesses the farmers who raise the coffee with a fair price for their crops.  It also blesses the family whose link through which you purchased the coffee.  For every bag of coffee purchased through our Just Love Coffee link, our family receives $5 toward our adoption.  They also sell other cute merchandise and large cases of coffee.  These cases of 18 mini bags are great for businesses or even CHURCH COFFEE BARS, and each bag makes about one or two pots of coffee each. These make great little gifts, too!

Just Love Coffee is doing a great work in encouraging and supporting orphan care and adoption, and this fundraiser can bless our family and help us toward our goal. So look around here or click the Just Love Coffee link on the sidebar to the right --->, and help yourself to some tasty coffee you'll just love.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Breakfast For Dinner, The Moore Family's Fundraiser

Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner? Our family does, and we also love pitching in for an adoption. Especially another church family's adoption. We also love eating out with friends. This Friday night, we'll head out to breakfast for dinner in north Raleigh to support the Moore family on the journey to bring home their little Silas. RDU folks are all invited; everyone's welcome. We'd LOVE to see our north Raleigh friends there! Here are the details:

Christian Alliance for Orphans Annual Summit

I believe I have my issues resolved (well, blog issues at least). I'm always tweaking, of course.

There are so many wonderful benefits of being in the midst of a boom in evangelicals adopting and ministering in ever more ways to orphans. One of those is the accessibility of national conferences designed to equip and encourage folks involved in orphan care and adoption.

The Christian Alliance for Orphans has announced its annual Summit conference in Louisville, Kentucky, May 12 - 13, 2011. Will you be there?


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Holocaust Survivor

This past week, our nation observed both the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The values represented by the two could not be more opposite.

Enter this woman. Gianna Jessen. Why am I just now learning about her? Gianna survived a third-trimester saline abortion and lives to bring glory to God for His immeasurable mercy. She and her story amaze me.

Part 1:

Part 2:

According to the World English Dictionary, holocaust means "great destruction or loss of life or the source of such destruction..." Even now, America is hosting a holocaust in the truest sense. The cost of our indifference is the very lives of the the least of these. This article is an example of what we allow to happen under our noses to the most vulnerable women in our society: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/01/22/women-claim-abortions-left-sterile/

Let us treasure and protect the tiniest lives, and let us love and protect the women tricked into believing abortion is the only way. I have nothing but the greatest compassion for these women and pray that one day we will have a culture that embraces them and loves them as well as the little lives they carry. But for a culture of death, babies would not be considered a problem, and abortion not a solution.

This stuff gets me fired up, friends.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why Ethiopia? Why not Ethiopia?

It's a question we get from time to time when folks learn we're adopting a baby from Ethiopia: "Why Ethiopia?" This fantastic video answers that question with, "Why not Ethiopia?"

In other news, I realize that if this blog were a flower and my posts water, the blog would have died a quick, dry death months ago. I'm having blog issues as of late, and I'll get to it when I get to it. Other things have just been higher on the list, like checking things off my application and dossier list left and right. Yesterday was a field trip to the county courthouse...eye opening for my older boys and another check off my application list. Incidentally, I'm pretty sure no lawyer has ever been more lost in the courthouse than I usually am.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

January: The New August

As a kid, and really as long as I was in school, which was so many years and well into our marriage, I looked forward to August with great anticipation. I loved the reprieve from hot summers, from boredom. I relished in purchasing new school supplies, the obligatory pair of gym shoes, new Keds. New books, new notebooks, new pens, a new planner. The expectation of seeing old friends again. A new classroom. New challenges and expectations lay ahead, ready for me to exceed them. I loved fall and the starting over and newness it brought.

But I'm not in school anymore. June, July, August, September...until recently, all pretty much the same to me. When we undertook to teach our children at home, the thrill and excitement of a new school year was overshadowed by impossible expectations for myself, to create and stick to the perfect schedule, to choose the just-right-for-us curriculum, to do it all perfectly this time. All while effortlessly continuing and excelling at my other not insignificant charges, like my paying job, laundry, meal planning and preparing. Oh, and friends and time in the Word. Yeah, then August became an albatross. My love affair with August is over for now.

But January. Ahhh, January. By January, I've usually so thoroughly disappointed myself in the previous year, I know that the coming year can't help but be better. Also, since I'm a sprinter and not a marathoner (in the metaphorical sense only; I don't run, unless there's a kid heading into the street), I know that I have just half a school year left to accomplish my goals for the year. So I like the pressure. Less than half a year before the summer months roll around, when we plan summer family fun. And a break from the dark, cold days of winter will come in just a few short months. So much to look forward to, so much to accomplish. No time to waste. The promises of a new year.

I have great expectations for what the new year holds. We have high hopes for progress on our adoption process. For what our boys will learn academically and how they will grow in the Lord. How our home will more accurately reflect the glory of the One who established it. How our Father will draw us closer to Him this year and continue the work He has started in us.

While I could have done without the heartache we experienced in the last twelve months, I have in no small way seen how the Lord has worked all of our pain for our own good and for His glory. I am closer to Him, knowing that two of my children already worship in His court. He has given me the new lifelong expectation of reuniting with them. In light of our loss, He has fanned the flame in our family's heart to adopt. He has surrounded us with loving friends and supportive family. He has blessed our extended family with new life. He has tested and strengthened our marriage. 2010 was a year of devastation for us, of tearing down and refining. He has begun the work of building up, and we have every expectation that our God will accomplish it.

Our need for newness, for starting over, to be refreshed and recreated is an imprint from our Creator. Our Maker's mark, wherein we long to be made new, just as we are created for eternity, not this vapor of a life. We long for everything around us to be new again. We long for a time and a place where everything will be made new, will be in order, will not fall apart. What a stark contrast to the world we live in, where death and age and illness mar a new creation. What an amazing promise that in the midst of this old world that we can be made new even now. My prayer for you is that you would be made new in the Lord this year, and that He would continue the work He has already begun in you.

Thanking God for the work He has done and for the promise that He will once and for all make all things new, happy new year!

Oh, and just because I don't usually share these, but because I love him so, my tiniest fella. Isn't he so serious?